From lakes to mountains to desert plateaus, Utah’s great outdoors comes in many flavors.
With a wide variety of terrains ranging from dense forest to arid plateaus, Utah has been attracting campers, backpackers, and hikers for generations. It's home to five national parks, plus dozens of state parks and national forests and monuments (not to mention plenty of BLM land), making it easy to find a Utah camping experience that suits you best. While the southern and eastern parts of the state attract lovers of the great outdoors with their massive rock formations and abundance of recreation activities, you’ll also find plenty to do up in the north, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to getting out on one of the region’s many lakes and reservoirs come summer.
Northern Utah is where you'll find some of the state's lushest areas, with plenty of lakes and mountains, a stark contrast to the rockier, arid regions to the south. Salt Lake City is one of the region's biggest draws, and its easy access to outdoor recreation areas, such as Antelope Island State Park on the Great Salt Lake, makes it a reasonable base for those wanting to explore the region. Camping areas abound in this region—the tent-only Cottonwood Campground at Bear Lake State Park is a particularly good choice.
Eastern Utah offers some of the best opportunities for outdoor recreation in the state, and that's not just because two of Utah’s five national parks—Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park—are here, a short drive from Moab. Spots worth visiting include Dead Horse Point State Park (popular for mountain biking) and Natural Bridges National Monument, where you’ll see three natural bridge formations carved from the earth millennia ago. This area is also great for archaeology fans. Hovenweep National Monument is a great place to check out the ruins of 13th-century pueblos, while Bear Ears National Monument is full of beautifully preserved ancient cave art.
South Central Utah offers a mix of high desert and dense forest, with plenty of spots to go out and play. You can hike through the slot canyons of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, explore the fairytale-like hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, or try your hand at canyoning at Capitol Reef National Park. This region is also home to Lake Powell, on the Colorado River, right on the border with Arizona.
Home to both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, southwest Utah offers fantastic hiking and camping options, with a mix of beautiful rock formations, vast forests, and desert sand dunes. While the national parks are the main draw, this region offers plenty to do, from ATV/OHV riding on the massive golden dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park to checking out the red rock formations at Kodachrome Basin State Park. You'll find some of Utah's best camping spots and hiking trails all through the region, and the lack of light pollution makes this area ideal for stargazing under the night skies.
Yes, you can camp on BLM land in Utah, where 42% of the state is considered BLM land (some 22.9 million acres). Most developed BLM campgrounds in the state require a fee, while dispersed campsites on Utah BLM land are more often free. Popular spots include the Silver Island Mountains Backcountry Byway (BCB) outside the Bonneville Salt Flats, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest outside Gunnison, and Ashley National Forest.
Boondocking, or dispersed camping, can be safe in Utah as long as you follow some basic guidelines and precautions. Here are some tips to ensure a safe boondocking experience:
By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a safe and memorable boondocking experience in Utah.
No, you cannot camp anywhere in Utah. Camping is allowed only in designated campgrounds or specific areas on public land, such as national forests, BLM land, and state parks. Dispersed camping is permitted in some areas, but it's essential to follow local regulations and guidelines, including Leave No Trace principles. Always check with the land management agency responsible for the area where you plan to camp for specific rules and restrictions. To find camping options in Utah, you can explore Hipcamp's directory of campgrounds and private land options.
The Great Salt Lake itself is not closed, as it is a large body of water in Utah. However, the facilities and recreational areas around the lake may have varying hours and accessibility depending on the season, weather, and local regulations. Antelope Island State Park, a popular destination on the Great Salt Lake, is open for day-use and camping. For more information on camping near the Great Salt Lake, you can visit Hipcamp.
Utah is an excellent destination for camping, with its diverse landscapes, national parks, state parks, and public lands offering a wide variety of camping experiences. From the red rock formations of Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park to the lush forests of Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah offers a range of scenic camping options. In addition to the popular national parks, Utah has 43 state parks, many of which offer camping facilities. Some notable state parks include Dead Horse Point State Park, which offers stunning views of the Colorado River, and Goblin Valley State Park, known for its unique sandstone formations. Utah's camping opportunities cater to a variety of preferences, from primitive campsites and dispersed camping on BLM land to developed campgrounds with amenities such as restrooms and picnic areas. Whether you're interested in tent camping, RV camping, or even staying in a yurt or cabin, Utah has something to offer every camper.
Before camping in Utah, it's essential to be prepared and aware of the following information:
By keeping these points in mind, you'll be better prepared for a safe and enjoyable camping experience in Utah.
Whether you need a permit to camp in Utah depends on the location and type of camping. In most cases, you do not need a permit for dispersed camping on BLM lands and national forests. However, for developed campgrounds, fees and reservations may be required. In some popular and sensitive areas, such as backcountry camping in certain national parks, permits may be necessary to manage the impact on the environment and maintain visitor safety. Always check the specific regulations and requirements for the area you plan to camp in before your trip.
Yes, boondocking is allowed in Utah, particularly on BLM lands and National Forests. Boondocking, also known as dispersed camping, is popular among RVers and campers who prefer a more remote and off-the-grid experience. It's important to practice Leave No Trace principles and follow any posted regulations or restrictions when boondocking. Keep in mind that amenities like water, restrooms, and trash disposal are typically not available at these sites. You can find some boondocking spots on websites or apps such as freecampsites.net, Campendium, or iOverlander.