The settlement named Fruita by 19th-century Mormon pioneers has been an oasis in the desert for human inhabitants for thousands of years. The Fremont River flows year round through the steep canyon walls, depositing silt on the banks and providing water for agriculture. The ancient Fremont people who lived here over 1,000 years ago created irrigation ditches to water their corn and other crops. The Mormons planted fruit trees, over 3,000 of which are still flowering and bearing fruit.
Today, Fruita is the heart of Capitol Reef National Park, housing the visitor center, many historical sites, a small gift shop and bakery, and the Fruita Campground. The area consists of a group campground and three loops of 71 sites, a mix of RV and tent-only sites, restrooms, and drinking water. There are no hook ups, but there is a dump/fill station, and faucets are distributed throughout the loops. There are no low shrubs, so there is little privacy, but the entire campground is filled with huge cottonwood trees that provide shade, bird habitat, greenery, and an amazing rustling sound when the wind blows. This is possibly one of the most peaceful and beautiful campgrounds in the entire national park system--and one of the least expensive!
The campground is very close to the historical sites of Fruita, and there are plenty of opportunities to get out into the stunning natural surroundings of Capitol Reef. The park's Scenic Drive begins at the campground, and several trails branch off from that road. Other trails start at or near the campground such as Cohab Canyon, Fremont Gorge Overlook, and Fremont River Trails. Within a couple miles you'll find a huge picnic area, some nice petroglyphs, and more trails. Right next to the campground is the Gifford House, which houses a small museum that provides information about Mormon settlers and which sells fresh-baked pies, cinnamon rolls, and preserves to recharge the blood sugar after hiking. Visitors in the summer can sample and pick fruit from the trees for a nominal cost.
Fruita Campground’s many features are very popular, and it can be an extremely difficult campground to get into. They do not take reservations, and spaces can fill up by noon or sooner many days. Hopeful campers can be seen cruising for a site at early as 8 a.m. as people are packing up. It is a good idea to look for an open spot between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., especially mid-week.
TIP: If the campground is full, there is free BLM camping just outside the park’s western boundary (about 7 miles away). Ask a ranger for directions.