Favorite Family Camping Spots
are the top camping areas in Utah? That all depends on your point of view.
To some it might be a remote site in the wilderness of Zion National Park,
with no amenities and few other campers. To another it might be a put-in
with an RV hookup, or running water, showers, and flush toilets. At the
risk of being called biased, blind, or outright wrong by those who read
this, we put together the following list of what we consider the state's
top 14 camping areas. Why 14? Well, we started out trying to list the
top 10, but couldn't stop there. Our list was not determined by any scientific
or statistical data, just the following criteria:
- Things to do there
Some of the sites may meet all four criteria,
some three or two, some just one. They were all included because they
are exceptional in at least one of the criteria. Please note that many
of the areas listed require an entrance fee or permit.
1. Boulder Mountain
One of the largest high-elevation plateaus in the United States, Boulder
Mountain is dotted with numerous lakes, excellent scenery and unlimited
primitive camping opportunities. Part of the Dixie National Forest, the
Boulders are laced by thousands of miles of dirt roads that are excellent
for four-wheel-drive and off-highway vehicles. The Boulders are also excellent
for pack trips by horse or llama. Several outfitters and guides offer
pack trips into the Boulder backcountry. Four improved campgrounds are
located on the east side of the mountain range, south of Teasdale. However,
the campground at Lower Bown Reservoir has no culinary water.
2. Mirror Lake/Hwy. 150
Hwy. 150 from Kamas to Evanston, Wyo., offers numerous camping opportunities
along the west side of the Uinta Mountains. These campgrounds are very
popular, so if you want to obtain a campsite, reserve it early. Mirror
Lake Campground is one of the most popular along Hwy. 150. At an elevation
of 10,000 feet, you have ample opportunity to breathe in some clear alfresco.
Fish the lake by boat or from shore, or hike one of the nature trails.
There is plenty to do in this beautiful alpine setting.
3. Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park offers spectacular contrasts of red rock
cliffs, blue skies, juniper and pinyon pine trees, and a sweeping 3,000-acre
expanse of sand dunes. The park is perfect for camping and off-highway
vehicles. Facilities include 22 camping units, modern restrooms, showers,
a sanitary disposal station, and a resident park ranger. The park is located
about 22 miles northwest of Kanab in the southern part of the state.
4. Goblin Valley
At one time Goblin Valley was recommended as a national monument. While
it was never designated as such, it was designated as a state park by
Utah Parks and Recreation. Located 35 miles northwest of Hanksville in
the southeastern part of the state, Goblin Valley is a favorite because
of its geological wonders - scores of intricately eroded creatures, haunting
rocks and coves. Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts prefer the area because
adjacent to the park there are hundreds of miles of dirt roads to explore.
Facilities include a 21-unit campground, modern restrooms, hot showers,
and a sanitary disposal station. Water is limited, however, so bring plenty.
5. Jordanelle Reservoir and State Park
The Rock Cliff campground at Jordanelle offers a wonderful variety of
wildlife viewing and scenery for the visitor, along with a boardwalk trail
system and plenty of fishing opportunities nearby. Located along the Provo
River just before it enters Jordanelle Reservoir, this scenic camping
area offers recreational opportunities to visitors year-round. Campsites
are set back away from the parking areas. Carts are available to pack
your camping gear to and from your vehicle. A gentle trail system was
designed to help you reach your campsite with little effort. Ambitious
beavers frequent the area, and considerable evidence of their handiwork
abounds among the trees along the river. Be careful of high water in the
Provo River during the spring as the snow melts in the upper drainage.
6. Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation
Lake Powell is a boating Mecca for recreationists from all over the country.
With thousands of miles of shoreline, the lake is unsurpassed for boat
camping. There's plenty of opportunity to enjoy solitude on some lonely
beach. However, the developed campgrounds and facilities are superb, albeit
crowded on summer weekends. Opportunities abound for all kinds of water
sports, including boating, skiing, jet skiing, and even kayaking. Fishing
is exceptional from April through October. In wintertime, the temperament
of the lake changes: it is moody, often stormy, even threatening… but
always beautiful. Many consider the lonely winter scenery to be Powell's
7. Skyline Drive
This narrow roadway, mostly bumpy dirt, begins at Hwy. 6 in Spanish Fork
Canyon and follows the ridgelines south to I-70 in Salina Canyon. It's
a rough and tumble ride, requiring four-wheel-drive in places. Along the
way it passes through beautiful forest and past scenic alpine lakes, and
provides incredible views in every direction. There are marvelous primitive
camping opportunities along the roadway on top of the mountains, and very
nice developed campgrounds along streams or adjacent to lakes in many
8. American Fork Canyon
Called the "Alpine Loop," American Fork Canyon offers extraordinary mountain
vistas reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. In the fall, the autumn foliage
is spectacular. However, because it is so popular, the canyon has been
turned into a fee area. Even to drive the loop requires a fee - unless
you don't plan to stop for sightseeing. There are many campgrounds available.
