Camping In Utah – With Vast Choices In Front Of You, Where Should You Camp?
Camping in Utah is truly an unique experience. From the snow peaked mountains in northern Utah to the red rocks of southern Utah, there is a place for every kind of camper. Utah has over 7,000 developed campsites and thousands of other places you could camp on your own.
Most of these campgrounds have a variety of activities including hiking, swimming, fishing, boating and more. The sites vary so if you need to use a family cabin tent or want room for a privacy shelter be sure to allow yourself enough space to accommodate for that. Quite a few campsites these days have enough room for the larger 5-6 person tent or even a couple smaller 2-4 person tents or solo tents.
With so many different choices to camp at it leaves a person with one critical question. Where should I camp in Utah?
Jordanelle State Park Campground
The Hailstone Recreation Area is the premier development of Jordanelle State Park. Hailstone is a large developed campground and day-use area located on the west side of the reservoir. Hailstone serves thousands of visitors each year from boaters and campers, to fishermen and special events. Hailstone offers picturesque camping with 223 sites for RV’s, camping tents, picnicking and more. The park is open May-October and has several fun activities for friends and families; these include camping, biking, fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, playground and more. The park also has amenities available for the comfort of the visitors, which include concessions, cabins, pro shops, dump stations for RV users, modern restrooms, grills, hot showers and boat rentals. The camping fees range from $16 to $20 per night. It is also open for reservation.
Mill Hollow Campground
Mill Hollow campground is located next to the Mill Hollow Reservoir in the Uinta National forest at an elevation of 8,800 feet. The park has a total of 28 camping sites, camping tents only non-electric 11 and RV non-electric 17. Pets are welcome at all sites. The park has several amenities including vault toilets, drinking water, campfire rings, grills and firewood. The park also offers many activities to the families and groups that visit. These activities include fishing, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing and hiking. The camping fees can be obtained from the self-service pay station. Some sites are first-come, first served while others can be reserved on line. Fees are $16 per night with additional fee for reservation in advance.
Goblin Valley State Park Campground
Goblin Valley State Park campground is located in Hanksville Utah, 48 miles SW of Green River, Utah via SR24. It gets the name from the strange and colorful landscape filled with bizarre sandstone rock formations called goblins. The park has 24 camping sites, 1 group site and 2 yurts. The activities offered in this park are camping, hiking, wildlife viewing to name a few. The park has several amenities available such as dump stations, fire rings, vault toilets, grills, picnic tables, modern restrooms and hot showers which make life easier and fun for the campers. Reservations are allowed and the park is open year-round. Caution: Extreme desert landscape with little or no shade. The camping fees are $16 per night.
Devils Garden Campground
Devils Garden campground is located in the Arches National Park in Southeastern Utah. Devils Garden offers 51 camping sites which are available for reservation, this gives the visitors the opportunity to stay overnight and enjoy the scenic environment. There are two group campsites, 35-person and 55-person. Both of these sites are $3 per person with a minimum fee of $33. No trailers or RV’s are allowed at these two sites and reservations are required. The park has several facilities for the visitors comfort; these include flush toilets, amphitheater for ranger talks, drinking water and picnic areas. This campground has breathtaking scenery, abundant hiking trails, guided hiking tours and more. The camping fees are $20 per night, plus $9 for booking reservation between March 1 and Nov 1. Nov 1 through end of Feb sites are available on first-come, first-served basis. No hook-ups, dump stations, electricity or showers.
Green River State Park Campground
Green River State Park is located on the banks of the green river. It has a total of 42 camping sites and facilities available for the usage of the visitors are modern restrooms, hot showers, group use pavilion, an amphitheater and boat ramps. There are two group campground sites available by reservation. Some of the campground activities include fishing, boating, swimming, numerous species of birds for the bird watchers and nine-hole golf course. Campground amenities include drinking water, dump stations and hook-ups for RV users, showers, picnic tables, grills and more. Reservation is subject to availability. The campground is open year-round. The camping fees are $18 and $25 for hook-ups sites per night.
Snow Canyon State Park Campground
The Snow Canyon State Park campground is located in the 62,000 acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. It is located near St George, in southwestern Utah about 310 miles south of Salt Lake City. It has a total of 14 RV sites with water and electrical hook-ups and 17 multi-use camping sites. The park is open year-round and reservations are encouraged. The park has made available several amenities which include modern restrooms, electricity, hot showers, group use pavilion, hiking/biking/equestrian trails and a dump station. There are several activities that take place in the park such as horseback riding, biking, hiking, rock climbing and junior ranger programs. This scenic park allows people to enjoy nature studies, wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities in abundance. The campground fees range from $16 to $20 per night.
