Utah is a land of stunning contrasts. From the dramatic Colorado Plateu to the peaks of the Wasatch Mountains and the state’s famous national parks, Utah contains some of the most incredible public lands in the country. The state is also home to some incredible dispersed camping opportunities that let you explore these vast landscapes firsthand.
All across Utah you’ll find ample possibilities to pitch your tent or park your trailer. We’ve created this Utah dispersed camping guide to help you navigate the rules, regulations, and endless camping options to find your perfect campsite.
Let’s get started.
Utah Dispersed Camping Guide
- The Basics
- The 10 Best Dispersed Camping Areas in Utah
Find Your Next Dispersed Campsite
Learn how to find the best campsite locations BEFORE you head out. No more showing up to crowded sites with all the good spots taken!
Easily identify camping areas
Find free camping on public land
Use offline apps to locate sites
Learn through video tutorials
The sections that follow contain the essential information you need to know to plan your perfect Utah dispersed camping trip. Looking for information on where dispersed camping is permitted, what the rules are, and what to bring? Then the next few sections are for you.
Where is dispersed camping allowed in Utah?
Generally speaking dispersed camping is permitted on public land managed by the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. It is broadly permitted on these lands, expect where it is explicitly prohibited. That means that you can likely dispersed camp within a national forest or on BLM land in Utah unless there is an order or rule not allowing it.
Find an overview of each of the different dispersed camping options in Utah below:
US Forest Service Dispersed Camping in Utah (USFS)
The US Forest Services manages six National Forests within Utah, with an additional two that are in both Utah and Idaho. These forests make a great place to find dispersed campsites, and are located throughout the state. Generally speaking, all National Forests permit some form of dispersed camping and have similar rules and regulations. However, that does vary a bit depending on the specific National Forest and our recommendation is to always research the specific USFS area you plan to camp before setting out.
Utah’s National Forests are listed below along with a link to the dispersed camping guidelines for each area:
- Ashley National Forest dispersed camping
- Dixie National Forest dispersed camping
- Fishlake National Forest dispersed camping
- Manti-La Sal National Forest dispersed camping
- Uinta National Forest dispersed camping
- Wasatch-Cache National Forest dispersed camping
In addition to the six national forests listed above, both Caribou-Targhee and Sawtooth National Forests have small segments in Utah with the remaining sections located in neighboring Idaho. Check out the map below for more detail.
In addition to the USFS, the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM for short, is the other large public land owner in Utah that allows dispersed camping. You’ll find lots of great dispersed camping opportunities on BLM land in the state, especially around Utah’s famous National Parks. BLM land can be a bit harder to determine whether or not dispersed camping is permitted, so we recommend reaching out to the relevant district office listed below:
- Canyon Country District (Moab)
- Color Country District (Cedar City)
- Green River District (Vernal)
- Paria River District (Kanab)
- West Desert District (Salt Lake City)
In addition, you can find a good overview of BLM dispersed camping rules here. The map below shows you just how much land in Utah is managed by the BLM. The dispersed camping opportunities are nearly endless!
How to find dispersed camping in Utah
In general, with a little knowledge of where to look, experience navigating forest service roads, reading USFS maps, and camping in remote locations, it should be relatively straightforward to find dispersed camping in Utah. We like to use a combination of online apps/websites and USFS/BLM maps to find dispersed campsites. Our favorite resources for Utah dispersed camping are below:
- Freecampsites.net – Our go to resource for finding free camping in the US. Simply enter your desired location and filter through the results.
- The Dyrt – An app that let’s you filter for free and dispersed campsites.
- Campendium – A website and app that allows you to see user reviews for campsites and campgrounds across the country.
While these apps and websites are a good starting place for finding dispersed campsites in Utah, we always cross reference the information with public agencies maps and resources. We’ve provided contact information for all of the National Forests and BLM offices in Utah in this post, and they will provide the most up to date information on where dispersed camping is permitted.
Our final, and favorite public resource for finding Utah dispersed camping is to utilize USFS Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) for the national forests. These maps generally show which forest service roads permit dispersed camping, often notated by two dots on either side of the road
Links to the relevant MVUMs for Utah dispersed camping are linked below:
- Ashley National Forest MVUM
- Dixie National Forest MVUM
- Fishlake National Forest MVUM
- Manti-La Sal National Forest MVUM
- Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest MVUM
We often have a motor vehicle use map open in one tab and Google Maps satellite view in the other to help find dispersed campsites. You can cross reference the two and often see areas that have established campsites in Google Maps.
Find Your Next Dispersed Campsite
Our online video course will teach you everything you need to know to find your next free, dispersed campsite.
Learn how to find the best campsite locations BEFORE you head out. No more showing up to crowded sites with all the spots taken!
In this course, we’ll show you how to research free, public campsites, read USFS maps, locate public land, and plan your next dispersed camping trip.
- How to find areas that allow free, dispersed camping
- How to use public maps to narrow down your search
- How to use online apps to identify where camping is permitted and view the surrounding terrain
- How to view your exact location in relation to camping opportunities when you’re out looking for a site – even without cell phone service!
