For an outdoor experience like no other, spend some time at Utah’s Gunlock State Park. Other than a boat ramp, restrooms, and a couple of parking areas, there are no facilities at all in this park. If primitive RV camping is what you're looking for, then search no further. The first European settlers came to this area in the 1850s, and a little over a hundred years later, workers built a dam and a flood control reservoir here. Today, visitors enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, and a number of other outdoor activities. You can even have a lovely picnic overlooking the clear blue waters and majestic hilly terrain that makes up the Utah landscape. Gunlock State Park is the perfect destination for a quiet stay for RVers who are traveling to or from some of the most visited and bustling parks in southwestern Utah like Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park. This rugged park is located in a hilly area of southwestern Utah, so it’s tailor-made for you to reconnect with nature during your RV vacation. With five sites able to accommodate rigs up to 40 feet, and flat terrain near the beach used as an additional camping area, travelers can enjoy the comforts of home while they get back to the great outdoors. So, pack your rig, pull up next to the lake, and stay awhile.
To reach Gunlock State Park from St. George, which is on Interstate 15 near the Utah/Arizona border, you can take the direct route or the scenic route. The direct route goes through the Paiute Indian Reservation and its tiny towns. The scenic route goes through stunning Snow Canyon State Park, the equally-stunning Dammeron Valley, and the historic towns of Veyo and Gunlock. Many travelers take one route to the park and the other one back home. Because of the mountainous terrain surrounding the park, large vehicles should be extra vigilant when navigating the roads.
Parking is not an issue at Gunlock State Park. Prepared parking lots are located near the boat launch and also at an informal camping area on the south shore. Other than that, the entire eastern shore of Lake Gunlock is a sand wash, so it’s essentially an unpaved parking lot. There are not many visitors here, so there’s a pretty good chance you may have much of the park to yourself. Talk about getting away from it all.
This primitive campsite has two back-in and three pull-through RV pad sites. Other campers go to the water’s edge and park there because, as mentioned, this area is basically a sand wash. There is an additional parking/camping area on the south shore of the lake. There are no prepared sites here, but the terrain is mostly flat. The tiny towns of Gunlock and Tobin Wash, which are just to the north, have gas and a few camping supplies. This is rustic camping at its finest. Although this camping area does not provide hookups, it can provide a one-of-a-kind experience to get in tune with nature. You'll have easy access to all the thrills of adventure in the beautiful reservoir. Bring a windbreaker, because some campers have noted that it can get very windy.
If you're in search of a more developed campground, or if all the spaces at Gunlock State Park are full, don't fret. There are plenty of alternative campgrounds in the area, so you won't have to drive far to find a place to set up camp. Snow Canyon State Park is less than 30 minutes away and offers 14 RV-friendly sites with water and electric hookups available year-round. Another option is the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, located 30 minutes to the east of the park. Like Gunlock, the primitive sites available offer no hookups of any kind. Those willing to venture a bit further east will find Zion National Park. Here, campers will discover hundreds of RV and trailer friendly sites, some of which offer electricity.
Geographic isolation, dry weather, and high elevation all combine to create excellent skywatching conditions, especially on those long winter nights. The winter nights get cold, but not Siberia cold, so you can stand to be outside for a while. Use almost any telescope to see sharp details on Venus and Mars. Use a slightly-larger telescope to see the terrain and celestial gasses on Jupiter and Saturn. You’ll also see stunning shooting stars and large gas nebulae, all outside the door of your motorhome.
Many animals come from the fringes of Snow Canyon to drink at Gunlock Reservoir. Expect to see lots of foxes, coyotes, and other small mammals near the water. You may see a few cattle and sheep coming from area ranches as well. Overhead, look for falcons and other birds of prey. If you get fortunate, you may see an eagle swoop down and catch a fish. That’s a sight like no other. One thing is for sure; you won't want to forget the camera in the Sprinter as you traverse this park!
Grab your walking stick, lace up your hiking boots, and head out of your pop-up camper. All of Gunlock State Park is basically one big hiking trail. The eastern shore is a mostly flat sand wash that’s easy to traverse; be prepared to hike carefully because the ground may be slippery after it rains. The rocky western shore is a little more difficult, but it’s also mostly flat. Try the area around the northern part of the lake, near Miners Canyon and the flood-prone Santa Clara River. The wildflowers are pretty here during the spring. If you want a more well-developed trail, try the area between Manganese Wash and Limekiln Wash in the western part of the park.
Whether you're on your way into or out of the park, or you're just looking for a way to spend the day during your RV trip, you shouldn't miss Utah State Highway 18. The route starts 10 miles north of Gunlock State Park in the town of Veyo and runs about 37 miles one way. This route is great for sightseeing, and you'll pass through parts of Dixie National Forest, Snow Canyon State Park, and the charming town of St. George where you can enjoy shopping, restaurants, and even a spa or golf course if you have time!
Gunlock Lake has fully bounced back from floods in 2005 and 2006, and some dam reconstruction in 2008, which decimated the fish population. Today, the bass fishing here is excellent. Many anglers say it is as good as Quail Creek, Sand Hollow, and other renowned bass fishing spots in the state. There are lots of bluegill and crappie in this lake as well. Since it’s up high, lake waters are still chilly in March and April. The best fishing time is usually from May to June.
Don't forget to pack the bathing suit along in the campervan when you come to Gunlock State Park. Water flows along Gunlock Falls when the lake reaches capacity during springtime. Much of the falls are more like rapids, but it’s still very nice. For the most part, the lake bottom is smooth and sloping, and there are no significant drop-offs or riptides. Nevertheless, since no lifeguard is on duty, it’s always best to swim with a buddy, especially if you take a raft and go out far into the water.
Although Gunlock Lake is by no means huge, powerboating is still popular here. The boat launch and parking area are located near the park entrance. When you get out to the middle of the lake, it’s almost impossible to see the shoreline. Canoers, paddleboarders, and other unpowered craft are welcome here as well. Drift up to the north and enjoy the rushing water, or paddle into the tranquil southern part of the lake. If you're interested in experiencing the lake via boat, you'll need to bring your own flotation device along in the Airstream as the park does not offer rentals.
Pack up the picnic basket and get out of the Class A motorhome for the day. There are plenty of places to enjoy an outdoor lunch at Gunlock State Park. Find a table near the beach, or throw a blanket on the sand itself and enjoy the view of the mountainous backdrop. If you prefer to stay near the campground, you can picnic right outside the motorhome on your private table and fire ring.