Canyonlands National Park is eastern Utah protects an array of stunning landscapes, geology, and history. The park features two beautiful rivers in the Colorado and Green River, which have left their mark on this landscape by creating the stunning canyons the park is known for. Exploring the four unique districts of the park (Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze, and the actual rivers) is an experience of a lifetime.
We think the best way to experience Canyonlands is to spend a few nights in your tent taking in the incredible stargazing and desert landscape that is best appreciated firsthand. Pitching your tent or parking your RV allows visitors to slow down and take in everything this beautiful park has to offer.
Canyonlands National Park and the surrounding areas have camping options to suit any style. From the national park’s two developed campground, to its expansive backcountry that can be explored on foot, bicycle, or 4WD vehicle, to a packrafting trip on the Colorado or Green Rivers, there are nearly infinite options for camping in Canyonlands.
In addition to the campgrounds within the national park you’ll also find great options for RV, car camping, and tons of free dispersed camping just outside the Canyonlands National Park boundary. Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.
Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Canyonlands National Park.
In this Post
- Canyonlands National Park Campgrounds
- Canyonlands National Park Camping Must Know
- Camping near Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park Campgrounds
Canyonlands National Park occupies nearly 340,000 acres of Utah’s canyon country in the southeastern portion of the state. The park is split into its various districts by the Green and Colorado Rivers, which meet at a confluence in the center of the park. Of the three land districts (the fourth is the rivers themselves), Island in the Sky is the most visited and easiest to access.
Visitors are likely to arrive at Canyonlands by first coming though Moab and either heading the the Island in the Sky District via Highway 313 to the north, via Highway 211 south of Moab to the Needles District, or from the remote dirt roads that lead to the Maze District from the west.
The park’s developed campgrounds are located in the Island in the Sky and Needles District, respectively, while there are no developed campgrounds in the Maze. Backcountry campsites are located throughout the park and accessed via a variety of primitive roads or hiking trails.
The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed campgrounds are located in Canyonlands National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area.
Both of the campgrounds in Canyonlands, with the exception of Loop B at the Needles Campground, are open year round making a trip any time of year possible.
Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground and securing the proper permits to camp in Canyonlands National Park.
Reservations & Permits for Canyonlands Camping
Only the Needles Campground in Canyonlands accepts advance reservations for a campsite. These reservations are for campsites located in Loop B of the campground and are available from March 15th – June 30th as well as during the months of September and October.
Additionally, the three group campsites in the Needles District are reservable in advance between mid-March and mid-November. Reservations for both individual and group sites in Canyonlands can be made up to six months in advance via Recreation.gov.
The Willow Flat Campground in the Island in the Sky District does not accept reservations, and all campsites here are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For those interested in exploring the vast backcountry wilderness in Canyonlands on a backcountry camping trip you’ll need to secure a backcountry permit and reservation for the specific campsite you plan to stay at.
These permits & reservations can be obtained via Recreation.gov and are required for any overnight stay in the Canyonlands backcountry. The permit reservation fee is $36, regardless of how many nights you plan on backpacking.
Finally, for anyone planning an overnight river trip on either the Green or Colorado (or both!) Rivers in Canyonlands are required to obtain an overnight river permit prior to their trip. Similar to backpacking permits, overnight river permits for Canyonlands are secured through Recreation.gov. Permits cost $20.
What to bring on your Canyonlands National Park Camping trip
Preparing for your Canyonlands National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.
- Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect cooking up campsite dinners.
- Pop-up canopy – The sun in Utah can be extremely strong. While there are shade structures at some of the campsites it’s always good to be able to create your own. We recommend bringing a portable shade structure like this one.
- Portable water container – These portable water containers are a life saver.
- Cooler – The hot temperatures here make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
- Canyonlands National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must. Even better than paper maps, we like to use the Gaia GPS app on our phone. You can download maps for every National Park at a fraction of the cost. Get 20% off your Gaia subscription here.
- Canyonlands Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Canyonlands. We like this guide to Utah’s National Parks from Fodor’s.
When to Camp in Canyonlands
Both of the campgrounds in Canyonlands are open year round, providing the opportunity for a camping trip anytime of year. However, most visitors will find that peak season in Canyonlands, generally the spring and fall, makes for the best time to plan a camping trip here.
Peak camping season in Canyonlands generally begins around mid-March and lasts through the end of April or mid-May when temperatures start to really heat up. Camping season then picks up again in the fall once the summer temperatures become more moderate in September and October.
