Where to camp in and around Canyonlands National Park
Planning a camping trip to Canyonlands National Park? First and foremost, decide where you want to go. This park is HUGE and has several entrances that do not connect to one another! Plus, there are lots of dirt roads for those seeking adventure and isolation. Not to mention the park's proximity to Arches National Park and the town of Moab, which offer a million other amazing things to do and explore.
Check out our post about visiting Canyonlands to learn more. Then, refer to the below list for our favorite places to camp in and near Canyonlands National Park. Remember to reserve your camping gear with us.
Note: Fill up on water, groceries, and gas prior to embarking on any dirt roads in the Southwest! At Basecamp Outdoor Gear, we rent 7-gallon water jugs and coolers so you don't run out of water and you can keep your food fresh longer.
Camping within Canyonlands National Park boundaries
According to national park rules and regulations, you can only stay in established campgrounds within the national park boundaries. There's only one main campground in Island in the Sky District and one campground in the Needles District. The rest of the campgrounds are either just outside camp boundaries or off of dirt roads that require 4WD and a permit.
Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) Campground
Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) Campground is the only campground in the main part of the park, half way between the visitor center and the end of the road at Grandview Point. It's beautiful and spacious, yet lacks shade due to the harsh desert conditions. The campground has only pit toilets and no running water.
Our thoughts about this campground: It's a great campground but there's no need to stay here since there are so many other nice campgrounds with similar settings and amenities just outside of the park entrance.
Reservations: First-come first-served. Check nightly rate here
This is the only campground in the Needles District. It's beautiful and spacious, yet lacks shade due to the harsh desert conditions. The campground has only pit toilets and no running water. You must reserve your spot in advance during the majority of the year. If you're planning a trip last-minute, check the online system a few times a day, up to 24 hours in advance, as other travelers may cancel their trip.
Our thoughts about this campground: It's a great campground and the only place to stay in the Needles District, at the trailhead to many beautiful hikes. The campsites are beautiful and well-maintained, clean and quiet.
Reservations: Required March-October. Book here
This is a very big and flat parking lot at the trailhead to Horseshoe Canyon. Technically, it's part of Canyonlands National Park, but there isn't much there to remind you of that aside from a small sign. You'll find a vault toilet at the parking lot.
Campgrounds outside of Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is very close to the town of Moab, UT, and other beautiful outdoor surroundings the area has to offer. We therefore strongly urge you to look for a central campground in the Moab vicinity. This way you can set up basecamp for a few nights in one place and you don't have to worry about moving.
Dead Horse Point State Park (Kayenta and Wingate Campgrounds)
Just outside of Island in the Sky is a Utah State Park, Dead Horse Point, which is essentially just another viewpoint over Canyonlands. This state park has two small campgrounds, Kayenta and Wingate. Those familiar with Utah State Park Campgrounds know that these are very nice sites that include drinking water and flush toilets. No showers.
Our thoughts about this campground: Great campgrounds, but expensive. The campsites are beautiful and well-maintained, clean and quiet. Awesome if you're on a mountain biking trip. Location is the only downside because there's not much to do nearby.
Reservations: Required year-round. Book here
Needles Outpost Campground
You'll find this random private campground just outside of the Needles District. The desert camping scenery is unbeatable here, but the rest of the Needles Outpost is difficult to express in words. There's a small expensive store here for emergency necessities, an outdated coin-operated shower, and flush toilets. Even though this is very close to the Needles District Visitor Center and to Indian Creek, this place feels very remote.
Our thoughts about this campground: Beautiful but expensive. Location is the only downside because there's not much to do nearby. This place is great if you're part of a large group or as a backup if Needles Campground is full.
Reservations: Required year-round. Book here
BLM campgrounds outside of Canyonlands National Park
The Bureau of Land Management maintains 26 beautiful campgrounds in the Moab area, all within 10 to 50 minutes drive of the entrance to Island in the Sky. These campgrounds are fantastic! The only problem: They are very popular and you cannot reserve them in advance. These campgrounds all have vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables, but no running water and no cell service. My favorites, based solely on location, are along Scenic Byway 128, as close to the intersection with Hwy 191 as possible. This places you in the most central location between the town of Moab, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. This is also the place you want to go in summer to get some shade from cottonwood trees and pick up some fresh air from the cool river.
Our thoughts about these campgrounds: LOVE THEM ALL! But you have to be lucky to get a spot.
Reservations: First come first served. Try to arrive in the morning, about an hour before checkout time, and drive around looking for anyone who might be vacating their site. Bring exact change in cash to pay for your campsite at the self-pay station. Check nightly rate here. See map below to decide where to look first.
Dispersed Camping near Moab
Dispersed camping is a term used to describe free roadside camping. These are unofficial yet legal camping spots with no amenities whatsoever. Practice Leave-No-Trace principles and keep our public lands wild and clean.
If you'd like to practice dispersed camping near Moab, you'd have to drive at least 20 miles away from town. Within 20 miles, you can only legally stay overnight in designated sites, even if it is technically still dispersed camping. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a great map of places to camp for free.
RV Parks and Campgrounds in Moab
There is only one RV park, Sun Outdoors, near the center of town, making it a great choice for those who just want to park the car and walk to civilization. If you're in a tent, but want to stay in town, check out Up the Creek Campground. Finally, there are a handful of campgrounds on the outskirts of Moab with RV hookups, showers, swimming pool, and other amenities. They may be nice, but I don't see the point of staying here unless you absolutely need RV hookup.
Summary of all campgrounds in and around Canyonlands National Park
Here's a map of all the campgrounds mentioned above. Remember to rent 7-gallon water jugs so you don't run out of water when you stay at park and BLM campgrounds. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and extra food and emergency supplies if you embark on any dirt roads in Canyonlands.
If you need more information regarding any of the campgrounds mentioned above please don’t hesitate to contact us!