When it comes to camping for free, Utah is one of the numerous states that offer tons of free dispersed camping options.
With a vast expanse of public lands spread across different geographical locations in the Beehive State, campers seeking adventures do not have to worry about finding a free area to set up a dispersed camp.
Knowing where to find dispersed campsites in Utah will require a lot of research of the area. If you dread doing the research all by yourself, don’t fret! We have brought you the best ten free dispersed camping spots in Utah.
Camping In Utah
Utah might be famous for its skiing in the winter, but it remains a popular tourist hotspot year round and in all seasons. Home to popular destinations like the Zion National Park, the Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Arches National Park, it is easy to see why Utah welcomes millions of tourists to its lands every year.
Besides these popular destinations, Utah is home to other astonishing destinations that magnet campers from all around the world. Tourists visit Utah year-round to experience the breathtaking rock formations and majestic arches, forested mountains, snow-covered mountain peaks, and other limitless options in the numerous parks, forests, and reserves.
While all these are great, what makes Utah a unique camper destination is the abundance of dispersed camping spots. Not only is it legal to camp in the numerous camping spots in Utah, but many of these spots are also available to be used for free by campers.
Dispersed camping has been on the rise following the lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions. If anything, the lockdown has encouraged and motivated many people worldwide to enjoy nature when they can.
As the travel restrictions in Utah eased, many people again took to the road to enjoy the astonishing views, sights, and activities Utah offered. While many people chose to stay in designated campgrounds for their trips, others looked to public lands to offer free accommodation without the payment required by designated camping spots.
Dispersed camping, also known as boondocking, is a means of camping in untouched public lands outside designated campgrounds. It is a form of primitive camping as many of these campsites lack the usual facilities like bathrooms, electrical hookups, and running water that are otherwise usually present in private campgrounds.
Is Dispersed Camping Allowed In Utah
As with many other states, dispersed camping is allowed and considered legal in Utah. However, campers can only set up land on public lands.
Utah measures approximately 54.3 million acres and is ranked the 11th largest state in the U.S. regarding the land size. Of its millions of acres, the Bureau of Land Management manages nearly 22.8 million acres, which is about 42 percent of the entire state.
Other than this, over 70% of Utah is considered public land owned by the Federal or State government. These lands are usually parks and reserves popular for being a habitat of untouched beauty. This not only makes them a destination for many campers who are looking to experience nature first-hand but a viable location for dispersed camping.
Although the majority of Utah is considered public land, not all parts of these public lands allow campers to use the areas as dispersed camping spots. In fact, dispersed camping spots are spread so far apart that without proper research, it will be easy to miss these spots. The majority of the areas that can be used legally for dispersed camping are managed by the BLM.
However, when you do find these spots, you will be in for a treat. These areas are often scenic, peaceful, and offer astonishing views that will leave you in awe. From plains with undulating slopes to forests and deserts, you will never run out of activities to do while you enjoy free dispersed camping in these areas.
Do I Need A Permit To Camp?
A major concern for many campers to use public lands or BLM lands as dispersed camping spots is knowing if they will need a permit to use the area.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages nearly 22.8 million acres (42 percent) of public lands in Utah. BLM lands in Utah occasionally require permits for access to certain areas. Without prior research, knowing which areas require permits can be considerably difficult.
Finding pleasant dispersed camping spots is easy. All you need to do is research the possible locations you plan on visiting to pinpoint what areas are considered public land and open to dispersed campers.
Before you go dispersed camping in Utah, there are a few things you must know. Some of these are:
- It is illegal to camp on land that is not considered public property.
- You can only stay at a campsite for 14 days consecutively. After you use up this time limit, you are required to move to another campsite at least 25 miles away from the one you're leaving
- Utah can get very hot during the summer and freezing in the winter. There is nothing light clothing and tent awnings cannot solve in the summer, but to brave the winter, we suggest you check out our tips for surviving the outdoors in the cold.
Ten Best Free Dispersed Camping Spots
1. Mammoth Designated Dispersed Camping Area
Although the Mammoth Designated Dispersed Camping Area is as primitive as primitive gets, it is an idyllic area that speaks of immense beauty. It features stretches of gravel roads, a lush forest, and dirt roads that speak of untouched beauty.
More importantly, Mammoth Designated Dispersed Camping Area is a free dispersed camping area for tent and RV campers. Although it offers front-seat access to the Mammoth Creek that meanders through the area, it offers nothing else. To use this camping spot, you must tap into your primitive boondocking skills and create makeshift solutions for your bathroom, toilet, and garbage disposal needs.
While at this camping spot, you can engage in fun activities like hiking, fishing, biking, and wildlife-watching. At Mammoth Designated Dispersed Camping Area, you can live your camping expectations to the fullest.
2. Manning Meadow CUA
Manning Meadow sits snugly in the Fishlake National Forest. It is located on the shores of the Manning Meadows Reservoir, about 16 miles west of Greenwich, Utah.
Manning Meadow is an equally primitive campsite, not in an inconvenient rustic way but more of a tranquil setting. It encapsulates the ultimate dispersed camping dream with an environment that not only offers campers free accommodations but also provides an environment where they can truly live out their dreams.
In Manning Meadow, you might not have access to water, electrical, and garbage services, but you will have access to one relatively clean vault toilet. You also enjoy amazing activities like hiking, swimming, and fishing.
