When John Wesley Powell and his team of explorers first laid eyes on the brilliant red sandstone cliffs surrounding the Green River in northeastern Utah, they looked as if they were on fire. Enamored with these fiery crimson cliffs, Powell named the region a “Flaming Gorge.” The river has since been damned, creating a 91-mile long reservoir and the popular year-round Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area you see today.
Hovering the Utah/Wyoming border, the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is a landscape of stark contrasts from the nearby rugged Uinta mountains and high alpine forests to the stunning red rock cliffs and the vivid blue-green waters of the reservoir. With over 360 miles of shoreline, fishing and boating are the area’s top attractions. The recreation area also offers two visitor information centers (at the Red Canyon Overlook and the Flaming Gorge Dam), more than 100 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, several beaches, and plenty of scenic campgrounds for camping.
The Best Places to Camp near the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
You’ll find over 40 campgrounds at Flaming Gorge, from the more primitive national forest sites to private waterside resorts with all the amenities. There is also plenty of opportunity for dispersed camping for those looking for a more solitary experience. The biggest Flaming Gorge camping decision is whether you want to camp along the water or high above the rim. Along the waterside you’ll have easier access to the water, but above the rim you’ll find more shade and scenic views. Either way, make sure to book campsites well in advance during peak summer season since camping in the Flaming Gorge area is very popular.
Best Waterside Flaming Gorge Camping
Located on the shores of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir just a few miles from the town of Manila, Utah, the Lucerne Campground is centrally located along the reservoir making it a great basecamp for exploring the gorge. This full-service campground offers all the major amenities including flush toilets, drinking water, and showers as well as tent pads and electric hookups for RVs. The nearby Lucerne Valley Marina also offers boat rentals, fishing guide services, and a small grocery store and restaurant.
Situated on the eastern shore of the reservoir, Antelope Flat Campground has great access to the water and its very own boat ramp. Antelope Flat campsites can be reserved up to six months in advance and several first come, first service sites are available including some walk-in tent sites along the water. The campground is accessed via a dirt road, but is well-maintained and accessible to RVs and trailers.
Tucked into the far northwestern corner of Flaming Gorge, Firehold Canyon Campground is a nice option for those looking for a bit more solitude and some high desert views. Wild horse sightings are frequent near the campground and interesting red rock formations dot the landscape. Both single and family tent and RV campsites are available, but you’ll find no hookups here.
For a truly unique camping experience, load up the boat or canoe with your camping supplies and head to this remote campsite once frequented by Butch Cassidy and his gang of outlaws. Located two miles from the nearest road, Hideout Canyon is typically approached by boat from the Sheep Creek Bay Boat Ramp, but you can also hike in from the Hideout/Carter Creek Trailhead. Each campsite includes its own small shade structure, picnic table, and campfire ring.
Flaming Gorge Camping Above the Rim Options
Nestled into the high desert ridge above the southeast end of the reservoir, Mustang Ridge Campground offers plenty of partially shaded and spacious sites, flush toilets, showers, and drinking water. Try to score a camp spot on the outer loop for the best views down into the gorge. The Sunny Cove Swimming Area is only a half mile away and is considered one of the best swimming spots on the reservoir.
Named in honor of the three Forest Service firefighters killed in the 1977 wildfire near Flaming Gorge, the Firefighters Memorial Campground is set in the forest above the southern end of the recreation area. The campground offers shady spots for both tents and RVs as well as tables, fire rings, flush toilets, and a dumping station. The 3-mile round trip Bear Canyon Bootleg Trail begins across the street from the campground and leads to a fantastic viewpoint of the gorge.
Situated in a wooded meadow high above the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the Canyon Rim Campground is one of the best Flaming Gorge camping options during the heat of the summer, plus the popular Red Canyon Rim Trail goes right by the campground. Canyon Rim is equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, vault toilets. A few RV campsites are available, but no hookups are available.
Located right next to the Red Canyon Visitor Center, the Red Canyon Campground offers barebones camping near the colorful cliffs overlooking the reservoir. The Red Canyon Rim Trail begins at the visitor center and there’s a great observation deck overlooking the gorge near the campground. The nearby Greens Lake offers canoe and bike rentals, fishing, and horseback riding.
This article was brought to you by our friends at GCI Outdoor.
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