The winter months bring cold temperatures to Canyonlands, making camping only appealing to the hardcore winter campers out there. Although large snow falls are not common, you should still be prepared!
The summer months of June, July, and August bring high temperatures consistently reaching over 100 degrees. While you can still camp during these months, you’ll need to be prepared with plenty of water and you will be limited in what you can do in the park
Developed Campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park
There are two developed campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park as well as three group campsites. Each campground provides access to a different district of the park and provides easy access to many of the best things to do in Canyonlands.
Keep reading to learn more about your options.
Number of Sites: 12 sites
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 28′. No hookups
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open year round.
The Willow Flat Campground is located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. This popular campground provides easy access to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, Green River overlook, and Mesa Arch Trail.
Willow Flat contains just 12 campsites that can accommodate tent campers as well as small RVs and trailers. The official length limit for RVs or trailers at Willow Flat is 28′. The campground is organized in a single large loop with individual campsites located on both sides of the road. Campsites feature nice shade structures, picnic tables, and fire rings.
There is no potable water available at the Willow Flat Campground, so be sure to plan accordingly. The closest place to get water is at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center which has an outdoor drinking water tap available from Spring – Fall.
All of the campsites at Willow Flat are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re hoping to secure a campsite here during either the spring or fall, be sure to arrive early as it is almost always completely full.
Number of Sites: 26 individual sites
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 28′.
Reservations: 12 sites reservable between March 15th – June 30th & September 1st – October 31st. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
Located in the Needles District, the aptly named Needles Campground is the largest in Canyonlands National Park. The Needles Campground is the perfect place to spend the night before exploring some of the highlights of the Needles District including Elephant Canyon, the Puebloan “Roadside Ruins”, and the short Pothole Point hike.
The campground contains 26 individual campsites organized into two loops. The campsites in Loop B feel a bit more secluded from the road than those in Loop A. There is potable water available seasonally at the campground and each of the campsites features a fire ring and picnic table.
Reservations are available for 12 of the campsites located in Loop B of the Needles Campground during peak season, from March 15th – June 30th and September 1st – October 31st. All of the campsites located in Loop A are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The campground can accommodate both tents and RVs, although five of the sites are tent-only. RVs are required to be less than 28′ at the Needles Campground.
Number of Sites: 3 group campsites (Squaw Flat Group, Wooden Shoe Group & Split Top Group)
Fee: $70 – $225/night depending on the number of people.
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 25′.
Reservations: Required. Available on a six month rolling basis here.
Season: March 15th – November 15th.
In addition to the individual campsites at the Needles Campground described above, there are also three group-campsites located in the Needles District of Canyonlands. These campsites are spread out along the main park road and can accommodate groups of between 11 – 50 campers depending on the site.
The three group campsites are reservable up to six months in advance for stays from March 15th – November 15th. The three group sites are closed outside of this time frame. Get more information or make a reservation below:
Backcountry camping in Canyonlands National Park
The Canyonlands backcountry presents nearly endless opportunity for an adventurous camping trip. Possibilities exist for backpacking, bikepacking, 4WD camping, and even riverside camping along one of the two rivers in the park. Each option has its own set of regulations and camping opportunities, which we’ve outlined below.
Regardless of how you plan to explore the Canyonlands backcountry you’ll need to secure an overnight permit. Advance reservations are not required for overnight permits, but they are recommended. This is especially so for trips along White Rim road during the spring and fall. Get more information on backcountry permits in Canyonlands National Park below:
Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park is regulated differently depending on the section of the park you plan to explore, as outlined below.
Needles District backpacking
For those planning a trip in the Needles District you’ll need to secure a permit and reservation to stay at specific backcountry campsites. This is the most popular section of the park to backpack in, and permits are highly competitive during peak season.
Island in the Sky District backpacking
Island in the Sky backpacking is not faint of heart. This is serious canyon country and backpackers will need to be prepared for loose slopes, lack of trails, and little water availability. For those up to the challenge you’re overnight permit will specify a general backcountry zone where you are allowed to camp.
The lone exception to this is the Syncline Trail, which requires backpackers to stay at a designated campsite.
The Maze District backpacking
The least visited and most difficult district to backpack in Canyonlands is the Maze. Here you won’t find many trails and will likely need some technical rock climbing or canyoneering experience to navigate the difficult terrain. Backpackers will then be able to camp in designated zones.
For all backcountry campers in Canyonlands it is important to minimize your impact. These means practicing Leave No Trace principles and avoiding walking on or camping on the park’s unique biological soil.
