Is Dispersed Camping Allowed In Utah
Not only is dispersed camping allowed in Utah, but its also actually one of the best places in the country for it. The BLM manages nearly 23 million acres in Utah. Though not all of it is open to campers, many places are. In fact, we had trouble narrowing down our list of dispersed camping sites. These are incredibly scenic places that are not too hard to get to and have lots of opportunities for outdoor activities.
Castleton Towers Climbers Campsite
Castleton Tower is an imposing red rock tower located roughly 20 miles away from Moab.
Famous for its rock climbing, its a popular destination for rock climbing in Utah. A free campsite is located nearby. Although called a climbers campsite, its open to everyone, including RV campers. Theres only a handful of proper campsites but theres plenty of places to park a car to sleep if youre just looking for somewhere to lay down your head for the night. Make sure to hike the trail to the base of the tower and bring your camera. The views are phenomenal.
Learn more about Castleton Towers Climbers Campsite.
Zion National Park Springdale
Zion National Park is famous for its towering, sandstone canyon walls and ancient red mountains and is a magnet for visitors from right across the country.
Unfortunately, such is the scenic drives popularity, that it now has severely restricted private vehicle access, offering mass transit to the area instead. So, you must leave your car in Springdale or at the parks visitor center and take the shuttle transport provided into the canyon.
One popular activity here is canyoneering, which is an exciting challenge for a daytime adventure. Check out this YouTube video to see what its all about! Rock climbing is also a favorite occupation, as the park has some of the highest sandstone walls anywhere on the planet. If youre an experienced climber, you can go it alone, but novices are advised to hire a guide in nearby Springdale.
Zion also has many miles of trails, both easy and more challenging. Angels Landing Trail is memorable but not for the faint-hearted. Although the trail is only five miles long, it includes narrow ridges and steep drop-offs that really get the heart pumping, as will the view of the canyon with which you are rewarded when you finally reach the top.
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Permits Fees And Limitations:
Most BLM campgrounds require a fee to use a campground. These fees help maintain the facilities. Selecting a campsite is usually on a first come first serve basis. However, some campgrounds take reservations which can be made at recreation.gov. Please obey all posted rules specific to the campground and keep the following in mind.
- Fee sites vary in price. Please check the campgrounds website or call the local field office for details.
- Camping stay limits vary by location but are generally about two weeks within a month period.
- Pay camp fee within 30 minutes of occupying a site.
- A campsite is rented ONLY once it has been paid in full with the pay-stub properly completed and displayed on site and the site is occupied by campers.
- Do not leave personal property unattended for more than 72 hours.
- Due to adverse weather, many campgrounds are only seasonally available. Make sure to check if the campground is open before planning your trip.
Things To Know About Dispersed Camping In Utah
- No fee. Camping is free on public lands and national forests except for designated campgrounds that charge a fee. Check the U.S. Forest Service website if you are unsure.
- Maximum stay duration is limited to 14 days within a 30 consecutive days period. Once reaching the limit, you must move out of the area.
- First come, first serve basis. No reservations are needed. Some campsites are small, so check and plan ahead especially during the summer months,
- Leave No Trace. Abide by the 7 LNT principles and follow all local guidelines.
- Campsite selection. Stay within 150 from a designated forest road or trail whenever possible. Camp at least 200 from any water source.
- No water. Remember to bring enough water for your trip.
- Garbage. There are no waste disposal facilities on site, so please pack out what you packed in.
- Fire restrictions. You may require a permit for campfires. Check with the U.S. Forest Service website.
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Wild & Scenic Rogue River
Southwestern Oregons Rogue River is designated a National Wild and Scenic River for its outstanding rugged scenery. The waters of the Rogue originate near Crater Lake and flow through the Western Cascades and the Klamath Mountains before emptying into the Pacific at Gold Beach. The stretch of river from Merlin, Oregon to Foster Bar Campground is a world-class multi-day whitewater rafting trip.
Much of the Rogue River is contained within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, which offers plenty of dispersed camping throughout the forest and along the river. Camping is allowed alongside the Rogue River unless otherwise posted. There is also a 14-day camping limit at the Rogue River Campground. The free camp spots on Mt. Ashland are also a popular place to stay near the Rogue River, and they provide convenient access to some great stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Wild Horse Road Dispersed Camping In Green River
Coordinates: 38.5666, -110.7483
About: If youve wanted to unplug from your phone, this is an excellent place for dispersed camping in Utah because theres no cell service. Its also a tremendous space for venturing off to explore spectacular slot canyons or sitting still for a stunning sunset. Besides the Wild Horse Canyon, the Goblin Valley is also just minutes away and certainly worth a visit. These sites are in east-central Utah near a geological feature called the San Rafael Swell.