Dead Horse Point State Park Campground
Dead Horse Point State Park campground is located 25 miles from the city of Moab. The view from Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. Towering 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, the overlook provides a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculpted pinnacles and buttes. The 21 site Kayenta campground features electrical hookups, tent pads, sheltered tables and charcoal grills at each site. It has several amenities available to the visitor; they include comfort stations, concessions, dump stations, restrooms, drinking water, visitor center and more. Also several fun activities take place in the campground; these include summer evening programs, hiking, mountain biking, nature study, wildlife viewing and photography. The park is open year-round and the camping fees are $25 per night. Group rates $25-$75 per night.
Firefighters campground is located just 3 miles from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. This campground serves as a memorial to three firefighters who lost their lives in the 1977 Cart Creek Fire. It has a total of 60 camping sites of which six are wheelchair accessible family sites with each having a picnic table and a campfire ring, some sites have grills. The park has several amenities available to the visitors; these include flush toilets, dump station, amphitheater, grills, and showers 2.5 miles away at Deer Run campground. Some of the other interesting activities that take place in and around the park (within 10 miles) for the enjoyment of the visitors, are birding, biking, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, water skiing and swimming. Also within 10 miles you will find a general store, restaurant, marina and boat ramp. The camping fees range from $18-$20 per night and reservation fee is $9. This park is open May-September.
Watchman campground is located in the Zion National Park which has a total of three campgrounds. Watchman is near the south entrance at Springdale. Some campsites get shade for part of the day, but many get no shade at all and summer temperatures exceed 95 degrees so staying cool can be a challenge. The Virgin River runs along the edge of the campground and there are a few riverside campsites. There are 162 regular sites, 2 wheelchair accessible sites and 7 group sites available. All sites are drive-up with a maximum of two vehicles but only one RV or trailer, overflow parking is available. Not all campsites have electrical hook-ups so if you need power, you will want to make a reservation in advance. The park area offers many recreational opportunities, including, backpacking, biking, hiking, climbing, horseback riding and more. Comfort stations provide flush toilets, cold running drinkable water and trash containers, but no showers or electrical outlets. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit with grill. Springdale is adjacent to Zion Canyon; pay showers, a small market, firewood, Laundromats and restaurants are available. Springdale can be reached from the campgrounds by car, foot, bike, or free shuttle (April through October). Reservations are highly recommended if you want to guarantee a spot at this campground. Tent and electric campsites are available year-round but group sites March through early November and are by reservation only. The camping fees range from $16-$20 per night.
Bryce Canyon North Campground
North campground is located in close proximity to the visitor center in Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is really famous for its beautiful rock features. This campground has 13 RV sites available by reservation and 86 RV and tent sites available on first-come, first-served basis. There are no hook-ups in the campground but a fee-for-use dump station is available at the south end of the campground. Amenities include restrooms with flush toilets and drinking water. During summer months coin-operated laundry and shower facilities are available at the general store nearby. Hiking, backpacking, and photography are among the many things to do here. Activities vary during the time of year. The park is open year-round but is subject to temporary road closures during winter snow storms. The camping fees are $15 per night.
Lake Powell Campgrounds
Dispersed Camping is permitted anywhere along the shore except within a mile of the marinas, Lees Ferry or Rainbow Bridge. The most feasible camping sites are along the main channel. There are some smaller, more secluded sites within some of the finger canyons, but they are few in number. Camping is also allowed away from the lake in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area if you care to hike.
Fires are permitted, but all remnants, burned or otherwise, must be disposed of at a marina disposal site. Firewood is scarce around the lake but can be purchased at any of the marinas. Lake water should be treated before drinking. If you camp within 1/4 mile of the lake, you must carry or have on your boat a portable toilet. No permits are necessary. All of the marinas sell groceries, firewood and other supplies for campers.
Willard Bay is a popular warm water recreation area. While a great majority of Utah’s lakes are colder trout holding reservoirs, Willard Bay is a warm water walleye/catfish/wiper fishery. Willard is located 15 miles North of Ogden and is 9900 acres in size. There are two parks/marinas, the South and North parks.
The North is more developed and features two campgrounds, two group areas, two beaches and many shore fishing opportunities. The two campgrounds in the North park are Willowcreek and Cottonwood. The Willowcreek Campground is probably the more private of the two campgrounds, the campsites are more tree sheltered and spread out than its neighboring campground. The Willowcreek Campground also has a creek running through the campground and hiking trails following its banks.
The South park has one campground and more limited facilities. If I came from Salt Lake City to launch a boat the South park would be my choice, if I came to camp I’d go to the North.
The walleyes are easiest to fish for in the spring, they become active in April and May, then the action tails off as summer takes over. If walleyes are your targeted species try trolling or drifting crawler harnesses or crankbaits near the West and North dykes.
