Boondocking in Utah

Last updated on May 25th, 2021 at 08:42 am. Originally published on May 7th, 2021

Utah is one of the most exciting destinations for dry camping in the United States. The landscape is remarkably varied, offering everything from forested mountains and alpine lakes in the north to bizarre red-rock formations in the south. Whether you’re hiking through otherworldly slot canyons or fishing wild rivers under the autumn leaves, a new, more spectacular view waits around every turn. That’s just the start — Utah is a paradise for rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, boating, photography, and more. Plus, since more than 60% of this majestic wilderness is public land, there’s never a shortage of new places for boondocking Utah. Utah offers world-class free camping and adventures every month of the year.

A white RV drives on a road next to the tall, rocky monuments of Utah's Valley of the Gods

Boondocking Sites in Utah

State Route 150, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

If you’re interested in exploring the mountains east of Salt Lake City and Park City, State Route 150 is one of the best places for boondocking in Utah. It runs through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which allows free dispersed camping within 150 feet of a Forest Service road and farther than 100 feet from water. For the best sites, take one of the forest roads that branches off of SR-150; contact the nearest office to get a motor vehicle use map. Christmas Meadows Road and FR 036 are two good places to start.

Willow Springs Road Dispersed Camping

Arrive early to the dispersed campsites along Willow Springs Road (also called BLM 378) near Moab — they’re some of the most popular options for free camping in Utah. These sites are best on weekdays, as weekends can be extremely loud and crowded. Willow Springs is a great place to camp if you want to walk or bike into the back entrance of Arches National Park; just continue up the road until you reach the sign.

Skull Valley Offroad Camping Area

Get out into the empty Utah desert at the Skull Valley Offroad Camping Area. This is another spot that’s popular with ATV riders on the weekend and quiet during the week. To get there, head west on I-80 from Salt Lake City, and turn south on UT-196. The nearest town is Grantsville, which is about 30 miles away.

Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway

Some of the most beautiful dispersed campsites in Utah are situated along the Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway. Located a quick drive from Zion National Park, this is a fantastic place to enjoy the scenery without the crowds. If you’re in a typical RV with low clearance, the best spots are located between SR-59 and the Wire Mesa Trailhead. From there to the town of Rockville, the road is often too rough.

Hole-in-the-Rock Road Dispersed Camping

When the weather is dry, head to Hole-in-the-Rock Road near Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for some of the finest backcountry dry camping in Utah. This is a truly off-the-beaten-path destination; the nearest town is Escalante, which you’ll find after a slow, bumpy 30-mile drive to the northwest. Dispersed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campsites line either side of the road, and it’s not uncommon to see other RVs and tents. Use your site as a jumping-off point to hike the Dry Fork slot canyon or other local trails. You’ll need a permit to camp from the visitor center in Escalante.

Where to Boondock in Utah

When you’re mapping out where to boondock in Utah, start with BLM. Most BLM lands allow free dispersed camping outside of developed campgrounds as long as you don’t see postings that prohibit it. You can stay for up to 14 days in a 28-day period; after that, you’ll have to move at least 25 miles away to protect the wilderness.

The Forest Service also allows free camping on much of the National Forest land in Utah. In the southern part of the state, you’ll find plenty of designated dispersed camping areas near Cedar City. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has plenty of spots for dry camping that are east of Salt Lake City, and the dispersed camping areas in the Ashley National Forest are ideal for exploring Flaming Gorge. For great rock climbing and fishing, check out Fishlake National Forest.

Free Camping in Utah

When preparing for your boondocking trip, the weather is a big factor. Snow begins in early fall in the mountains near Salt Lake City, making many roads impassable for RVs. The best time to camp in this region is late spring through early October. Southern Utah sees minimal snow, particularly in the lower elevations, so it’s a great place to look for spots in the late fall and winter. Summers are exceptionally hot, and crowd levels are high. Pack more water than you think you need, and prepare for the high heat levels if you’re planning to hike or to bike.

Many of the best boondocking spots in Utah are located down dirt roads. Take great care after it rains because a single storm can turn a formerly passable road into a muddy, rutted mess. Whenever possible, walk or drive a high-clearance vehicle through first before taking your RV.

As long as you keep the weather in mind, boondocking in Utah is a fantastic experience. The scenery is second to none, particularly in the red-rock country. Pull your RV into a remote site, and wake up to the sun on the rocks and views for miles. In the mountains, you can camp near quiet lakes and spend your days fishing or exploring endless hiking trails. Utah has an excellent outdoor infrastructure, so trails tend to be well-marked and well-maintained. Before you head out on your trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about boondocking.
Boondocking in Utah is a dream, whether you want to explore the wilderness or enjoy the views from camp. An RV is a good way to stay comfortable during the state’s hot summers and cold winters. If you want to try out the dry-camping lifestyle but you don’t own an RV, a rental from RVshare is a convenient and cost-effective way to experience Utah’s unique outdoor magic.

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