The Ultimate Guide to Camping at Moonscape Overlook in Utah

Plan a camping trip to the iconic Moonscape Overlook in southern Utah with this guide including directions on how to get there, the best time to visit, and what to pack.

A man and a woman standing on top of a pebble gray Sprinter van at Moonscape Overlook near Hanksville, Utah

If you have ever dreamed of sleeping on the moon, camping at Moonscape Overlook in southern Utah might be the closest thing to it. With a landscape similar to the moon’s lunar surface, you will question if you are still on Earth.

When I planned to head to Utah in my Sprinter Van, I reached out to my friends for dispersed camping recommendations. A fellow van life couple that I follow on Instagram recommended Moonscape Overlook. 

I was intrigued by the name alone, but as soon as I saw pictures of the soft pink skies above the moonlike surface at sunset, I was sold! I knew I had to camp here for at least a night on my Utah road trip.

However, I had a difficult time finding accurate directions on how to get there since the spot is pretty off-grid. This guide aims to cover everything you need to know about camping at Moonscape Overlook, including GPS coordinates, step-by-step driving directions, camping information, and more.

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    What is Moonscape Overlook

    Moonscape Overlook is a free, dispersed camping area near Hanksville, Utah between Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Park. You can drive straight to the overlook and reach it without hiking.

    It does not appear on maps or most free campsite finder apps, so a lot of people haven’t heard of it. Tourists don’t tend to visit unless they have either seen photos of it on social media or heard about it from a friend.

    If you are road-tripping through Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, Moonscape Overlook is definitely worth the stop. It is only about 40 minutes away from Capitol Reef National Park.

    I visited Moonscape Overlook in October 2023. I camped here for a night and headed to Capitol Reef the following day.

    Rock crevices showing the moon-like surface of Moonscape Overlook near Hanksville, Utah
    The moon-like surface that you see when looking over the edge at Moonscape Overlook

    Moonscape Overlook details

    • Appearance: It is a giant overlook where the ground resembles the moon’s surface. The crater-like landscape appears grey and brown. While the surface of the camping area is rocky, the view from the edge shows crevices that resemble lines on the palm of a hand.
    • Safety: The overlook has steep drop-offs with dangerous edges and fragile rock. The cliffs are unstable, so visitors should stay away from the edge, walk slowly, and be extra careful with their footing.
    • Location: This area is off UT-24 when heading west towards Capitol Reef National Park. It is about half an hour from Hanksville, Utah in the same vicinity as a famous rock formation called Factory Butte.
    • Amenities: There are NO amenities including designated campsites, bathrooms, trash cans, or water.
    • Size: The overlook is vast and can accommodate multiple rigs. Though only five other groups were camping when I visited, Moonscape Overlook could likely fit up to 30 campers comfortably at a time.
    • Photo opportunities: Moonscape Overlook is also famous for its iconic photo spot. There is a narrow walkway that leads to a circular rock as outlined further below.
    A sky with an orange horizon line as the sunrise illuminates orange rock formations on the edge of Moonscape Overlook
    The sunrise illuminating the rock formations along the edge of Moonscape Overlook

    How to Get to Moonscape Overlook

    When I tried to look up Moonscape Overlook on Google Maps, nothing came up. I also saw various sets of coordinates listed for the location, and I struggled to find detailed driving directions.

    The hardest part of camping at Moonscape Overlook is finding the spot. These directions will help you navigate the roads and feel confident driving to this epic camping area.

    Ensure you have the proper vehicle

    I recommend taking a 4-wheel drive vehicle to this area. Although I have van life friends who made it in their 2-wheel drive ProMaster van, they felt uneasy and almost turned around several times.

    The roads leading to Moonscape Overlook include gravel, dirt, and even a short stretch of sand. The road is rutted and bumpy for the majority of the drive.

    When driving on the sand, you will straddle the middle of the road to keep your vehicle level. For this reason, I encourage driving a vehicle with high clearance.

