Where are the best spots to camp in Utah?
Our family enjoys camping at least a few times each year. Camping is a great way to make fun memories, bond with family and friends and teach the kids about nature without breaking the bank.
Over the years the hubs and I have enjoyed camping in all fashions. Whether you throw the tent in the back of the car, take a small pop-up or enjoy your camping in a home away from home, we've been there, done that and want to share our favorite time and money savers with you. Over the next few weeks we'll have some ideas for you to make the planning and execution easier.
We'll start with where to go camping in Utah. Holly and I pulled our minds together and came up with some of our secret Utah camp spot favorites.
Camping in Utah tips and tricks…
Tip #1 – Make a reservation: Spots fill up fast and there's nothing worse than getting where you're going only to have to cram in a spot to small or move on to the next place. Reserve your spot at Utah’s State Parks, or for National Parks. You might also check KOA’s campgrounds.
Tip #2 – Take a Walk: Once you get to a destination you have never been too, it's likely you are going to see other campers in spots you wish you had. I recommend you take a walk around the camp and take note of the camp spot number and why you like that particular spot. Maybe it's the size, the trees, it fits your over-sized tent, it has great privacy, it's close to water or the bathrooms etc. You'll find that the next time you go, you'll have a lot more piece of mind if you know where you'll be pitching that tent.
Tip #3 – Keep a Camping Journal: It's easy to forget where you camped and what you liked and didn't like about each place. Document your preferred and not so preferred spots in your journal. It's also great for keeping notes of the fun you had. I recommend you skip the iPad for this one and put pen to paper instead. You'll be leaving the kids with a journal they will cherish and use for years to come.
Our List of Best Places to Camp in Utah
Spruces is a great location that is still pretty close to home. It's only about a 30 minute drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon. There are many great hiking trails near this site. One of our favorite trails nearby that is also very kid friendly is Donut Falls and is only about a 30 minute hike. We have also encountered moose multiple times while staying here.
Details: There are 97 sites for tents and RVs and 3 group sites for up to 50 people. Half the sites can be reserved and the other half are available on a first come, first served bases. Flush toilets and drinking water are provided. A baseball field, volleyball court and horseshoe pits are also located at the site.
Location: From I-215, take the 6200 South exit and travel a mile east to Wasatch Blvd. Take Wasatch Blvd a mile south to junction with Big Cottonwood Canyon/Highway 190. Make a left at the junction and travel up Big Cottonwood Canyon 9.7 miles to the campground.
Rates: Standard nightly rates for tents and RVs are $28; Group camping $209; Group picnic area $150-$290; Glamping tent $99. There is an additional fee for an extra vehicle unless you park outside the gates.
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Wasatch State Park is in Heber Valley and offers a lot of great nearby attractions such as golf, horseback riding and Winter sports. It is one of Utah's most popular state parks. One of the things I love about this location is that there are showers, which is a must have for me with kids if I am staying for more than a couple of days. There is also an electric outlet at each site which can come in handy.
Details: The Cottonwood loop has sites with full hookups and sites with water and power only. Mahogany loop is all full hook-ups. Oak Hollow has electricity and water only. Tents are only allowed where indicated. All loops have restrooms with showers.
Location: Located adjacent to the town of Midway, about 50 miles south east of Salt Lake City.
Rates: Standard nightly rates for tents and RVs $35-70; Group camping $150; Cabin $70
This campsite is on the southern shore of Bear Lake with a wide sandy beach. This is a fun camping location where you can also enjoy various water activities and great beaches.
Details: 138 campsites with modern restrooms, hot showers and utility hookups. RV sites available. A local concessionaire provides small boat rentals, jet skis, kayaks and more.
Location: The Rendezvous Beach access point is located approximately 8 miles south of Garden City, Utah. From Salt Lake City, travel north on I-15 to exit 362. Keep right, following signs for Brigham City. Turn right on US-89 to Garden City, Utah. In Garden City, travel south on Bear Lake Blvd for approximately 3.2 miles. Continue on UT-30 East for another 4.8 miles. Turn left to enter the Rendezvous Beach section of Bear Lake State Park.
Rates: Tent and RV rates are $25-40; Groups $130-300; Group Day Use $100-110; Boat Slip $35-40.
