This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Few places in the West receive quite as much visitation as the lands around Moab during spring break.
So visitors who are planning a trip to Moab or, for that matter, any southern Utah destination before Easter weekend (April 14-16) would do well to listen to BLM public-information officer Lisa Bryant's advice:
"We absolutely love it when people come to visit," said the Moab-based official, "but plan your trip."
The sad thing for last-minute spring-break campers or those who hope to visit hot spots such as Moab, St. George, Springdale or Torrey is that if you haven't got a camping or lodging reservation by now, you might be out of luck.
The Arches National Park Campground is closed for construction, and sites at Capitol Reef, Zion and Canyonlands will fill or be reserved quickly. Hardy campers might find spots at Bryce Canyon, but the high elevation there makes for some long, cold nights.
Expect southern Utah state parks such as Dead Horse Point, Snow Canyon, Goblin Valley, Green River, Kodachrome Basin, Escalante, Quail Lake and Sand Hollow to also be reserved, though cancellations can and do occur.
There are options, however, for those who are not averse to crowds, many involving Bureau of Land Management sites.
At Little Sahara Sand Dunes Recreation Area, for example, officials expect close to 30,000 visitors on Easter weekend. BLM recreation planner Jay Cram said his agency has never turned visitors away from Little Sahara. "We see a lot of people go into dispersed areas that have no facilities or other amenities," he said.
He reminded Little Sahara visitors using OHVs that they need a safety flag and that kids up to age 18 are required to wear helmets. Kids 16 and younger need to pass a state OHV class to be legal to ride.
In the Moab area, Bryant said the many BLM sites around the bustling town usually fill on weekends, though some sites farther out of the city limits can be available. She said those who start looking early on Wednesday or Thursday can usually find a spot (only group areas take reservations in the Moab area).
She said the Windwhistle and Hatch Point campgrounds between Moab and Monticello sometimes have room.
"There is no dispersed camping allowed on public lands in a 15- to 20-mile radius from Moab," she said, adding that maps are available at the Moab Information Center showing where dispersed camping is allowed.
And for those who still want to visit Moab between now and Easter, the Moab Information Center is a good place to get up-to-the-date lodging and camping information.
According to Visit Moab's Robert Riberia, the Moab Information Center maintains a list of properties with space available, including motels, hotels and condos where cancellations have occurred that might open up a spot or two.
"Reservations are strongly suggested," he said. "When we get a big event such as the Moab Half Marathon or the Jeep Safari, it fills everything in town."
It also does not hurt to check with properties in Green River or Monticello on busy southeastern Utah weekends.
One other thing of note to spring travelers who want to visit Arches National Park: Construction on roads has begun there, and visitors can expect delays. The park will be closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday for much of the year.
Things are also very busy in the St. George area.
Maree Shogren of Visit St. George said hotels and motels have been filling up nearly every weekend. Hotel properties call the St. George Visitor Center when they have rooms available, so calling ahead or checking that group's website is a good idea. (See box for travel information and reservation websites.)
Expect Zion National Park and adjacent Springdale to be packed with visitors and the shuttle system to be busy throughout the spring.
Utah State Parks information officer Eugene Swalberg said most of the parks south of Interstate 70 started filling on Presidents Day weekend and will be busy until the end of October.
The San Rafael Swell south of Price is also a major spring-break destination, especially for dispersed camping, but the tradition of what locals call "Eastering" is strong there, with big crowds expected.
Closer to the Wasatch Front, skiing is still available at most resorts through Easter weekend, and golf courses are beginning to open.
Visiting bird refuges along the Great Salt Lake, spending a day at Antelope Island or heading north to Golden Spike Historic Site or Crystal Hot Springs can also make for an enjoyable day trip.
And don't discount some of the West Desert scenic roads in the Wendover area, either.
Whatever you do, though, you will most likely need to plan ahead. A growing state coupled with out-of-state and European visitors who have discovered Utah means that, short of backpacking, finding solitude in the spring is increasingly difficult.
Utah recreation websites
Campground reservations for state and national parks, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and other federal sites: http://www.recreation.gov
Utah travel information: http://www.travel.utah.gov
Utah State Parks: http://www.stateparks.utah.gov
National Parks: http://www.nps.gov
Bureau of Land Management: http://www.blm.gov/utah
U.S. Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us
Utah skiing: http://www.skiutah.com
Moab area: http://www.discovermoab.com
St. George/Zion travel: http://www.visitstgeorge.com
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources: http://www.wildlife.utah.gov
Six ideas on where to beat the spring-break crowds
Hovenweep National Monument • Though a long drive, the small campground seldom fills and offers a good place to hike, visit the Four Corners and see Monument Valley.
Vernal area • Camping can be iffy in the spring here due to lower temperatures, though the late April 16 Easter this year might make it possible. Visiting Dinosaur National Monument and the Utah Field House of Natural History are great favorites for children, and motel rooms are usually available.
Fremont Indian State Park • This park, between Cove Fort and Monroe along Interstate 70, features a desert campground and group area and one in the pinion forest. No reservations are taken until May, but spots are usually available in the spring.
Palisade State Park • This fairly low-elevation park east of Sterling in Sanpete County could be a little cool, but fishing, golf and playground areas are available in the spring.
Sand Hollow State Park • This reservoir-off-highway vehicle-oriented park near St. George offers beachside primitive camping spots that are usually available. Don't expect it to be quiet, but this is a good spot if Zion and the St. George areas are full and you need a place to camp.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area • Spring is not as busy as summer on Lake Powell, with some camping available at Bullfrog and Wahweap and plenty of shoreline available for houseboats or boats. Fishing can be good as well.