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Camping in Canyonlands: Best Campgrounds in & Around the Park

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One of the best experiences you can have in Utah is camping in Canyonlands National Park!

Many often say that being in Utah makes you feel like you’re on another planet. That is especially true with Canyonlands National Park.

The isolated, windswept scenery will zap you out of the mundane day-to-day and thrust you into an ancient relationship with nature.  The orange mesas provide shelter over you as you explore the park, but the saying goes, half the park is after dark.

Without city lights to obscure the night sky, starlight blankets the park and provides a magical experience for those who decide to brave camping in Canyonlands National Park.

Why go Camping in Canyonlands National Park?

Orange and black tent next to a rocky formation under a blue cloudy sky

For an elemental venture into the great outdoors, camping in Canyonlands National Park will provide you with all that you need. 

This park could have coined the saying “off the beaten path.” Located in Eastern Utah, south of Moab, the borders that surround Canyonlands are filled with great mesas and buttes. The numberless canyons pull you with an ancient recall to explore and discover. 

The snow-like pattern dances on the edge of the White Rim. The Green River prevails over the canyons it’s been cutting down for centuries. The backcountry in the Needles section makes you feel like you are the first to step foot in that sandy, rock-walled paradise.

This wonder-filled section of Utah alters slightly with each hour, and you will experience an entirely different place under the cover of darkness- yet just as magical.

Camping Within Canyonlands

Because this park is so free from the grips of society, there aren’t too many places to camp in the actual park.

But, not to worry. These three campsites should have everything you need to experience the Canyonlands desert, and if they don’t, there are plenty of campgrounds around the park you can take refuge in.

Blue tent on a red rocky surface with the sun setting in the background

The Needles Campground

The Needles Campground is located in The Needles district of Canyonlands. You’ll take UT 211 into The Needles, then drive about three more miles until you reach the campsites.

There are twenty-six individual sites and three group sites. The Needles Group Site can be found right next to the individual sites. The Split Top Group Site is located on Cave Springs Road and the Wooden Shoe Group Site is on the scenic drive near the Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook.

Reservations are needed in the busy seasons, from March until May and September until October. It is $20 per campsite. Group sites are closed in the winter, and individual sites are first come, first served.

This campsite comes with toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings. You’ll be perfectly prepared with a tent, some food, and a few logs for a fire. 

Willow Flat Campground (Island in the Sky)

Willow Flat Campground is located in the most frequently visited district of the park, Island in the Sky. 

This campsite is perfect for first-time visitors to the park who will be spending the majority of their time in Island in the Sky. You may have some neighbors, but the monumental sights that surround you make it all worth it.

To find this campsite, drive seven miles into the park and turn right once you see a sign for Upheaval Dome, and follow the signs to the campsite. Reservations are not required at this site, but it does get pretty busy from spring to fall. The nightly camping fee is $15.

There isn’t drinking water available at the campsite, so don’t forget to bring some or get some when you pass by the visitor center! There are toilets, picnic tables, and fire pits available at this campsite as well.

Green and tan tent at a campsite surrounded by tall red rocks

Backcountry Camping

If you’re looking for the ultimate camping in Canyonlands National Park experience, backcountry camping is how you will want to spend the night.

First, you’ll need to obtain a permit to venture into this isolated wilderness. This can get a little competitive during the busy season, so be prepared to reserve your permit up to four months in advance.

Then you’ll have to decide where to camp. There are campsites and zones available in The Needles, Island in the Sky, and The Maze. Each district is unique and has plenty to offer, so you can’t go wrong with any of the options.

To be fully prepared for your backpacking adventure, check out this link

Camping Near Canyonlands

So what if you don’t want to backpack, all the campsites are full, or camping in Canyonlands is just not for you?

Then camping near Canyonlands National Park may be the best option for you, and luckily there are plenty of choices to pick from!

Dead Horse Point Campground

Brown river looping through a red canyon

Just outside of Canyonlands lies a state park called Dead Horse Point State Park. Staying at its campsite, you can get some supplemental views of the wonders that are just seventeen minutes away in Canyonlands. 

Eighteen miles off Highway 191, you’ll take State Route 313 to Dead Horse Point.

This campground is small and remote but still gets a good amount of visitors yearly. There are twenty-two campsites available. The nightly fee is $40.

These campsites have restrooms and drinking water. Firewood cannot be purchased here.

If you’re looking to explore the areas surrounding Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point Campground is the right choice for you.

Moonflower Canyon

Moonflower Canyon Campground is the perfect fit for a summer trip to the Utah desert.

Situated at the mouth of a canyon, the campground is protected from the sun by the canyon walls and leafy cottonwoods. There is a short hiking trail leading to a small oasis concealed by the canyon.

This campsite is only ten minutes from Moab and forty minutes from Canyonlands. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic tables, and vault toilets. There is no drinking water, but it’s an easy trip to stock up in Moab.

There is a $125 fee for group sites, but individual sites are free.

King’s Bottom Campground

Located just down the road from Moonflower Canyon Campground, King’s Bottom Campground has campsites placed on the banks of the Colorado River.

There are twenty-one sites, eleven of which are tent-only. The others have space for small RVs as well. The campsites are first come, first served.

There are restrooms, but once again, drinking water is not available at the site, so be sure to have a supply for your stay.

This campsite is best for those looking for additional outside adventures besides just hiking and sightseeing. Right next to Moab, King’s Bottom Campground is the perfect location for four-wheeling, biking, and more.

Teal tent at a camp spot under a cloudy sky with the sun setting in the background

Moab Rim RV Campark & Cabins

If glamping is more your speed, Moab Rim RV Campark and Cabins will have what you need. 

From minimalistic cabins with only the basics to cottages with full amenities, Moab Rim offers visitors a varying camping experience from other campgrounds in the area. These cabins range from $80-$135, so it’s a little bit of a splurge for camping,  but worth it if sleeping bags are not your vibe.

The RV sites are also a step up. Some offer hookups for power, sewer, water, wifi, and cable. Some just have power and water, but either way, you’ll be set up for the ultimate RV experience. These sites range from $40-$70 a night.

Tent campsites are $33 a night. Group sites are $10 per person with a ten-person minimum.

Horsethief Campground

Just eleven minutes away in a pinyon-juniper forest hides the numerous campsites of Horsethief Campground.

This campground houses eighty-three individual campsites and five group ones. This is the best you’ll get for a Canyonlands RV park because fifty-six of those eighty-three sites can accommodate RVs.

There is a $20 nightly fee, but campsites are first come, first served. There is no drinking water, but restrooms are provided.

This beautifully enclosed campsite offers some shade after long days exploring the area. It is the next best thing to camping in Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands Camping Tips & Advice

To make sure your Canyonlands camping trip is all you could hope for, take a tip or two from us.

Wooden sign that says "Canyonlands National Park."

Leave No Trace

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. In order to keep these enchanting wildernesses alive for years to come, we visitors need to make sure we treat the parks with respect.

Take all your trash when you leave, and be careful with your campfires!

Water, Water, Water

Not many of the places you can camp have drinking water, and regardless of the temperature, Canyonlands is in the desert.

Make sure to bring lots of water to last your trip or continually refill at visitor’s centers or in Moab.

Be Prepared for Changes

Depending on the time of year you plan on camping in Canyonlands National Park, there are a variety of changes that you should be prepared for.

There could be a storm coming, intense heat, traffic in the park, and more. Check the NPS Canyonlands website to stay up to date.

Camping in Canyonlands National Park will be a sensational experience once you’ve got the right itinerary and the right place to stay. 

Now you’ve got your dream Canyonlands campsite, start planning your trip!

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