4 great family-friendly camping spots in our backyard

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School might be back in session for most of Utah County, but that doesn’t mean summer fun needs to end. Escape into nature for a quick overnight camping trip at one of these quality, local campgrounds — most of which are mere minutes from civilization.

1. Alpine Loop Campgrounds

Looking for a quick camping trip? Alpine Loop Scenic Byway offers access to a number of great campsites along its 20-mile stretch within Provo and American Fork canyons.

This map at the Timpooneke Trailhead shows the many campgrounds located along the 20-mile Alpine Loop Scenic Byway: Little Mill, Timpooneke, Altamont, Salamander Flat, Mount Timpanogos, and Theater-in-the-Pines.

The beautiful Alpine Loop Scenic Byway that connects Provo and American Fork canyons offers several family-friendly campgrounds.

Nestled in the alpine scenery of the Uinta National Forest, these campgrounds provide easy access to hiking and mountain biking around the base of Mount Timpanogos.

The closest campground to the Provo Canyon side, Mount Timpanogos, is just past BYU’s Aspen Grove and shares its beauty within the aspen and fir trees. The closest to the entrance to American Fork Canyon is Little Mill campground, picturesquely located on the banks of American Fork Creek near Timpanogos Cave National Monument.

Between the two are a number of campgrounds for large groups or single families, including Timpooneke (best for families) and Altamont (groups). Timpooneke is just a short walk from the Timpooneke trailhead which ultimately leads to the summit of Timpanogos.

Fees and amenities differ from location to location; for details on each, visit the Forest Service’s Pleasant Grove Ranger District website.

Reservations: Recreation.gov

2. Payson Lakes Campground

Daniel McNeil, left, and Adam Orton, both of Provo, wade into Big East Lake beneath the fishing pier near Payson Lakes Campground.

Daniel McNeil, left, and Adam Orton, both of Provo, wade into Big East Lake beneath the fishing pier near Payson Lakes Campground. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Priest)

One of the more popular local camping destinations is Payson Lakes Campground, located a half-hour drive up Payson’s Nebo Loop Scenic Byway.

Set among three beautiful lakes — McClelland, Box and Big East — this campground features more than 100 campsites (single, double and groups).

While that might sound like too many campsites, California visitor Nicole Priest said the setting offered plenty of space for groups to enjoy their own activities — like kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing, floating on logs and playing volleyball — without getting in each other’s way. Payson Lakes campground also offers outstanding amenities like campfire circles and rings, drinking water, maintained trails, flushing toilets, grills, paved roads and trash collection.

Reservations: Recreation.gov

3. Diamond Campground

If you’re looking for a great campsite for young families, Diamond Campground in Diamond Fork Canyon near Spanish Fork is one of the best.

Located a mere 15 miles outside Spanish Fork, the campground has 60 camp sites with seven group sites a little further in the canyon.

Running through the site are Diamond Fork Stream and Wanrhodes Creek , offering a great place for children to splash in the water.

Delma Robison, 4, shows off her muddy hands while her brother, TJ Robison, 2, continues splashing in the water near Diamond Campground. In the background, their father, Jason Robison, is fishing while Brennen Robison, 11, looks on. (Photo courtesy of Jason Robison)

Delma Robison, 4, shows off her muddy hands while her brother, TJ Robison, 2, continues splashing in the water near Diamond Campground. In the background, their father, Jason Robison, is fishing while Brennen Robison, 11, looks on. (Photo courtesy of Jason Robison)

Fifth Water Hot Springs are located 2.5 miles from the campground. Those willing to make the hike are rewarded with hot spring pools and beautiful valley views.

The campground is also close to Monks Hollow Trail, which offers great hiking, biking and off-roading opportunities. Avid camper Jason Robison of Herriman said he brings his young family here at least once a year.

Koral Reid of Spanish Fork said the nearby red cliffs, including formations like Diamond Fork Arch, offer activities for all ages. “It’s a fun place to take kids to explore the sandstone formations — and for the more adventurous, there are a couple of good rappelling routes,” Reid said.

Robison said walk-up sites are usually available at Diamond.

Reservations: Recreation.gov

4. Cherry Campground

Another outstanding family campground is Cherry Campground, located six miles from Springville in Hobble Creek Canyon.

Set among maple and cottonwood trees along the banks of Hobble Creek, Cherry Campground is near recreation opportunities for all ages — including hiking, biking, horseback riding, dirt biking, off-roading, fishing and, of course, golfing at the popular Hobble Creek Golf Course.

A paved bike trail makes riding easier for young cyclists. There are 28 family sites and four group sites; if Cherry fills up, nearby Balsam is a solid second choice.

Reservations: Recreation.gov.

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Christa Woodall worked for The Orange County Register in her native Southern California for several years before returning to Utah Valley, her second hometown. She writes about her passions—arts, entertainment, travel, and the outdoors—for UtahValley360.com.

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