Ashley National Forest


Looking up a hillside in Ashley National Forest where the aspens have begun to change into their fall colors
Ashley National Forest
A forested view along the Red Cloud Loop in Ashley National Forest

Ashley National Forest encompasses some 1,287,909 acres in northeastern Utah, with another 96,223 acres in southwestern Wyoming. 276,175 of these acres are in the High Uintas Wilderness (another 180,530 acres of the wilderness are in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest). Elevations in Ashley National Forest range from about 6,000' to 13,528' at the summit of King's Peak (highest point in Utah).

On the northeast side of the Forest is the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, a very popular boating and water sport area. Of the 26 campgrounds located around the lake, 4 are accessible only by boat. The 26 miles of the Green River below the Flaming Gorge Dam and above Dinosaur National Monument are open to approved water craft without permits. The 26 miles of the Green River flowing through Dinosaur National Monument require permits from the National Park Service.

View of a small stream flowing through interspersed trees and meadows
Snow blankets the trees in the forest

There are more than 1,000 miles of trails on the Forest, trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, etc. (I would have listings of those trails included here but a large fire in 2007 has caused some major changes in things on the Forest.) Most trail heads include parking areas, horse unloading facilities and restrooms. Many trails and parts of the Forest are open for high clearance vehicles, ATV's and motorcycles, however, the National Forest's approach to regulations starts with: "All areas and routes are closed unless designated open." A good map of the Forest is real helpful for these things.

Ashley National Forest also offers world-class fly-fishing in headwater streams for native Colorado River Cutthroat Trout, although some folks are content to troll the deep waters of the Flaming Gorge for Lake Trout and Kokanee. That 91-mile-long reservoir with more than 300 miles of shoreline is an incredible place for growing enormous trout. I'm talking 50-pound lake trout, 30 pound German brown trout and 25 pound rainbows (some of these fish have set state and world records). While the big fish are in the lake, the Green River below the Flaming Gorge dam is one of America's finest blue ribbon trout streams with population counts reaching as high as 22,000 fish per river mile. And as much as the fishermen may hate it, this section of the Green River with its' white water rapids and gorgeous canyon scenery are extremely popular among the river rafting types.

Wilderness Areas

The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and the section of Green River immediately below Flaming Gorge Dam are administered by Ashley National Forest. Visitors to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area need a Recreation Use Pass. This pass allows use by all occupants of a single, private, non-commercial vehicle (as in: the whole family on one pass). The hologram-stamped National Park Pass, Golden Age, Access and Eagle Passports are also accepted.

Looking out across the forest from a high point
Erosion along a small stream flowing through an open meadow in the forest
A banded sedimentary cliff high in the mountains
Photos courtesy of the US Forest Service
 

Scenic Byways on Ashley National Forest

Looking down on Sheep Creek Bay with its famous red cliffs
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area: Sheep Creek Bay

Scenic Byways and Backways are just that: a unique combination of cultural attractions, varied landscapes and recreational adventures. The Ashley National Forest offers two Scenic Byways and two Scenic Backways with magnificent views and experiences that you just can't get on the nation's interstate system. So if you have a bit of time and just plain aren't in a hurry to get from "here to there," check this out. You'll be glad you did.

Flaming Gorge - Uintas National Scenic Byway

This Scenic Byway crosses the Ashley National Forest from south to north (or vice versa if you want), traversing the zone between Vernal and Manila. You even get to cross the Flaming Gorge dam along the way, what have you got to lose? This route offers the greatest diversity in wildlife and wildlife habitat that Utah has to offer. There are information and interpretive facilities at Vernal in the Northeastern Utah Visitor's Center, at the Flaming Gorge dam itself, at the Forest Service office in Manila and at 14 other interpretive sites along the Byway. The "theme" of the Byway is "Wildlife Through the Ages." As this area is one of the richest areas for modern wildlife and for ancient fossils in America, the "theme" is very apt: during this drive you'll be going through 250 million years of exposed geology, seeing places where today's elk and deer are walking on ancient seashores embedded with the fossilized remains of the earliest dinosaurs. From the Frontier, Morrison and Chinle formations to the Mancos and Hilliard shales, you'll come across bighorn sheep wandering among the fallen logs of a petrified forest, there'll be golden eagles, goshawks and red flicker woodpeckers flying in skies that were once the domain of pterodactyls and archaeopteryx. The ancient sands and limestones that give so much color to the countryside, that's where the rabbits and pronghorn now wander through the seashells left in the sands of an ancient ocean.

Traveling on the dirt road through thick forest with leaves changing color in the fall, along the Red Cloud Loop Scenic Backway
On the Red Cloud Loop

Red Cloud Loop Scenic Backway

This mostly dirt road is accessed from either State Road 121 northwest of Vernal, or US 191 (the Flaming Gorge - Uintas National Scenic Byway section) about 15 miles north of Vernal. This beautiful loop leads through brilliant sandstone canyons and into mixed forests of aspens and conifers interspersed with large meadow areas, all with great views of the High Uinta Mountains.

