Utah

Escape the Beehive Bustle: Best Camping Near Salt Lake City

by Mac Misseldine

best camping near salt lake city
Shore of the Great Salt Lake at Stansbury Island

Thanks to its prime position on the Wasatch Front, an unforgettable camping trip is never far from home in Salt Lake City.

Whether you’re looking for a mountain escape, desert adventure, or weekend on the water, Salt Lake City has you covered. With hundreds of campgrounds available less than an hour from the city, your camping options are nearly limitless along the Wasatch Front.

Websites like Recreation.gov and The Dyrt make it easier than ever to find and reserve campsites in Utah, though their massive databases can be a little overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with the territory. They’re both worth perusing when you’re wanting to switch things up and pitch your tent somewhere new.

To help you find the perfect campsite for your next outdoor adventure, we’ve put together a list of the best campgrounds near Salt Lake City. Most of these campgrounds require a fee for overnight stays, but we’ve included a few free camping options for extended trips and backcountry explorers.

Campgrounds Near Salt Lake City

Spruces Big Cottonwood Campground

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by ramblin’ rose cafe (@ramblinrosecafe) on

Why you should camp here: Sleep beneath the pines in picturesque Big Cottonwood Canyon, part of the sprawling Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.   

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

The Spruces Campground is a strong contender for the most popular National Forest campground near Salt Lake City. Conveniently located just a few minutes from the city in picturesque Big Cottonwood Canyon, Spruces is the perfect basecamp for hiking, mountain biking, and fishing, providing ample shade under the spruce and aspen forest.

RVs are permitted at the Spruces Campground, but the lack of hookups means it’s far more popular for tents and car camping. The campground features flush toilets and drinking water, and all of the sites have picnic tables, campfire rings, and charcoal grills.

For entertainment, the Spruces Campground offers a baseball field, volleyball court, and horseshoe rings. The campground is connected to a network of hiking trails, and you’ll find world-class fly fishing at Big Cottonwood Creek.

Reserve Now

Redman Campground

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Natalia Alston Cucuk (@nataliachantae) on

Why you should camp here: A smaller, high-elevation alternative to the Spruces Campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

Continue past the Spruces Campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon and you’ll find the Redman Campground adjacent to the Solitude Ski Resort. The landscape is largely the same, though you’ll enjoy bigger views at a higher elevation of 8,300 feet. It’s also much smaller than Spruces, so you’ll enjoy a little more peace and quiet around the campground.

The Redman Campground provides flush toilets and drinking water, and campsites are equipped with campfire rings and picnic tables. RVs are permitted, but there aren’t any hookups for electric, water, or sewage.

Like the Spruces Campground, Redman is surrounded by scenic hiking trails, exhilarating mountain biking paths, and fly fishing along Big Cottonwood Creek. There are a number of alpine lakes on the surrounding slopes, including the picturesque Silver Lake.

Reserve Now

Antelope Island State Park

antelope island state park

Why you should camp here: A picturesque island with a fascinating wildlife population.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping, hike-in
  • RV hookups: No

Antelope Island State Park is a small island encompassed by the Great Salt Lake. Accessible by car via a narrow causeway, the island is a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, and wildlife watching. The buffalo are the most famous residents, though you’ll also find the fastest animals in North America — the pronghorn antelope.

There are four campgrounds at Antelope State Park: Bridger Bay, White Rock, Lakeside, and Ladyfinger. The first three allow tents and RVs, while the latter is a hike-in campground that’s about 230 feet from the parking lot. You can make reservations at least two days in advance, otherwise campsites are available first come, first served.

While RVs are allowed at three of the four campgrounds, you won’t find any hookups at the campsites. There’s no water or electricity, though you can get potable water from the Visitor Center, Bridger Bay Beach, and the Dump Station. All four campgrounds have pit toilets, and you’ll find flush toilets at Bridger Bay Beach.

Fires are permitted in designated fire pits, though you’ll need to be mindful of seasonal fire restrictions. If you bring your pooch along for the adventure, she’ll need to stay on a leash and avoid the developed beaches.

Reserve Now

Tanners Flat Campground

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Jenn Foster (@jennfosterchic) on

Why you should camp here: Visit Little Cottonwood Canyon in the fall to see an explosion of autumn color from the aspen, oak, and maple forest.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Summer, fall
  • Camping type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

The Tanners Flat Campground is conveniently located just six miles from Sandy in Little Cottonwood Canyon. You’ll feel the bustling city quickly melt away when you enter the canyon, where you’ll find a serene forest of pine, maple, oak, and aspen. The wildflowers are magnificent over summer, but autumn takes the cake thanks to the canyon’s variety of foliage.

