Utah is famous for its dramatic desert scenery, but’s that’s just one aspect of this diverse state with limitless opportunities for amazing outdoor recreation. Remember your state capitals? Utah’s is easy: Salt Lake City, named, of course, after the Great Salt Lake on which it sits. “Great” is no understatement when it comes to describing the largest saltwater lake
in the Western Hemisphere.
Utah also boasts the second-largest manmade lake in the nation, Lake Powell, along with dozens of other notable lakes and reservoirs. Some are shallow and warm, and lined with sandy beaches. Others are deep and cold, reflecting nearby snow-capped mountain peaks and practically begging you to take and share photos. Some lakes draw crowds, while others remain serene.
Consider yourself the most discerning of campers? You’re in luck, because in Utah, there’s a mode of lake camping to suit your most rarefied outdoor desires.
Hip and Happening Places to Lake Camp in Utah
Water sports, fishing, boating, swimming and gorgeous settings draw countless visitors to Utah’s many lakes. Adding to their appeal are the opportunities for lake camping, a year-round prospect for tent pitchers as well as RVers in at least some regions of the state.
Many campers before you have sought out incredible lakefront sites with ample conveniences that augment their natural beauty. Follow their lead and check out the following popular destinations for lake camping in Utah. Each offers multiple campgrounds as well as areas for dispersed camping.
Visit Lake Powell for Red-Rock Scenery and Recreation
Lake Powell covers 1.2 million acres within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
in southern Utah. The lake’s hundreds of miles of waterways twist and turn through the region’s iconic red rock landscape, making it a place of outstanding scenic beauty. It’s also a recreation paradise — a major boating and water sports destination with multiple marinas around its shore.
Camping at Lake Powell is popular too, with dispersed camping available for free all around the shoreline as well as the backcountry. You don’t need a permit, and there are no fees for camping up to 14 consecutive days.
The National Park Service also operates several developed and primitive campgrounds, which charge a small nightly fee but do not accept reservations. Lees Ferry Campground offers 54 campsites with grills, a modern bathroom, and a potable water and dump station, but no hookups. Beehives Campground has six designated sites with picnic tables but no other amenities.
Park concessioners operate several campgrounds and RV parks within the recreation area as well. These include Wahweap Campground with 266 sites for tents and RVs, and Bullfrog RV and Campground with 98 sites.
Camp and Float at the Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake, “America’s Dead Sea,” is probably the most famous lake in the state, and it presents some great opportunities for lake camping in Utah. The unusual saline lake covers a whopping 1,700 square miles and supports diverse ecosystems for hundreds of bird species, free-roaming bison and bighorn sheep, among other fascinating species.
If spotting or photographing wildlife is your thing, camping at the Great Salt Lake will be all the more memorable. You can also swim and float in the lake, an unusual experience given the lake’s saline-induced buoyancy. Boating is popular too.
Camping around Great Salt Lake is available at two state parks: Antelope Island State Park on the east side of the lake, and Great Salt Lake State Park along the south shore. Antelope Island State Park
has four developed campsites — three for tents and RVs, and one for tents only — plus backcountry camping options.
Great Salt Lake State Park
has one year-round campground with sites for tents and RVs up to 40 feet. It has water and electrical hookups. This park also offers primitive tent-only beach sites.
Enjoy Jewel-Toned Waters at Bear Lake
Bear Lake in far northeastern Utah is a stunning turquoise hue, a result of minerals naturally present in its waters. It is a photogenic beauty, so it won’t be a surprise if you spend much of your camping time just staring at the scenery here.
The lake is cut through by the Utah-Idaho state line; the southern side in Utah is largely a part of Bear Lake State Park
. Its shores include Rendezvous Beach, the longest beach in Utah, with shallow waters for paddling plus a full-service marina and two golf courses. Camping is available at seven state-run campgrounds, all with flush toilets and hot showers.
Choose Utah Lake for Mountain Vistas
Utah Lake, a large, natural freshwater lake in north-central Utah, is in a spectacular setting between the Lake Mountains and Wasatch Mountains. The cities of Provo and Orem both sit on the lake’s eastern shore. Utah Lake State Park
runs a campground on the east side, along with a visitor center, boat launch ramps, marina and playground. The campground features showers and modern restrooms, as well as an RV dump station and drinking water supply.
Head to Sand Hollow Reservoir for Golden Beaches and Warm Waters
With its red sandstone surroundings, warm waters, year-round sunshine and huge golden sand beach
, Sand Hollow Reservoir is one of the most popular places for lake camping in Utah. Lounging on the beach is definitely appealing, but so are high-adrenaline activities like OHV riding on Sand Mountain, a huge mound of sculpted red sand dunes.
Boating, jet-skiing and water-skiing are also available, as are equipment rentals. The reservoir is in southern Utah near St. George. Camping is available at three campgrounds in Sand Hollow State Park,
including RV sites with full hookups.
Camp Along the Endless Shoreline of Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Flaming Gorge Reservoir is a manmade lake in northeast Utah, expanding into Wyoming and encompassed by Flaming Gorge Reservoir National Recreation Area
in Ashley National Forest. The recreation area comprises more than 200,000 acres, with abundant opportunities for boating, fishing, water sports and hiking. The lake’s remarkable clarity and temperate waters also make it possible to go scuba diving and spearfishing.
A great destination for lake camping in Utah, Flaming Gorge Reservoir has 43 campgrounds spread over some 360 miles of shoreline. Free dispersed camping is also an option on the national forest’s public lands.
Even More Lake Camping in Utah
Here are just a few more great destinations for lake camping in Utah:
- Strawberry Reservoir, in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, is a popular fishing spot 65 miles from Salt Lake City and Provo.
- Deer Creek Reservoir, created by a dam on the Provo River and surrounded by aspen forests, has gorgeous scenery with the snow-capped Mount Timpanogos as a backdrop. There are two campgrounds in Deer Creek State Park.
- Fish Lake, in the heart of Fishlake National Forest, is the largest natural mountain lake in Utah. You can camp anywhere in the national forest or at one of 29 developed and nine undeveloped campgrounds.
- Echo Reservoir, spanning the Utah/Wyoming border, is a popular spot for fishing, boating and camping at Echo State Park.
Ready to Go Lake Camping in Utah?
Sites at these popular lakes obviously fill up fast, especially during the local high seasons. Fortunately, these lakes represent just a handful of the beautiful lake camping destinations in Utah. If you prefer a less-populated, more serene atmosphere or it’s too late to score a site, know that there are many more off-the-beaten-path lakefront destinations to discover throughout Utah.
The most difficult part of planning a lake camping trip in Utah will be deciding on a destination. Start by envisioning your ideal lake camping experience. Is it sunny with warm waters and sandy shores? Do you want to be miles from any other campers in a serene forest grove? Are you bringing fishing gear, hiking boots or a camper van full of home comforts? Whatever your favorite style of camping is, there’s almost certainly a lake in Utah to fit that glorious vision!