Polly plays by the Colorado at Big Bend BLM

Polly plays by the Colorado at Big Bend BLM Campground

A very scenic but very busy campground on a “big bend” of the Colorado River just NE of Moab, UT

Link to campground here: Big Bend BLM Campground
Link to map location here: Big Bend BLM Campground

  1. Site Quality = 3/5
    Great to poor site quality depending on where you end up. There are 22 total sites all cleared, firm dirt with “sitting areas” containing picnic table and fire-pit. No hookups. Road-facing sites (#9/10) have pretty red canyon views while many of the waterfront sites (#1-8,11-22) either have accessible or full water views. Biggest ding is variation in site size and separation. Some sites (e.g. pull-throughs 9 & 10) are incredibly large and spacious whereas many of the back-ins are very small, shared or too close together. Of the 22 available sites I would say only ~4 could fit our size.
  2. Facilities = 2/5
    Very basic facilities. On-site pit toilets, kept nicely clean and on-site garbage disposal. NO on-site water or dump.
  3. Location = 3.5/5
    Location is a mixed bag here. On the one hand the campground is in a very pretty spot, right on a big bend of the Colorado River with access to a beach and water views, plus it’s only ~15 mins from town and a few miles from Arches National Park (very convenient). On the other hand it’s right next to busy U-128, plus it’s very popular so there is an almost-constant background noise of cars and people. I would say it’s a great spot for exploring Moab, but a poor spot for those who want to get away from it all.
  4. Pet Friendliness = 5/5
    Very good pooch spot. You have good space in camp and are right next to the Colorado with a pretty on-site beach area that has enough shallow water for pooch to splash and enjoy. You are also very close to some of the best paw-hiking in Moab including the fabulous Negro Bill Canyon hike.

Overall Rating = 3.4
BONUS ALERT = Camp within view of stunning red canyons and the Colorado River.

Summary: So I have to admit we have mixed feelings about this our stay here. Big Bend BLM campground is in a pretty and convenient location. It lies on a big bend in the Colorado River with access to a lovely beach, water/canyon views all around plus it’s only ~15 mins from downtown Moab and a few miles from Arches NP. These are the positives. The issues are two-fold. First sites are very variable in size/separation -> all sites are basic dirt with picnic table and fire-pit, but some are incredibly large and spacious (e.g. pull-through sites #9, #10) whereas others are very small or even shared (= 2 sites in one spot e.g. #11/12 and #18/19!). Second it’s very busy. It’s a popular spot and in high-season it’s full all the time (literally a test of musical chairs to get in) plus it’s right next to the overflow camping and U-128 which is a well-used and thus somewhat noisy road. This means there are constantly either rigs driving through camp looking for open sites or cars on the road next door, so it doesn’t have the laid-back, peaceful kind of feel we usually like in BLM sites. We enjoyed our time in Moab and certainly appreciated our huge site, location and pleasant views, but we were somewhat tired of the crowds and noise by the time we left. For a first-time visitor this is probably a good base to explore Moab, but I think if we return to the area we’ll chose to stay at one of the more remote (and thus quieter) campgrounds further out.

Extra Info: Marginal Verizon signal (data signal vacillated between 1X and 3G), but we managed to get a stable, usable 3G signal with our external antenna/amp. 22 sites, all first-come-first-serve. Sites cost $15/night (no hookups). There is one-night-only overflow camping area opposite Big Bend if all campsites are full. NO on-site dump station and NO on-site water.