Like the Spruces Campground, Tanners Flat is an ideal basecamp for hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing. The campground provides flush toilets, drinking water, picnic benches, campfire rings, and charcoal grills. There’s a volleyball court, too, though you’ll need to bring your own net and volleyball.

Reserve Now

East Canyon State Park

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Heather Graham (@silhouettes1) on

Why you should camp here: A scenic reservoir with historic roots in Utah’s pioneer heritage.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Year-round
  • Campsites: Tents, RVs, car camping
  • RV hookups: Full

East Canyon State Park is 12 miles south of the town of Morgan, which is about 45 minutes northeast of Salt Lake City. Centered around East Canyon Reservoir, the state park is a popular destination for boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, and mountain biking.

There are a variety of camping options to choose from at East Canyon State Park. The Dixie Creek Campground offers full hookups for RVs, while the Big Rock Campground is reserved for tents. The park also has yurts, cabins, and group hammock camping sites available for rent. The latter is particularly fun, featuring large metal structures that allow you to hang up to eight hammocks in a circle.

If you can’t convince your neighbor to let you borrow their jet skis for the weekend, Club Rec has you covered. The on-site rental company has an arsenal of boats, wave runners, fishing boats, pontoons, and more that are always at your disposal.

Reserve Now

Albion Basin Campground

albion basin
Photo: U.S. Forest Service

Why you should camp here: A high-elevation campground set in an alpine basin.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Summer
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

Another gem located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, the Albion Basin Campground is nestled in an alpine basin at an elevation of 9,500 feet. There’s plenty of shade under the white pine and aspen forest, and the area is renowned for its brilliant display of wildflowers. You’ll probably see some moose and deer while you’re here, and if you look closely at Devils Castle nearby you may spot some mountain goats.

The Albion Basin Campground is fairly small, so you’ll enjoy much more seclusion than more-crowded campgrounds like Spruces and Tanners Flat. Campsites include picnic tables and fire rings, and there are a few vault toilets for when nature calls.

Reserve Now

Willard Bay State Park

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Natasha Ballif (@natashaballif) on

Why you should camp here: An expansive freshwater bay that beckons to local kayakers, paddle boarders, and boaters.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping, primitive
  • RV hookups: Full

Willard Bay is a large freshwater reservoir set in the floodplains of the Great Salt Lake, located about 12 miles northwest of Ogden. The expansive lake boasts 20 miles of shoreline, with two marinas where you can launch your boat and soak in the views under shaded picnic areas.

With almost 10,000 acres of fresh water, there’s ample room for boats, jet skis, kayaks, and paddle boards at Willard Bay. It’s also a popular year-round fishing destination with walleye, crappie, catfish, and wiper.

There are four established campgrounds at Willard Bay State Park. Cottonwood Campground, Willow Creek Campground, and the South Marina Campground feature full RV hookups and tent campsites, while the South Marina Primitive campground is reserved for tents.

The state park provides modern bathrooms, hot showers, drinking water, concessions, and covered picnic areas near the lake, so there’s no need to rough it here. Campers can rent cabins and glamping trailers, and boaters are free to camp on the water as long as they’re away from the shore and keep their anchor light on.

Reserve Now

Bountiful Peak Campground

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by David Bramwell (@daveybramwell) on

Why you should camp here: Enjoy stellar views of the Salt Lake Valley and Wasatch Back as you explore the network of trails on foot, bike, or OHV.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

The Bountiful Peak Campground sits in an alpine basin high in the Wasatch Range, shaded by a mixed forest of aspen and conifer trees. It’s less than 10 miles from Farmington, making it a prime campground for folks living at the north end of the Salt Lake area.

Like any good campground, Bountiful Peak offers convenient access to a network of trails for hiking and mountain biking. There are a number of OHV trails nearby, so feel free to bring your ATVs and dirt bikes. The area is teeming with wildlife, so the campground is an especially popular basecamp for hunting and fishing.

Reserve Now

Great Salt Lake State Park

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Xiang Xiaoyu (@mukosame) on

Why you should camp here: Prime waterfront campsites with incredible views across the Great Salt Lake.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: Full

We’re kind of missing the elephant in the room if we don’t bring up Great Salt Lake State Park. The campsites are located right on the waterfront, guaranteeing you’ll enjoy incredible views across the lake from sunrise to sunset. The campground is open year-round, and includes full hookups for RVs.

