What are the top camping areas in the state? 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
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 best.
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 area canyons.
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.
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.
Currant Creek Reservoir and Recreation Area
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.