A float trip along either the Green or Colorado Rivers is a popular way to explore Canyonlands National Park. There are options for mellow floats along the flat water sections of the river or more adventurous trips through Cataract Canyon’s whitewater.
Whatever your preference, if you plan to camp along the river you’ll need an overnight backcountry permit. These can be obtained from the backcountry reservation office located in Moab, or from any of the visitor centers in the park.
4WD/Bicycle camping in Canyonlands National Park
The final way to explore the Canyonlands backcountry is to do so in your 4WD vehicle or on a mountain bike. The park contains hundreds of miles of rugged dirt roads that provide access to some of the more remote sections of Canyonlands.
As with backpacking, you’ll need to obtain an overnight backcountry permit if you’re planning to camp while either mountain biking or exploring in your vehicle. Some of the most popular trips include:
Permits for White Rim Road can be difficult to obtain, so be sure to apply early if you hope to camp along the route during the peak fall or spring season. Also, be sure you have a plan for water as it is not available at any of the campsites along the route.
Canyonlands National Park Camping Must Know
The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Canyonlands National Park. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:
- Only camp in designated sites.
- No more than ten people per campsite at the park’s two developed campgrounds.
- Always store your food in your car, or in an animal proof container.
- Always practice Leave No Trace principles.
Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.
Campfires in Canyonlands
Campfires are permitted at the two developed campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park. This includes the group campsites located in the Needles District. The fire must be contained within the provided fire pit/grate or grill and should never be left unattended.
It is also important to ensure that any wood you bring into the park is properly sourced, as firewood can introduce invasive pests that can cause irreparable damage.
In addition, campfires are permitted along the two rivers in the national park, but be sure to minimize the size to help reduce environmental impacts.
As always, do not gather any wood from the national park!
Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry of Canyonlands, so if you’re planning a backpacking trip be sure to bring a camp stove.
The wildlife than calls Canyonlands National Park home can be difficult to spot. These desert creatures have adapted to living in a harsh environment where water is scare and temperature extremes make surviving difficult.
However, desert adaptations of many of these animals are truly incredible and it is important to limit your impact on their fragile ecosystem. Most animal life is active during the night, although you’re likely to encounter lizards, plenty of birds, a possibly a few mammals during the day.
Campers should be especially aware of the following in Canyonlands:
- Pack rats: This is mammal you are most likely to encounter on a camping trip in Canyonlands. Be sure to securely store all food, especially in the backcountry to limit your impact and keep these critters from eating your breakfast!
- Snakes: Canyonlands is home to a wide variety of desert snake species. Snakes are most active at night, but be sure to always be scanning the trail for them. Although rare, the midget-faded rattlesnake is quite venomous and inhabits much of Canyonlands National Park.
- Lizards: A hallmark of Canyonlands and the surrounding wilderness, you’re sure to see countless lizards during your trip to Canyonlands. These are harmless, but can cause quite a surprise if you’re not looking out for them.
Pets are allowed in Canyonlands National Park, but only in specific areas and under specific rules, as outlined below.
Pets are permitted in both of the developed campgrounds, on paved scenic drives, and in any parking lots in the park.
We generally recommend against bringing you pet to Canyonlands, but if you do please follow these regulations:
- Pets must be on a leash at all times.
- Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in parking lots.
- Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
- Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Temperatures can get extremely hot in Canyonlands.
- Always properly dispose of pet waste.
Where to get supplies
Canyonlands National Park sits in a very remote section of Utah’s canyon country. As a result, there are few services available in or immediately adjacent to the park. This makes it very important to stock up on any camping supplies you need before venturing into the park.
Check out your best bet for supplies below:
- Moab, Utah: The adventure capital for many of Utah’s national parks, Moab is located a short drive north of oc Canyonlands National Park. Here you’ll find any services you could possibly need before a camping trip including gas stations, grocery stores, several excellent outdoor stores, as well as medical services for any needs you may have.
Camping near Canyonlands National Park
A Canyonlands National Park camping trip is an experience not to be missed. However, given the popularity of the national park and the relatively limited camping options it is always possible that you’ll arrive to find no campsites available.
If this happens, all is not lost as there are plenty of good campgrounds just outside the national park boundary. From RV campgrounds with full hookups to great car camping and free dispersed camping on adjacent BLM land the you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.
