The Uinta National Forest (of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National
Forest), comprised of 871,237 acres, is located
in north central Utah, southeast of Salt Lake City. There are 29
developed campgrounds, of which 21 meet the selection criteria.
South of Salt Lake City, Utah, partly in the Wasatch Front, is Uinta National Forest. It is sometimes referred to as a "backyard" forest because it is close to the Salt Lake City metro area. Although there are a lot of people close by, the Uinta feels uncrowded and offers outstanding forest experiences, a wide variety of recreational opportunities, and delightful camping locations. Long hikes through one of the Forest's three Wilderness areas to paddling around a spruce and fir lined lake, strolling through meadows of colorful wildflowers to ATVing over dusty trails, or taking a leisurely drive along a scenic roadway, are just a few of the opportunities available in Uinta National Forest.
The Uinta's designated wilderness areas provide visitors with a chance to explore a near pristine forest environment. Just outside Salt Lake City, and in the Uinta National Forest's northwestern section, is Lone Peak Wilderness. To the south of Lone Peak Wilderness is Mount Timpanogos Wilderness. Both Wildernesses have outstanding day-hiking, back-packing, rock climbing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and dispersed camping locations. (Dispersed camping locations are undeveloped and are not included in this campground review.) And with developed campgrounds at the borders of either Wilderness, folks can enjoy a semi-wilderness camping experience without the need of backpacking.
The Mount Nebo Wilderness, east of Nephi, UT, is farther south and is the largest designated wilderness in the Uinta. Travelers on Interstate15 can see the towering, glacier-carved beauty of this Wilderness but, for a better look, there is the 30-mile Mt. Nebo Scenic Byway. Several developed campgrounds are located along this Byway. At the southern end of the Byway is Ponderosa campground. Quiet and away from the crowds, Ponderosa gets its name from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)-planted Ponderosa pines that shade the middle portion of this small, attractive campground. At the northern end of the Byway, and close to Payson, Utah, is Payson Lakes campground. Popular with nearby residents, Payson Lakes is a much more active campground high up in aspen and spruce. Here, canoeists can be seen paddling and exploring the campground's Big East Lake while children try their luck at bank fishing beneath a grand old Douglas fir. Don't be surprised to see a deer or two drop by to check on what a camper is having for breakfast. Both these camp locations, like the others in the Uinta, can accommodate car, tent, recreational vehicles (RV), and motorhome camping enthusiasts.
Another pleasant drive is Alpine Scenic Byway. Skirting Lone Peak Wilderness, this byway features Timpanogos Cave National Monument and several very attractive little campgrounds. Furthest from the Cave, and most RV-friendly, is Granite Flat campground. Originally established as a CCC camp, Granite Flat campground recalls its past with a baseball diamond built by them during the 1930s and loop names from those bye-gone days. Little Mill campground, closest to the Cave, is sandwiched between American Fork Creek and towering cliffs which are occasionally dotted by fearless rock climbers. An older campground with smaller sites and shorter parking aprons, Little Mill is nicely suited for tent campers.
To the east, far from the crowds and congestion of big cities, is a different Uinta National Forest. This is where visitors find rolling sagebrush-covered prairies, Strawberry Reservoir and Currant Creek Reservoir. These are two similar but very different experiences.
It is a long and dusty drive to Currant Creek Reservoir but once there visitors often exclaim it was worth every bump. This 500-acre lake offers good fishing and boating while the Currant Creek campground offers a playground, flush toilets, and a small convenience store with limited supplies.
Strawberry Bay Reservoir is a very different experience. From 1888 to 1915, this area was the site of Army field maneuvers or "practice marches." Today, there are two lakes - Soldier Creek Reservoir, 8,800 surface acres, and, twice that size, Strawberry Bay Reservoir. They are connected by the scenic Narrows waterway. Visitors can either boat through the Narrows or take an 11-mile hike from Aspen Grove to Renegade Point campgrounds. Either mode will provide some delightful sights. All sorts of water sports activities are enjoyed on these lakes except swimming. At 7,600 feet, the water is too cold for all but those who are part polar bear. Another feature found at the reservoir is a 26-site loop at Strawberry Bay campground campground with full hookups, making this camping location very popular for a family camping vacation.
ATV enthusiasts aren't overlooked in the Uinta National Forest. The Strawberry and Currant Creek areas have numerous trails and the Great Western Trail offers OHV riders a way to explore. And, near Vernon, Utah, are enough forest roads to keep riders busy for many visits. In the middle of it is Vernon Reservoir campground. It really isn't much of a campground - a few cleared areas with picnic tables near vaults at the edge of an irrigation lake that has some trout, but it is convenient for exploring the area.
For people traveling US Rts. 6/50/89 between Spanish Fork and Price, Uinta National Forest has a very nice campground named Diamond. An easy drive of 5.3 miles off US Rts. 6/50/89 will bring visitors to a large campground stretching along the Diamond Fork stream (it would be called a river in other parts of the forest) with long, spacious, level sites. Most of the campground is in an open area dotted with sagebrush and a few cottonwoods but ramadas (roofs over the picnic tables) offer shade for the sunniest sites.
The Uinta's scenic beauty offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Visitors can explore and enjoy towering mountain peaks, sweeping valleys in either alpine or desert environments, and cool cold lakes, rivers, streams, and creeks. Often Forests as close as the Uinta National Forest is to urban areas suffer from being "over loved." That is not the case here. The Uinta National Forest has room for all. Come and see.
88 West 100 North
Provo, Utah 84601
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
2460 South Highway 40
Heber City, Utah 84032
390 North 100 East
Pleasant Grove, Utah 84062
44 West 400 North
Spanish Fork, Utah 84660