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Some Insights And Tips Learned Prior
As an aficionado of the great outdoors and a previous long-time, resident of the eastern United States, Ive always heard murmurs of the joys of recreating on public lands, especially in THE WEST. I recently relocated to Utah, where miles of BLM-managed public lands sprawl across the landscape, and sure enough, these murmurs quickly became resounding truths recreating on these lands was not only now attainable, but something I had to try. As I began asking questions and dabbling in research, I discovered how daunting camping, biking, hiking, etc. on public lands can be, especially starting from square one.
Now, as Ive researched, experienced and grown in my confidence of camping in Utahs expanse, here are a few things Ive learned along the way.
Moab Utah: Willow Springs Road
Just about 13 miles northwest of Moab, there is a road out seemingly in the middle of nowhere called Willow Springs Road. This is all BLM land , which is public land. All along this road are campsites that are accessible by car or RV. Once you get about a mile down the road, it gets bumpy and youll need 4WD, but the first mile of it as well as some of the side roads are passable by low clearance cars. The 360 degree views in this area are spectacular, and its a great place to base if you are hanging out in Moab for a while! But be sure you get there early on a weekend, as the sites tend to fill up fast!
Photo: Jason Hatfield
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Dispersed Camping Rules & Regulations
One of our favorite things about dispersed camping is the lack of permits, reservations, and other requirements youll often find at developed campgrounds. However, that doesnt mean there arent important rules you should always following when dispersed camping.
It is best to check current regulations with the relevant USFS or BLM office, but you should plan on adhering to the following as outlined by the USFS:
- Do not camp in areas near trailheads, picnic areas, or developed campgrounds.
- Keep your campsite small.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles more on that below!
Leave No Trace Principles & Dispersed Camping
One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping is to follow Leave No Trace principles. This will minimize your impact and ensure your campsite can be enjoyed by future visitors. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping:
Water: No, but may be able to pull from Mammoth CreekCrowds: BusyMap
The Mammoth Designated Dispersed Camping area is located deep within Dixie National Forest and close to both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Since this is a designated dispersed camping area youll have access to a simple vault toilet, although there is no water source or trash pickup. Most camping setups can be accommodated here as there is room for a few RVs in addition to trailers and tents.
Blm 144 Dispersed Camping In Crescent Junction
Coordinates: 38.8788, -109.8083
About: Theres plenty of room to roam here, and youre almost at the edge of Arches National Park. Its hard to believe its not always jam-packed, but thats one of the fantastic things about boondocking. Watch out for cows and cactus thorns as you scout for your perfect spot. Hopefully, its one where you can catch the sunrise and sunset just by turning your head. Another plus is that this site is very convenient to I-70.
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Diamond Fork Dispersed Camping
Located just over an hour from Salt Lake City, Diamond Fork Road offers some excellent dispersed camping along the Diamond Fork River. Situated in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest this is a popular escape for city dwellers. When looking for dispersed campsites here be sure to head up Diamond Fork Road far enough, as dispersed camping is not permitted on the lower-half of the road. You will see a sign that indicates dispersed camping is allowed followed by several great roadside campsites.
While there are no restroom facilities or potable water sources most of the sites do have a simple fire ring and can be accessed by most vehicles. There are even a few spots that can accommodate larger rigs such as RVs or fifth-wheels.
The main attraction besides the beautiful wilderness here is a trek up to the Fifth Water Hot Springs. The trailhead is located just south of where many of the dispersed campsites are located and leads to a few stunning hot springs pools. The hike is around 10 miles round-trip, so be sure to come prepared!
Dispersed Camping Near Salt Lake City
Situated in Wasatch Front, there is no shortage of good camping locations around Salt Lak City. There are hundreds of campgrounds within a 2-hour drive from Salt Lake City with many of them requiring a reservation and fee.
Popular campgrounds such as the Spruces Big Cottonwood Campground, Redman Campground, Tanners Flat Campground, and Albion Basin Campground are busy during the summer.
Further, towards the west, there is a handful of them that are free such as Fivemile Pass Recreation Area which has pit toilets and RV parking. Stansbury Island is another great, but lesser-known desert site with stunning sunrise and sunset views.
Bonneville Salt Flats is located at Utahs legendary salt flats that attract automotive and photography fans from all over the country.
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Camping Southern Utah In 2022
By Christy Woodrow, Last Modified: February 26, 2022
This must-read Southern Utah camping guide covers everything you need to know from the best time to go to the best campgrounds and more!
Full of impressive hoodoos, canyons, rivers, and lakes, Southern Utah should be at the top of any campers list. Southern Utah has endless places to explore and some of the most scenic campgrounds in the country.
Ive had the pleasure of traveling Southern Utah extensively, and every time I visit Im blown away by the incredible scenery and quality of campgrounds.
Whether you plan to camp in Southern Utahs Mighty 5 National Parks or opt for free camping, heres everything you need to know about camping in Southern Utah!
Onion Creek Moab Utah
You can camp in a low-cost Bureau of Land Management campground just a short distance away from the awesome Onion Creek Road that is a breathtaking scenic drive through fantastic red rock formations that almost dance against the crystal clear blue sky. You wont be disappointed if you visit Onion Creek Moab Utah.
