Canyonlands National Park Camping

Canyonlands National Park is a wonderland of ancient geology, carved out by the mighty Colorado River. Stand atop any one of the flat-topped, red-rock mesas, and you’ll revel in dramatic panoramic landscapes filled with deep canyons, pinnacles, cliffs and spires. Or walk along a canyon floor and harness the power of the deep canyon walls that reach the sky.

Better yet, stay overnight. For first-class access to hiking, biking and stargazing, a Canyonlands camping experience is unmatched. The park itself houses first-come, first-served developed sites or backcountry access via permit. And nearby, find glamping and BLM camping opportunities.

Canyonlands National Park More Camping in Utah


Camping along the White Rim Trail in in Canyonlands National Park.

Photo: Whit Richardson/Western Spirit

Backcountry Camping in Canyonlands

Backcountry camping is an elevated experience in Canyonlands, but please note that the area can be extremely difficult to navigate. Even experienced backpackers should be well-versed in desert navigation before setting out. Park rangers are extremely knowledgeable and can help you develop your itinerary.

Four districts comprise the backcountry zones: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze and the rivers within the park boundaries. Permits are required for all overnight backcountry travel, with special permits for each mode of transportation. Permits should be acquired at least six months in advance for the more popular destinations, such as the amazing White Rim Campground and Cataract Canyon. The National Park Service website has more details on permits. Fees vary depending on the location and modes of travel.

The best way to reach backcountry sites is by mountain bike, 4x4 vehicle, dirt bike, boat or horseback, though backpacking is also an option. Traveling by foot in Canyonlands is generally not beginner-friendly due to the lack of water sources, challenging navigation and hot climate. However, the adventure potential is nearly endless for those with established backpacking skills.

White Rim Trail and White Crack Campground

The White Rim Trail is an incredible way to experience the stunning deserts and beautifully-carved canyons of Canyonlands National Park. This 100-mile off-roading trail takes 2 to 3 days to complete and has many reservable campsites. The most popular of which is White Crack Campground, located near the trail’s halfway point. This large campsite offers unmatched views of both The Needles and The Maze district of the park. White Crack Campground, and the others along the trail, are reservable up to 12 months in advance on

Cataract Canyon Camping

This 47-mile-long canyon on the Colorado River is a popular rafting adventure. Within the canyon, rafters will experience 14 miles of raging rapids with difficulty ranging up to Class V. This river trip takes 2 to 3 days to complete and requires overnight camping. While rafting on the river requires a river permit, the 42 campsites along the shoreline are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Cataract Canyon is a stunning destination with towering red cliffs lining its fast-moving waters, but it is dangerous. The rapids are powerful and can easily capsize a raft. The river can be very cold, and hypothermia is a real danger. Adequate preparation, research, and training are essential before attempting a rafting expedition.

Devil’s Kitchen

Devil’s Kitchen is an iconic area near The Needles Campground, characterized by massive boulders, cliffs, and red rock formations surrounding its campsites. Devil’s Kitchen requires an overnight backcountry permit for the Needles area and has four reservable campgrounds. The drive approaching this campsite is extremely challenging and requires a properly-outfitted 4x4 off-roading vehicle.  

BLM Camping Near Canyonlands

Both Moab and Monticello offer dozens of campsites hosted on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Note that these semi-developed campgrounds often have vault toilets and picnic tables, and cost a modest fee ($15-$20 per night). Discover Moab offers an extensive list of the Moab area BLM lands. The Monticello field office also has information on BLM campgrounds in the area, including the famous Superbowl campground.

Glamping and RV Camping Near Canyonlands

Most RV campers stay in the Moab area, about a 30-40-minute drive from Canyonlands. There are plentiful options in town and many BLM options for RVs. (Read: Wheeling It: An RV Primer for Utah Family Trips)

There are also several hotels, resorts and glamping options in Moab, for those looking for a few more amenities.

Canyonlands is a certified International Dark Sky Park.

Photo: National Park Service

Canyonlands National Park stretches across 527 square miles.

Photo: Angie Payne

Camping Responsibly

Forever Mighty

While venturing beyond public campgrounds to camp in the backcountry can be a thrilling adventure — remember to travel responsibly, a shared ethic we call "Forever Mighty."

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Leave No Trace

No matter what Utah activities you take on, remember to follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

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When To Visit, Pet Policies & Other Things To Know

  • Many of the best hikes and viewpoints are available as day hikes in Canyonlands. Camping nearby and making day trips to these places is standard fare (as are the mountain bike destinations like Navajo Rocks).
  • Pets are allowed on-leash in parking areas, picnic areas, and developed campgrounds, but not on any trails, in backcountry terrain, or on the rivers. If exploring Canyonlands only accounts for a day or two of your trip, consider boarding your dog in nearby Moab. 
  • Canyonlands is a dry, desert environment. Bring plenty of water and check the weather forecast for lightning storms and flash floods.
  • Utah’s National Parks see millions of travelers each year. As you plan your next trip to Canyonlands, consider ways to support its basecamp communities and keep the park Forever Mighty.
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