SALT LAKE CITY — Reservations at campsites in Utah exploded during the pandemic, as people sought outdoor adventures that were safe and open to travelers, according to a new report on national public lands.
According to The Camping Crunch released by the Center for Western Priorities, the estimated occupancy of campsites in Utah filled in summer nearly doubled from 28 percent in 2014 to 49 percent in 2020.
National park visits in the summer of 2021 smashed previous records, stated the report, with campsites hard to secure in Utah's Mighty 5.
“More people visiting, camping on, and enjoying our treasured national public lands is certainly a good thing. However, the increase in visitation can lead to serious overcrowding and strains the infrastructure and resources on public lands during the peak summer season,” said Jennifer Rokala, Executive Director of the Center for Western Priorities.
“The popularity of public lands in Utah—and especially protected areas—should urge leaders to keep a good thing going by funding our land management systems and designating more protected areas to distribute visitation across different sites and seasons.”
For outdoor enthusiasts looking for less crowded campsites to visit, Camping Crunch provides a tool to search campgrounds with highest and lowest reservable site occupancy in Utah—filterable by season, day type (weekday or weekend), and year.
Looking at all seasons from 2019-2020, Camping Crunch’s tool found that campgrounds with the highest reservable site occupancy were as follows:
- Sunset Campground, Bryce Canyon National Park (99 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- South Campground, Zion National Park (91 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- Fruita Campground, Capitol Reef National Park (90 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park (86 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- Watchman Campground, Zion National Park (83 average percent of reservable sites filled)
Under the same filters, Utah’s campsites with lowest reservable site occupancy were:
- Bountiful Peak Campground, Uinta and Wasatch-Cache National Forest (1 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- Gooseberry Group, Manti-La Sal National Forest (5 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- Elkhorn Campground, Fishlake National Forest (6 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- Tinney Flat, Uinta and Wasatch-Cache National Forest (7 average percent of reservable sites filled)
- Forks of Huntington, Manti-La sal National Forest (10 average percent of reservable sites filled)
Utah was not an outlier among Western states with increased crowds. Indeed, 31 percent of Westerners say that one of the top five issues that limit how often they visit national public lands is that those lands are too crowded.
Visit The Camping Crunch to learn more about public lands camping trends nationally and in regions and states across the country.