Expect crowded Utah campgrounds, canyons on July 4th
Utahns have always flocked to the high country to beat the summer valley heat and the combination of triple-digit temperatures and the Independence Day holiday promises to bring crowds to the canyons.
"It was nuts, and it's not even the Fourth of July," said Linda Jones, of Mirror Lake Service, in Kamas about crowds heading into the High Uintas through her small town. "The weekend was great. And now we've got a weekend with the Fourth. It's just so hot down there they need to get out. They've been up in this area before and they love it."
The big problem for many who haven't planned ahead will be finding a place to camp. Most U.S. Forest Service and Utah State Park developed camping areas in the high country or near reservoirs have already been reserved.
"People have already made reservations for the units that can be reserved," said Kathy Jo Pollock, of the U.S. Forest Service. "July Fourth is the big one and with it on a Thursday it will be a four-day weekend for most individuals."
Pollock said there might be a few reservations left. Reservations can be made by calling the National Recreation Reservation Service at 1-877-6477. She said all but a few of the most popular U.S. Forest Service developed campgrounds offer first-come, first-serve camping spots for 35 percent to 50 percent of the units. She expects those to fill early Wednesday.
She expects valley heat might increase forest visitation, especially for day use and dispersed recreation.
Most U.S. Forest Service campgrounds in Utah will be open for the Independence Day weekend. The exceptions are the Whiterocks in eastern Utah, Oak Grove in southwestern Utah, Oak Creek Canyon in Millard County and Mill Hollow near Woodland. The Albion Basin campground in Little Cottonwood Canyon is scheduled to open for the season July Fourth.
The southern portion of the Skyline Drive in central Utah remains closed. State Highway 31 in Huntington Canyon will be closed to overnight camping due to concerns about a fire there last year.
Speaking of fires, campers are urged to be careful. Most of southern Utah is under fire restriction, which means campers are not allowed to have campfires unless they are using a developed campsite. Smoking is limited to vehicles, roads or areas three feet clear of any flammable materials. No fireworks are allowed on public lands.
Even though temperatures last weekend reached the mid-90s in Park City, the summer mountain resort could see good crowds for the holiday weekend as well. The Canyons will kick off the festivities with live music and fireworks Wednesday, while Park City will stage an 11 a.m. parade with Olympic gold-medal skier Ted Ligety serving as grand marshal. Fireworks will be held at the Park City Mountain Resort on the evening of July Fourth.
"We've had a lot of inquiries about July Fourth, about how much things cost and what kind of activities are going on," said the Park City Chamber Bureau's Amy Kersey. "There is a lot of interest. It is cooler, but still 95, which is crazy for Park City, but not unbearable."
Some of the biggest crowds could be at Bear Lake, where Rendezvous Beach designated campgrounds are booked but there might be a few dispersed spots available on the east side of the lake, which is first-come, first-serve.
"[The east side] has filled up but rarely does," said Shalie Argyle, of Bear Lake State Park. "I imagine where it has been so hot, we might have a busy, busy weekend."
According to the Division of Parks and Recreation's Hollie Brown, the only state parks with camping spots available for July Fourth were Fremont Indian, Green River, Sand Hollow, Snow Canyon, Starvation and Yuba's West Beach primitive sites.