Guide to Desert Camping in Utah

Utah offers an abundance of opportunities for the ultimate desert camping experience. Home to the iconic Mojave Desert, as well as vast areas of desert in the Canyonland and Great Basin regions, the Beehive State also boasts great diversity in climate and vegetation, so you can spend a few days among the dunes, then move a few miles away to camp in a lush mountain forest.

About Desert Camping in Utah

Pink sunsets over red rock mountains, chilly nights around a blazing campfire — what’s not to like about desert camping in Utah? You can choose a popular tourist destination like the Mojave Desert, or opt for lesser-known areas in the Moab Valley. It’s all there, just waiting to be discovered.

Where To Go Desert Camping in Utah

Privately Owned Campgrounds

When it comes to desert camping in Utah, private campgrounds are your best bet, because you can depend on them for absolute necessities like potable water, restrooms, showers, supplies and other comforts to help you deal with the rugged desert climate. You can still enjoy roughing it while you hike and climb, but afterward, you can relax in a heated pool or hot tub and then get comfortable around a blazing fire pit surrounded by the majesty of the desert mountains.

To book your Utah desert stay, visit BookOutdoors and join the waiting list for plenty of fantastic campgrounds offering the best desert camping in Utah!

State and National Parks

Utah’s state and national parks offer a convenient way to experience some of the state’s most famous desert landmarks. Most offer basic amenities such as potable water and toilets, but features like electrical hookups are usually unavailable. Also, be aware that you’ll need a permit to stay overnight in some backcountry areas, so check before you leave.

Public Lands

Utah is home to 22.8 million acres of public land that covers around 42 percent of the state, so there’s always a camping spot nearby. There won’t be any amenities, but you’ll be roughing it among some of Utah’s most spectacular views.

Best Campgrounds for Desert Camping in Utah

Snow Canyon State Park

To whet your appetite, here are three favorite Utah desert campsites:

Snow Canyon State Park

Located in Ivins, Snow Canyon State Park is nestled in a breathtaking Mojave Desert canyon surrounded by red sandstone cliffs and regal mountain views. It features 25 RV-friendly sites, including some with electrical hookups.

Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground

Close to Arches National Park, Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground offers family-friendly camping among red sandstone cliffs and towering monoliths. Amenities include a pool, playground, dog park, general store, putting green and even a BBQ pavilion, where you can dine under a canopy of desert stars.

And for the ultimate backcountry experience…

Canyonlands National Park 

Located in San Juan County, the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is famous for its tall canyons and red rock spires that seem to climb to the sun. Chesler Park and Elephant Canyon are especially popular and offer easy access to superb backcountry hiking trails. However, remember that you’ll need a permit to camp overnight in Canyonlands.

For more great camping recommendations, be sure to visit BookOutdoors and join the waiting list, so you can book your trip at one of Utah’s most stunning desert campgrounds!

What To Pack for Desert Camping in Utah

Utah is home to both “hot” and “cold” deserts. Hot deserts have extreme daytime temperatures that can reach as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can also be bone-chillingly cold at night. Cold deserts can be subject to sub-freezing temps, and in areas like Grand Basin, it can even snow in the winter.  

One thing all deserts have in common: They’re dry, and in these dry elevations, you can quickly dehydrate, so it’s crucial to bring plenty of water to last your trip. As a rule of thumb, Utah desert campers recommend bringing at least two gallons of water per person per day. In many locations, supply stores and potable water sources can be few and far between, so bring extra. And before you book, make sure your campground has access to potable water.

Whether you’re in a hot desert or a cold one, nights will be chilly to downright frigid. Even in the summer months, you’ll need warm camping gear for nighttime, plus warm, insulating clothes, PJs and accessories (knit caps and gloves are great for retaining heat). In this changeable climate, dressing in layers isn’t only warmer; it also allows you to shed what you need to without shocking the neighbors.

Otherwise, bring what you ordinarily would for any camping trip, and don’t forget to pack plenty of flashlights, lanterns, and extra batteries and matches. Also, remember to bring emergency first aid (including an anti-venom kit for snakebite), as well as survival gear like duct tape, candles, tarps, tools and quarters for payphones, because cell phone service is nonexistent in many areas. Bring extra food in case you can’t load up on supplies. And another essential for these high desert elevations is sunscreen, plus sunhats and sunglasses.

Tips for Desert Camping in Utah

  • Camp openings and regulations may be subject to changing water levels or local fire bans, so stay informed during your trip.
  • In the summer months, lower elevation temperatures can be brutal, so opt for higher elevations if you don’t enjoy extreme heat.
  • Stay in established camping areas and only use marked trail paths. Otherwise, you could do ecological damage to Utah’s cryptobiotic soil.
  • At high desert elevations, extreme cold can develop quickly, so be prepared.
  • Utah has the most designated Dark Sky Parks in the world. These are areas with so little pollution, you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. You can locate the best Dark Sky Park locations in Utah by visiting the International Dark Sky Association.

From mesmerizing sand dunes to awe-inspiring sandstone cliffs, there’s no other experience in the world like desert camping in Utah. Visit BookOutdoors and book a stunning desert campsite in Utah where you can enjoy the camping experience of a lifetime.

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