If you are ever driving around the neighborhoods of Salt Lake City on a Friday afternoon, you are bound to see many of the local residents loading their cars and trailers to the brim with camping equipment. They are getting ready to spend the weekend at their favorite spot to enjoy the plentiful wildflowers and alpine lakes that Utah summers offer in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains. There are dozens of developed campgrounds where you can enjoy a night in the woods with your friends or family, and they don't require a road trip to reach them. Let's take a look at some of your best options within an hour of Salt Lake City and the nearby adventures you'll want to enjoy once camp is set up.
Albion Basin Campground: One of the quintessential campgrounds of the Cottonwood Canyons. Loaded with wildflowers, moose, hummingbirds and marmots, this site seems just as popular with wildlife as with humans. With several nearby trails such as Cecret Lake and Catherine's Pass, this truly is one of the most iconic camps in northern Utah.
Tanners Flat Campground: Sitting alongside Little Cottonwood Creek, this charming campground offers visitors a great place to check out the many small waterfalls that cascade through the area. The large pine trees provide great shade on a hot sunny day, and the creek and the many hummingbirds provide nature's soundtrack. Head up the road to hike the gorgeous Red Pine Lake once you are settled into camp.
Spruces Campground: Located up Big Cottonwood Canyon, this large campground is very popular with local residents thanks to its proximity to many of Salt Lake's favorite trails. The trailheads for Donut Falls, Willow Heights, Butler Fork and Mill D North are all literally within walking distance or a short drive.
Christmas Meadows Campground: Tucked into the Uinta Mountains, this small campground showcases immense natural beauty and relative isolation from the crowds of Salt Lake. Stillwater Fork Creek runs below the site with Spread Eagle and Ostler Peaks sitting above it all. A magical place that has several walk-in sites for the last minute scramblers willing to take a chance. Bring your pole to fish the Stillwater Fork.
Timpooneke Campground: What an amazing base camp for fun. Hike Scout Falls or the Timpooneke Trail up Mount Timpanogos right from your campsite. Drive a short distance along the Alpine Loop to reach the Stewart Falls Trailhead. Visit a world class cave system, cool off at Tibble Fork Reservoir, or head over to the hamlet of Sundance. There is truly an amazing variety of adventures to be found from this often overlooked site.
Jordanelle State Park: While you are not surrounded by the large pine or aspen trees of the earlier campsites on this list, camping at Jordanelle adds a unique twist to your family trip by providing unmatched lake fun in beautiful Park City. A sandy swim beach, a water trampoline, and a wide array of rentable water craft make for a great place to spend a hot summer day with your loved ones.
When it comes to doing an overnighter near Salt Lake, you don't have to be in a developed campground as long as you follow a Leave No Trace ethic. The many nearby national forests as well as the several designated wilderness areas (which are uncommon near a major city) give people the chance to camp while immersed in nature and solitude. Please study this page for the specific rules involved when camping in the backcountry around Salt Lake City. Some of our favorite places to throw up a tent in the wild are Ruth Lake (Uinta's), Lake Blanche (Big Cottonwood) and Silver Lake (American Fork Canyon).