Indian Canyon Scenic Byway

This Byway crosses the multi-colored terrain between Duchesne and Price, between the Uintah Basin and the San Rafael Swell. This route leads south from the southern edge of the Uintahs above the West Tavaputs Plateau and the Roan Cliffs. This is country filled with colorful, steep rock formations and high country covered by thick stands of conifers and aspen.

Looking out over the treed hills and valleys of the forest in the fall
On the Red Cloud Loop

Sheep Creek Scenic Backway

This scenic backway gives you some breathtaking views of the high-rising, twisted and colorful geologic formations in the Sheep Creek Geological Area, adjacent to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. This incredible area has Flaming Gorge to the north, the High Uintas to the west and Dinosaur National Monument to the east.

 
A typical steep hillside in the foothills of the Uinta Mountains
Ashley National Forest, north of Duchesne

Campgrounds & Other Amenities

Campground District Amenities Season
Antelope Flat Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteBoat launchReservable Mid May to mid Sept - Adjacent to boat ramp. Monthly sites available
Anvil Draw Flaming Gorge Tent camping Mid May to mid Sept
Arch Dam Group Flaming Gorge Group campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Aspen Duchesne Tent campingDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Avintaquin Duchesne Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesPay siteReservable Late May to early Oct
Bridge Roosevelt Tent campingDrinking waterPay site Mid May to early Oct
Browne Lake Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Buckboard Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteBoat launchReservable Mid May to late Sept
Canyon Rim Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterHiking trail accessPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept
Carmel Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Cedar Springs Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteBoat launchReservable Mid April to early Sept
Deep Creek Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Deer Run Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid April to early Sept
Dripping Springs 45' Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterHiking trail accessPay siteReservableHandicapped Access Open with half fee, no services Mid Oct to late March
Dutch John Draw 22' Flaming Gorge Group campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid May to mid Sept
East Park Flaming Gorge Tent campingDrinking waterPay site Mid May to early Sept with water; NF/NW off season
Firefighters Memorial Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservableHandicapped Access Early May to mid Oct
Firehole Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept
Greendale East Group Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to late Sept
Greendale West Family Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to late Sept
Greens Lake Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterHiking trail accessPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept
Green River Camps Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid April to early Oct - Register at Little Hole Picnic Site
Hades Duchesne Tent campingDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Hideout Boat-In Camp Flaming Gorge Tent campingDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept
Holmes Crossing Boat Ramp Flaming Gorge Boat launch Mid May to early Oct
Iron Mine Duchesne Tent campingGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Iron Springs Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept with water; NF/NW off season
Jarvies Canyon Boat-In Flaming Gorge Tent campingGroup campsitesPay site Late May to mid Sept
Kaler Hollow Vernal Tent campingDrinking water Mid may to mid Sept with water, else NF/NW
Kingfisher Island Boat-In Flaming Gorge Tent campingPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Linwood Overlook Flaming Gorge Viewpoint Overlook only
Little Hole Picnic Flaming Gorge Picnic areaFee site Picnic only
Lodgepole Vernal Tent campingDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to late Sept
Lucerne Valley Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Early May to early Oct
Lucerne Group Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Early May to early Oct - Capacity 80, pavilion
Manns Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Miners Gulch Duchesne Tent campingGroup campsitesPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct - No water
Moon Lake Roosevelt Tent campingGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Mustang Ridge Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept
Navajo Cliffs Picnic Area Flaming Gorge Picnic areaFee site Mid May to mid Sept
Oaks Park Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid June to early Sept with water; NF/NW off season
Palisades Picnic Flaming Gorge Picnic area Picnic only
Paradise Park Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Early July to late Sept, no water; NF off season
Pole Creek Lake Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay siteReservable Early July to early Oct
Red Canyon Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterHiking trail accessPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept
Red Springs Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay site Late May to early Oct
Reservoir Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid May to early Oct
Riverview Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid May to early Oct
Sheep Creek Bay Flaming Gorge RV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Skull Creek Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to mid Sept
Spirit Lake Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Stateline Cove Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Swift Creek Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid May to early Oct
Swim Beach Flaming Gorge Tent camping Mid-May to early Sept
Uinta Canyon Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to early Oct
Uinta River Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Upper Stillwater Duchesne Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Wandin Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to early Oct
Whiterocks Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay site Mid May to early Sept with water; NF/NW off season
Willows 40' Flaming Gorge Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesPay site Mid May to mid Sept
Yellow Pine Duchesne Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Yellowstone Roosevelt Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesGroup campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Mid May to early Oct
Colton Guard Station Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Open - Water turned on in June, turned off in Sept.
Paradise Guard Station Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Open - Water turned on in June, turned off in Sept.
Trout Creek Guard Station Vernal Tent campingRV and trailer campsitesDrinking waterPay siteReservable Open - Water turned on in June, turned off in Sept.
Grizzly Ridge Yurt Vernal Hiking trail accessPay siteReservable Open
Limber Flag Yurt Vernal Hiking trail accessPay siteReservable Reservations only
Looking across Naturalist Basin in the high Uintas
Naturalist Basin
Bottom photo courtesy of Flickr userid summitcheese, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License
Sheep Creek Bay photo courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License
Other photos courtesy of the US Forest Service