Overlanding in Southern Utah

Ultimate Guide to Overland Camping in Southern Utah

Southern Utah, with its vast expanses of red rock landscapes, towering mesas, and deep canyons, offers some of the most unforgettable overland camping experiences in the United States. Whether you're a seasoned overlander or new to the world of adventure camping, this ultimate guide will help you navigate the stunning backcountry of Southern Utah, ensuring a journey that's both exhilarating and respectful of the pristine natural environment.

Why Southern Utah?

Southern Utah is a haven for overlanders due to its diverse landscapes that include national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands, as well as numerous state parks and off-the-beaten-path destinations. The region's unique geology, from the slot canyons to the arches and natural bridges, promises an adventure that's as varied as the terrain itself.

Best Times to Visit

The best times to embark on an overland camping trip in Southern Utah are during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). These months offer cooler temperatures, making daytime explorations more comfortable and night-time camping more enjoyable. Summer months can be extremely hot, especially in areas like Moab, while winters, though mild, can see snow in higher elevations, making some trails impassable.

Essential Gear

Overlanding in Southern Utah requires preparation and the right gear. Here's a checklist to get you started:

  • Reliable Vehicle: A 4x4 with high clearance is ideal. Ensure it's well-maintained and equipped with off-road tires.
  • Navigation Tools: GPS devices and detailed maps of the area. Don't rely solely on cell phone service.
  • Camping Supplies: A durable tent or rooftop tent, sleeping bags suited for the desert climate, and a portable stove.
  • Water Storage: Carry sufficient water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. The desert environment means access to water can be limited.
  • Emergency Kit: Include first aid supplies, a fire extinguisher, a tool kit, and communication devices like a satellite phone.
  • Leave No Trace Gear: Pack in trash bags, portable toilets, and eco-friendly soap to minimize your impact on the environment.

Planning Your Trip

Research Your Route

Familiarize yourself with the area you plan to explore. Research the difficulty of trails, and ensure your vehicle and skills are up to the challenge. Pay attention to land use regulations and obtain any necessary permits for camping and travel.

Respect the Environment

Southern Utah's landscapes are both beautiful and fragile. Stick to established trails and campsites, avoid disturbing wildlife, and adhere to Leave No Trace principles. This means packing out all trash, camping at least 200 feet from water sources, and minimizing campfire impacts.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Remote overland camping means being prepared for any situation. Ensure your vehicle is equipped with a spare tire, jack, and recovery gear. Carry plenty of water, extra food, and emergency supplies. Inform someone of your travel plans and expected return.

Must-Visit Destinations

  • Moab: The gateway to Arches and Canyonlands, offering countless trails and stunning landscapes.
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: Explore vast wilderness areas, slot canyons, and remote backroads.
  • San Rafael Swell: For those seeking solitude, this area offers a mix of desert and mountain landscapes.
  • Zion National Park: While much of Zion is accessible to casual visitors, the backcountry offers secluded camping spots for overlanders.


Overland camping in Southern Utah offers an unparalleled adventure through some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. By following this guide, you're well on your way to planning an unforgettable journey that respects the natural beauty and challenges of this wild region. Remember, the essence of overlanding is not just in reaching your destination but in cherishing the journey and the lessons it teaches about self-reliance, conservation, and the sheer joy of discovery. Happy trails!

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