    Helpful Tip

    Do I NEED 4×4?

    Ultimately, if the roads are dry and you drive slowly, watch out for large rocks, and have decent clearance, you should be able to make it to Moonscape Overlook in most vehicles without a problem. However, I recommend taking a 4-wheel drive vehicle for extra peace of mind in case you end up needing to use it. This area would be challenging (and expensive!) to get towed out of.

    Once you turn off the main gravel road described in the directions below, the remainder of the roads leading to Moonscape Overlook are narrow dirt roads without a shoulder to pull over. Although the area has limited traffic, pay close attention to oncoming vehicles if you need to squeeze past one another.

    I got into a close call with a work truck coming down the road, but thankfully, there was a part of the road that was a bit wider where I could wait for it to pass.

    Moonscape Overlook GPS coordinates

    Put the following GPS coordinates into your phone while crosschecking the written directions below. You can confirm that your GPS leads you in the right direction and avoid accidentally making wrong turns.

    The coordinates for Moonscape Overlook are 38.45222 N, 110.83806 W. This will lead you to the general camping area, and once you arrive, you can decide where you want to set up camp.

    Moonscape Overlook near Hanksville, Utah at sunset with brown rocks and a mountain in the distance
    Moonscape Overlook is a bit challening to find – use the GPS coordinates above to help navigate / Photo Credit: @nomadxtom

    Directions to Moonscape Overlook

    Since there is no cell service at Moonscape Overlook, print or screenshot the directions below ahead of time. If you are driving from the town of Hanksville, it is about a 30-minute drive.

    • From Hanksville, take UT-24 west for 10.6 miles.
    • Turn right onto Coal Mine Road/N Factory Butte Road. This road is a wide gravel road that gets bumpier the further you drive. You will stay on this road for 5.6 miles.
    • Turn right onto a road with a stick numbered 0913 (Skyline View Road). At this turn, you will likely question if you can make it with 2-wheel drive (as mentioned above, you can). This stretch also includes the section of the road that is sandy.
    • Continue driving until you reach a fork in the road. Turn left at the fork.
    • Drive a bit further until you reach another stick numbered 1552. This stick marks the dirt road to reach Moonscape Overlook.
    • Pull in at the small turn-off. I recommend parking somewhere momentarily and walking around a bit to scope the area before choosing a campsite. You will immediately feel like you have arrived on the moon!

    Best Time to Visit Moonscape Overlook

    Similar to camping in other areas of Utah, the best times to visit Moonscape Overlook for ideal camping conditions are late spring and early fall. If you camp here in the fall as I did, check out these essential fall camping tips to help you plan your trip.

    Winter conditions

    In winter, the roads can become wet and muddy, which increases the risk of getting stuck. And without cell service, you don’t want to get yourself into a pickle.

    The temperatures during winter months can fall below freezing at night. This results in chilly camping conditions, especially for tent camping.

    Summer conditions

    In the summer, temperatures at Moonscape Overlook can reach over 100°F during the day and there is no shade. These high temps can make for uncomfortably warm conditions while hanging out at your campsite during the day.

    There is also a risk of afternoon thunderstorms in the late summer months. If you visit in summer, make sure to bring a shade structure or awning like the Moonshade (save $40 with code BEARFOOTTHEORY).

    Helpful Tip

    Best time of day to visit

    In my opinion, the best time of day to visit Moonscape Overlook is sunset. I camped overnight and watched both sunset and sunrise. I prefer the golden light of sunset with the soft shades of pink and orange tones across the sky. Some may argue that sunrise is better. Watching the tiny orange ball of the sun rise above the horizon line is beautiful in its own right. You cannot go wrong either way and if you choose to camp here, I recommend watching both sunset and sunrise!

