By Sara Sheehy
Utah is a land of extremes. From the achingly beautiful red-rock desert of the south to the powder-filled slopes of the Wasatch Range, Utah has a little something for everyone. Utah also has over 35 million acres of public land, much of which is managed for camping and other uses by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and other entities.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy free, dispersed camping areas, Utah might just be the right place for you. Here’s where to find some of the best free camping in Utah.
Free Camping Near Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is not only Utah’s biggest metropolis but also one of the largest cities in the mountain west. Sprawling from north to south and hemmed in by the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Range, this city’s free camping options are best suited to RVers looking for a night’s rest while passing through.
Free Camping Near Park City and the Wasatch Range
Utah may tout itself as having “the greatest snow on earth,” but that snow wouldn’t be too useful without the gorgeous mountains it gets trapped on. These mountains are beloved by skiers in the winter and adventure-loving campers in the summer.
Check out Salamander Flat or Heber Mountain for beautiful boondocking and tent camping on national forest lands. Mud Creek Road BLM dispersed camping near Strawberry Reservoir is another option near the Wasatch.
Free Camping Near Utah’s “Big Five” National Parks
Have you heard of Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks? If not, it’s time to get this epic road trip on your bucket list. The Mighty Five parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion—are all located in southern Utah, and full of the kind of red-rock landscapes that will have your wanderlust dreams firing on all cylinders. There is no free camping inside the parks, but nearby BLM and Forest Service land provide excellent options.
Let’s move from east to west, starting at otherworldly Arches National Park. Those who need to stay in cell phone range will gravitate toward the popular Willow Springs Trail along the original entrance road to Arches. This spot gets overcrowded fast, so those with a high-clearance rig who prefer a quieter experience might check out Lower Gemini Bridges.
Canyonlands National Park is a short drive from Arches. Make your home base at Lone Mesa to explore the Island in the Sky region, or Lockhart Road to check out the lesser-visited, and stunningly beautiful, Needles District.
Next up is Capitol Reef, a gem of a park that often gets overlooked by its flashier neighbors. This spot is absolutely worth a visit if you like soaring cliffs and hikes through the canyons. Settle into Pleasant Creek Dispersed to be just a stone’s throw from the park itself.
It may be hard to catch your breath on the 9,000-foot elevation of Bryce Canyon National Park’s rim, but you won’t mind once you see the wildly beautiful hoodoos. Cabin Hollow is the preferred free camping near Bryce Canyon for many in the Campendium community.
Last but certainly not least is Zion National Park, one of the most-visited national parks in the country. Park-goers (and mountain bikers) love the free camping at Hurricane Cliffs, where the beginner-friendly JEM trail runs right through the sites.
Some of the best camping in Utah is free! From BLM land to the outskirts of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, you can find a place to stay for a night, a week, or more. Find it all here on Campendium.