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Friday, September 19, 2014

Utah's 5 Best Fall Camping Areas

Navajo Lake last week - photo by Dave Webb
I did a lot of camping during the summer, in many fun spots around Utah, and I'm looking forward to to several great trips during the next several weeks.

In my opinion, fall is the best time to camp because temperatures are just right - not too hot and not too cold. Conditions are also wonderful for hiking, biking and exploring.

Sometimes I camp just for the sake of camping, but more often I pitch my tent because I want to be close to some destination, or engage in some activity. I want to explore a remote area or fish a particular lake or stream. By camping, I can usually stay right where the action is. That's particularly true when fishing or doing serious photography, when it is important to be at a specific spot during the first and last hours of daylight.

So, where are the best spots for fall camping? Well, that depends on what kind of experience you want to have. During fall, many people like to hunt big game and so they camp in the mountains. I love the mountains but I'm a desert rat at heart. When nights start to get chilly in the mountains, I prefer the red rock country where warm temperatures linger.

A week ago I camped at Navajo Lake, at a high elevation on top of Cedar Mountain, east of Cedar City. On Sunday morning there was frost of my windshield. Later that day I drove to St. George, where the temperature was in the high 90s. Quite a temperature spread.

You can have the frost, I'm heading to the desert. Your "best of" list may be different from mine, but this is my blog post and so I'll give my favorites. These are spots where I actually intent to camp this fall.

1. Lake Powell! I'll launch from Bullfrog and boat away to a secluded cove, camp on the beach and enjoy the excellent fall fishing. On a moonless light, you'll never see brighter stars.

2. Devils Garden Campground in Arches National Park. This place books up fast and the busy season expends through October, but it is worth the effort to secure a site. The scenery is beautiful and it makes a wonderful base from which to explore the park and surrounding area. If I can't get a reservation I'll go for one of the BLM sites along the Colorado River, or down to Moonflower Canyon.

3. Capitol Reef's campground. This is a very nice campground in a very beautiful setting. October/November and March/April are perfect months to hike the dry canyons in this almost forgotten (by many) park.

4. Monument Valley. I understand the Navajo National built a campground at Monument Valley Tribal Park and I'd very much like to camp there, but their website says it is closed. However, the date stamp shows the last update was a couple years ago, so who knows if it is open. I'll camp nearby at Gouldings and explore the sacred valley, and see for myself if the campground is open.

5. Zion Park. As fall progresses and temperatures start to grow chilly in other areas, I'll retreat to Zion for late fall camping. Conditions there are usually very nice for camping through November, and I particularly enjoy the area after most tourists have gone home.

– Dave Webb

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