If you're the kind of person that finds yourself at watery summer fun spots, consider grabbing the Waterproof Case, 2 Pack Universal Waterproof Case – I've found mine to be useful on various trips to the waterpark as well as on a recent cruise.
Fruita is the only developed campground in Capitol Reef National Park. Early settlers planted orchards along the Fremont river and you can pick and eat the fruit for free, but there is a minimal fee for taking some home. The sites are mostly shaded and there is a little store nearby with homemade honey and ice cream.
Details: 71 RV/tent sites are available on a first come, first served basis with no reservations, except the group site. Restrooms are flush toilets, but no showers.
Location: Located within the Capitol Reef National Park next to the Fremont River.
I have fond memories of this campground as a young girl. This is a great area for ATV enthusiasts with 60,000 acres of sand dunes, trails, and sagebrush flats. Most of the sand is the result of deposits left by the Sevier River that once flowed into the ancient Lake Bonneville.
Details: There are four different camping areas (White Sands, Oasis, Jericho, & Sand Mountain) with more than 250 camping sites. There are flush toilets, drinking water and RV dump station available.
Location: Approximately 115 miles SW of Salt Lake City via Nephi, UT. The entrance road to Little Sahara is 4 miles west of Jericho Junction.
Rates: $18 per vehicle for a 1-night camping permit. Annual permit is $120. Senior citizens receive a 50% discount.
6. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
This is one of my favorite camping sites in Southern Utah. It's in a beautiful location and situated between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. It's also near the quite town of Escalante where we love to grab shakes or malts at a nearby drive-in diner. There is a petrified forest within the campground that makes for a fun hike. There is also the Wide Hollow Reservoir that provides water recreation and fishing.
If you travel to this campground, you must also make sure to stop at the nearby Calf Creek Falls to hike (15 miles east of Escalante). This is a spectacular hike located at Calf Creek campground (which is also a great site to stay). The Lower Calf Creek Falls is 130 feet with a deep swimming hole and a sandy beach surrounding it. The trail is 3 miles one-way and it does get hot as you are mainly walking on sand, but the the view is worth it and you can jump in and take a swim once you have reached your destination.
Details: 22 Tent/RV sites. There are clean flush toilet restrooms, modern showers and drinking water.
Location: Located 1.5 miles west of Escalante off Highway 12.
Rates: $25-$30; Groups $100
7. Fremont Indian State Park – Castle Rock Campground
Ruins from a large ancient Fremont Indian village were uncovered during construction of Interstate 70 in the 1980s. The campground is nestled in a cool canyon near the visitor center. The camping fee also includes access to the museum and trails with a bunch of great Native American rock art.
Details: 22 sites, 1 group day site, 1 group camping site. There are modern restrooms and drinking water, but no showers.
Location: Approximately 180 miles south of Salt Lake City. Located 21 miles southwest of Richfield on Interstate 70.
Rates: $15-$30; Group is $150; Pit house $65, Teepee $30
The largest Island on the Great Salt Lake that also has a visitor center which offers various events and activities through out the year. Antelope Island is home to a herd of 600 American bison. Island rangelands and shorelines are also home to antelope, deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, shorebirds, and waterfowl.
Nearby recreation includes sailing, kayaking, horseback riding, biking, saltwater bathing, bird watching and more. Some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets can be viewed from this campsite. It's a great place to watch wildlife or enjoy relaxing on the white sand beaches. Note: gnats are bad from April – June and head nets are recommended.
Details: Includes two campgrounds for a total of 46 sites with access to vault restrooms – pit toilets and no showers (modern facilities and showers are located at the day-use area about one-half mile away).
Location: Take Exit 332 off Interstate 15, then drive west on Antelope Drive for 7 miles to the park entrance, then another 7 miles across a narrow causeway to the island.
Rates: tent & standard sites $28-38; Group $3-$160.
The campground is set way back in Arches National Park and is a great location to view the sites within the park. Arches National Park has the highest concentration of natural arches in the world with over 2,500 of these rock formations. There are various trails at all levels from the easy trail of Balanced Rock to the difficult trail of Delicate Arch. Activities include guided hiking tours of the Fiery Furnace, an off-road vehicle route, road biking and picnicking.
Details: 51 campsites are available for reservation. Flush toilets and drinking water are available. The park does not have RV hookups.