- Confidently plan your next camping trip
Dispersed Camping Rules & Regulations
One of our favorite things about dispersed camping is the lack of permits, reservations, and other requirements you’ll often find at developed campgrounds. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t important rules you should always following when dispersed camping.
It is best to check current regulations with the relevant USFS or BLM office, but you should plan on adhering to the following as outlined by the USFS:
- Do not camp in areas near trailheads, picnic areas, or developed campgrounds.
- Keep your campsite small.
- Use existing sites and fire rings when available.
- Pick a site where vegetation is absent.
- Do not camp within 200 feet of a water source.
- Dispersed camping is generally limited to 14 days within any continuous 30 day period.
- Only have a campfire if it is permitted, and always be sure it is completely extinguished.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles – more on that below!
Download Our FREE Dispersed Camping Cheat Sheet
Our free printable cheat sheet outlines how to find the perfect dispersed campsite for your next trip.
Leave No Trace Principles & Dispersed Camping
One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping is to follow Leave No Trace principles. This will minimize your impact and ensure your campsite can be enjoyed by future visitors. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping:
- Plan Ahead & Prepare: Have an idea of where you’d like to camp and always be sure you are camping in an area that permits dispersed camping.
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces: Never camp on fragile ground or create a new campsite.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all of your trash and bury human waste away from water sources. Ideally, carry out human waste or use a portable toilet.
- Leave what you find: Never take anything from your campsite. Other than trash of course!
- Minimize campfire impacts: Never create new fire rings and only have fires if permitted.
- Respect Wildlife: Properly store food at all times and be aware of the area’s wildlife.
- Be considerate of Other Visitors: Pack out your trash, don’t be loud, and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.
Our dispersed camping checklist has everything you need.
Want to know the essentials for your next camping trip?
Our dispersed camping checklist has all the camping essentials plus specific items for dispersed camping.
The Best Dispersed Camping in Utah
Ok, now comes the fun part! If you’ve read the sections above you should have a good overview of the rules and regulations surrounding dispersed camping in Utah. Now, let’s dive in and take a look at our Top 10 Utah dispersed camping areas located across the state.
Additionally, the Utah dispersed camping map below gives an overview of each area with a detailed description following.
Restrooms: Vault toilet
Water: No, but may be able to pull from Mammoth Creek
The Mammoth Designated Dispersed Camping area is located deep within Dixie National Forest and close to both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Since this is a designated dispersed camping area you’ll have access to a simple vault toilet, although there is no water source or trash pickup. Most camping setups can be accommodated here as there is room for a few RVs in addition to trailers and tents.
The spots located directly on Mammoth Creek are the most idyllic, but also tend to fill up the fastest. If you’re planning on camping here during a summer weekend we recommend getting there as early as possible since most sites tend to fill up.
The campsites at Mammoth Designated Dispersed are well spread out and offer a decent amount of privacy. However, do keep in mind that there will be others camping near you so it is best to keep noise to a minimum and always leave your site in better shape than you found it.
Another great Utah dispersed camping spot is the Uinta Flat designated camping area. Located near Duck Creek Village, this dispersed camping area is well located for exploring the nearby National Parks as well as Cedar Breaks National Monument. Uinta Flat is popular with the OHV/ATM crowd, so be prepared for a little noise during the day.
It is relatively straightforward to get to Uinta Flat and the road to the camping area is passable by most vehicles. There isn’t a reliable water source or bathrooms here so it is important to come prepared and practice Leave No Trace camping.
The camping area is large, so don’t get discouraged if you arrive here and it looks full. Keep exploring back on the forest service roads and you’re sure to find a site that will work for your needs.
Restrooms: Vault toilet
Manning Meadow is an idyllic dispersed camping area in Fishlake National Forest on the shores of Manning Meadows Reservoir. This spot perfectly captures what dispersed camping in Utah is all about with tranquil campsites, a beautiful lake, and tons of nearby wilderness to explore. Since this is a designated dispersed camping area you will find a single vault toilet, although there is no dedicated water source here.
The campsites at Manning Meadow are also close to Barney Lake and not too far of a drive from the National Forest’s namesake of Fishlake, so this makes the perfect dispersed campsite for those looking to do a bit of fishing.
This dispersed camping area is off the beaten path so you’ll find fewer crowds compared to some of the other camping areas in this guide. As a result we can’t stress enough how important it is to pack out all of your waste and minimize your impact when camping here.
La Sal Loop
The La Sal mountains set a spectacular backdrop for the Moab area and also are home to some of the best dispersed camping in the region. Although you’re less than 20 miles from town here, you’ll feel a world apart as you enter these mountains, which are often at least 10 degrees cooler than Moab itself.
The La Sal Loop road is a popular dispersed camping destination and features dozens of opportunities for camping on one of the many spur roads in the National Forest. You’ll also be able to explore some of the less visited highlights of the area, such as the La Sal lookout.
To get here from Moab your best bet is to head south along Highway 191 before taking a left on Old Airport Road. From here, keep an eye out for La Sal Loop Road signage and be sure you’re in the National Forest before setting up camp. There is no water or other facilities here, so please be sure to pack out your trash and come prepared.
