Fall is one of the most gorgeous seasons in the National Park System. Trees are changing colors, the air is cooler and carrying scents of autumn, animals are on the move, and if you visit Capitol Reef National Park you'll find the peaches and apples are ripe for harvest!
The orchards not far from the park's visitor center date to old Fruita, a community settled by Mormons in the church's effort to populate southern Utah. These trees are among the most obvious remnants of the pioneer community, which was settled in 1880. Usually no more than 10 families lived in Fruita at any one time, and the last resident moved away in 1969. Early settlers planted the orchards to ensure subsistence; come harvest time they would head to surrounding communities to sell apples, peaches, various nuts, cherries, pears and apricots.
According to Red Rock Eden, Story of Fruita by George E. Davidson, those early pioneers weren't too far removed from Johnny Appleseed:
Pioneers planted varieties of apples that have almost disappeared or are completely gone from today's Fruita apple orchards -- applies like the Jonathan, Rome Beauty, Ben Davis, Red Astrachan, Twenty-ounce Pippin and Yellow Transparent. Other fruits of those early orchards are still popular: Morpark apricot, Elberta peach, Bartlett pear, Fellenburg plum and that great favorite of the Mormon pioneers, the Potawatomi plum. (Nels) Johnson also planted nut trees -- English walnut, black walnut, and almond. Within a decade, grape arbors were everywhere and later became the basis of a thriving -- but illegal -- local industry.
According to the folks at Capitol Reef, today the orchards are preserved and protected as a Rural Historic Landscape. The orchards hold approximately 2,700 trees and are composed of cherry, apricot, peach, pear, and apple, as well as, a few plum, mulberry, almond, and walnut trees.
Now, unfortunately we've already passed the harvest seasons for cherries (mid-June to early July), apricots (late June through mid-July), and are on the tail-end of the peach and pear harvest. However, apples should be ripe through mid-October. Best of all, these fruits are yours for the taking (for a modest fee).
You are welcome to stroll in any unlocked orchard and you may consume as much ripe fruit as you want while in the orchards. Fruit may not be picked in quantity until the designated harvest begins. Orchards that are open for picking are signed as such. A fee is charged for all fruit picked and removed from the orchards. Signs listing fruit prices, scales, plastic bags, and a self-pay station are located near the entrance of open orchards. Please select only ripe fruit and leave the rest to ripen for other visitors.
For probably more information than you'd like to know about the Fruita orchards, see the attached document that details the various types of fruits and nuts grown there.
Elsewhere in the National Park System, you're allowed to pick up to one bushel of apples per person per day in the historic orchards found in Shenandoah National Park.