If you are thinking of heading to Utah for a vacation, you definitely need to stop by the Manti-La Sal National Forest near Moab. With 1.4 million acres in southeast Utah, the Manti-La Sal National Forest is an excellent place to see some wild critters, swim in some cool mountain lakes, and do some floating on one of the rivers or streams. Climb one of the many mountains or take some selfies on the red-rock landscape of the canyons where the natural arches are spectacular. In fact, Arches National Park is nearby, which is filled with over 2,000 arches, pinnacles, balanced boulders, and other amazing natural formations.
With over 100 hiking trails, you will not have any problem finding one that fits your needs whether you want a short quarter-mile walk or a 40-mile hike up the mountain. If you enjoy climbing mountains, the highest point in the Forest is Mount Peale in the La Sal Mountain Range, which is 12,721 feet above sea level. There are also quite a few trails for OHV riders, equestrians, and mountain bikers. Winter is fun too with hundreds of miles of cross-country skiing trails, snowboarding, and even mushing trails.
Pack up the RV and head to the Forest for a few nights or a few weeks because there are 11 RV campgrounds to choose from. We have highlighted our top three picks below.
The drive to the Manti-La Sal National Forest is camera-worthy so make sure you have someone with you to take pictures while you drive. The Highway 12 Scenic Byway runs 124 miles from Highway 89 in Red Canyon to Torrey and is known as the best scenic drive in Utah. To see some red rock domes, canyons, and sandstone wilderness, you can stop at Bryce Canyon National Park or Kodachrome Basin State Park along the way. You will also see the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument with the petrified forest and Capitol Reef National Park.
Highway 89 from Kanab to Spanish Fork is breathtaking with deserts filled with cliffs, colorful ridges, and sagebrush flatlands where you can see some pronghorn antelope and coyotes. Get out and visit the Calf Creek Falls, Hell’s Backbone, Boulder Mountain, or one of the other many points of interest so you can get some selfies for Facebook. No matter how you get there, you will need to drive carefully on these curvy mountain roads, especially if you are driving a big campervan or RV. Watch out for wild critters that sometimes cross the roads here as well.
Maneuvering around the campground can be difficult if you have a big rig or trailer so most people just leave their RVs at the campsite and walk or ride a bike wherever they want to go in the park. However, you should be okay if you are careful.
Fishing is the number one activity at Willow Lake Campground so don’t forget to bring your fishing gear. The scenic lakeside campground boasts 10 spacious campsites with fire pits, picnic tables, and a large cleared area for hanging out around the fire. The parking spurs can accommodate trailers and RVs up to 30 feet in length and are mostly level and shaded. Since there are only 10 campsites, you may need to reserve your spot at least six months in advance to get a spot.
Besides fishing, this campground is also popular with OHV riders because it is a staging area for the Arapeen OHV Trail System, which has over 350 miles of trails. Many of the trails are for hiking as well but they can get pretty busy with riders during the summer months. Pets are welcome as long as you keep them restrained and supervised at all times during your stay. Bears are frequently seen in the area, so make sure you keep your food and other scented items in a bear proof box while you are here. The campground is open from June to September.
Lake Canyon Campground has 47 double-sized campsites and four group camping areas. This lovely campground is located on top of the Wasatch Plateau at the base of the mountains between Cleveland and Huntington Lakes. The parking spurs range from 25 to 45 feet in length and are level and shaded. Each spot has its own picnic table that seats eight, a pedestal fire pit, and a huge cleared area for playing and sitting around the fire. Some have benches or logs for seating as well. Vault toilets are located all over the park for your convenience. However, there is no potable water, so you need to bring your own.
Fishing and swimming are popular here as well as canoeing and kayaking. No motorized boats are allowed and there is no boat launch. The Lake Canyon Trail System Trailhead is located here with three beginner loops as well as dozens of miles of intermediate and expert trails used for hiking and OHV riding. Pets are welcome if you keep them restrained and supervised at all times. Bears are frequently seen in the area, so make sure you keep your food and other scented items in a bear proof box while you are here.
Near Blanding, the Devil’s Canyon Campground has 42 campsites in the middle of pines, oaks, and juniper with a camp cookstove, picnic table, and fire pit. The parking pads range from 30 to 45 feet in length so they will accommodate even larger RVs or trailers. The park also provides several vault toilets and seven potable water spigots in various areas around the campground. Pets are welcome as long as you keep them restrained and supervised at all times during your stay.
These are first-come, first-served campsites so get here early if you want a particular spot. This campground is a favorite for hikers, and the 0.2-mile Forest and Man Interpretive Loop Trail is an awesome learning experience for anyone. In addition, there are several OHV trails nearby, which makes this a popular campground for OHV riders too. Although the park does not provide bear proof containers, this is bear country so please lock up your food and other scented items.
If you want to do some mountain climbing, the La Sal Mountains have the second highest point in the state and with several peaks over 12,000 feet, you can see some fabulous sights. The Manns, Mellenthin, Tukinikivatz, Peale, and Mount Wass are all great places to climb. For rock climbing, try the Mill Creek, Brumley Creek, or Joe’s Valley Climbing Area. All of these climbs offer dispersed camping, but Joe’s Valley also has a 1,200-acre lake, picnic areas, a marina, OHV trails, and a boat ramp.
Pack up all your friends and family in the RV and head to the Manti-La Sal National Forest for a picnic or BBQ. Pack Creek Group Picnic Site is the most popular with a group site that can accommodate up to 30 people with three picnic tables, a pavilion, and BBQ pits. The Buckeye Recreation Area is located next to the Buckeye Lake where you can swim, fish, and go boating. You can also camp here at one of their 30 reservable campsites.
Hook up the OHV trailer to the RV and head to the Manti-La Sal National Forest where you can find the largest OHV camping and staging area in the state. The Willow Lake Campground is the main stage for the Arapeen OHV Trail System, which boasts over 350 miles of trails. The Lake Canyon Trail System between Cleveland and Huntington Lakes is also a fantastic place to spend the day riding. Both of these sites have multiple campgrounds with over 100 campsites in total so you can enjoy the trails for more than just one day.
You don’t have to sit in the camper the whole time you are here. There are over 100 trails to explore ranging from less than a mile to more than 20 miles. For a short and easy trail, check out the 1.5-mile Little Horseshoe Trail or the two-mile Lower Two-Mile Trail #979. For a moderate trail, the 4.8-mile Dark Canyon East Trail #006 starts at the Notch on Forest Road 88. For a longer walk, the 14.8-mile Woodenshoe Trail #165 takes you up into the Woodenshoe Canyon.
Pack your skis in the RV for some winter fun because Manti-La Sal National Forest has more trails to ski than the average forest or park. Between the Cleveland and Huntington Lakes, you can find the Millers Flat Snowpark where there are over 100 acres with dozens of trails for every skier from beginner to expert. The North Skyline Snowpark near Fairview has more than 15 trails from easy to difficult for all skiers. For cross-country skiing, try the Big Drift Staging Area by Skyline Drive.
The Manti-La Sal National Forest is a popular place for mule deer and elk hunting with the Miller Flat and Joe’s Valley areas being the most recommended. Other large game includes mountain goats, bison, cougars, moose, pronghorns, and bighorn sheep. For some excellent waterfowl hunting, try the Seeley Creek or Potters Pond areas. No matter what you are hunting for, make sure you wear your hunter orange and carry your hunting license with you at all times.