Opportunities for scenic viewing and photography are abundant: waterfalls,
rugged terrain, glacial snow, and wildflowers. Timpanogos Cave National
Monument is located in the canyon, offering a great hike and an interesting
tour through the cave. Cascade Springs Scenic Highway, a 7.5-mile paved
road off of the Alpine Loop, offers additional camping opportunities and
great sightseeing. At the Cascade Springs Interpretive Site, large springs
of water cascade down the mountain in a series of limestone terraces and
pools. Boardwalks wind through the area allowing for wildlife viewing.
9. Zion National Park
Towering canyon walls and sculpted monolithic mountains await you at Zion
National Park. However, the Zion Canyon scenic drive has become so popular
the National Park Service has restricted private vehicle access severely,
instead offering mass transit into the area. Cars must be parked in Springdale
or at the park Visitor Center, with a shuttle providing transportation
into the canyon. There are two campgrounds in the park; both are open
all year. South Campground is open on a first-come, first-served basis.
Watchman Campground is available by reservation from April 15 through
October. Both offer tent and trailer sites, RV hookups and flush toilets.
If you want to camp in the backcountry you must obtain a backcountry permit
and pay the fee at the visitor center. The park also features a lodge
and restaurant. Zion National Park is located east of St. George in the
southwest corner of the state.
10. Currant Creek Reservoir and Recreation
Located 40 miles southeast of Heber City, Currant Creek offers a beautiful
campground with 103 units. The campground is surrounded by pines and aspen.
Facilities include culinary water and modern restrooms. Currant Creek
Reservoir offers great fishing, and there are numerous hiking and horseback
riding trails. The Forest Service has provided special campground facilities
to keep riding stock.
11. Bear Lake State Park
One of the deepest lakes in the state, Bear Lake is nestled in the Rocky
Mountains on the border of Utah and Idaho. Its deep blue waters are loved
by outdoor enthusiasts of all types. The lake offers waterskiing, swimming,
scuba diving, sailing, and fishing for record cutthroat, mackinaw, and
whitefish. Bear Lake's Rendezvous Beach on the south shore offers 136
campsites - 46 with utility hookups, a group pavilion, modern restrooms,
and hot showers. The wide, sandy beach provides excellent camping, picnicking
and watercraft activity, and is a popular area for family reunions. Bear
Lake Marina also has 13 campsites, a group pavilion, disposal station,
modern restrooms, hot showers, and a visitor center. Six primitive campgrounds
are available on the east side of the lake (bring your own drinking water).
12. Snow Canyon State Park
Because of southern Utah's moderate winter climate, Snow Canyon is a popular
spring and fall destination. Red and white sandstone cliffs capped by
black lava rock offer excellent hiking, camping and photographic opportunities.
Facilities include a 35-unit campground, modern restrooms, hot showers,
electric hookups, a sewage disposal station and a covered group-use pavilion.
Snow Canyon State Park is located 11 miles northwest of St. George, in
the southwest corner of the state.
13. Bryce Canyon National Park
The result of monumental interplay between earth, water and time, Bryce
Canyon is an enchanting destination with uncommon beauty. Unfortunately,
millions have discovered that beauty. Spring, summer and fall are the
most popular times to visit the park. You can hike or horseback ride the
many trails. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular in the winter
at the park. Bryce offers two campgrounds and a lodge. The campgrounds
have more than 200 campsites, but do not offer RV hookups. Campsites are
available on a first-come, first-served basis. Weekends and holidays are
generally the most difficult time to find an open campsite. No firewood
gathering is allowed, so bring your own wood for campfires.
14. Smith and Morehouse Reservoir
For alpine camping in close proximity to the Wasatch Front, you won't
find anything prettier than the campsites at Smith and Morehouse Reservoir.
It's just far enough away to be "away," yet it doesn't take "forever"
to get there. The campground features 34 units, culinary water, toilets,
and handicapped facilities. The reservoir offers great fishing, while
the surrounding mountains offer plenty of hiking opportunities. Smith
and Morehouse Reservoir and campground are located east of Kamas.
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005