Now that the clouds, rain, wind, and snow of spring seem to have passed, camping season is suddenly upon us! Whether you stay local or head south to Utah’s famous red rock country, you can expect to enjoy some extremely pleasant evening temperatures this time of year. Below are three of the best camping areas “local” to Salt Lake, listed in order of increasing distance from the city. All of these suggestions are fee areas.
American Fork Canyon
Distance from Salt Lake City: 34 miles/ 45 minutes
Elevation: 5,000 to 6,500 feet (and as high as 8,000 feet on adjacent the Alpine Loop)
Nearest town or city: Alpine
American Fork Canyon is the Wasatch Front’s backyard campground. Just 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, and even closer to those living in the Utah Valley, this canyon offers many developed campgrounds along its river-refrigerated, tree-lined bottom. American Fork Canyon offers many daytime activities for campers as well, such as Timpanogos Cave National Monument, a massive system of three caverns, limestone sport climbing cliffs, and the adjacent Alpine Loop Highway, which traces around the bottom of the Wasatch’s most famous peak, Mt Timpanogos. This canyon is run by the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, so visit their website or call with any questions. Bears and other wildlife are a very real presence in American Fork, so please act accordingly and store food appropriately.
Distance from Salt Lake City: About 50-75 miles/ 1-1.5 hours
Elevation: The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (UT 150) runs between 6,473 feet at Kamas at 10,687 feet at its highest.
Nearest town or city: Kamas
Kamas, the gateway to the Uinta Mountains, though just 50 miles from Salt Lake City, is the doorstep to another world. Because of its high elevation – up to 13,528 feet at King’s Peak – the Uinta Mountain Range offers a refreshing relief from Utah’s summer heat. Campers can use this area as they please, either staying in developed, road-side campgrounds, or backpacking for miles into the wild. Visitors to this range can fish, swim, hike, rock climb, or take a road bike ride. Because of its cooler temperatures and close proximity to the Wasatch Front, this range gets particularly crowded on the weekends, so contact the Ashley National Forest with questions and to make reservations. Beware the daily afternoon thunderstorm! Don’t plan to visit the range until July, as the snow is slow to melt out of these mountains.
Distance from Salt Lake City: About 105 miles/ 2 hours
Elevation: 7,000 feet and higher
Nearest town or city: Fountain Green
On the approach drive to Maple Canyon, through an open valley and past turkey farms, you’d never guess that you’re approaching a beautiful, forested, and cool canyon lined with huge cliffs and deciduous trees. This small canyon offers many campsites, hiking trails, and manageable topography. Shaded by trees and cooled by a stream, Maple is flanked by very unique and sheer conglomerate cliff faces popular among rock climbers. Though very narrow, this canyon splinters into many branches, offering itself up to exploration.