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2022 Guide to Camping in Bear’s Ears National Monument

Some of the best camping in Southeast Utah is in Bear’s Ears National Monument. Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, and Comb Ridge form the core of the monument which is made up of both BLM and US Forest Service land. This guide to camping and campgrounds in Bear’s Ears National Monument provides the information you need to plan a great trip.

Complete Guide to Camping and Campgrounds in Bear’s Ears National Monument

What kind of camping are you looking for?

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There are a number of ways to enjoy camping in the Bear’s Ears. Private campgrounds, public campgrounds, dispersed camping, and backcountry camping all offer different experiences. We cover each of these in-depth below

General Camping Considerations

Water

Most campsites don’t have water! Bear’s Ears is mostly desert and very dry forest so you must make sure to have enough water. A few campgrounds have water available seasonally and some of the parks have spigots. If you are at a place that has water take advantage and fill up.

If you are visiting backcountry sites from a base camp it will likely be several days before you have an opportunity to fill your jugs. Plan on at least 1 – 2 gallons per person per day for drinking, cooking, and washing up.

Paying for your campsite

Very few public campgrounds in the Bear’s Ears accept advance reservations so you need to plan ahead to pay for your campsite. The campgrounds have self-register, self-pay stations. These stations typically only accept cash or personal check for payment. Be sure to have the proper form of payment with you – it’s many miles to an ATM!

Campfires

Unless special restrictions are in place campfires are allowed in Bear’s Ears campsites. In developed campgrounds, you will be restricted to the provided fire rings. At dispersed sites, you’ll usually find camper-built fire rings.

Just because you can have a fire doesn’t mean you should. In most areas firewood is limited and, collecting firewood can be ecologically damaging. Also, this is dry country and wildfire is always a risk. Please consider not having a fire. If you do, always use an existing fire pit, make sure the fire is properly contained, and properly extinguished when you are done.

Private Campgrounds

Private campgrounds will have the most amenities and the least privacy. They are also the most expensive but they offer services that can make a difference. They all will have potable water, flush toilets, and showers and most will have RV hookups. These amenities make a big difference to many campers.

However, most private campgrounds are located in towns. While this opens up the possibility of restaurant meals, fresh groceries, and other conveniences, it also means you miss out on the spectacular natural settings that most public camping provides.

Tent campers may want to seek public campgrounds instead of private. Most private campgrounds have no special sites for tents and you will often have to camp between large RVs. Unless you are most comfortable surrounded by others you will most likely far prefer a public camping area. Most private campgrounds allow non-campers to use their shower for a small fee. Keep this in mind if you are on an extended trip.

Private Campgrounds near Monticello, UT

Private Campgrounds near Blanding, UT

Private Campgrounds near Bluff, UT

Public Campgrounds

National Forest Campgrounds

These campgrounds are all part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest which covers 1,413,111 acres in Southeast Utah. These campgrounds are mostly located in forested areas at higher elevations so they are often cooler. Devils Canyon Campground is located between Monticello and Blanding while the others are located on the flanks of the Abajo Mountains.

Devils Canyon Campground

Devils Canyon Campground features 42 sites for tents or RVs All of the campsites are reservable at Devils Canyon Campground Reservations. Each campsite has a table and fire ring. The campground has vault toilets and water is available in the summer. The campground sits at 7,100 ft elevation and is partially wooded.

Devils Canyon Campground is just off US 191, 9 miles north of Blanding, UT, and 12 miles south of Monticello, UT.

# of campsites42
2022 nightly camping fee$20.00
WaterYes – Seasonal
ReservationsYes
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, vault toilets
HookupsNo
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityBlanding, UT Monticello, UT

Dalton Springs Campground

Located in the Abajo Mountains a few miles west of Monticello, UT, Dalton Springs Campground sits high in the forest at 8,200 ft elevation. This altitude means cooler temps, especially at night. The 16 campsites are all first-come, first-served with no reservation system. Each site has a table and fire ring. The campground has vault toilets and water is available during the summer months.

Dalton Springs Campground is 4 1/2 miles west of Montecillo on 200 West which turns into Abajo Drive.

# of campsites16
2022 nightly camping fee$20.00
WaterYes – Seasonal
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, vault toilets
HookupsNo
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityMonticello, UT

Buckboard Campground

Buckboard Campground is in the Abajo Mountains about 6 miles west of Monticello, UT (1.5 miles from Dalton Springs Campground). The campground features 10 sites that are all reservable. Here is information about Buckboard Campground Reservations. Each campsite has a table and fire ring. The campground has vault toilets and water is available in the summer. The forested campground is at about 8,800 ft elevation.

Buckboard Campground is 6 miles west of Montecillo, UT on 200 West which turns into Abajo Drive.

