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Hiking And Camping In Utah

Our Top 10 For The Best Camping In Utah

2 Weeks Camping, Hiking, Fishing and Exploring Utah – Fossil hunting, backpacking family adventure

With so much country to consider, finding the perfect campground can be a time-consuming task. So, weve taken the hassle out of the job by compiling this list of our favorite ten spots for camping in Utah.

All you need to do is sit back, relax, and let us take you on a tour of the very best camping experiences that the Utah has to offer.

For some trail inspiration check out our guide to some of the best hiking trails in Utah.

Buckskin Gulch Day Hike Wire Pass Trailhead Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness

  • Length: up to 16 miles one way
  • Elevation gain: 649 feet
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Buckskin is the longest slot canyon in the world and many people only hike a section as an out-and-back trail. This specific route via Wire Pass has a short section that requires a downclimb over a boulder jam to access Buckskin. At the confluence of Wire Canyon and Buckskin Gulch, take some time to check out the ancient petroglyphs on the canyon walls.

Once you enter Buckskin, be prepared for cold water, boulder jams, and other obstacles, which can ultimately dictate your turn-around point. This hike is more enjoyable outside of winter months and the deepest pools will mostly be encountered during spring run-off.

If you plan on going deep into the canyon and wading through pools of water, proper shoes and neoprene socks for warmth are recommended.

Bring plenty of water or a water filter, as the water in the canyon is not safe to drink, and make sure there is no rain in the forecast. A flash flood in Buckskin would be deadly.

If you want to backpack Buckskin Gulch, the most common route is to enter via Wire Pass and exit at the Whitehouse Trailhead near the Paria Contact Station. For this a car shuttle and an advanced reservation permit are necessary.

Latter Day Saint Settlement

Following the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, Brigham Young, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve, became the leader of the LDS Church in Nauvoo, Illinois. To address the growing conflicts between his people and their neighbors, Young agreed with Illinois Governor Thomas Ford in October 1845 that the Mormons would leave by the following year.

Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Over the next 22 years, more than 70,000 pioneers crossed the plains and settled in Utah. For the first few years, Brigham Young and the thousands of early settlers of Salt Lake City struggled to survive. The arid desert land was deemed by the Mormons as desirable as a place where they could practice their religion without harassment.

Settlers buried thirty-six Native Americans in one grave after an outbreak of measles occurred during the winter of 1847.

The first group of settlers brought African slaves with them, making Utah the only place in the western United States to have African slavery. Three slaves, Green Flake, Hark Lay, and Oscar Crosby, came west with the first group of settlers in 1847. The settlers also began to purchase Indian slaves in the well-established Indian slave trade, as well as enslaving Indian prisoners of war.

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Types Of Camping Off Hole In The Rock Road

Youll either be dispersed camping or backpacking. Dispersed camping is first come first serve and typically done in these fashions:

  • Car/Van Camping
  • Small trailer / teardrop

If you plan on bringing an RV or small trailer youll be able to camp within the first mile of the road, off to the right in the large dirt parking lot. Beyond that I would not suggest bringing an RV or trailer down Hole in the Rock Road.

I say this for two reasons. First, it would not do well on the washboard road, deep ruts, or at areas where a 4×4 is required. You can never guarantee the conditions of this road. And secondly, dispersed camping is in designated spots only which may be hard to navigate RVs/trailers and cause a larger negative impact on the environment than need be. Remember the leave no trace principals!

READ: How to find FREE camping while traveling the USA

The Wave Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness

Hiking and Camping in Zion National Park, UT
  • Length: 5.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

A mesmerizing trail of colorful red sandstone that crosses the Utah/Arizona border, the Wave is a popular and very sought-after hike with a highly competitive permit process .

While the odds might not be in your favor, those that are lucky enough to score one of the 64 daily permits will find solitude while they are exploring the remarkable patterns and landscapes that make up the Wave.

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Bear Lake State Park Garden City

Bear Lake State Park is located close to Garden City on the shores of Bear Lake. The park is actually on Utahs border with Idaho and snuggles high up within the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

The lake is the most spectacular aqua blue color thanks to suspended calcium carbonate particles in the water. That, together with the lakes delightful sandy shoreline, creates the impression of a seaside resort location even though the areas elevation is 5,923 feet above sea level.

At 8 miles wide, 20 miles long, and with an area of around 112 square miles, the lake is a trendy destination that is popular for those who enjoy watersports and fishing, with whitefish, mackinaw, and cutthroat being the catch of the day. In the snowy winter months, folks come here to enjoy skiing, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing too. And in January, people flock to Bear Lake for its famous annual Cisco Disco!

