Campsites packed this summer
Despite fire restrictions and record-breaking temperatures this summer, campsites in Summit County have seen a spike in visitors who are taking advantage of the dry trails and cool lakes.
U.S Forest Service Spokesperson Loyal Clark said that due to the early opening of many campsites and picnic areas in the spring, residents started camping sooner than usual and haven’t stopped. Since the early summer, Clark said campsites in the Uintas have been full every weekend.
"The weather has been excellent, especially over the holidays, so people have been visiting the campsites for days at a time with no rain to force them to leave," Clark said. "Having July Fourth fall on a Wednesday also drove up visitation numbers because a lot of people came the weekend before and stayed through the holiday while others came for the holiday and stayed through the next weekend."
Glenn Hafen, area manager for the Strawberry Reservoir campsites in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Ranger District said that visitor numbers are up by about 105 percent compared to last summer. He credits the increase to camping being a relatively inexpensive vacation amidst a bad economy and great fishing.
"A lot of our campsites are close to metro areas, so people don’t need to travel too far to get away," Hafen said. "People have just been trying to get away from the hot cities whenever they can and have a staycation. In our district, this is probably the busiest we have been in 15 years."
Hafen added that the fishing competitions that have been going on at various lakes around Utah have also encouraged more people to visit the campsites and try their hand at catching a prize fish.
Even the open fire ban that was enacted in early July by the Forest Service hasn’t discouraged campers. Clark said most people have simply found other ways to make s’mores.
"In our developed campsites, people can still make fires in the designated metal pits. Those who prefer the undeveloped sites have been bringing in propane stoves and using those to cook their meals instead of fires," she said. "I have heard from a few campers that they are changing their plans and sticking to a designated site just so they can still have a fire. But overall, people are very mindful of the ban and the risks this summer and are just working around it."
The open fire ban was temporarily lifted for the High Uinta wilderness area beginning on July 20. Hikers and campers in the High Uintas can make campfires outside of designated fire pits but the ban is still in effect for all other areas in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Clark added that the Forest Service in Utah has been lucky this year and only been affected by one of Utah’s wildfires.
"We closed one trail for a few days when the Alpine fire occurred," she said. "But we haven’t had to close a campground yet and I think everyone is being extra careful to avoid a fire in a national forest."
Residents are encouraged to book a campsite ahead of time and plan ahead if they are camping somewhere that does not allow fires. For more information visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/uwcnf.
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