Extra, Extra Info – OTHER BLM CAMPING? BOONDOCKING?
Other BLM Camping:
The BLM office manages 26 campgrounds around Moab, but not all of them are “beast-friendly”. Of the available choices in our size only Goose Island (very, very busy and close to town but nicely separated sites and totally worth it if you can get a waterfront spot), Ken’s Lake (south of town) or Horsethief (~20 miles NW from town, but very quiet and relaxed) make the cut. The other options were either too small or we didn’t like them. Of these Horsethief would be our #1 choice coming back.
Boondocking: Everyone always wants to know about Boondocking around Moab and the simple answer is there’s practically none. Due to overuse the BLM closed most of the traditional boondocking spots and implemented a policy of designated campsites only (in fact on the main roads it’s prohibited to camp anywhere else & they can/will fine you for doing so). There are very few select free “dispersed camping” sites listed on the BLM website which are mostly suited to tenters or truck campers. Nothing we could find in our size, but worth a look for those with smaller rigs.

Front view of our site #9, easily the largest in the entire campground.

Front view of our site #9, easily the largest in the entire campground.

Back view of our site from the main campground road. RV in pull-through #10 behind it.

Back view of our site from the main campground road. RV in pull-through #10 behind it.

View of one of secluded, but small sites #5

View of one of secluded, but smaller sites #5

View of one of shared sites. This is actually TWO sites #11 & #12 that share one space. No way we could fit here.

View of shared site. This is actually TWO sites #11 & #12 that share one space. No way we could fit here.

View of another small, but secluded site #13. This has water-view on the front.

View of another small, but secluded site #13. This has water-view on the front.

View down back-end of campground. RV in site#15 on right with big rig in #17 behind it.

View down back-end of campground. RV in site#15 on right with big rig in #17 behind it. These all face the water on front-side and would fit us.

View of another "shared site". This is #18 on right and #19 on left.

View of another “shared site”. This is #18 on right and #19 on left. We couldn’t fit here.

One of end campsites #20. Secluded, but again too small for us.

One of end campsites #20. Secluded, but again too small for us.

View of pit toilets

View of pit toilets

View of our "sitting area". Site #9

View of our “sitting area”. Site #9

View of Colorado river from the beach area

View of Colorado river from the beach area

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28 Responses to BLM Campground Review – Big Bend BLM, Moab, UT

  1. Sherry says:

    Your reviews are pretty much just like my being there and seeing the sites for myself. Thanks so much for the detail. And thanks for your comment on my post and recommendations for the Panhandle. When are you coming back here??

    • libertatemamo says:

      I admit it may be a while before we head East again…we’re loving the West. Than again, you never know :)
      Nina

  2. Ingrid says:

    Love your new header photo. I was quite taken by Monument Valley when we drove through last Nov. We hope to check out Moab this fall. Hope it won’t be too crowded….wishful thinking anyway. Thanks for sharing this location….right up our alley. Safe travels :-)

  3. Sheila says:

    We were in Moab back in 2003, I think. Our favorite thing to do was to drive up to Dead Horse Mesa at sunset and watch the night sky as it got darker. The dark, clear skies were breathtaking!!! I agree very busy – almost got run over several times by four wheelers!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Dead Horse Point State Park is another place I’d definitely stay in the area. It’s far enough out of town to be relaxed, and the views are breathtaking!
      Nina

  4. Upriverdavid says:

    Thanks Nina, I think I will have to think about heading to Moab now. I like quiet and space…Today I found a mouse nest 12″ from a mothball..I don’t that is an answer to keep those unwanted rascals away.
    David

    • libertatemamo says:

      For those who prefer quiet I’d recommend Horsethief BLM campground. It’s further out from Moab, but has 3G signal and is very relaxed. We drove through and checked it out on our way down U-131 and would certainly stay there. Dead Horse Point State Park also had a nice, relaxed vibe.

      Sorry to hear about the mouse…eeek!

      Nina

  5. Michelle says:

    Great header photo and great post!

    Big Bend is a nice area, and it’s right at the bottom of the Porcupine trail, one of our favorite mountain bike epics in Moab.