Diamond Fork Dispersed Camping
Located just over an hour from Salt Lake City, Diamond Fork Road offers some excellent dispersed camping along the Diamond Fork River. Situated in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest this is a popular escape for city dwellers. When looking for dispersed campsites here be sure to head up Diamond Fork Road far enough, as dispersed camping is not permitted on the lower-half of the road. You will see a sign that indicates dispersed camping is allowed followed by several great roadside campsites.
While there are no restroom facilities or potable water sources most of the sites do have a simple fire ring and can be accessed by most vehicles. There are even a few spots that can accommodate larger rigs such as RVs or fifth-wheels.
The main attraction besides the beautiful wilderness here is a trek up to the Fifth Water Hot Springs. The trailhead is located just south of where many of the dispersed campsites are located and leads to a few stunning hot springs pools. The hike is around 10 miles round-trip, so be sure to come prepared!
Stansbury Island Dispersed Camping
Stansbury Island is located west of Salt Lake City and sits adjacent to the Great Salt Lake as well as Stansbury Bay. This is a unique place to camp as you’ll get to experience a side of the lake that most don’t ever see. Located on BLM land, Stansbury Island has several large camping areas where you can spread out a bit and enjoy the surroundings.
Do keep in mind that the sand in the area can get exceptionally soft, so don’t venture out onto it in your vehicle unless you’re sure you can get out. The area is also popular for sport shooting, so don’t be surprised to hear a few gunshots while you’re out camping.
Stansbury Island has no services, so be sure you have enough water to last you entire trip. The dispersed camping areas are just a short distance off of I-80, so you’ll have quick access to SLC should you have forgotten anything.
Toms Best Spring Road Dispersed Camping
If you’re looking for a great dispersed camping option near Bryce Canyon National Park look no further than Toms Best Spring Road. A short 15-minute drive from the park, this Forest Service Rd has tons of campsites and small spur roads that lead to even more camping opportunities. Also known as Forest Service Read 117, the camping area is comprised of multiple loop roads that stem from both sides of Tom’s Best Spring Road.
The FR 3626 and FR 3627 loops are the most suitable for RVs, while the FR 646/FR3625 loop is pretty rugged but has the best views. Campers are required to use existing sites (marked with fire rings) to minimize environmental impacts.
There are vault toilets located at the intersection of Tom’s Best Spring Road and Scenic Byway 12, but you’ll need to pack in all of your own water when camping here.
Gooseberry Mesa Dispersed Camping
Gooseberry Mesa dispersed camping is located near Hurricane, Utah and Zion National Park. The road to get here is notoriously rough and gets very wash boarded, but those who do venture here will be rewarded with incredible views and even better stargazing. In addition to dispersed camping, the main draw at Gooseberry Mesa is the world-class mountain biking so this is a great site if that is up your alley.
Gooseberry Mesa is located on BLM land, and they have published this helpful guide with information on the area. The most relevant info for campers is to only dispersed camp at areas that have already been used as campsites.
The dispersed camping areas do not have any services, although you will find restrooms as the Gooseberry Mesa trailhead. Please be sure to pack out all of your waste here to ensure the area remains open to dispersed camping for generations to come.
Sheep Bridge Road/Hurricane Cliffs Dispersed Camping
Sheep Bridge Road is located near Zion National Park and Hurricane, Utah. The road cuts its way through a popular BLM dispersed camping area known as the Hurricane Cliffs. Dispersed camping is permitted only in designated sites here, typically marked by a sign post and fire ring. Many campers still opt to set up outside of these designated areas, but we don’t recommend it as this damages the fragile ecosystem and risks a fine.
You’re only a short drive from Zion here and close to the Virgin River as it winds its way through Southern Utah. Mountain biking is also very popular in the area and there are several excellent trail systems nearby.
Given how popular camping in the Hurricane Cliffs has become in recent years it is essential to follow the BLM regulations and always Leave No Trace. There are no services here so please properly dispose of your waste and remember to bring plenty of water.
Jug Hollow Dispersed Camping
Our final pick for the best dispersed camping in Utah is also one of the most spectacular. Located in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Jug Hollow offers dispersed campsites on a beautiful peninsula jutting out into the water. Forest Road 619 leads out to the tip of the peninsula and has several pullouts along its length that make for great campsites.
Boating, fishing, and hiking are all on offer at Flaming Gorge, making this a great dispersed camping option for those looking for a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. Of course, all this does make the area a popular camping destination, so be sure to arrive early to secure your campsite.
Southwest of the Jug Hollow you’ll also find tons of camping opportunities in Ashley National Forest, so don’t despair if there are no sites available.
Looking to find more dispersed campsites? Check out The Dyrt PRO to get campsite reviews, offline maps, and the best map layers for finding public dispersed camping!
Our Top Camping App – The Dyrt PRO
Looking to find more free, dispersed camping?
The Dyrt PRO is our favorite resource for planning your trip. Use the custom map layers to find public land, download offline maps, and navigate to your perfect dispersed campsite. Highly recommended!
Have a great trip!
That’s it! We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a great dispersed camping trip in Utah.
Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!
Looking for more dispersed camping content? Don’t forget to check out our other state specific dispersed camping guides: