Orchards of fruit trees, homemade pies and cinnamon rolls the size of your head can all be found in a very unexpected place – a national park.
My family and I loaded up the RV and journeyed just 5 hours north of Las Vegas to explore Capitol Reef National Park. While not as famous as Utah’s other national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches, this park is a foodie’s paradise.
As you drive into the park from the west, you’re welcomed by massive amber cliffs contrasted by bright green shrubs. First, you’ll pass Twin Rocks, then Chimney Rock and then the mesmerizing Castle Rock. Turn right to the visitor center to begin your foodie adventure.
I always like stopping at the visitor center to get the true skinny from a park ranger or one of the store employees. My goals on this trip were to enjoy some moderate hikes and to pick fresh peaches.
That’s right – FRESH peaches from a national park.
Most national parks have strict regulations, prohibiting the disturbance of plants, but this park preserves the history of the Mormon pioneers who founded the town of Fruita and lived entirely off of the land. The people planted a few thousand peach, apple, pear and other fruit trees. They built irrigation channels and raised livestock.
The park celebrates their lifestyle by continuing to maintain the orchards, and they let visitors harvest the trees. Any fruit you pick and eat on site is free. Any fruit you want to take home is only $1 per pound.
You just need to bring your own bag, basket or box. They supply the ladders and pickers.
We picked 60 whopping pounds of Rosa peaches, and we probably ate a dozen as we picked. The peaches were bursting with sweet juiciness. Fortunately, I had a stash of napkins in my pocket.
The Gifford Homestead was the original home for the families in Fruita. Today, the house is a store that serves mini peach, apple, strawberry rhubarb, cherry and mixed berry pies for $6 each. They also have homemade ice cream cups for $1, along with fresh-baked breads, fruit butters and other food items. They also carry super cute aprons, tea towels and unique kitchen gadgets PLUS huge cinnamon rolls.
Once I got home, I had to figure out what to do with all of the peaches. I followed the footsteps of the pioneers and preserved them by making a variety of peach jams and peach bacon bourbon barbecue sauce.