Utah Camping: Castle Country
You may hear words like barren, bleak, and unoccupied to describe what is known as Castle Country. Don't believe the rumors: spend time exploring its lovely realms and you'll also soon realize the place is much more than that. Travel around the region and you’ll find a world of towering sandstone walls and monoliths, strange formations — some of which do indeed look like castles — and a whole lot more.
In addition, there are quiet oases of cottonwoods and water that attract a variety of animal life; tall forests and open meadows where you can find moose and solitude; and places where ancient drawings and etchings lure visitors from all around. In addition to being what I’d rather call remote and unencumbered, Castle Country embraces part of the Manti–La Sal National Forest, where cool, lush, high-elevation refuges provide places for folks to come and fish, ride their OHVs, hike, ride horseback, photograph vistas that beg to be captured on film, or just sit and enjoy the shade and scenery.
Castle Country is located pretty much in the heart of the state, with just a little push to the east. It encompasses all of Emery and Carbon Counties for a total of 5,915 square miles. Composed of five distinct geologic areas — the Wasatch Plateau, the San Rafael Swell, the East Tavaputs Plateau, the San Rafael Desert, and the Mancos Shale Lowlands — its fifteen campgrounds are found in a potpourri of settings. Sites range from the cool realms of the national forest, to the water-blessed likes of several state parks, to the strange pillars and knobs of Goblin Valley State Park, and to the amazing sandstone pillars and walls of the San Rafael Swell.