The Moab area is an adventure-lover’s playground by day, but it’s pretty great once the sun sets, too. It’s just 30 miles from Canyonlands National Park, a designated International Dark Sky Park, so you know there’s solid stargazing. The beauty of camping in and around Moab is that many sites are at or near trailheads, so you can get an early start to beat the heat or keep playing until dusk. There’s plenty of Bureau of Land Management camping near Moab, but there are some unique and amenity-heavy campgrounds in the area, too. Wherever you end up setting up camp for the night, bring along your telescope and brush up on your constellations, because there’s no better place than the desert to see the universe.
ACT Campground and Environmental Learning Center
This environmentally friendly campground at the south end of town has a variety of lodging options, depending on your sleep mode of choice. In addition to tent sites (starting at $25/night), ACT Campground offers RV sites with full hookups ($44), cabin-style rooms ($69), an Airstream trailer ($99), and a yurt for larger groups. The facility’s communal kitchen and dining areas double as an educational center, and ACT holds photography and writing workshops, along with eco-tours. There’s also a reference library and a gallery of Western landscape photos.
Under Canvas Moab
Just a few miles north of Moab proper, Under Canvas Moab provides easy access to the area’s two beloved national parks, Arches and Canyonlands. This is a great option for folks who want to see the desert, but aren’t quite ready for the fully-fledged camping experience. (That’s right, it’s "glamping" at its finest.) These beautifully curated canvas tents have lots of the same amenities you’ll find at a hotel, like running water and comfortable beds and furniture, but provide an opportunity for more intimate interaction with the landscape. Under Canvas Moab also offers some activity packages (rafting, park tours, climbing, and hiking, among others) for guests who want to get out and play.
Archview is one of the Moab area’s most conveniently located campgrounds, right off Highway 191. Like many of its neighbors, Archview offers tent (starting at $32/night) and RV sites (costs vary based on your rig), plus cabin-style rooms and cottages. This campground combines the things families love about staying in hotels, like pools and playgrounds, with the rustic feel of a community fire pit and an on-site general store. Best of all, Archview’s location provides fantastic views of both the LaSal Mountains to the southeast and Arches National Park to the north.
Deep Desert Expeditions
Not sure where to being your first expedition into canyon country? Book a guided trip with Deep Desert Expeditions, where you’ll learn about the desert’s unique ecology, geology, and human history. The company is owned by Mike Coronella, one of the creators of the uber-rugged Hayduke Trail, so you can trust their expert guides to get you to awesome views, ancient petroglyphs, and dinosaur tracks. Best of all, if you’re new to camping in the desert, this outfitter offers fully supplied camping trips, including tents, sleeping bags, and pads, a full kitchen setup, food, water, and even firewood.
Canyonlands National Park
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can see the whole park in one day. Canyonlands’ 527 square miles are divided into three districts (Island in the Sky, the Maze, and Needles), two of which have developed campgrounds. Either way, in clear weather, you’ll be treated to an incredible star display. Head to Willow Flat Campground (12 first-come, first-serve sites, no water, $15/night) in Island in the Sky to be close to the breathtaking views on the hike out to Murphy Point. If you’re looking for a more remote experience farther from town, head south of Moab to the Needles district, whose campground of the same night has 26 sites and water year-round (reserve in advance, $20/night).
Dead Horse Point State Park
Another designated International Dark Sky Park, Dead Horse Point is home to one of the most iconic views in the Moab area. (You’ve seen it. Remember the last scene in Thelma and Louise?) The park’s dark sky designation comes from its distance from big cities, combined with the unobstructed panorama of the sky, which means it’s almost as dark at night as its neighboring national park. Dead Horse’s relatively shady Kayenta Campground has 21 sites ($35/night, tent and RV available); reserve in advance if possible. The park also has three yurts, available year-round (price varies by season).
Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.