    We spend a lot of time in Moab (Nov/Dec 2012 most recently) and yes, you definitely picked one of the busiest times of the year. Between the 4×4 and mountain biking, and continued snowfall across the Rocky Mountains, this is the time of the year that all of non-snowbirds turn south to find warm sunny days and dry trails for exploring. (Not to mention that all of the ski resorts have just closed, so darn near everyone from a mountain town happens to be Moab right now.)

    Since we’ve just begun our full-time boondocking adventures (6 months so far) I felt it is my duty to share with the rest of our new RV family a few spots around Moab that do offer free dispersed camping.

    Here are a few of our favorite free, dispersed options:
    Potash Road – follow past the Potash Mine. The further you go, the rougher the road gets, but there are places to camp along the way. (There are also some great paid sites down by the river. before the Potash mine, but good to note that I didn’t have cell service when I was driving through this area.)

    Willow Springs Rd. east of 191 (14.5 miles North of Moab) – There are about a dozen or so great bookdocking sites along this road. After a couple of miles you will reach a sandy wash at an intersection – this would be a good place to STOP and turn around or park in this area before the wash. So if you’re timid, I would suggest hitting one of the sites you find within the first mile or so.

    Blue Hills Rd. – west of 191 (15.5 miles North of Moab) – Blue Hills has some opportunities along this road. It’s not our first pick, but if you’re having a hard time finding a camp site, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a place to park here.

    Finally, here are a few other great paid camping options as well if the Big Bend site is full:

    Slickrock (Sand Flats) – will be busy, but amazing views, campsites are good and wifi is decent above the slickrock trail.

    Ken’s Lake – South of town, good area, decent Verizon signal, I believe quite a few campsite options there (but we have not camped there).

    Hope this helps anyone else that might be heading down to Moab this time of the year. We’re wrapping up loose ends in Phoenix, “enjoying” 100+ degree temps. Looking forward ourselves to heading north soon!

    Got any tips for the Bellingham, Washington area?

    • libertatemamo says:

      What an outstanding list. Thanks so much for sharing! Do you happen to know what size rig might fit in these spots? We checked out Slickrock and a few of the others and couldn’t see anything our size.

      And yes, I do think we picked a particularly busy time. Several of our neighbors were escaping CO and were seasonal workers there. So you hit it on the head!

      Don’t have any recommendations for WA, unfortunately. We have yet to visit believe it or not! This year will be our first time in the state.

      Nina

      • Michelle says:

        At Slickrock, we were able to fit our 38′ (with a 4′ bike rack extending out the back) along with our un-towed Toad into a nice spot above the parking lot. There are several campsites along the road that would work just fine, as long as you don’t mind some creative leveling.
        Same goes for Willow Springs. There are 5-10 good spots along the road. Closer to the highway will get you better wifi access.
        We definitely are not afraid to push the limits of where we’ll park our rig. And a few of these spots will require even the adventurous to decide if they are willing to venture “off road” with their rig. But it seems to me that your goals and ours are fairly similar. And I wouldn’t hesitate recommending these options – as long as your readers will keep a spot open for us when we show up again next fall. :-)

        • libertatemamo says:

          Excellent. Thanks for the reply. We didn’t make it to Willow Springs, but I’ll be interested to check it out if we return to the area. We’ll take another look at Slickrock too.
          Nina

        • libertatemamo says:

          An interesting little follow-up to this. I looked at the Moab map and also my Utah Benchmark Atlas and found out that Willow Springs Road is actually on State Trust Land, not BLM land. This may be the reason I never saw it in my original search of the area, plus it’s not listed on the official BLM dispersed camping page. Not sure what the “official” rules are on this land, but the designation as trust land may explain why boondocking is currently more relaxed there.
          Again, thanks for all the “inside” tips. Great info!
          Nina

          • Gary Doty says:

            Hi Nina,

            I follow you guys on your blog and can’t say enough good things about it. I know it takes a lot of work. In this old post you had mentioned the “official BLM dispersed camping page”. I’ve been all over the BLM website but haven’t seen anything about an official dispersed camping page. Another question; will an area BLM office tell you where there is dispersed camping and if your rig will get there? Jo and I are new to this dispersed thingie but have the equipment to do it. I know you’re busy but I hope you can answer my questions. Keep up the good work. Great photos by the way.