# of campsites10
2022 nightly camping fee$20.00
WaterYes – Seasonal
ReservationsYes
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, vault toilets
HookupsNo
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityMonticello, UT

Nizhoni Campground

Nizhoni Campground sits on the southern end of the Abajo Mountains about 12 miles from Blanding, UT. The campground has 21 sites. Some sites are reservable while others are first-come, first-served. Here is information about Nizhoni Campground Reservations. Each campsite has a table and fire ring. The campground has vault toilets and water is available in the summer. The forested campground is at about 7,800 ft elevation.

Nizhoni Campground is 12 miles northwest of Blanding, UT – take US 191 2 miles north, turn left onto County Road 2191, then turn right on Forest Road 79.

# of campsites21
2022 nightly camping fee$20.00
WaterYes – Seasonal
ReservationsYes
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, vault toilets
HookupsNo
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityBlanding, UT

BLM Campgrounds

The BLM Monticello Field Office oversees 1.8 million acres of public lands in SE Utah, including Bear’s Ears. There are many camping opportunities on these lands but most are for dispersed camping.

This guide includes developed campgrounds in close proximity to Bear’s Ears National Monument. There are many BLM campgrounds in the area near Moab, Ut, and surrounding Canyonlands National Park not included here. This Interactive BLM Recreation Map shows all of these sites.

Comb Wash Camping Area

The Comb Wash Camping area is a partially developed dispersed camping area located on UT 95 at the base of Comb Ridge. The camping area is mostly open with some mature cottonwood trees. There are no designated campsites but it’s obvious where others have camped. There are vault toilets – No Water. This can be a popular area so expect to see other campers. There are many other dispersed sites in Comb Wash.

Comb Wash Camping Area is located on the Comb Wash Road, south of UT 95, 14 miles west of the junction with US 191. There are no campground signs.

This area is close to many Anasazi sites including Arch Canyon, Cave Tower Ruins, and North and South Fork Mule Canyon

# of campsitesMultiple dispersed
2022 camping feeFree
WaterNo
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesVault toilets
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityBlanding, UT

Natural Bridges Overflow (aka Abandoned Airstrip) Campground

The Natural Bridges Overflow Campground is a dispersed camping area located just off UT 95. If the campground at Natural Bridges National Monument is full or if an RV is too long, the rangers will direct campers here. The campground is an abandoned airstrip with campsites on both sides. Other than camper-built fire rings, there are no amenities so it’s truly dispersed camping.

To find the Natural Bridge Overflow Camping Area take UT 95 west from US 191 for 26 miles to UT 261. Turn left and immediately turn left again onto the road to the camping area.

This camping area is close to many popular trailheads including Kane GulchTrail and the North and South Forks of Mule Canyon.

# of campsitesMultiple dispersed
2022 camping feeFree
WaterNo
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesNone
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityBlanding, UT

Sand Island Campground

The Sand Island Campground is located within the Sand Island Recreation Area which has a San Juan River boat launch and the famous Sand Island Pictograph Panel in addition to the campground. There are 23 campsites that are all first-come, first-served. Each campsite has a table and fire ring. The campground has vault toilets and water is available seasonally. There are two group campsites that must be reserved in advance at recreation.gov.

Sand Island Recreation Area is located on the north bank of the San Juan River about 3 miles west of Bluff, Utah, on the south side of Highway 191.

# of campsites23
2022 camping fee$15.00
WaterSeasonal
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, vault toilets
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityBluff, UT

Park Service Campgrounds

Natural Bridges National Monument

The small campground at Natural Bridges National Monument is set in the juniper trees and features 13 sites that are open to tents, trailers & RVs with no advance reservations. All sites are first-come, first-serve. There is no water at the campground so be sure you bring enough. Each site has a picnic table, a fire ring, and a graveled tent pad.

Natural Bridges is located off UT 95, 35 miles west of US 191.

# of campsites13
2022 camping fee$15.00
$ 7.50 senior
WaterNo
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, tent pad, vault toilets
HookupsNo
FirewoodNo

Hovenweep National Monument

The 31 campsites at Hovenweep National Monument are open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis. Although the campground is designed to serve tent campers, there are a couple of sites that can accommodate RVs up to 36 ft in length. Each campsite has a table, fire ring, tent pad, and sun shelter. The campground has flush toilets and trash removal. Water is available seasonally.

Hovenweep is located on the Utah/Colorado border about 40 miles from Blanding, UT, Bluff, UT, and Cortez, CO.

# of campsites31
2022 camping fee$15.00
$ 7.00 senior
WaterYes – seasonal
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, tent pad, sun shelter, vault toilets
HookupsNo
FirewoodNo

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

The Muley Point dispersed camping area is at the southern end of Cedar Mesa and is actually part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no designated campsites but there are some camper-built fire rings. There’s usually plenty of room to handle lots of campers. There are no facilities at all.