If you’re looking to check out any of the other Utah National Parks, but sure to take a look at our other camping guides below:
RV campgrounds near Canyonlands
Number of sites: 22 sites
Fee: $50/night during peak season
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, electric hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
The Kayenta Campground in Dead Horse State Park is located just north of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands. While not a full fledged RV campground with tons of amenities, you will have access to electric hookups as well as a dump station here. For those looking for a more rustic RV camping experience near Canyonlands, look no further.
The Archview RV Resort and Campground is located just north of Moab, UT along State Highway 191. From here, your just a 30 minutes drive from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. Archview has all the trappings of a full service RV resort including a pool, splash pad, playground, picnic shelters, and more.
Archview gets great reviews for its location, which is perfect if you’re hoping to visit any of the other national parks in the area.
The Needles Outpost Campground is located about as close to Canyonlands National Park as you can get. Immediately adjacent to the Needles District and only a short drive to the Needles Visitor Center, this is the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to the park.
The campground is unique in that it is completely off the grid, so no RV hookups here. However, they do have gas, propane, and a small general store. Guests rave about the friendly hosts and tranquil setting. Highly recommended.
Car camping sites near Canyonlands
If you’re looking for car camping sites near Canyonlands National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from.
In addition to the campgrounds listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above. Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Canyonlands National Park.
Number of Sites: Kayenta Campground (21 sites) & Wingate Campground (21 sites, 11 are tent only)
Fee: $35 – $50/night depending on season and campsite type (RV or tent)
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, both campgrounds feature electric hookups at select sites.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Situated just north of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands, Dead Horse State Park offers two developed campgrounds that can accommodate both RV and tent campers. The Kayenta and Wingate campgrounds are located adjacent to each other and all sites feature shade structures, picnic tables, and fire pits.
It is important to note that there is no water source at either campground, so you’ll need to come prepared with all of the water you plan on needing.
The campgrounds here are also great if you’re interesting in exploring any of the excellent hiking trails in Dead Horse State Park.
Number of Sites: Plenty!
Capacity: 10 people per campsite, group sites more
RVs: Permitted at some campgrounds, but check individual campsite pages for details.
Reservations: All campgrounds are first-come, first-served
The Bureau of Land Management maintains dozens of developed campgrounds in the Moab area. These campgrounds are all first-come, first-served and make a great option for basic car camping just outside of Canyonlands National Park.
While all of the campgrounds in the Moab area will work well for a visit to Canyonlands, the following are especially well-located:
- Cowboy Camp: North of the Island in the Sky District. 7 campsites, and no RVs.
- Horsethief: North of the Island in the Sky District. 85 individual campsites, five group sites. RVs allowed, but no hookups.
- Hatch Point: East of the Needles District. 10 campsites.
- Windwhistle: East of the Needles District. 15 campsites.
You can check out the BLM map below which shows all of their campgrounds in the Moab area. Also, be sure to check our their excellent brochure for additional information.
Number of Sites: Three “glamping” tents available
Capacity: Two people per tent.
Reservations: Required. Reserve here.
Pets: Not allowed.
Glamping Canyonlands is not a typical campground, but may appeal to your more luxurious side. Located east of the Needles District in Canyonlands, this upstart glamping operation currently has three tents that all feature queen beds, a small deck, and comfortable chairs.
You’ll be well located here to explore both Canyonlands and the rest of the Moab area.
Free dispersed camping near Canyonlands
The final option for camping outside of Canyonlands National Park is to find a free, dispersed campground on the adjacent BLM land. This is a bit trickier than you might expect given the huge swaths of public land in this section of Utah, but it is important to know where dispersed camping is allowed.
First, and most importantly, there is no dispersed camping permitted within 20 miles of Moab.
This is to help protect the sensitive ecosystem of this extremely popular landscape. Please obey this requirement and take advantage of the options below or stay at of the campgrounds listed in the sections above.
Here are you best bets for free dispersed camping near Canyonlands National Park:
- Dubinsky Well Road: Located north of the Island in the Sky District, this free dispersed camping area can accommodate up to 12 groups. Located north of the Lone Mesa Campground just off BLM Road 137.
- Gemini Bridges Road: Just south of Moab a 4WD road leads to the Bride’s Canyon trailhead. Just before reaching the trailhead there are several beautiful campsites located on the north side of the road.
- Mineral Bottom: The Mineral Bottom dispersed camping area is located just northwest of Canyonlands National Park, although it will be quite a drive to actually enter the park. Recommended only if the other options are full.
Have a great trip!
That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on Canyonlands National Park camping in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!