Tents are permitted at the established campground, but the gravel campsites are definitely more geared for RVs and car camping than traditional tents. We won’t tell you not to pitch a tent here, but if tent camping is your thing, there are better options near Salt Lake City that you’ll probably find more enjoyable with a tent.

Reserve Now

Free Camping Near Salt Lake City

Don’t feel like paying for a campsite at an established campground? Worry not — public lands account for almost two-thirds of real estate in the state of Utah, so free camping is always a viable option.

Utah State Parks don’t allow dispersed camping, but you’re generally free to set up camp in the national parks and on BLM land. Just be sure to check the appropriate government website for restricted areas, practice Leave No Trace principles, and follow all applicable guidelines.

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by @wildmatrescence on

Why you should camp here: Find an empty road and go completely off the grid just about anywhere in this expansive trio of National Forests.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best seasons: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Dispersed camping

There are a number of designated campgrounds throughout the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest that offer toilets, potable water, and fire grates, but dispersed camping is always free on National Forest land. If you’re okay with primitive camping conditions, dispersed camping is an excellent way to save a few bucks and enjoy a level of seclusion and privacy that’s simply unattainable in an established campground.

That said, you can’t just pitch your tent wherever you want. The Forest Service enforces a number of general rules that campers must abide by, and the National Forest designates a number of areas as off-limits. For the full rundown of dispersed camping regulations, check out this helpful article from David Sweet at Trip Savvy.

Fivemile Pass Recreation Area

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Steve Warner (@stevewa88) on

Why you should camp here: The best free camping location for off-road adrenaline junkies.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best seasons: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Dispersed camping

If your definition of camping includes off-road vehicles, head to the Fivemile Pass Recreation Area. Just an hour west of Salt Lake City, Fivemile Pass is a prime location for OHVs, ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

The Fivemile Pass Recreation Area has a number of primitive campsites where you can pitch your tent or park your RV. There’s no fee for dispersed camping, and there are five pit toilets on-site for your convenience.

Stansbury Island

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Chris Garcia (@033landcruiser) on

Why you should camp here: A rugged, under-the-radar tract of land that’s just a short drive west of Salt Lake City.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best seasons: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Dispersed camping

Stansbury Island is a peninsula that extends into the Great Salt Lake, featuring a unique desert landscape with epic sunrises and sunsets. Most of the peninsula is BLM land so you’re generally free to set up camp anywhere you please, though there are a few patches of private land that you’ll need to avoid.

While Stansbury Island is accessible by car, the rugged landscape and bumpy dirt roads usually require a truck or SUV. RVs are permitted, but be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Photo: David Sorich

Why you should camp here: Visit Utah’s iconic salt flats, an alien landscape where thrill-seeking car enthusiasts with a need for speed head to max out their speedometer.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best seasons: Summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Dispersed camping

You’ve probably already heart about Utah’s legendary salt flats, an otherworldly dreamscape that draws photographers and car enthusiasts from all over the country. The two-hour drive from Salt Lake City may be a bit of a stretch for some, but it’s worth visiting at least once — especially if you can time your trip around a scheduled event at the Bonneville Speedway.

There’s no overnight camping allowed at the Bonneville Salt Flats Special Recreation Area, but the 30,000-acre recreation area is surrounded by BLM land that permits free camping. The Silver Island Mountains Backcountry Byway to the west offers hundreds of primitive campsites with incredible views, or you can try the Pilot Mountains along the Utah-Nevada border.

Where To Find Adventure Near Salt Lake City

Now that you’ve found the perfect campsite for your next trip, it’s time to start planning your adventure itinerary. If Hiking is on the menu, check out our guides to the best hikes near Salt Lake City and Provo.

Looking for a backcountry camping experience away from the crowds? Grab your pack and hit the trail with one of these top-rated Utah backpacking adventures.

Get your weekly adventure fix

Join thousands of readers getting epic hiking, camping and travel ideas every week.

Related posts

aravaipa canyon wilderness hiking

Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness: an Underrated Desert Oasis

We’ve hiked through a variety of Arizona canyon country over the last few years. Some of it crowded, like our mob-infested mid-October foray through Havasu Canyon. Some of it desolate, like the rugged solitude of the Eastern Superstitions. But our recent trip through Aravaipa Canyon was in a league all its own. Of all the descriptors we uttered while navigating the canyon, I think my buddy Dustin came up with the best one: “Underrated.”

Arizona