3. La Sal Loop
If you crave diverse scenery with everything from views of mountain peaks to an enchanting green forest, La Sal Loop is the campsite you need. Located just outside of the Moab area, La Sal Loop seems almost segregated from the rest of Utah thanks to its unbelievably cool temperature, mostly thanks to the mountains.
It is easy to consider La Sal Loop one of the best dispersed camping spots in Utah. Although there is no water hookup, toilet, or garbage disposal, the area’s beauty makes up for whatever convenience you feel might be amiss. If you do find yourself in La Sal Loop, remember to take advantage of the stunning view and do a little exploring.
4. Diamond Fork Dispersed Camping
Diamond Fork Dispersed Camping is a beautiful remote backcountry dispersed camping area. It is easily accessible and only about an hour away from Salt Lake City.
Diamond Fork Dispersed Camping is located in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. It is a wide open ground that offers easy access to waterfalls and canyons in the area. It is a popular spot for recreational visitors looking to engage in activities like fishing and hiking.
If you choose to camp in this area, keep in mind that you cannot camp on the lower half of the road. You will be required to move up the dirt path, where a sign shows where dispersed camping is allowed.
Diamond Fork Dispersed Camping is great for RV, truck, and tent campers. Although it offers no water or restroom facilities, you will have access to fire rings.
5. Gooseberry Mesa Dispersed Camping
The Bureau of Land Management manages Gooseberry Mesa. It is a moderately accessible dispersed camping area, so it is better you only attempt to visit this spot with a high clearance vehicle.
Gooseberry Mesa offers impressive views of the desert and canyons below. If you love your camping trip laced with a bit of challenge, you will love the drive up to the Gooseberry Mesa Dispersed Campground and the rewarding view that comes right after.
Although it is a gorgeous campsite, Gooseberry Mesa offers no facilities. If you choose to use this area for your next camping trip, remember to pack all the essentials.
6. Jug Hollow Dispersed Camping
Jug Hollow Dispersed Camping is located in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Northeast of Utah. It features a picturesque view from the peninsula and offers a mixture of enthralling water, mountain peaks in the distance, and grassy slopes.
Jug Hollow Dispersed Camping area makes a great dispersed camping spot regardless of the season. It is a breathtakingly large area and is a hot spot for other adventurous campers. There are no facilities or hookups in the area. However, there are lots of interesting water and land-based activities to make up for the lack of amenities.
7. Stansbury Island Dispersed Camping
If Stansbury Island Dispersed Camping offers one thing, it is jaw-dropping beautiful sunsets. If you want an idyllic dispersed camping spot where you can create amazing memories, Stansbury Island Dispersed Campgrounds is a great place to check out.
Stansbury Island Dispersed Camping is an out-and-back camping spot located west of Salt Lake City. It is an hour from Downtown Salt Lake City, easy to navigate (as long as your vehicle is a rugged rig with high clearance), and even easier to access.
Stansbury Island Dispersed Camping is considerably large but not as busy as many other large dispersed camping spots. However, it is important to note some spots in the area are considered private land. Do not misjudge the area and settle on private land, as that is considered illegal in Utah. Keep your eyes peeled for signs that will make it clear if the area is BLM land or not.
Heads up: beware of salt flats, and don't be surprised if you hear gunshots. It's all part of the primitive experience.
8. Willow Springs Road Dispersed Camping
Willow Springs Road Dispersed Camping is located east of Highway 191. It is along Willow Springs Road and very difficult to miss.
This campground might look like a dirt road that stretches far and wide for miles, but it is surprisingly a quite famous area in Utah. The area is easy to access, which makes it a great place for weekend campers looking to have fun before returning to their weekday routines.
It doesn't matter if you plan on using an RV or tent, Willow Springs Road Dispersed Camping is a great place for your next dispersed camping trips. However, it is essential to note that this dispersed camping area is bare of any amenity other than a vault toilet.
9. Muley Point
If you want a campsite that offers a bird’s-eye view of the San Juan River and the desert spread out around it, Muley Point is the best option for you. At this campground, you get a front-seat view of the sun setting over Monument Valley.
Muley Point is located on the southern end of Cedar Mesa and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful dispersed camping spots in Utah. Although the switchbacks and dirt roads are quite rugged and moderately challenging to navigate, the views make up for the hard drive up to the camp.
Muley Point is located on a cliff, so make sure you keep your eyes out while exploring the area and don't get too close to the edge. Also, it is important to remember there is no shade in the area, so it can get hot and windy. Pack accordingly, and you should be alright.
10. Valley Of The Gods
Last but not least is the series of dispersed campsites spread along the Valley Of The Gods Road located off U.S. Highway 163. These campsites are especially convenient because it is located just a few miles west of Bluff.
Valley Of The Gods is located a short drive away from Monument Valley. This, coupled with the fact that Valley Of The Gods is filled with interesting rock formations, is why Valley Of The Gods is often fondly called Mini Monument Valley.
The roads leading to the campsites are relatively easy if you take it slow. However, the drive will be more convenient if you make the trip in a 4WD off-road vehicle.
Enjoying An Off-Grid Utah Experience
Public land in Utah is not scarce, and our ten best dispersed camping spots are only the tip of the iceberg. From sweeping deserts to forested mountains, Utah offers campers a spot to live out their dispersed camping dreams to their heart's content.
If you plan to explore Utah’s dispersed camping areas, don't forget to pack appropriately and grab a free National Geographic Topo Map of the area. At Utah, we guarantee an experience you will never forget.