Herds of eager campers from across the globe flock to Utah every year in search of the quintessential outdoor experience. And while Utah’s mountain peaks and red deserts are especially exciting for young adventurers, what happens when you have a family in tow? Fortunately, Utah is home to an innumerable selection of campsites that work well for families with toddlers, children, and teenagers. Here are five great ones!
Zion National Park is one of the American West’s most popular tourist destinations. With stunning views, surprising slot canyons, and a resident population of soaring California condors, there’s little question as to why the area is so popular for outdoor enthusiasts and curious tourists alike. Given the park’s popularity, however, camping availability is hard to come by. Such is the case for Watchman Campground, which typically necessitates reservations six months in advance. A long-time favorite for families, Watchman Campground is located only a quarter mile from the south entrance to the park, meaning that campers’ days are spent exploring miles upon miles of red-rock hiking and biking trails, taking advantage of guided tours, and drooling over Zion’s natural wonders. The campground can accommodate both RV and tent campers, though the two are separated into different camps.
Located just four miles east of Logan, Utah, Spring Hollow Campground is nice for convenient camping. The campground’s accessibility is especially advantageous for families, who may periodically need to grab something in town, or who aren’t interested in planning and executing a major camping excursion. That said, Spring Hollow won’t make you feel like you are close to modern conveniences. Located along a river in Logan Canyon, the campsite is perfect for fishing, tubing, and canoeing. With adult supervision, children can play in the river and pick wildflowers along its banks. The campground has two large sites that accommodate up to 135 people each, and each campsite is equipped with a picnic table, a serving table, a grill, and a fire pit for sticky after-dinner s’mores.
Antelope Island State Park is not your typical terrain. Although not technically an island, it sure feels like one, as it is surrounded almost completely by the Great Salt Lake. And although some complain of aggressive mosquitoes and horse flies come spring, most campers visit the park and leave with an intense desire to return. With a few different campgrounds to choose from, Antelope Island’s hallmark campground is called Bridger Bay. Not only is this campsite easy to access, but it capitalizes on Antelope Island’s unique and stunning landscape and gives way to plenty of adventurous opportunities, such as hiking, biking, and buffalo watching. Yes, Antelope Island is home to the third largest publically-owned herd of buffalo in the world, meaning that your kids will spend a good part of the day fawning over these interesting creatures (600 in total) just in time for you all cozy up to the fire to watch one of Utah’s dramatic sunsets.
Similar in many ways to Spring Hollow Campground, Little Mill Campground is also located in a cool canyon next to a tame river. Campsites are interspersed nicely, maximizing privacy without totally cutting you off from other people. Each site has a picnic table, access to public toilets, and a cement fire ring. To top it all off, the potential for family activities is endless. Hiking, exploring the nearby Timpanogos Caves, visiting a nearby reservoir, playing in the water, and even rock climbing (which is one of American Fork Canyon’s most popular recreational activities) are all viable family activities. This campsite tends to get more crowded in the summer, so if you’re concerned about avoiding crowds, the campsite is equally pleasant in May and far less crowded.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can see mineralized wood. So what is mineralized wood exactly? For lack of a less scientific explanation, mineralized (or petrified) wood is a special type of fossil wherein ancient vegetation is mineralized over the course of millions of years. In essence, ancient, dinosaur-era trees turn into colorful stone that still maintains the shape of wood. Perhaps needless to say, camping in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is an almost mythic experience, and minor exploration will have your kids in awe at the bounty of these archaic, rainbow-colored fossils that find themselves scattered around this desert territory. If the mere presence of petrified wood isn’t enough, campsites also provide access to rigorous hiking, boating, fishing, ice fishing, swimming, and bird watching. An unexpected perk of camping in or near Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is that hot showers are also available.