Wipers are a hybrid cross combining a white bass with a striped bass. This combination yields a football shaped fish that fights like a banshee. Wipers were first planted in Willard Bay in 1994. Willard Bay had an overwhelming population of shad minnows before the wipers were introduced, they’ve become fat and plentiful gorging on this biomass. You’ll quite often catch wipers while trolling for walleyes, they’ll readily hit crankbaits. Another easy way to find them is look for a shad boil. The wipers will corral and chase schools of shad until they’re jumping out of the water to escape. Find one of these boils and toss shad imitating crankbaits past and through the boil. The North marina is a common spot to find these boils on a summer evening.
Catfish are another frequently pursued Willard Bay species. This is another fish you shouldn’t be surprised if you catch while trolling. The catfish in Willard Bay don’t seem to be adverse to pursuing live prey. They can also be caught by still fishing, this technique can be very productive at nighttime. Find a shallower flat near deeper water, anchor and throw out a pungent type bait. Cut bait, shrimp, chicken livers or just plain old night crawlers will all lure in any nearby fish. You’ll catch quite a few small catfish but there are some good sized ones out there.
With the ending of the Utah drought I would imagine the crappie numbers and size should increase. Crappie need submerged brush and shoreline features to allow the young to grow. Expect to see some good crappie fishing in the future.
Park your RV or pitch your tent, then head for nearby Bear Lake and prepare for a stunning view. This deep, 20-mile-long natural lake straddling the Utah/Idaho border is nicknamed the “Caribbean of the Rockies because of its turquoise water and white sand beaches. Fish, sail, Jet Ski and soak up the northeast Utah sun. If you’re towing a boat, the marina is a mile north of KOA. Drive along Bear Lake Road, which rings the lake, or explore the many hiking, biking and four-wheeling trails. The campground also rents bicycles. KOA offers a heated pool and a wading pool for kids, as well as Ping-Pong, a Jumping Pillow and a playground. On summer weekends, hosts serve up the Hungry Bear pancake breakfast. Shop for fresh fixin’s at the KOA grocery store.
Gooseneck State Park
Around the small village of Mexican Hat in southeast Utah, the San Juan River is slow-moving and flows through a relatively shallow red rock canyon with many wide curves; more of these convolutions can be seen in the nearby Goosenecks State Park, reached by a 4 mile paved side road (UT 316) that branches off UT 261 a little way north of town. The park, to which entry was for many years free but is now charged at $5 per vehicle, has just one extended viewpoint of several huge river bends, now flowing one thousand feet below ground level in a deep canyon with a series of stepped cliffs and terraces, a feature recognized as one of the best examples of entrenched river meanders in the world. At the park, the waters flow through 5 miles of canyon whilst progressing westwards only one mile. Beyond the visible meanders, the river continues to twist and turn as the canyon deepens, before joining Lake Powell after about 35 miles.
Camping is allowed at the viewpoint for a fee of $10 per night, and although there are few facilities, this is a great place to spend the night – visitors can park just a few feet away from the cliff edge and gaze down onto the river far below – perhaps glimpsing rafters taking the long boat trip to the lake, or in the evening just watch the effect of the setting sun on the far canyon walls, which become yellow then golden red as nighttime approaches. There are no official trails at Goosenecks State Park, and it is certainly not possible to climb down to the river owing to several levels of vertical cliffs, but the canyon can be followed at rim level in either direction for as far as desired. An unpaved 4WD track (FR 244, Johns Canyon Road) leaves UT 316 and heads northwest across the plateau between the ever deepening river canyon and nearby Cedar Mesa, eventually leading far into the Glen Canyon NRA and reaching the banks of the river. This passes several remote side canyons with ruins of Anasazi cliff dwellings.
The river originates in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and many millions of years ago flowed gently across a flat landscape, forming large meanders that frequently changed position. Uplift associated with the creation of the Colorado Plateau caused the river gradually to become entrenched, preserving its most recent course in the deep canyons seen today. The rocks forming the sides of the gorge are shale and limestone from the Paradox Formation and the Honaker Trail Formation, up to 300 million years old.
Narrowing down your Utah camping spot may not be easy, but here are some tips to help you decide.
1. Decide what activities you want to participate in. Do you want to go hiking, fishing, rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing, 4-wheeling or maybe even go boating? This will be the biggest deciding factor in what camping area would work best. For example, Moab is a great place to camp if you want to go 4-wheeling, rock climbing and sleep under the stars.
2. What amenities do you want your campsite to have? Different Utah campgrounds have different amenities available ranging from cabins to hot showers and working toilets. Maybe you want to be a bit more primitive and want nothing but a fire pit and a place to pitch your tent. For example, Willard Bay is a beautiful campground with a full marina and cabins for rent.
No matter which place you choose, camping in Utah is an experience you will never forget.
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