Best Utah hikes

Best Camping Spots in Utah

Guest post by Jeremy Thorne*

Utah is full of opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. There’s mountain biking, hiking, skiing, four-wheeling, canyoneering, rock-climbing, and much, much more—and it’s all world-class. Sometimes, however, the best thing to do is just set up a tent, build a fire, and chill. Utah has tons of great spots for chilling, too. These are a few of our favorite spots for doing just that. And, while they may not be the most famous or the most popular, they have just about everything we look for in a relaxing outdoor overnight.

Utah camping trips

Gooseberry Mesa

Located just south and east of Hurricane (Hur-Uh-Ken), Gooseberry Mesa is best known for its technical slickrock mountain biking. Of course, the same trails that are so great for bikes make for super-fun hiking with some outstanding photo-ops. The Mesa is also home to some of the most gorgeous campsites anywhere. The best campsites are along the southern rim of the Mesa. These Cliffside sites sit several hundred feet above the valley floor, and the views are incredible. The Mesa has several great trails to choose from. You can either mountain bike or hike. The trails are pretty technical, though, so only experienced riders should attempt the trails on Gooseberry Mesa.

How to Get There

From Salt Lake City

You’ll take I-15 South for about 290 miles. Take the Hurricane exit and follow the signs to Hurricane. You’ll head into Hurricane on Hwy 9. Turn right at the sign for Hwy 59. Turn left one block later and take the road out of town. Turn left at the sign for Gooseberry Mesa 14.8 miles from where you turned to leave Hurricane. You’ll take this dirt road for a couple miles. You’ll come to a turnoff on the left with a cattleguard. Take this turn. You’ll follow this road all the way up to the Mesa. When you get to a small parking lot with a bathroom, the road will fork. The left fork takes you to camping and trailheads.

Best Utah campsites

Red Fleet State Park, Vernal

When you think of camping in Utah, Red Fleet State Park may not be the first name that comes to mind. Maybe it should be, though. Red Fleet State Park offers great camping, hiking, and swimming,  and fishing. If you bring your ski boat, you can even wakeboard. The 31 campsites overlook the gorgeous reservoir, complete with sandy beaches and sandstone cliffs. Camping at Red Fleet is not exactly roughing it. Each site has a covered picnic table and a raised barbecue grill. There are even restrooms. One of Red Fleet’s coolest attractions is a 2.4-mile round trip hike to the reservoir’s north shore, where you’ll find the tracks of an early dinosaur called Dilophosaurus, which stood about 8 feet tall and weighed as much as a small horse.

How to Get There

From Salt Lake City

Take I-80 east past the Park City exit. The next exit is US 40. Take 40 East through Heber City. You’ll arrive in Vernal after about 2 hours. Once in Vernal, turn north on Hwy 191. After about 7 miles, you’ll arrive at the park.

Best Utah campsites

Goblin Valley

Goblin Valley is an alien landscape. This incredible area is family-friendly and fun for all ages. As you pull in and select a campsite, you don’t see more than a handful of the rock formations that have made this are famous. It’s just a short hike from the campsites to the main viewing area. This is where you can take in the enormity of the valley can be seen. The real attractions are the hoodoos, soft sandstone rock formations that are shaped like huge mushrooms. Visitors are welcome to hike down into the valley and explore the hoodoos. There are a few main trails that the you through the park, but you can also strike off on your own. Keep an eye on the kids, the footing can be a little bit treacherous.

How to get there

From Salt Lake City

Goblin Valley is about 216 miles south of Salt Lake City. Take I-15 South to US-6 East. Take Us-6 through Price until you reach I-70. Take I-70 West to UT-24 West. Take Temple Mountain rd. to Goblin Valley rd., which will take you straight to the park. The park is about 24 miles south of I-70—12 miles on UT-24 and 12 miles on the last two roads.

Each of these areas is a fun overnight road trip from Salt lake City. Red Fleet is only about 2.5 hours. Goblin Valley is about 3.5, and Gooseberry is more like 5 hours. The drives are scenic (the drive to Gooseberry can become a little dull after a while, and there will be quite a bit of wildlife near the roads, especially during the fall. Auxiliary lighting is a good idea after dark. It’s also a good idea to have GPS and don’t let your tank get below half-full during any of these drives.

Jeremy is an avid outdoors enthusiast and part of the BajaDesigns.com team. When he’s not camping, you will find Jeremy planning for the next adventure to come. 

About

Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives with her husband and a very bad dog.

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