Where To Find The Best Free Campsites In Southern Utah

Camping doesn't need to cost money.

By: Stephanie Yarbrough
June 3, 2016

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Southern Utah is a magical place, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. The scenery is spectacular and ever-changing; there are tons of activities to do; there are so many wide-open spaces. It’s hard not to fall in love with it. Even better, there are so many great places to camp, even from your car! So where are the best places to car camp? Here are my favorites:

Moab, Utah: Willow Springs Road

Just about 13 miles northwest of Moab, there is a road out seemingly in the middle of nowhere called Willow Springs Road. This is all BLM land (Bureau of Land Management), which is public land. All along this road are campsites that are accessible by car or RV. Once you get about a mile down the road, it gets bumpy and you’ll need 4WD, but the first mile of it as well as some of the side roads are passable by low clearance cars. The 360 degree views in this area are spectacular, and it’s a great place to base if you are hanging out in Moab for a while! But be sure you get there early on a weekend, as the sites tend to fill up fast!

Photo: Jason Hatfield

Near Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is surrounded on the east and south sides by BLM Land. As you get closer to the park, the scenery just gets better and better. There is a river just to the east of the park entrance on Highway 24, and there are car camping sites just off of the river. Even though you are right off of the highway, it’s a relatively quiet highway and the flowing river drowns out any road noise. Camp in this area and you are just about a mile from the park, depending on which site you choose. Additional campsites in this area are down Notom Road, just east of the park.

Escalante, Utah

We searched high and low for a great spot to spend a few days in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area. Escalante is a cute little town (and I’m not joking when I say little) that is right in the center of tons of activities. The best campsite by far is right off of Hole in the Rock Road, just about a quarter-mile from the highway. It’s accessible for low clearance cars with some strategic driving. There are about 20-30 campsites in this area, so there is plenty of room!

Note: you do need a permit for this area, but the permit is free. Just go to the Visitor’s Center in Escalante and give them your name and number of days you are staying. It’s just for record keeping.

Near Bryce Canyon National Park

There is an abundance of National Forest land surrounding Bryce Canyon National Park, and it’s free to camp in the forest. Best part about the National Forest? It’s actually CLOSER to the park than the expensive RV Parks and cabins in Bryce Canyon City. That’s right, free camping less than a half mile from the entrance of the park! Off of Highway 63 just about 100 feet before you reach the “Welcome to Bryce Canyon National Park” sign, you’ll come to Fire Road 090 on the west side of the road. Down this road and the other Fire Roads that spiderweb out from the first road, there are tons of campsites. Privacy is great thanks to the trees in the forest, and you are as close as you can get to Bryce Canyon National Park without paying outrageous camping fees!

Photo: Michael Wigle

Near Zion National Park

There are not many free spots to camp just outside of Zion National Park, but there is one spot that seems to be overlooked a lot! On the west side of Zion on Highway 9, there is a sign for the La Verkin Overlook. Down that road, there are about ten campsites down these various roads, and it’s all BLM Land. The views from the overlook are spectacular! Admittedly, you are 18 miles from the entrance to Zion National Park, but for a free and beautiful campsite, I wouldn’t complain!

You really can’t go wrong camping in these areas. Proximity to activities, scenic views, and campfires, and all of that at a price tag of free! All of these campsites are accessible and camper friendly for cars, trucks, backpackers, or RVers! Southern Utah is a beautiful place to explore, and I hope to inspire more people to visit the area with these awesome free campsites. So pitch a tent, pull up your RV, or throw your sleeping bag in your car, because southern Utah is where you need to be!

Cover photo: Michael Wigle

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.