Tips for Finding a Campsite in Moab
By Kim Merryman
Finding a campsite in Moab can be a struggle if you don’t know where to look. Many campsites in the area are first-come, first-served, so you often can’t guarantee yourself a spot until you get there. I spent a week in an Escape Campervan in Moab over spring break and checked out a bunch of different options. Take these tips for finding a campsite if you’re planning a trip to the red rocks of Moab.
Find Campsites in Moab That Let You Book Online
Some campgrounds in Moab allow you to reserve a campsite online before you go. A few of them are great, but Moab has so many other cool campsites with beautiful scenery, I suggest trying for a night or two in the first-come, first-served spots out there. I often try to book a campsite online for my first night so I know I have a spot to sleep, and then I go find a first-come, first-served spot the next morning when it’s easier to find an empty site.
State and National Park Campgrounds
Some of the state and national park campgrounds in the area allow you to book online, but they can still be hard to get. Recreation.gov (for national parks) and reserveamerica.com are the places to book. Check the availability calendar for the campground you want, and if there’s nothing available, keep checking.
I nabbed two nights at Devils Garden Campground in Arches National Park by refreshing the recreation.gov calendar every few hours over a couple of days two weeks before my trip. I’d never stayed there before, so I expected the standard national park campground far from the good views with little privacy. However, I was so pleasantly surprised to be camping right up against red rocks with plenty of space and flora separating us from the other sites. Make sure to map the locations of these campgrounds relative to your planned destinations; the area is very spread out and usually involves a couple of long drives. A few state and national parks campgrounds in the area where you can book online include:
- Devils Garden Campground in Arches National Park
- Needles District Campground in Canyonlands National Park
- Dead Horse Point State Park Campgrounds
Arches National Park is generally open 24 hours a day, year-round. Fees apply. The park is very busy between March and October. To avoid traffic, we recommend entering the park before 8 am or after 3 pm.
Canyonlands National Park is generally open 24 hours a day, year-round.
Ken’s Lake Recreation Area
Ken’s Lake campground with beautiful long views of red rocks against the La Sal Mountains is about 10 miles outside of the town of Moab. It’s a wide-open space, and you’ll also have wide-open views of your neighbors. If it’s windy, there’s not much to protect you, but it’s a decent, pretty spot if you want to make sure you have a place to sleep near town.
RV and Trailer Parks
Moab has a variety of RV and trailer parks for those who want to be closer to town and are in need of more amenities than scenery. I stayed at Canyonlands RV Resort and Campground on my first night in town. I had just finished three nights of backpacking, so while it wasn’t beautiful, it was really nice to show up to find a few spots open for the night, get some laundry done, use the WiFi, and walk a block to a grocery store.
I showed up after hours, and they had instructions for finding a spot and checking in without prior reservations. These places generally cost more than a campground, but sometimes you’ll have more luck finding a spot last minute and you can (kind of) justify the cost by using all the amenities. Most of the RV parks in town are owned by Sun RV Resorts and offer similar experiences. Here are a few to check out:
- Canyonlands RV Resort and Campground
- Slickrock RV Resort and Campground
- Spanish Trail RV Park
Check Out First-Come, First-Served Camping in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Campgrounds
First-come, first-served camping in BLM campgrounds is my favorite way to camp in Moab, but it can also be a pain to get a site. Moab’s BLM campgrounds are in some of the most scenic places in the area. You’re more likely to get a spot in these campgrounds in the morning right after campers have packed up and headed home. We got ours along Highway 128 at about 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, but we wished we had tried earlier in the morning. I’ve listed a couple of my favorite areas to find these campgrounds below, but first, make sure you know how to snag a site when you find it.
Steps for claiming a BLM first-come, first-served campsite
- Get cash!
- Drive through campgrounds until you find a site that is open (no gear is left at the site, no receipt clipped to the post).
- While you get a payment envelope at the entrance, leave your Escape campervan at the open site so others see it’s occupied. Fill out the information on the envelope, insert your payment (don’t forget to bring cash!), tear off the receipt, and drop the envelope in the pay slot.
- Clip the tear-off receipt to the post at your campsite.
- While it’s not required, it’s best to leave something at the site that won’t blow away to show that you are coming back and others don’t think they can take your site.
TIP: Sometimes a site that looks empty will still have the receipt from the last group to camp there on the post. The receipt will say the date they are leaving so you’ll know if the site is actually open or if they’re coming back.
These are my favorite campsites, but they are also some of the hardest to get. There are several BLM campgrounds along Highway 128 in a beautiful canyon with most sites close to the river. It’s also pretty close to town and near a lot of great trails.
Kane Creek Road
From the south end of town, go west on Kane Creek Boulevard. You’ll find a few campgrounds along this road as it makes its way through some beautiful canyons. These campgrounds are fairly secluded, often shady, quiet, and close to many of Moab’s best biking and hiking trails.
TIP: On BLM lands, you can also try dispersed camping. However, in the Moab area, you’re required to pack out (rather than bury) your solid human waste, so keep that in mind and make sure you’re prepared. Here’s a guide for dispersed camping if you want to try it!