Wanna get away on vacation, but don’t want to spend the money on a faraway trip? Then look no further than this handy dandy list of camping spots that are close to home and offer plentiful recreation opportunities. Most of these camping spots can be reached by car, but in some cases you’ll need to boat, hike, or four-wheel in to the campsite.
1. King Fisher Island (Flaming Gorge)
This beautiful area is characterized by brightly colored canyon walls, forested hills and a large reservoir that’s perfect for boating, canoeing and more. Flaming Gorge straddles the Utah/Wyoming border near the northeast corner of Utah so it requires a little bit of a drive, but here you’ll find great spots for hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing and rafting below the dam on the Green River. Many campgrounds are available on or near the reservoir, but for a real treat stay at a boat-in only campsite like Kingfisher Island. You can canoe or boat in and camp on the island, which is quiet and peaceful. But the island has no drinking water so be sure to bring enough for your trip. Kingfisher Island is located 10 miles southeast off Hwy 44 in Manila, Utah, and campsites cost $10 per night.
2. Skyline Drive (Spanish Fork Canyon)
This road starts at Highway 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon and goes south to I-70 in Salina Canyon. The road is rough and some of the drive requires a high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle or an ATV. But the views are scenic and you’ll see lakes, trees and sights on both sides of the mountain. Many developed camping areas are available along the way near lakes and streams and fishing spots are abundant. The roads in this area are usually open from July to early October.
3. Redman Campground (Big Cottonwood Canyon)
Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, this area offers spacious camping sites and great rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking in an area full of wildflowers, water and tall trees. Just above the campground, near Brighton Ski Resort, is the boardwalk trail around Silver Lake. This boardwalk provides easy access to the lake for anyone and is a great place to stretch out and relax or cast a fishing line. Off the boardwalk you’ll find many other scenic hikes, just follow the signs. For quiet, secluded camping, pick a site further away from the entrance where fewer people venture. Toilets and drinking water are available. Cook brunch at your campsite or go across the road to Silver Fork Lodge where you’ll find great patio dining and tasty pancakes. To get to Redman Campground, go eight miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon Road until you see signs for the campground. Campsites cost $15 per night.
4. Tanner’s Flat (Little Cottonwood Canyon)
If you’re from Salt Lake City or the suburbs surrounding it, you can’t find much closer camping than Tanner’s Flat. This campground is located just four miles up Little Cottonwood and offers tent and RV camping. This site always fills up on weekends so get there early to get a spot or make a reservation, and remember that a two-day minimum stay is required on weekends. If you’re tent camping, pick a site in the upper section of the campground to avoid crowds and RVers. But be sure not to arrive too late as the gates are locked from 10 p.m.–6 a.m. each day. Nearby hiking and biking trails are plentiful, but if you’re not sure where to hike take the White Pine Trail a mile and a half up the road from Tanner’s Flat. Bathrooms and drinking water are available, and campsites cost $16 per night.
5. Little Mill Campground (American Fork Canyon)
This canyon is great for summer camping, but is especially breathtaking in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. This area is a fee zone and you’ll have to pay just to enter the canyon in addition to camping fees. Many campgrounds are available along the road and in this canyon you’ll find waterfalls, wildflowers, rivers and lakes, as well as great hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking and rock climbing. Timpanogos Cave National Monument is located in American Fork Canyon and you can enjoy a hike to the cave and exploring inside on a guided tour. Little Mill Campground is just a mile and a half from Timpanogos Cave and offers picnic tables, fire pits, toilets, grills and is next to the American Fork River. But be sure to bring enough drinking water as none is available at this site. Remember that these campsites fill up fast so make reservations at least five days in advance. If this campground is full, continue up the road. To get there from Salt Lake City, take I-15 South and take Exit 284 at Alpine-Highland. Go east on Utah Highway 92, eight miles to mouth of American Fork Canyon. Stay on Highway 92 for four miles to campground.
6. The Narrows (Zion National Park)
Though not quite in your backyard, Zion National Park is a quick three-hour drive away from Salt Lake City and offers some of Utah’s best backpacking opportunities. Backpacking may not be for everyone, but for you adventurous types, backpacking in Zion is said to be some of America’s best. There’s too many amazing backpacking treks in Zion to feature just one, but Cable Mountain is a 15.8-mile round trip backpack that offers striking views and can be combined with other side trips to extend your stay. Here you’ll also see the remains of the historic cable car system that once ran in Zion.
The Narrows is another well-known Zion backpacking spot and can be done as a long day hike or an overnight backpacking trip. In the Narrows you’ll see hanging gardens, sheer walls of water, streams, rock formations and more, making it one of the National Park systems most amazing hikes. The Narrows can be difficult however and requires some swimming and frequent river hiking, but there are places to camp along the way. Permits are required to hike from the top-down so check into it before venturing out. Also, flash flood dangers are high in this area so use caution and pay attention to the weather. For more information about backpacking in Zion National Park, visit zionnational-park.com. To get there from Salt Lake City, take I-15 South, past Beaver then exit on Highway 20. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take U-9 to Zion’s east entrance.