Dispersed camping is free, private, and does not require any permits. Utah is a great place to go dispersed camping because the National Forests cover millions of acres.
Utah has more National Recreation Areas than any other state managed by the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These are perfect places for camping. In this article, we’ll let you know exactly how to find dispersed camping in Utah and the rules to follow.
There Are 7 National Forests In Utah:
- Ashley National Forest
- Caribou-Targhee National Forest
- Dixie National Forest
- Fishlake National Forest
- Manti-La Sal National Forest
- Sawtooth National Forest
- Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
You can find free, dispersed camping in each of these National Forests. They are also the best place to see wildlife, go for a hike, and enjoy the great outdoors.
Rules For Dispersed Camping In Utah
The rules for dispersed camping are pretty similar for all National Forests in the US. This park system is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The most important rules for dispersed camping are:
- Camp within 150 feet of roadways, if possible
- Always use existing fire rings when available
- No camping within 100 feet of a water source
- No camping at developed trailheads or picnic areas
- You must move your campsite every 14 days
- Do not leave personal property unattended for more than 10 days
- Minimize your environmental impact
- Leave no trace
14 Day Stay Limits
All National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Areas have a 14-day stay limit. This is to prevent excess damage to the environment. In Utah, this means that you can’t camp in the same spot for more than 14 days within a 28 day timeframe.
That includes both consecutive and non-consecutive visits.
After you’ve reached the 14 day maximum, you must move your campsite outside of a 25 mile radius.
Dispersed Camping Areas
Following these rules, you can go camping for free in most areas of the Utah National Forest. Many places have site-specific rules to follow as well.
How To Find Exact Dispersed Camping Boundaries
The trickiest part about dispersed camping is finding out exactly where it’s legal to camp. National Forest boundaries are not clearly marked from the road.
Our #1 tip is to talk to a local park ranger. They can give you the best lay of the land, road conditions, and any special considerations that need to be taken into account.
Aside from that, the USDA offers this interactive map which accurately labels the National Forest boundaries in Utah.
Finding Free Campsites With The Dyrt
One of our favorite tips if you’re on the move and don’t have reliable access to the internet is to download The Dyrt Pro App. The app makes it easy to find National Forest boundaries and download the maps for offline use.
You can toggle the layers to find the exact boundaries for:
- Bureau of Land Management Areas
- National Parks
- National Forests
And you can also read reviews of campsites in the area.
Dispersed Camping On Bureau Of Land Management Areas In Utah
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is run by the US Department of the Interior. Dispersed camping on Utah BLM land follows the same rules as that of the National Forest.
There are over 200 dispersed camping locations on BLM land in Utah.
Dispersed Camping on Utah Recreation Areas
Utah has 72 Recreation Areas and many of them allow dispersed camping. Before heading out on your trip, be sure to research each location or stop by a Forest Service office to speak to a ranger.
The park rangers will be able to guide you on the best locations to camp and activities to do nearby. Here are a few Utah Recreation Areas that allow dispersed camping:
- San Rafael Swell Recreation Area
- Canyon Rims Recreation Area
- Little Sahara Recreation Area
- Hidden Lake Recreation Site
- Book Cliffs Recreation Area
Boondocking In Utah National Parks
There are 5 mind-blowing National Parks in Utah, and they are all located nearby National Forests or Recreation Areas where you can go boondocking for free.
- Arches National Park: Try dispersed camping in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
- Bryce Canyon National Park: Spend the night in the Dixie National Forest.
- Canyonlands National Park: Go boondocking for free in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
- Capitol Reef National Park: The closest boondocking can be found in the Dixie National Forest.
- Zion National Park: We wrote an entire guide to camping in and around Zion which covers both free and paid campgrounds all around the park. One of the closest boondocking locations is in the Hurricane Cliffs Recreation Area.
Dispersed Camping in Utah National Monuments
Utah has 7 National Monuments and it’s another great place to find free camping. For example, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument covers 1.7 million acres and has many opportunities for dispersed camping. All you need is a free permit.