Muley Point is one of the most scenic campsites you will ever visit. It’s located about 4 miles west of UT 261 near the Moki Dugway section of UT 261.

# of campsitesDispersed Camping
2022 camping feeFree
WaterNo
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesNone
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityMexican Hat, UT

Utah State Parks

Goosenecks State Park Campground

The Goosenecks State Park Campground overlooks the San Juan River and Monument Valley and is known for its outstanding views. There are 8 campsites each with a table and fire ring. There are vault toilets. This state park is mostly used for short day visits to enjoy the views. There are no hiking or biking trails in the park but it offers camping in an amazing setting.

Goosenecks State Park is on Utah road 316 which heads west from UT 261 south of the Moki Dugway. Watch for the signs on UT 261.

# of campsites8
2022 camping fee$10.00
WaterNo
ReservationsNo
AmenitiesTable, fire ring, vault toilets
FirewoodNo
Nearest CityMexican Hat, UT

Dispersed Camping

The BLM and Forest Service lands in Bear’s Ears National Monument are open to dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is camping outside of developed campgrounds. When dispersed camping, you find a nice spot and set up your camp. Throughout the Bear’s Ears, most of the suitable sites have already been used and you should always try to camp in an existing site.

Considerations for dispersed camping

  • Without a picnic table you must bring tables, chairs, stove stand, or whatever you need to set up a kitchen area.
  • No toilets so you have to prepare to properly “poop in the woods
  • No neighbors – many dispersed sites are on remote roads with very little traffic.
  • Try not to create a new campsite – there are many existing campsites and each new site causes additional ecological damage. Always use an existing site.
  • Campfires – some dispersed campsites have camper-built fire rings. However, I recommend foregoing campfires when in the Bear’s Ears. This is dry country and wildfire is always a concern.
  • Dispersed camping is free – there is no camping fee charged for dispersed camping in the Bear’s Ears. However, if you hike or explore you do need to purchase a pass. Here is complete information about 2022 Bear’s Ears National Monument Permits and Fees.
  • Protect the resource! – Always keep a clean camp and make sure you don’t leave anything behind. Don’t leave food scraps on the ground or in the fire pit. Use existing trails and don’t cut new paths through the delicate soils. If you find pot sherds leave them where they are. We all have to help protect this special place.

Finding a Dispersed Campsite

If you have a good map of the Bear’s Ears you’ll see that many roads head into different parts of the monument. There are dispersed campsites on most of these roads so just drive them and keep your eyes peeled for suitable sites. Most of the land along the roads is not suitable for camping but you will find existing sites on most roads. Be Alert, some of these roads may require high clearance 4wd vehicles and many are impassable when they are wet and muddy.

Cedar Mesa Dispersed Camping – there are a lot of dispersed campsites on Cedar Mesa. Many of the trailheads have dispersed camping either at the trailhead or along the access road. While there are few if any campsites directly on UT 261, the side roads hold many potential campsites.

Comb Ridge Dispersed Camping – There are dispersed sites along both the Comb Wash Road – County Road 235 on the west side of Comb Ridge and Butler Wash Road – County Road 230 on the east side of Comb Ridge. You may find a good site right on these roads or follow a spur road for more choices. There are usually dispersed campsites at the trailheads.

Manti-La Sal National Forest Dispersed Camping – The national forest lands between the Abajo Mountains and UT 95 are included in the Bear’s Ears National Monument. In fact, the namesake Bear’s Ears peaks are on forest land. This entire area is open to dispersed camping. There are a number of roads into the area so get a good map and go exploring.

Always be aware of road conditions. While most of the roads on the map are decent, some can be technical 4wd roads and many are impassable when wet and muddy.

Backcountry Camping

Most of Bear’s Ears is open to backcountry camping, typically backpacking. All backcountry camping is controlled by the BLM through the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. At times it’s possible to secure a permit on-site at the ranger station. However, it’s almost always best to secure a reservation in advance. There is full info at the link above.

Bear’s Ears Camping FAQ

Can I camp anywhere in the Bear’s Ears?

Bear’s Ears National Monument is almost entirely on BLM and Forest Service land. Therefore, unless it is posted otherwise, you can set up camp just about anywhere. However, you should always try to use an existing site.

Is there a fee to camp in Bear’s Ears National Monument?

All of the private campgrounds charge camping fees. Most of the developed public campgrounds also charge a nightly fee. There is no camping fee for dispersed camping (boondocking).

Can I camp near Comb Ridge?

Comb Ridge, Cedar Mesa, and Grand Gulch are all part of Bear’s Ears National Monument. There are great camping opportunities in all of these areas.

Can I get water at my campsite?

If you are staying in a private campground they will have water. Some of the public campgrounds have seasonal water but many do not. You should always plan to bring enough water for your needs.