If you’re planning a camping trip to visit Bryce Canyon National Park and are hoping to avoid the hustle and bustle of summer crowds, look for a campground outside the National Park. Bryce Canyon’s location in Southern Utah is in perfect proximity to a wide variety of scenery. The landscapes here are huge and the geology is fascinating. Our favorite out-of-the-way campsites near Bryce Canyon aren’t a long drive from one another (30-60 minutes), so you can combine all three for a fun camping vacation within easy reach of lots of unique areas to hike along creeks, explore slot canyons, and see crazy rock formations.
Just outside of Bryce Canyon in Dixie National Forest, Red Canyon Campground is a low-key alternative to the National Park. It is nestled in the depths of Red Canyon, which boasts the same cliffs of rocky pinnacles as its neighbor, Bryce. The campground has all the amenities sought out at a front-country campsite while maintaining a quieter atmosphere. Many hiking and mountain bike trails lead directly into the National Forest from the campground. In its wider canyons, floored with packed gravel, you can even take a guided ATV tour. Arrange for one through Ruby’s Inn when you visit Bryce Canyon.
East of Bryce National Park, the high alpine plateau is replaced by classic Great Basin Desert: rolling hills carpeted with giant sagebrush and juniper trees, and bordered by colorful cliffs of Jurassic-era rock. Here we find Kodachrome Basin State Park, a little-known gem in the heart of Utah’s canyon country. As many tourists end their journey from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City at Bryce Canyon and never drive slightly further east towards Kodachrome, this park gets only a fraction of a national park’s traffic while keeping all of its wow factor. Named for its vivid spectrum of rocky peaks and towering fossilized “spring pipes,” the park contains luxuriously spaced campsites at its heart. There are even cozy cabins for rent if you prefer. Only 30 minutes east of Bryce Canyon, the park has miles of its own fascinating hiking trails for additional activity.
Continue your journey east across Utah’s canyon country to reach Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. As its name suggests, the quiet park and campground lie in a layer of sedimentary rock that trapped ancient trees, now exposed in all their colorful glory around the campground. The cozy campsites also border Wide Hollow Reservoir, which adds an unexpected lakeside vibe as well as swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing opportunities. A few hiking trails wind through the park itself, but the main hiking attraction near Escalante Petrified Forest is its bordering giant, Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. Here, over two million acres of spectacular scenery await. The nearby Escalante Visitor center has a host of information on hiking or canyoneering trips in the area.
National Parks can get very busy during peak tourist season and it is often difficult to get a campsite. Remember, if you are planning to visit Bryce Canyon and hoping to camp there, make your campsite reservation as early as possible. If you are late in planning your trip, or you are looking for somewhere a little more “off the beaten path” one of these campsites near Bryce will provide a great alternative. Explore Escalante National Monument, hike the Escalante River, and see all the magic that Southern Utah has to offer. If you want to see all the highlights without any of the stress of planning, consider a guided trip.