There are 157 campsites spread around the lake and its valley, catering for RVs, trailers, vans, and tents. Electricity hookups and toilets are dotted around the sites, and there are fire circles at most of the sites too. Wherever you choose to camp here, youll be treated to an outstanding direct view of the mesmerizing blue water and the beach.

Discover Zion National Park Hike The Watchman Trail And The Narrows

Our first hike in Zion National Park this morning takes us on the Watchman Trail, one of the parks best trails for vantage points with breathtaking views stretching out over Zion Canyon. Retracing our steps to the valley, we hop aboard the park shuttle to the entrance of the spectacular Zion Narrows. Alternating between hiking and wading, our trail is the Virgin River itself as it winds its way between 1,000-foot-tall canyon walls. We follow the river for a few miles, marveling at the hanging gardens, beautiful geology and play of light in this enormous slot canyon before returning downriver. At camp tonight, we gather for a special celebration dinner and reflect on all of the wonders weve seen during our time together.

Hiking: 6-7 miles Elevation loss/gain: 368′ Terrain: dirt trails, river wading

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Little Wild Horse/bell Canyon Trail Hanksville

  • Length: 11.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

One of Utahs most spectacular, non-technical slot canyons is Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon. Its a loop trail with amazing views. Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon is good for hikers of most skill levels and doesnt require any technical gear or sketchy climbing.

Most people hike up Little Wild Horse, hang a left on the Behind the Reef connector trail, and then hike back down Bell Canyon. Its a full-day if you end up hiking the full loop. If you dont have time, we suggest hiking up Little Wild Horse as far as you like and then back down the same way.

Like all of the slot canyon hikes here, keep an eye on weather and if rain is in the forecast, save this trail for next time.

I hiked this with my friend Kristin Addis of Be My Travel Muse. She recently shared a list of her favorite off-the-beaten-path Utah spots that you should check out!

Plan Well And Stay Safe

Camping & Hiking Every National Park in Utah in 3 Days

Keep in mind when traveling to remote areas that you need to do a little more planning, bring a little more gear, and have a backup plan. Let people know where you are going and when you should be back. Many of these places have no cell phone reception and are very far from medical facilities. Bring your first aid kits and extra provisions. All slot canyons have serious flash flood risks, and you need to know what’s going on with the weather in the vicinity and in the surrounding area as well. Make sure the car you drive is capable of driving on the roads you want to go on.

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Why You’ll Love This Trip

  • Have a wonderful outdoor experience while you enjoy comforts like showers and cosy sleeping amenities, even while camping.

  • Zion National Park is a natural playground for adventure lovers where you can explore highlights and hidden wonders like Scout Lookout and the Orderville Canyon.

  • Admire Boat Mesa, the Sinking Ship formation, Tower Bridge, China Wall, Fairyland Canyon and other amazing rock structures in Bryce Canyon National Park.

  • Experience the iconic Virgin River Narrows hike as you walk through moving water with your leader who will help you get your stream legs on your way to Orderville Canyon.

  • Take in the beauty of the serene Emerald Pools, named for their glorious green tones, then descend to the lawn of the historic Zion Lodge and enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.

Monte Cristo Via Cardiff Pass Trail Wasatch Mountain Range

  • Length: 5.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

The Monte Cristo via Cardiff Pass Trail rewards hikers with amazing views of the Wasatch range and surrounding ski areas. The trail leaves from Alta Ski Area to the east of Salt Lake City and makes its way up to the summits of both Monte Cristo and Mt. Superior.

Do not underestimate this hike. Its a very steep climb with some dicey sections of scrambling, making it suitable only for advanced hikers comfortable with exposure. When I did this hike, there were a few points where I got nervous, but I stayed focused and took my time standing on the top was well worth the effort!

I highly recommend taking a pair of trekking poles that collapse so that you can put them in your bag when need to use your hands for scrambling and balance. Theres also no shade on the trail, so be sure youre prepared with plenty of sun protection.

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Frary Peak Trail On Antelope Island

  • Length: 6.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Permit: No, but entry fee to the state park

Located on Antelope Island outside of Salt Lake City, this out-and-back hike takes you up to the top of Frary Peak, the highest point on the island, for great views of the Great Salt Lakes. The trail can get snowy and muddy in winter, so its best left for late spring and fall. Summertime also gets very hot, so early morning hikes are best to avoid both the heat and crowds.

You may also get glimpses of the bison that live on the island. Just be sure to keep your distance and give them plenty of space.

How To Get To Mount Timpanogos

Backpacking in the desert in Utah

There are two different ways to access the Timpooneke trailhead: from I-15, take the Orem 800 North Exit 272. Travel east on 800 North, Highway 52, to the mouth of Provo Canyon. Take a left turn onto Highway 189, Provo Canyon Scenic Byway. Then left onto Highway 92, Alpine Scenic Loop/Sundance turnoff to the North Fork of Provo Canyon. This section of the road is narrow and winding which requires caution.