    Sunrise at Moonscape Overlook near Hanksville, Utah. An orange sun is rising just above the horizon line.
    The orange sun rising above the horizon line at Moonscape Overlook

    Camping at Moonscape Overlook

    If you are camping at Moonscape Overlook, here are some important things to note before you arrive. You will want to go into this remote camping area with realistic expectations and the proper camping gear.

    IMPORTANT: Keep a close eye on your children and pets at all times if you take them camping at Moonscape Overlook. The overlook has no ropes or structures in place to protect visitors from getting too close to the edge, and a fall could be fatal.

    Moonscape Overlook camping information

    • Moonscape Overlook is a dispersed camping area. You cannot reserve spots, and there are no designated campsites (though people have arranged stones into fire pits). Spots are first come, first pick. However, there is no such thing as a bad spot here in my opinion!
    • There are spots both near and away from the edge. If you are unafraid of heights or drop-offs, you can camp closer to the edge with views overlooking the valley below. Remember not to get too close, though, as the rock is more fragile than it looks. There are also plenty of spots away from the edge where you can set up camp.
    • It is NOT big-rig friendly. When I camped here, about five other groups were camping, too. There was a mix of tents, campers, and vans. I did not see any RVs or other big rigs, and I think the road could be challenging to maneuver for larger rigs.
    • There is no water. You must bring enough water to last however long you plan to stay. I recommend at least a gallon of water per person per day. Bring even more water if you choose to have a safe campfire and leave no trace.
    • Bring entertainment. If you plan to hang out here during the day, you may want to bring some entertainment and camping games to play on the road. Other than admiring the views and taking photos, there is not much to do at Moonscape Overlook.
    • Bring your own trash and bathroom supplies. There are no garbage facilities here, so bring trash bags. You will need to be prepared to pee and poop outdoors and leave no trace. Bring a trowel and pack out toilet paper.
    Female wearing an orange rain jacket and a white beanie looking out at the horizon at Moonscape Overlook in Utah
    Enjoying early sunrise views in my warm layers / Photo Credit: @nomadxtom

    Moonscape Overlook Photography

    With my husband being a professional photographer, camping at Moonscape Overlook was a dream come true for him to capture some breathtaking images. The spot has 360 views and many places to set up a tripod for time lapses of the sunset or sunrise.

    Be extremely careful of your footing and avoid walking on the edge of the overlook while taking photos. Sadly, people have died while taking photos at Moonscape Overlook due to the rock crumbling beneath them. Remember, the perfect photo is not worth your life!

    Famous Moonscape Overlook Photo Spot

    There is an iconic photo spot where many people pose at Moonscape Overlook that is popular on social media. While camping here, I saw many people drive up the road for the sole purpose of snapping a few photos of their partner, friend, or family member at this spot.

    This famous Moonscape Overlook photo spot is near the far right corner when you drive into the camping area. It is a narrow walkway leading to a flat rock which you can climb and stand on for a photo. There are steep drop-offs along the walkway as well as on top of the rock.

    I do not recommend taking a photo here if you have poor balance, vertigo, or experience fear of heights, edges, or drop-offs. I am usually okay with all of these, but I experienced slight vertigo and felt dizzy when I stood on the flat rock at the end. I also do not recommend allowing children to walk to this photo spot.

    Female wearing an orange hat, white shirt, and black leggings standing on a rock above Moonscape Overlook near Hanksville, Utah at sunset
    Striking a pose at the iconic photo spot at Moonscape Overlook / Photo Credit: @nomadxtom
    Helpful Tip

    Wear shoes with good traction

    If you choose to walk out to this famous photo spot, be extremely careful and wear grippy hiking shoes with good traction to avoid slipping. There is loose rock scree and random gusts of wind, so you will want to make sure you are covered in these conditions.

    Drones at Moonscape Overlook

    It is legal to fly your drone at Moonscape Overlook. Drones are a way to get some incredible aerial shots from a bird’s eye view of this unique landscape.

    Here are some tips to keep in mind if you plan to fly your drone here.

