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Camping at Manti-La Sal National Forest

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Location and Geography

The Manti-La Sal National Forest spans central and southeastern Utah and parts of western Colorado. It covers more than 1.2 million acres of terrain, ranging from arid desert to alpine forests. The forest is notable for comprising three mountain blocks separated by desert canyons, including the La Sal Range near Moab, Utah, the Abajo Mountains west of Monticello, Utah, and the Manti Mountains.

Camping Opportunities and Regulations

Developed Campgrounds: Manti-La Sal National Forest offers numerous developed campgrounds. These typically provide amenities like picnic tables, fire rings, restrooms, and sometimes drinking water and waste disposal. Reservation policies vary, with some sites available on a first-come, first-served basis, while others can be reserved in advance through a service like Recreation.gov.

Dispersed Camping: Dispersed camping, or camping outside of a developed campground, is permitted in many areas of the forest. However, campers must adhere to Leave No Trace principles, camp at least 200 feet from water sources, trails, and roads, and cannot stay in one spot for more than 14 consecutive days.

Group Camping: For larger groups, certain campgrounds have group sites that can accommodate a higher number of people and vehicles. These often require reservations and may have additional rules and facilities designed for groups.


In addition to camping, the Manti-La Sal National Forest offers a wide range of outdoor activities:

  • Hiking and Backpacking: There are numerous trails ranging from easy walks to challenging backcountry treks.
  • Mountain Biking: Some trails in the La Sal Mountains are popular with mountain bikers.
  • Wildlife Watching: The forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, black bear, and numerous bird species.
  • Fishing and Boating: The forest contains many lakes and streams, with opportunities for fishing and non-motorized boating.
  • Winter Sports: In winter, the area offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.

Climate and Best Time to Visit

The climate in Manti-La Sal National Forest varies dramatically with elevation. Summers can be hot at lower elevations but cool and pleasant in the mountains. Winters are generally cold, with snow in the higher areas. The best time to visit for camping is typically from late spring to early fall. Always check the weather before your trip and be prepared for changing conditions, especially in the mountains.

Tips for Visiting

  • Permit and Passes: Check if you need any permits for activities like gathering firewood or if your chosen campground requires a recreation pass.
  • Wildfire Awareness: Follow fire safety regulations and be aware of any fire bans or restrictions.
  • Water Availability: Always bring sufficient water or have a way to treat water, as not all areas have potable water.
  • Leave No Trace: Always pack out what you pack in and strive to minimize your impact on the natural environment.
  • Wildlife Precautions: Store food properly and know how to behave if you encounter wildlife.

Local Regulations

Be sure to review local regulations which can include fire restrictions, wildlife cautions, and area-specific rules. Contact the nearest Ranger District office for the latest information and recommendations before heading out. It's crucial to respect the land and practices that help to preserve the natural beauty of the Manti-La Sal National Forest so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Map of Campgrounds in Manti-La Sal National Forest
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