The Wasatch National Forest (of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National
Forest) is located in north central/northeast Utah (848,138
acres) and southwest Wyoming (37,762 acres). There are 56
developed campgrounds of which 35 meet the selection criteria.
The Wasatch National Forest is a forest with many personalities. There is its "forest next door" personality found just outside Salt Lake City. To the east, at the Utah and Wyoming border, the Forest shows its "near-wilderness" personality. And in between, from Kama, Utah to Evanston, Wyoming, Wasatch's visitors will find a "fun-filled family camping vacation" personality.
Wintertime finds the "forest next door" personality of Salt Lake City's Big and Little Cottonwood canyons are main arteries to ski resorts. But these canyons offer summertime recreation too. True, these canyons can be crowded on weekends but the short distance from the road to a tree shaded campsite next to a babbling stream is far from the city and worth the hassle.
The Big and Little Cottonwood canyons hold a variety of surprises for Wasatch National Forest visitors. One is the Spruces campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It has campsites adjacent to a babbling brook, some with old stone ovens, some tucked in among mature aspen while others are shaded by magnificent old spruce and fir trees. There is also a ball field, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, a couple of hiking trails and fishing. Obviously, Spruces campground is an excellent choice for a family weekend or longer get-away.
Far up the Little Cottonwood Canyon, beyond the ski resorts, is a rustic campground called Albion Basin. This campground is so far up the mountain, one looks down into nearby ski resorts. There is even a ski lift and ski runs passing through the campground used by mountain bikers in the summer. The drive to Albion Basin campground, with its switchbacks and steep grades, is challenging and not recommended for large recreational vehicles (RV) or motorhomes. However, the rewards of making the drive are panoramic views and a campground with meadows of wildflowers and magnificent spruce trees.
While campgrounds in the Big and Little Cottonwood canyons are delightful, there is one major down side to camping here. These canyons are important watersheds for Salt Lake City. Dogs and livestock are not permitted on the trails or in campgrounds.
The Wasatch National Forest has a very different appearance where Wyoming and Utah meet. Here, sagebrush and rolling foothills merge with lilypad lined lakes and magnificent old trees. And, the crowds are less dense and exploration less restricted. Every national forest has its "this-is-the-best-campground-but-don't- tell-anyone" campground. For this area it is Christmas Meadows campground. A small, ten-site campground at the edge of Christmas Meadows, it is located atop a knoll in a stand of Lodgepole pine with good fishing and trail in the nearby High Uintas Wilderness.
However, perhaps the best kept secrets in the area are Little
Lyman Lake and Bridger Lake campgrounds. The Bridger Lake campground, located in the Deadhorse ATV Trail Area, was recently updated with modern "sweet smelling" wheelchair-friendly vaults, long level parking aprons, and spacious sites. The adjacent lily pad encircled Bridger Lake offers fishing, canoeing, and excellent wildlife viewing. Although Bridger Lake is in the middle of a designated ATV Trail Area, the trails out of this campground are more popular with the mountain bike enthusiast. Giving no indication of just how sweet the campground is going to be, Little Lyman Lake campground is at the end of a rough and challenging route. Rustic, with sometimes rough dirt aprons and irregular places for pitching a tent, this quiet campground enjoys a scenic location next to a 5-acre lake frequently visited by a variety of birds and wildlife. There are no trails out of this campground but who cares when there is so much beauty immediately around to enjoy.
West of Kamas, Utah, and east of Evanston, Wyoming, stretching out along the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (State Rt. 150), are a number of campgrounds. Some of these campgrounds are little more then a cleared space at the forest's edge with a fire-ring. Others have modern vaults, good drinking water, trash collection, and interesting amphitheater programs. These aren't your everyday Forest Service interpretative programs. Topics range from "Bear Ecology and Management" and "Fire Fighting" to "Lost What should I do?" and "Dutch Oven Cooking."
Each campground in the Mirror Lake network has a different something for campers to enjoy. Butterfly Lake campground is at the edge of a pond-size lake in spruce and fir and offers good fishing and a convenient base camp location for exploring the High Uinta Wilderness via Highline Trail. Mirror Lake campground, beside a scenic location, offers separate camping loops for equestrian and non-equestrian campers and also has access to the Highline Trail. Nearby, Moosehorn campground is across from the popular Fehr Lake Trail, a foot, horse, and mountain bike trail. This trail also provides access to the Murdock Basin Trail Network for motorized trail riders. And then there are campgrounds like Soapstone which offers excellent wildlife viewing with resident moose making regular inspections of the campground's conditions.
To the north of the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, out of Oakley, Utah, are two campgrounds well-known to longtime visitors of Wasatch National Forest - Ledgefork and Smith and Morehouse. Located at either end of the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir, these campgrounds are very different. Ledgefork, at the southern end, with its lush vegetation, loops through stands of dense conifers. A nearby trail head offers access to trails for a variety of trail users. The Smith and Morehouse campground, located at the base of the dam, has a much more open feel and no immediate access to trails. It is the type of campground one goes to with a good book and enjoys the quiet sounds of nature.
The topography of the Wasatch National Forest ranges from the shear, massive rugged beauty of the Wasatch Front Range to the more gentle appearance of the Uinta Mountain Range with rolling foothills and plains near the Utah and Wyoming border. The variety of the Wasatch National Forest's personalities reflects its variations in topography. And, in turn, is reflected in the diversity of developed campgrounds and recreation opportunities found here. It will take more than one visit to explore all the many personalities of this Forest.
8236 Federal Building
125 South State St.
Salt Lake City, Utah 84138
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
50 East Center St.
Kamas, Utah 84036
1565 Hwy. 150, Suite A
Evanston, Wyoming 82931-1880
321 Hwy. 14
Mountain View, Wyoming 82939
6944 South 3000 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84121