    • Check weather conditions: This dispersed camping area is extremely windy. Make sure the winds and forecasted weather are safe for flying.
    • Watch out for other drones: I saw many people drive to Moonscape Overlook for sunset to fly their drones, and at one point, there were five different drones in the sky at once. Keep your eye out for other drones flying near yours to avoid a collision.
    • Be respectful of other campers: Avoid flying your drone over the other peoples’ campsites, and limit the amount of time you fly. Not everyone is super keen on the sound or view of drones in the sky.
    • Slow down and think logically: It can be easy to get caught up in the beauty of places like this and make careless mistakes. For example, I saw someone forget their drone along the edge. Take your time and think safely about where you stand, fly, and place your gear.
    Pink and orange clouds in the sky above rock features at Moonscape Overlook during sunset
    A drone in the sky capturing the sunset over rock formations at Moonscape Overlook

    Tips for Visiting Moonscape Overlook

    When dispersed camping, it is crucial to research and plan for your safety before spontaneously hitting the road. If you plan to camp at Moonscape Overlook, here are some tips to help you have the best experience possible.

    • Avoid walking too close to the edge. I’ll repeat, the rocks along the edge of the overlook are not as stable as they might appear. Be extremely careful of where you step, and take photos from a safe distance.
    • Prepare for no cell service. Unless you have a way to get Wi-Fi on the road, you will not have access to the internet or the ability to make calls while camping at Moonscape Overlook. Save the directions on how to leave Moonscape Overlook since your phone will not have service to load directions on your way out. Also, tell someone where you are camping and when you expect to return.
    • Bring written directions. Although you may think the GPS coordinates are good enough, your device may lead you astray. It is easy to accidentally close out of the map or take a wrong turn, and since there is no cell service, your device may not recalculate to the correct route. I recommend printing the written directions in this article or screenshotting them on your phone. It is crucial to not rely solely on your device when heading to a remote area and to double-check that your GPS leads you in the right direction.
    • Check the forecast to avoid getting stuck. If it has rained recently, the ground may become soft and wet. The muddy ground could lead to your vehicle becoming stuck on the road. You also want to check if it will rain during your time camping there. Since this is an exposed area with no shelter whatsoever, it is dangerous to camp at Moonscape Overlook when there are thunderstorms. A flash flood could make the roads impassable, leaving you stranded.
    • Prepare for crowds. Some people assume that dispersed camping areas mean no crowds. While this may be true in some areas, Moonscape Overlook is becoming popular for dispersed camping. There will likely be other people here camping and taking photos. If you want to have your first choice of a camping spot, arrive on a weekday and get there early. During sunrise and sunset at the iconic photo spot, then expect to take turns with others. Be kind and practice patience.
    • Pack the essentials. As mentioned, this spot is off-grid. Pack all of your camping essentials, including a first aid kit. You will also want to bring emergency supplies for your vehicle, including a spare tire and jumper cables. Use the packing list below to help you remember to bring these items on your camping trip.
    • Be careful with kids. If you plan to camp with your kids, I’m not sure I’d recommend this spot due to the cliffs. You’d have to be extremely careful to make sure they don’t wander near the edge.
    People standing with tripods near the edge of Moonscape Overlook near Hanksville, Utah
    Many people drive to Moonscape Overlook to photograph it at sunrise and sunset

    Things to See Near Moonscape Overlook

    Although camping at Moonscape Overlook is the main attraction, you can check out other interesting formations nearby. Below are a couple of spots I recommend exploring if you have time.

    Factory Butte

    On your way in and out of Moonscape Overlook, you will see a giant rock formation in the opposite direction called Factory Butte. Like Moonscape Overlook, Factory Butte is located in an area called the Factory Bench Mesa.

