Best Camping in Utah
Southern Utah is flush with campgrounds, including many great spots just outside national parks. This tour starts in the west, an easy drive from the Las Vegas airport, near Zion National Park.
Snow Canyon State Park is a beautiful spot just outside busy St. George. Even though it’s at a higher elevation than the town, this area gets very hot in the summer, and the campground is fairly lightly used. But during spring, it’s quite popular; reserve a site well in advance.
Head to Zion National Park, where you can find good spots in either of the two park-maintained campgrounds. If you’re planning in advance, some sites in Watchman Campground can be reserved. Spend a couple of nights there to really see the park.
The campgrounds at Bryce Canyon National Park are perfectly nice, but the high elevation of this park means cold nights in the spring and fall. (There are significant patches of snow on the ground in early May.) Find a warmer spot at Kodachrome Basin State Park, about 20 miles south of Bryce. Kodachrome is quite scenic in itself, with great campsites and several hiking trails.
Two campgrounds near Escalante make a good base for exploring the northern edge of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Of the two, the Calf Creek Campground, east of town, is more scenic, but Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, just west of town, is larger and has showers.
Don’t skip a visit to Capitol Reef. The most noteworthy thing about the park’s Fruita Campground is its easy access to the local fruit trees (free for the picking in the right season) and hiking trails. Because no reservations are accepted, it’s best to arrive here early in the day to claim a spot.
Head south on Notom–Bullfrog Road, cross Lake Powell on the ferry, and pitch your tent at the Halls Crossing campground in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. If you feel a need to drive farther, the main campground at Natural Bridges National Monument is perfectly nice, but it often fills up, leaving latecomers in the unappealing overflow site.
The next morning, get up early and head east across Highway 95 to Blanding, then swing north on Highway 191 to Monticello. Hang a left (west) into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, where both loops of the Squaw Flat Campground have excellent sites. This place is popular, though, and it’s easy to get skunked. If necessary, head east and camp either at the private Needles Outpost or at BLM sites near Newspaper Rock.
Back on Highway 194, drive north through Moab to Arches National Park where, if you planned your trip’s details well in advance, a reserved campsite at the Devil’s Garden Campground will be waiting. If that’s not the case, rest assured that there are many campsites in the Moab area, from primitive sites along the Colorado River to shady comfort in town at the private tents-only Up the Creek Campground. Or maybe it’s time for a comfy mattress and a hot shower!
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition