Camping gets us back in touch with our roots and gives us a chance to get just a slight taste of what it was like for our primitive ancestors who moved about in tents, lived off the land, and made do with whatever nature provided for them. That being said, some make their camping trips a more luxurious experience; to that we say, “to each their own.” Whichever way you choose to do it, if you want to get a genuine, successful camping experience in the great outdoors, there are some guidelines that must be followed, and they usually change depending on your location. We’re here to provide you with a guide for camping in Utah.
What Is It Like to Camp in Utah?
Before you head off on your big adventure in the great outdoors, it’ll definitely be helpful to get an idea of what you’re in for. Camping isn’t for the faint of heart, and, depending on where and how you plan to camp, you could be living quite a different lifestyle than what you’re used to.
For instance, you’re almost certainly going to be bathing differently, and there may be no hot water outside of what you boil. Cooking may be done solely on a portable grill or over a campfire. Likewise, the only toilet available to you may be an old, decrepit outhouse or even the backside of a tree. Get ready to live on the bare necessities. Of course, if you’ve got a nice camper, that changes everything.
Some prefer to have more amenities and luxuries available, while others like the feeling of “real camping” and living primitively. These different philosophies both have merit. No matter what method of camping you choose, there are some things that will still stay the same when camping in Utah:
Where you choose to camp will have a lot to do with the type of flora you see.
If you’re planning on camping in a desert region, then you may not see much beautiful plant life, though there are a variety of desert shrubs and scrubs. Pinyon Juniper pine trees are also common in desert areas.
However, if you’re headed to one of Utah’s more mountainous and forested regions, then you might find yourself among the lovely ponderosa and Jeffrey pines. And just like most places in the U.S., you’ll have to watch out for poison ivy. There’s perhaps no better way to ruin your camping trip then stumbling into a patch!
There are also hanging gardens and too many flowers to name. The flora of the Utah biome is diverse and majestic, and if you find a good place to camp out then you’re sure to encounter some of this state’s truly beautiful plant life.
If you go camping in Utah, you’ll almost certainly get a chance to catch a glimpse of some amazing wildlife native to the state. There are bighorn sheep and rams, mule deer and elk, ferrets and otters, peregrine falcons and chipmunks, beavers and pine martens, porcupines, and all manner of other creatures that run free in the Utah wilderness. Take a camera along and see if you can get a picture of some of these gorgeous animals. There are even pikas, jackrabbits, and pronghorn antelope. While Utah natives may find them common, those who travel from out of state may be in for a very rare experience.
While the wildlife is beautiful and most of it is safe, it should also be stated that there are quite a number of predators that roam the Utah wild as well. Cougars (also called mountain lions), lynx, and bobcats are the three big cats that call Utah home. There are also coyotes and black bear that live in the state.
While one should always be careful when exploring, these dangerous creatures definitely urge special caution for those who might be thinking of going camping in Utah. Get filled in on what predators are known to frequent your selected campsite and take the necessary precautions to ensure that any run-ins can be handled without human injury.
As the state features both desert and mountainous regions, the climate depends on where you’re at in the state.As the state features both desert and mountainous regions, the climate depends on where you’re at in the state.
Average Weather Conditions
Most of the state is dry and arid, and summers are typically extremely hot, though the mountain valleys catch a break from this intense heat. Arctic winds are usually stopped by the mountains, but snow almost always falls during the winters. Annually, the state gets less than 15 inches of rainfall on average. Tornados are rare, although Utah hosts around two yearly. They’re typically mild, as the most intense twister ever recorded to hit the state was an F3 on the Fujita scale. It gets quite cold in the later months.
Once you’ve got your mind made up on where to go, make sure to pack according to the location and the season. Thankfully, you likely won’t have to bring much rain gear, but you may very well have to deal with some blistering heat!
One of the most classic activities to take part in on a camping trip is undoubtedly fishing. You might even make fishing your main source of food for your trip if you’re trying to live off the land. Many of Utah’s most popular camping places are found on lakes, too, which means there’s no shortage of opportunities to get your line in the water. Anglers enjoy all types of fishing in this state as well, from fly-fishing, spinning, or ice fishing (that last one means this can be a year long activity). So go ahead and bring your pole along for your camping trip; there’s nothing better than a fresh fish fried over a camp fire!
What Type of Fish You’ll Find
There are also many species of fish which can be found in Utah’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Trout fishing is quite popular in Utah as is bass fishing. You can find certain lakes stocked with a variety of different species, including channel catfish. There are several resources you can use to determine what kinds of fish live in the waters around your campsite; you may even find yourself making your decision on where to go depending on what type of fish you can catch and eat there!
Another beloved activity in Utah is hunting. There are many things you can hunt in Utah, from waterfowl to black bears. Elk, mule deer, coyotes, and cougars are all on the list, too. Antelope, pheasant, grouse, turkeys, partridges, and rabbits are popular selections for hunters in the state of Utah, and with each being edible, they’re all an opportunity to test your grit by trying to live off the land and eat only what you kill. Interestingly enough, falconry is also an option in Utah. So if you want to take your bird of prey for a spin, make sure to get signed up and let it take to the sky.
Hiking is also a great way to spend some of your camping trip. With canyons, mountains, valleys, forests, and lake shores to explore, there is no shortage of excellent scenery for you to enjoy on your hiking trip. Some places have marked trails for you to follow through the wild while in other areas you may get the brilliant chance to forge your own path through the great outdoors. Always remember to take some water with you and remember your way back! You may even get the chance to get up close and personal with some of the beautiful Utah fauna we mentioned earlier.
While some people get grossed out at the thought of taking a dip somewhere else than a sanitized swimming pool (don’t tell them people pee in there), there are some really great locations to soak in the sun during your next camping trip in Utah. As we previously mentioned, there are tons of camping sites by lakes and rivers. You can also go tubing, rafting, boating, and everything else that you can think of to do in the water. But if you take a swim in a river, just be careful not to get swept away by the current; and watch out for those who might have lines in the water; you don’t want them to get more than they bargained for.
Is there any better place to meditate than an isolated spot in the middle of the woods, by a lakeside, or on top of a mountain? While you’ll want to be careful when traversing nature alone, there’s nothing quite so peaceful as sitting on top of a rock, watching the sunrise, and doing some morning meditation.
Meditation means different things to different people. To some, it’s clearing your head of all thoughts and letting any that intrude simply come and go. To others, it’s thinking deeply on important things and decisions in your life. Either way, meditating by yourself in the great outdoors is definitely the way to go.
Popular Places to Camp in Utah
Now that you’ve got a vivid mental picture of what camping in Utah might be like, the next step in the process is to make a selection for where to take your trip. Utah hosts a variety of ecosystems, and as long as you’ve got the ability to travel, you could pick a desert, an oasis, a forest, a lakeshore, or even the mountains for your campsite.
Also, some sites will be more accommodating in regards to facilities and amenities; likewise, there are those that are perfect for RVs. Mainly, however, we’re going to focus on where you can do some good, old-fashioned tent camping. Here are a few places to keep in mind:
Antelope Island State Park
Pick this park for your next campsite and you’ll find yourself on a bucolic island in the Great Salt Lake. This one hosts tons of wildlife, so expect to see some bighorn sheep, waterfowl, and maybe even some bison. There are three different campgrounds on the island itself, and 52 individual campsites total. Amateur astronomers will love this place, too, as the stars hang bright and clear in the night sky.
Arches National Park
This park located out in the desert has some beautiful natural arches, spires, and fins; likewise, some of that desert Utah flora mentioned previously will definitely be seen during your stay, as the park hosts prickly pear, yucca, and juniper pine trees. There are only 51 campsites at this park, so make sure you call ahead of time if you’re thinking of staying; they could fill up in the blink of an eye!
Zion National Park
If privacy is important to you, then this one’s probably not the way to go. Zion National Park has over 176 campsites. However, there are some really majestic rock formations, and the majority of sites come with electric hookups if you want to take advantage of modernity on your trip. There’s also a two-mile trip that takes a path called the Watchman Trail. So if hiking’s your thing, Zion National Park might be just the right place to go camping in Utah.
Gooseneck State Park
Located above a curve in the San Juan River (known as the Gooseneck) that ripples through the desert on its way to Lake Powell, Gooseneck Sate Park is just as scenic and gorgeous as any other park on this list. This one’s pretty exclusive, too; there are only 8 campsites available in the entire park, and they’re entirely first-come, first-serve.
Bryce Canyon National Park
There are two different campgrounds to find at Bryce Canyon National Park: the North Campground and the Sunset Campground. There are specific areas for RV camping in the park and for traditional tent camping. Sunset Campground has 100 campsites to itself, so you’ll likely have to keep your neighbors in mind depending on what time of the year you book your stay.
Bear Lake State Park
Some of Utah’s bluest waters can be found at Bear Lake State Park. If fishing and swimming are your priorities, then this one is a shoo-in. There are multiple campgrounds in the park, with some having as few as 6 campsites and others having as much as 136. The offerings are diverse, too, as some of these sites have full hookups for those wanting to get the best of both technological and primitive worlds.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Named after the color of the sand dunes in this region, this state park hosts rock cliffs, pinion and juniper trees, and even some great places for ATV riding. It’s also located near Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, making it ideal for those who want to see all these landmarks in one trip. This park only has 22 sites on its campground too, so you won’t have to deal with overcrowding. Camping in Utah is all about getting away from people in the first place, right?
A Helping Guide for Camping in Utah
So you’ve envisioned your trip, made your reservations, and have told the family the good news about going camping in Utah. What next? Well, before you take off for the great outdoors, you might want to brush up on a few things to make sure you’re totally prepared to have an awesome, safe, and productive adventure with your loved ones. These guidelines should hopefully ensure you have the time of your lives and don’t get yourselves into too much trouble!
While a lot of people use RVs and campers, there’s still nothing like classic tent camping. Giving up some of life’s luxuries, putting yourself to the test, and trying to live off the land is an entirely different experience then taking a trip in a rolling motel room. It’s not that tent camping is “real camping” and other kinds aren’t. But you might find yourself in love with going primitive and trying to do everything yourself for once instead of letting technology bear the load. Try fishing for food, cooking your catch over an open fire, and laying your head to rest in a sleeping bag. There’s nothing quite like classical camping: just remember to get a tent that’s appropriate to the time of year you visit.
Make sure you have everything you need written out beforehand. Think about how you’re going to make fire; do you need a long lighter? Lighter fluid? Also think ahead for stuff you’ll wish you remembered later, such as bug repellant, an extra pillow, or a mosquito net. Of course, how you plan to camp and where you plan to camp will determine your list, so there’s no perfect prescription. Start your list early, that way you have a better chance of those things you left out coming to you before you finally pack in and head out to go camping in Utah.
There are plenty of dangers to come across when camping. Be careful when starting a fire.You shouldn’t need to pour gasoline or lighter fluid on top if you do it correctly, but should you choose to anyway, make sure you don’t end up dripping any on you and that you’re clear when you hit the spark. Likewise, if it’s hunting season and you plan on hiking in hunting areas, make sure to bring an orange vest. Take precautions when casting your fishing pole and tying on hooks. Failing to do some of these little things could ruin the entire trip or even result in severe injuries. Use extreme caution when camping in Utah.
Tips for Starting a Fire
When starting a fire, only use dry wood. Start off with small tinder, such as tiny twigs and perhaps some newspaper. When it starts to build, put thicker pieces of wood on until you can add large wood chunks without worrying about killing the fire. One life hack is to put some twigs in an egg carton and then poke the lighter in from one of the holes on the outside. If it’s windy or could be so in the near future, take advantage of any breaks in the weather to start your fire then.
Respect the Environment
Keep the great outdoors great by showing respect for the ecosystem and environment. Always catch and release if you don’t plan to eat; no, you don’t need to mount your catch, and yes, it will start to stink long before you get the chance ever to do so. Don’t litter and keep all trash picked up (Utah does have a black bear population after all). A good policy is to leave your campsite in an even better shape than the one you found it in.
Follow the Rules
This one should be a given, but some people still need to hear it. Make sure you’ve got your license if you’re going to hunt and fish, and only use property that you’re permitted to be on. Don’t kill game out of season and abide by any guidelines given to you by the groundskeeper. You don’t want a run-in with a game warden, and you also don’t want to get banned from the campgrounds. Play by the rules, and your camping trip will prosper.
Camping in Utah can be the experience of a lifetime. In a state that has such a wide array of scenery and locations to visit, you could find yourself on a lakeshore, on a mountaintop, or in the middle of a desert. Some truly impressive wildlife calls the state its home, and though the temperature tends to land on the hotter side of the spectrum, there are plenty of lakes to cool off in if things get too warm. Just make sure to come prepared, respect the environment, follow the rules, and put yourself to the test, and you’ll be sure to make your Utah camping trip a success.