Location: From Moab, take Highway 191 north for 4.5 miles to the park entrance. Take the park road 18 miles to Devils Garden.
Rates: Tent/RV $25; Group $75
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You will find some of the most unique rock formations here that have been carved by wind and water. The landscape is colorful and is often compared to Mars. You can wander off-trail freely through the park and it is a great place for the kids to explore. There are also some great slot canyons such as Little Wildhorse Canyon and others of the San Rafael Swell just outside of Goblin Valley. Note: It can get very hot during the Summer with little shade.
Details: 24 sites, a group site and 2 yurts. Includes drinking water, modern restrooms, showers, and dump station.
Location: Located 48 miles southwest of Green River, Utah, via State Road 24.
Rates: Tent/RV $35; Group $125; Yurt $100
Our Five Best Fishing Spots in Utah
We enjoy fishing several times a year. Utah has 100's of great places to try your angler skills. Check out UtahFishingInfo.com and UtahFishFinder.com. They are both good for resources for fish conditions, updates on recently stocked ponds and other fishing information. Here's a few spots that we favor.
The Gorge is a local favorite. It's located on the Utah/Wyoming boarder, in the northeast corner of Utah and the southwest corner of Wyoming, between Green River and Rock Springs, Wyoming all the way into the Uintah Mountains towards Vernal. There are over 100 different areas to fish including beautiful mountain lakes and streams.
The scenery is gorgeous, there's great activities like hiking, boat rental, farmers markets. While you're in the area plan a visit to the Dinosaur Museum in Vernal or Fort Bridger. Flaming Gorge has a free travel guide to download here.
Mustang Ridge campground is our favorite place to camp near The Gorge. It's wooded and offers more seclusion than some of the others.
Details: 70 sites, 1 group site. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring with grate. Some sites have views of the reservoir.
Location: Take US 191 from Vernal, Utah, 51 miles north. Three miles north of Dutch John on US 191, turn west on Forest Road 184 for approximately 2 miles.
2. Tibble Fork Reservoir: Newly opened Tibble Fork is close for those that live in Utah and Salt Lake County. The reservoir is located about eight miles up American Fork Canyon. It's a beautiful lake surrounded by trees and makes for an easy day trip. The drawback; because of it's close proximity it gets crowded on weekends.
Even if you don't fish, Tibble Fork is a fun place to hang out. There are no motorized boats allowed making if fun for those with a paddle boat or canoe. There's also beautiful hiking trails in the area.
Granite Flats campground: is a great camping spot about a mile away from Tibble Fork Reservoir.
Details: 55 sites 2 Group sites. Picnic tables and campfire rings are provided, as are vault toilets and drinking water.
Location: From Salt Lake City, Utah, take I-15 to the Alpine-Highland exit 284. Go east on Highway 92 for 8 miles to mouth of American Fork Canyon. Go 5 miles up the canyon to junction, take the North Fork/Forest Road 85 to Tibble Fork Reservoir. Stay left on paved road for a mile to the campground.
We have not been to Fish Lake for years and was really excited when two of our Facebook friends offered the reminder. Fish Lake is at the end of Utah's Wasatch mountain range and is open year round.
Fish Lake campground: is a beautiful campground that includes a lodge, cabins and lots of camping areas and offers the seclusion of lots of Aspen. You can find out more about camping and cabin rental at Fish Lake here. They also have a great Facebook page here.
The Duck Pond is in Utah’s Dixie National Forest. The pond is a still water location that makes catching fish less challenging than it would be in the rushing waters of the surrounding streams. Catch includes Cutthroat and Tiger Trout.
Duck Creek Campground: The campground is situated in a scenic spruce forest, adjacent to Duck Lake and Creek at an elevation of 8,400 feet. Neither the lake nor the creek is visible from the campground.
Details: 58 sites. 4 Group sites. Flush and vault toilets are provided, as is drinking water from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Mirror Lake in the high Uinta Mountains in Utah. Be prepared, because of the elevation it's cold, so you might want to plan your trip to Mirror Lake during the hottest part of late summer. Take the Mirror Lake Highway to access the lake, which is only open during the summer.
Mirror Lake Campground: This beautiful campground provides the traditional camping experience. It's heavily wooded and has plenty of scenic hikes. Dress warm, the campground is at an elevation of 10,400 ft.
Details: 79 sites. Opens June 30 – September 1.
Last, we want to give mention to Sunset Pond. It's a local wetlands pond in Draper on 898 E. Riparian Dr. (11815 S), inside Mehraban Wetlands Park. The pond is surprisingly right in the middle of a neighborhood, but feels quite secluded. If you are looking for a quick place to grab some fishing solace without pitching the tent, stop by and give it a try. No campground needed.
So whatcha' waiting for? Turn off the technology, get outside, get your hands dirty and start making some amazing family memories. It won't take long for you to find your favorite secret camping and fishing spot in Utah.
Where's your favorite place to camp in Utah?
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We love when you share the information in our posts but please keep in mind the images are our own copyrighted material. We ask that you contact us and give credit to the source before posting to another website or newsletter. Thank you. This post is an update from it's original posting June 30, 2012
mina saysJuly 10, 2016 at 10:35 am
We want to plan a rv trip for 3 days. Now here is the problem we have never been on a camping trip by our self 3 female and a 5 yr.old 3 small dogs. What we want is to fish play in the water, swim have lots of trees around. Some place in Utah ,Not to far from Las Vegas Nv.
not more than 250 miles away. Can you give some advice? Thank You
Joani saysJuly 11, 2016 at 11:13 am
You can swim and fish in Strawberry, I believe Fishlake would work for both as well. You might also look at various KOA camps. Many have great pools and are close to fishing.
MB saysAugust 21, 2016 at 1:29 pm
Navajo Lake is really pretty. Te-ah campground seems to be booked solid for awhile, though so consider camping in Cedar or near Panguitch Lake or even maybe at Yankee Meadows and then going on a day trip to Navajo Lake. You can fish at Panguich Lake but it’s kind of nasty and gross compared to Navajo Lake.
Faylinn saysFebruary 18, 2016 at 11:50 am
Every summer, my dad and I go to Goblin Valley State Park for a weekend. We bring with us pretty much nothing but fishing supplies since we spend the whole time out on the water. The park is definitely a beautiful place to be, especially with all of the rock formations, and we always catch a lot of fish!
Coupons4Utah saysFebruary 20, 2016 at 7:00 am
That’s neat! Noting will beat those memories. We love it there too. Thanks for sharing.
MB saysAugust 21, 2016 at 1:35 pm
I came across this article hoping to find campgrounds with tent sites within a 3 hour trip from St George, UT where my family resides. Most of these seem further than 3 hours from my home as we’ve been to a few and travelled past some of the areas you mentioned but during our trips we won’t be able to take off any additional days from work anytime soon. Any suggestions? We’re already aware of Yankee Meadows, Duck Creek Campground, Te-Ah Canyons of Escalante (beautiful), the KOAs near us, all of the ones near The Grand Canyon’s North Rim… any others? We specifically would like a private campground we could spend up to $20 per night. Thanks! 🙂
Joani saysAugust 23, 2016 at 1:11 pm
That’s a great idea for a post. We’ll put our heads together and see what we can come up with. That’s also for the suggestions.
Ann saysOctober 30, 2016 at 11:33 pm
Where do you fish around Goblin Valley?
what water do you fish at? saysMay 25, 2018 at 9:52 am
where do you go fishing?
Moti saysJanuary 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm
Hi! We are having our family reunion this year here in Utah and I was wondering what camping site would you recommend? We will have 40-50 people including adults, kids and old folks. It will be June 9-11 of 2016. We want this year to be fun for everyone without having to break the bank. Any suggestions? Tips? Thank you so much.
c4u saysMay 15, 2014 at 8:46 am
Thanks for sharing Tiana. You are right, there are a bunch of great fishing lakes that didn’t make the list. We love Strawberry too. I’ve never been to Otter Creek, we’ll have to give that a try. Maybe I’ll have to make a part 2.
Sarah saysMay 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm
This post is invaluable in the information! Being new to Utah and not really having good resources to tell us these things, this is great. I love your tip about the camping journal. I would have never thought of that. Thanks so much and keep up the great work!
c4u saysMay 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm
You’re welcome Sarah. I’m so glad it helps. Have a great time camping this summer. 🙂