Camping Around Arches and Canyonlands National Park

The heart and soul of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah is expressed through canyons, arches, spires, and mesas carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers.

It’s almost impossible to wrap my mind around so much stunning beauty but it is as natural as breathing to allow all of that to become all of me. In my prayers and practices it also flows to each of you.

If you’d like to experience it yourself two national parks help millions access some of the area annually – Arches and Canyonlands. Fortunately most stay on the paved, scenic routes highlighting the parks.

Inside both parks there is no food, gas, or other amenities. Each has one national parks campground.

Most of the roads in this region are unpaved,  camps are primitive, and rivers are free-flowing. Native plants and animals still live in much of this remote, rugged, and wild countryside. Lots of folks call it “The American Wild West” but it’s been around much longer than we have and God willing will continue long after we’re gone.

Trying to balance recreational use with protection of these amazing resources requires effort by all of the major stakeholders – the Bureau of Land Management (BLM, often called public land), the National Park Servicecharitable associations, and YOU.

Please do your part to protect this ancient, wild land. Follow  “Leave No Trace” rules especially in designated and dispersed camping, hiking, biking, and OHV adventures.

Photo courtesy Dr. Eoin Brodie at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Dr. Ferran Garcia Pichel at Arizona State University.

Here’s the deal. The biological soil crust is extremely fragile in the desert. The cyanobacteria and other materials in the soil are some of the oldest life forms, trapping and storing water, nutrients, and organic matter not otherwise available. It’s suited for harsh, arid conditions but vulnerable to compression.

A thin, fragile veneer of biological soil crushed by your footprints alone (compression) may require five to seven years to recover. Cyanobacterial growth can take 50 years and lichens/mosses even longer.

If you’re going off-road to visit the area, be ready to rough it and take care of your own needs. Pack in what you need. Pack out everything – including human waste where restrooms are not provided. Remember that five to seven year recovery time just for a footprint? Enough said.

Canyonlands National Park Campsite

Each national park has one developed campground with vault toilets, tables, and fire rings. Maximum length for RVs is 28 feet. There are no hook ups or dump stations in either park. Most are first come, first served except group campsites and a few individual sites. To reserve online go to http://www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777 (toll free) and +1 518-885-3639 (international).

Backcountry or Primitive Camps in the national parks require permits. These can be reserved four months in advance. Day use for 4×4 vehicles, motorcycles, and bikes can be reserved up to 24 hours in advance. Permits can be obtained online at http://www.go.nps.gov/canybackcountry

The BLM maintains 26 designated campgrounds with vault toilets, tables and fire rings. Drinking water is available at Lions Park (Hwy 191 and SR 128). The Windwhistle and Hatch Point campgrounds have drinking water on site from mid-April to end of September.

BLM On-line information about camping in Moab area.

BLM Moab Field Office, 82 E Dogwood Moab, UT. Phone is 435-259-2100.

Here’s some of my favorites and soon to be favorites. For a complete list of camping options check out the Discover Moab site.

BLM Camping Outside the National Parks

The Moab BLM Field Office manages over two million visitors annually on 1.8 million acres in the heart of the Colorado Plateau.

Reservations are not accepted except group camps. All are first come first served. All BLM developed campgrounds have vault toilets, picnic tables, and metal fire grills. Fees are $10-$20/night.

Weather can make unpaved roads impassable. Check with rangers for latest conditions.

The Visitor Centers at Arches and Canyonlands have detailed maps for 4×4 routes, hiking and camping. Topo maps are also available.

 Developed Campsites 

SR 313 Camps Between Arches and Canyonlands Island In the Sky National Parks

Lone Mesa Group Camp
  • (5 spaces)
  • Gravel road and camp
Cowboy Camp at junction of Scenic Byway and Island in Sky
  • (7 spaces)
  • Dirt road and camp
Horsethief off Mineral Point Road by Deadhorse Mesa.
  • (56 spaces)
  • Dirt road and sandy, flat area for camp. This is where larger RV’s park.

HW 128 Camps Closest to Arches

The further you go the prettier and less congested the sites. Fisher Towers and Onion Creek sites are my favorites.

  • Granstaff 3 miles ( 16 spaces)
  • Drinks Canyon 6.2 miles (17 spaces)
  • Hal Canyon 6.6 miles (11 spaces)

    Fisher Towers Campground
  • Oak Grove 6.9 miles (7 spaces)
  • Upper Big Bend 8.1 miles (8 spaces)
  • Upper Onion Creek 21 miles then .7 miles SE on gravel road (2 spaces)
  • Fisher Towers 21.5  – dirt road (5 sites)
  • Lower Onion Creek – 21.5 miles then 1 mile NW on gravel road (4 spaces)

HW 257 South of Arches

  • Jaycee Park – 4.2 miles (7 spaces)
  • Williams Bottom – 6 miles (17 spaces)
  • Goldbar – 10.2 (5 spaces)
Lower Onion Creek Campground

BLM Dispersed Camping – No Services/Facilities

HJ OHV Road

The BLM offers over 30 single or small, primitive camp sites with no services. These are first come-first served and free. Sites are marked with a brown post and a tent symbol.

 

Dispersed campsite off SR 313

This is serious “Leave No Trace” camping. You must use portable toilets. All trash must be packed out – including human waste. No wood cutting, creating new camping areas or fire rings. Do not drive, hike, ride off road. Please.

There are 25 sites in the Mill Canyon-Cotter Road/Dubinky Road Area.

 

Primitive Camping – Island in the Sky Section of Canyonlands National Park

Accessible by 4×4 Taylor Canyon, White Rim, Potash, and Shafer Roads

4 primitive camps along Green River

Labyrinth – Where Taylor Canyon Road meets White Rim Road on the Green River in Upheaval Canyon

Hardscrabble – South of Hardscrabble Bottom

Potato Bottom – along the 14.8 mile Potato Bottom straight stretch of White Rim Road

Candlestick – Southern part of Holesman Spring Basin. South of Wilhite Trail on White Rim Road

4 primitive camps on southern loop of White Rim Road

Murphy Hogback – near Murphy Point trails

White Crack – in the Lower Basins at end of 1.4 mile road

Gooseberry – where trail meets road near Gooseberry Canyon

Airport – By Airport Tower in Lathrop Canyon

1 primitive camp near Visitors Center
Shafer Canyon Overlook by Visitors Center

Shafer Near Visitors Center NE of where Potash Road meets Shafer Trail Road, Shafer Canyon. This gives access to the spectacular Goose Neck area of the Colorado River.

 

Can you find me and Rocky in this photo?

No matter where you may set up camp you’ll discover tons of ways to wear yourself slick having adventure fun. Remember to take some time to sit and stare for awhile.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MiracleUpdate

Cindy Cason has been a print and broadcast journalist, magazine writer, communications director, and consultant. At home, she was a single mom to four busy and amazing kids. In a blink, they launched and she faced a quiet, empty home and another decade until retirement. She opted to sell the farm and embarked on a solo journey into the American wilderness, traveling in a tiny, offroad teardrop trailer pulled by a Subaru Outback. Today she spotlights the beauty of life in nature, hoping to inspire you to passionately live every phase of your own authentic life. Especially retirement...

21 thoughts on “Camping Around Arches and Canyonlands National Park”

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