            thanks in advance
            Gary & Joanne

          • libertatemamo says:

            For this particular area (Moab) I provided a link to the official dispersed camping page in the post. I’ll link again here:
            http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab/recreation/campgrounds/where_else_can_i_camp.html

            Each BLM office manages their own area, so you have to seek out the particular office for the particular area you’re going to. Some offices provide info online but others don’t, so once you’ve nailed down the office the best option is to give them a call and ask them directly about dispersed camping. The local ranger will usually be able to tell you general areas where you can look, what kind of vehicles can go and what the road conditions are like. How detailed the info is varies from office to office. The rest is then usually up to you.

            Hope that helps.

            Nina

  6. Michelle says:

    PS – Sorry for the LONG comment!

  7. Imagine my surprise in reading your review of Big Bend and seeing a picture of our rig, “Koko” in site 5. We moved to Goose Island Sunday and have a spot in the river. Also the town has really gotten quieter with the hot rods gone, thank goodness.

    • libertatemamo says:

      How amazing! You guys had a nice little site there (and a very pretty rig!). Sorry we didn’t meet you in person. Glad to hear the town is more quiet this week. Enjoy your stay!
      Nina

  8. I don’t know how often you angle your solar panels, but does that make a difference in your site selection?

    • libertatemamo says:

      We only angle our panels in winter (mostly Nov through Feb/Mar) and during those times we do try to find a site were “the beast” can face east-west with panels tilted south so we get max coverage. It makes a big difference (around 40% boost) to tilt during those months.

      This time of year there’s enough sun (plus sun is getting higher in the sky everyday) that we don’t bother tilting. We will still aim for a sunny site (I.e. preferably with no shade trees and such), but worry less about orientation. This whole month the sun has been pretty high and out long enough that we’ve easily fully charged by around noon each day even with the panels flat.

      Nina

  9. Tiana says:

    Any thoughts on the group sites there?
    Thanks

    • libertatemamo says:

      Good point! I forgot to mention the group campsites. There are 3 in this campground A, B and C. Group sites A & B are on the same side of the U-128 as the individual campgrounds. They’re busy and generally OK, but they are a tad close to each other for my liking and do not get the splendid views of some of the individual campsites. Group C is on the other side of U-128 and off by itself near the back cliffs in it’s own little canyon. This is well-separated and very relaxed. You’re further from the water, but you’ll have space and quiet plus lovely views. Group C is definitely the site I’d reserve if we were coming in a group!
      Nina

  10. Andy says:

    Next time in the area check out Kens lake.. I think BLM and cheap.. Almost all the sites are for big rigs and also a nice hike to a waterfall.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Thanks. It was one of our backup choices this time around, but I think I’ll move it up the list to try first next time we come through town.
      Nina

  11. B'Wile'D says:

    Love that you ALWAYS mention size of CG sites; we are ‘big’ too, and often can’t tell if a CG will fit for us. .. I happened onto this blog as I looked for ‘images’ of Big Bend CG. Love all the pics!

    A couple of added notes: we did stay at Willow (freecampgrounds.com) when we were 30′, but now don’t want to ‘wheel’ through the dry wash that’s just off the road. (text box won’t allow me more comment so I’ll post)

    Oregon, specifically Port Orford is our favorite

  12. B'Wile'D says:

    ..as I was saying..Oregon, Cape Blanco is great! But the BEST is Humbug SP! Its sunny, less windy, and great little walk to the beach. Even ‘Off-coast’, Oregon is the most RV-friendly State we’ve visited, and we usually stay 6-10 weeks every summer. I admire your dedication to blog..I tried but only kept our travels for one season! Thanks a bunch!

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