Saving Tips: Camping in Utah
While camping is a great way to save money and enjoy spending time outdoors, it can be surprisingly pricey. Here are my tips for saving money on an outdoors trip to Utah.
Campsites without running water are generally much cheaper than fully developed campgrounds, and also less crowded. At Canyonlands National Park, the developed Needles campground costs $20 per night, whereas the primitive Island in the Sky campground, with picnic tables and fire rings but no water, is $15.
Look for BLM campgrounds
National park campgrounds are affordable, but you can camp even more cheaply outside their boundaries, if you look for those operated by either the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the U.S.
Camp for free
The BLM also allows free “dispersed camping” on most of its undeveloped lands, which means you just pick a spot away from development and set up camp. The USFS also allows dispersed camping for up to 16 days.
Stay at Zion Ponderosa for lots of amenities
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 10,000-acre Zion Ponderosa ranch is only seven winding miles from Zion National Park, but its campsites offer many deluxe resort amenities to enjoy at campground prices — including two swimming pools with a small water slide, ATV excursions, horseback riding, canyoneering, zip-lining, miniature golf, Ping-Pong and pool tables and hot tubs.
Bring a senior
If someone in your party has an America the Beautiful Senior Pass, you can save 50 percent on camping fees at many federal campsites — and the car you’re driving in gets free admission.
Make a reservation
If you don’t want to find yourself forced into a pricey private campground, make sure you’ve got a reservation for any of the national parks.
Download a free app
Get free detailed smartphone apps from Chimani for most of the national parks you want to visit.
Go in a group
If you have difficulty making reservations because a campground is very popular, consider this: Group sites are sometimes available to reserve earlier than standard sites.
Sleep in a tent
Standard tent sites tend to be cheaper than RV sites with full hookups, and you’ll save money on gas, too.
Hit the KOA
If you want a few more amenities than your average national park provides, note that Utah has 15 Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campgrounds, replete with swimming pools, playgrounds, bike rentals and such.