    • Appearance: This geologic formation is made of clay and silt mudstone and stands over 6,000 feet tall. It is a monolith surrounded by a lunar landscape, making it another unique feature to photograph.
    • History: It used to be home to coal miners. It is now a widely known attraction for visitors to stop and admire. Although it is well-known, there are rarely crowds of people here as it is off the beaten path.
    • Directions: You can see this formation when driving on Coal Mine Road/N Factory Butte Road. When heading towards Moonscape Overlook, you will see it on your left after driving for 10 minutes. 
    • Driving Conditions: To drive closer to check it out, you can take a dirt road that leads to the formation. However, you will have to cross some water bars in your vehicle.
    • Coordinates: The coordinates for Factory Butte are 38.4369 N, 110.9135 W.
    Factory Butte, a monolith gray rock formation in Utah with a blue sky in the background
    The Factory Butte monolith down the road from Moonscape Overlook

    Bentonite Hills

    If you are leaving Moonscape Overlook to drive to Capitol Reef National Park, there is a stop along the way called the Bentonite Hills. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to drive from the top of Moonscape Overlook to the Bentonite Hills.

    Although my Sprinter Van has 4-wheel drive, the dirt road leading here looked extremely narrow and out of my comfort zone. As soon as I saw it, I changed my mind about visiting and continued towards Capitol Reef.

    However, if you are used to driving narrow 4×4 roads and have a smaller vehicle, I have heard it is worth a stop.

    • Appearance: The Bentonite Hills are colorful mounds of Bentonite clay with rings of purple, orange, red, and green around them. You may have seen photos of this iconic spot on social media. This is also an excellent location to capture interesting drone shots.
    • History: The hills are made of mud, silt, sand, and volcanic ash and have existed since the Jurassic times.
    • Directions: No hiking trails lead to the Bentonite Hills. If you want to visit, you must drive and take Hartnet Road, which requires a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle.
    • Driving Conditions: Check the weather conditions before you head to this spot. When the dirt roads leading to the Bentonite Hills become wet, they can be impassable.
    • Coordinates: The coordinates for the Bentonite Hills are 38.3601 N, 111.1283 W.
    Helpful Tip

    Limit your steps

    Once you arrive, be careful not to step on the surface, as it is fragile and easily damaged. There are footprints and tire tracks in the area that will take years to fade. To preserve this special place for years to come, avoid walking around unnecessarily.

    Orange and white mounds of the Bentonite Hills in Utah
    Orange and white rings on the mounds of the Bentonite Hills

    Moonscape Overlook Packing List

    These are some of the items you will want to bring with you when camping at Moonscape Overlook. For a complete list, check out these car camping essentials.

    • Printed directions, a compass, and a map in case you become lost without cell service.
    • At least 1 gallon of water per person per day
    • Grippy hiking boots or shoes. There is loose rock scree all around Moonscape Overlook. It is important to have good traction when walking around the edge, especially if you plan to walk out to the iconic photo spot.
    • Insulated puff jacket and a warm beanie. The evenings and early mornings are cold almost year-round.
    • Windbreaker or rain jacket. Since Moonscape Overlook is exposed, it is often quite windy. This layer can help keep you warm during the day and dry if it storms.
    • A sun hat such as the Wallaroo Sedona Hat (BFT readers get 20% off with the code “BEARFOOT20”).
    • Sunscreen and sunglasses to wear while being outside during the day. The exposed area has no trees or shade.
    • Camera and drone if you plan to take photos and videos (which I highly recommend).
    • Warm sleeping bag to use in your car or tent. It gets cold at night!
    • Sleeping pad if you are tent camping. The ground here is rough and rocky.
    • First aid kit in case of emergency!
    • Trowel and toilet paper (remember to pack out your TP)
    • Stove or camping pots and pans along with a lighter or matches for cooking
    • Headlamp to see at night
    A crescent moon in a blue sky with pink and orange clouds during sunset at Moonscape Overlook
    A crescent moon in the sky during sunset at Moonscape Overlook
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    Would you like to camp on Moonscape Overlook? If you’ve visited previously, I’d love to hear your stories and tips for others in the comments!

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