Or from I-15, you can take the American Fork/Alpine Exit 284 and turn east onto Highway 92. This takes you through American Fork Canyon. Continue on this road, making a right turn onto the south fork.

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The Different Types Of Camping In Southern Utah

In Southern Utah youll find all sorts of campgrounds. From privately owned pull-in sites with showers and RV hookups to deserted dispersed camping in the desert, theres a huge variety of options.

Some camping requires permits or advance reservations. However, most of the camping in Southern Utah is on a first-come-first-served basis. Do your homework before you head out to avoid any disappointment.

How To Get To The Narrows

Similar to Angels Landing, once you are within Zion National Park you can ride the free park shuttle to the trail head. For the bottom-up route, ride the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, walk 1 mile to the end of the paved Riverside Walk, and then you can begin walking along the river.

For the top-down route, youll need to grab a shuttle up to Chamberlain Ranch operated by one of the guiding companies in town. Its an hour-and-a-half ride. Read more about shuttle options in our Narrows Permit and Planning post.

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Day : Zion National Park: The Narrows

The Narrows, Zion National Park

We started our second day very early at 0500 hrs. That gave us sufficient time to pack up our camp, eat breakfast and make it to the visitor center shuttle as early as possible. We made sure to pack plenty of snacks and water as we were planning on spending the entire day at The Narrows. We donned our canyoneering shoes early in order to minimize weight. The shuttle ride was 40 minutes long and we were among the first groups of people to start the hike. The hike starts on the River Walk Trail, a one mile paved path that takes you to the entrance of the Narrows. It was slow going initially because we first had to learn how to step on slippery rock without losing our balance. The wooden walking stick definitely helped.

Orderville Canyon. Photo taken by Nadia Mercado

*** Tip: GET THE RENTAL GEAR! The boots provide much needed ankle support and the neoprene socks keep your feet surprisingly warm. The gear is well worth the $20. Its also convenient not to have to carry around water logged gear the next day. Depending on what time of year you visit the park, you may want to rent additional items that will keep you dry in the water, as it can get very cold. If renting gear isnt an option I highly recommend that you bring full coverage water shoes and trekking poles, because the rocks are VERY slippery.***

Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Photo taken by Amber Saterlee

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Ep. 89: Uinta Mountains | Utah camping RV travel hiking kayaking

kobuspeche via Getty Images

When you arrive at Escalante, one of the first things you’re going to wonder is, “Where’s the petrified forest?” The answer is on the ground. You’re seeing those odd-looking rocks all over — those are fallen, petrified tree trunks. But don’t worry about having your expectations subverted because the park is full of fantastic hiking trails that’ll take you to majestic grottos and breathtaking arches.

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How To Spend Three Days Hiking And Camping Around Moab Utah

Now that Ive moved out to Colorado, Western wilderness adventures are that much more accessible. To keep myself sane while working a desk job and dreaming of my next long trail, Im doing my best to take advantage of the geography. This past weekend, I took an impromptu trip to Moab, Utah, with four other Appalachian Trail thru-hikers and two hiker-trash groupies. We planned everything last minute, coming up with the idea on Monday and leaving after work Friday. We only had three days to spend there, with six hours of driving each way. We packed as much as we could into our three days, and it was wonderful. Heres my guide to make planning a last-minute trip to Moab easier.

If you havent been to the Moab area, or Utah in general, I highly recommend it. Especially if you want to feel like dinosaurs could pop out any minute. Or like youre on another planet. Or that you could stumble off a cliff with one misstep. You know, danger at every turn and all that . The Southwest is so different from anywhere else Ive been, and its truly spectacular. I never thought Id be a huge fan of the desert, but Utah truly has won over my heart with its red rocks and spires, majestic arches, deep canyons, endless sunshine, and wide open spaces.

Diamond Fork Hot Springs Trail Springville

  • Length: 4.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

A hike to the Diamond Fork Hot Springs is a must-do and one of the best hikes in Utah because of its blue hot spring lagoons and beautiful scenery. The hike itself, along the river, is quite enjoyable and youll know youve arrived when the smell of sulfur fills the air.

Sit and soak in the naturally heated pools, surrounded by stunning canyon walls and take it all in. Bring a towel, water and a change of clothes. If visiting in winter, check the road status before you head out. For more information check out our complete trail guide to Utahs Diamond Fork Hot Springs.

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Best Utah Backpacking Trips

In the world of backpacking, few places offer the level of scenery and remoteness as the state of Utah. Whether youre hiking on high ridges in the mountains or deep within desert canyons, these Utah backpacking trails are sure to provide an experience that you wont forget. We know the backpacking opportunities can seem endless, so weve rounded up the five best Utah backpacking trips according to Wildland Trekking guides.

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