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The Best Blm Camping Destinations Across The Us
By some estimates the federal government owns 47% of all land in the West. In states like Utah, Nevada, and Oregon, the majority of land is owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management . This is good news for campers looking to spend the night away from crowded RV parks and out in the wide-open wilderness. This is also great for budget travelers and van lifers since BLM campsites tend to be inexpensive and often free.
On BLM land, it is often fair game to camp anywhere outside of paid campgrounds, trailheads and picnic areas. Before you head out though, it is a good idea to check with the local BLM office to find out if there are any campfire restrictions in the area. When BLM camping, always abide by Leave No Trace guidelines, pack out all of your trash, and only use existing fire rings. Here are some of the best spots for BLM camping in the U.S.
Upper Onion Creek Campground
The Upper campground is extremely scenic and away from the highway. The turn off for Upper Onion Creek Campground is located before the Lower Onion Creek Campground. Located out of town, the night sky will showcase the stars like youâve never seen before. Pit toilets are available on site. Individual sites are first-come-first-served. Group sites may be reserved. One group site caters primarily to equestrian use. Reserve Upper Onion Creek group site here
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Free Camping On Northern Utah Blm Land
The often-overlooked northwest corner of Utah is home to the Grouse Creek Mountains, Goose Creek Mountains, Bovine Mountains, and the Raft River Mountains . The land leading up to the first three mountain ranges are BLM land with many pull-offs for free camping. This area is popular with hunters in season, so beware.
There are also some nice camp spots to the west of Randolph on FR20058 and FR20061. Following either of these will eventually lead you to the eastern bench of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Due west of Salt Lake City, Five Mile Recreation Area is about the best free camping you can find within easy driving distance of downtown. This area is popular with mountain bikers, hikers, and ORV-users, so if you dont mind a bit of noise, you can find an excellent spot with immediate access to trails. During the week, usage decreases for more solitude and respite.
Snow Canyon State Park
Peace and quiet are prevalent while camping in southern Utahs Snow Canyon State Park.
The desert campground is surrounded by ancient lava flows and red sandstone. Miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback trails are close at hand. Venture slightly further to access breathtaking sand dunes. The campground at Snow Canyon is modern with flush toilets, hot showers, and electric hookups for RV campers.
Learn more about camping at Snow Canyon State Park.
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How To Camp For Free In Utah
Heres everything you need to know, on How to Camp for FREE in Utah! Breathing fresh air, relaxing in a camp chair, drink in your hand, the dogs and kids are running around getting muddy, and the fire crackles in the distance. Camping is one of my most enjoyable experience during summer, but it doesnt have to cost money. Many people think camping is too expensive or too hard to get to a good campsite. Sure it may cost money to get all your gear, but after that, camping can be free, especially in Utah!
Utah Boondocking Camping Areas Near National Parks
Beyond the well-known National Park campgrounds, the National Park System includes monuments, historic sites, and areas of interest. The Mighty 5, Utahs series of national parks, ranging from photographers favorite Zion to off-paradise roaders Canyonlands, make for a wonderland of adventure no matter what your favorite activities are.
A seemingly infinite ribbon of public land connects five national parks that cover nearly the whole length of Southern Utah. This means nonstop exploration of not only the parks themselves, but also the astounding assortment of magnificence that surrounds them, including Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Goblin Valley State Park, and Valley of the Gods. Wide-open skies and unforgettable adventures await you in Utah, whether youve come to single-track it over treacherous rock, walk renowned routes, photograph the red cliffs at sunset, or locate a mountain bluebird.
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How To Find Even More Free Camping In Utah
The 11 campsites on this list are far from the only places for dispersed camping in Utah. Heres how to find even more free campsites:
- Apps My go-to apps for finding free campsites include FreeCampsites.net, iOverlander, Campendium, and the Dyrt.
- Online Maps Google Maps is a great tool for finding dispersed camping opportunities. I also like FreeRoam.app and Gaia GPS. Both let you turn on national forest and BLM boundaries to help make sure potential campsites are indeed on public land.
- MVUM Maps Both national forest and BLM ranger stations offer paper motor vehicle use maps to visitors. Dont be afraid to ask rangers for dispersed camping recommendations. Ive found some awesome campsites just by asking a ranger.
Yet another free camping option is to try out blacktop boondocking. Some stores, including Walmart and Cracker Barrel, allow free overnight parking for campers and boondockers. This does vary by locale so make sure to call ahead.
Although casino parking lot camping is another alternative in most states, its not an option in Utah. The state outlaws all forms of gambling, including tribal casinos. But you might be able to find a decent spot for casino camping just across the border in a neighboring state, such as Nevada.
My final recommendation is stealth camping. Although I personally only use this as a backup plan, a lot of campers swear by it. But, Utah has so many places for dispersed camping that you shouldnt have a problem finding a free campsite.