When Utah State Parks contacted me about a stay at Palisade State Park, I confess that I had to look it up. I am a fan of state parks, and have visited many both inside and outside my home state of Utah, so I was excited to learn more about this fun family park that had somehow eluded me until now.
Palisade State Park is located in central Utah, just five miles south of Manti. Its main attractions are a small reservoir, 18-hole golf course, ATV trails and camping. My husband and daughter had other plans on the dates of this trip, so I took my 8-year-old son, my niece and my parents, and we had a lot of fun!
Here is everything you need to know to make the most of your trip to Palisade State Park.
Palisade Reservoir was our top priority at Palisade State Park. We found a great spot on the sand with a picnic table under a big shade tree and set up our chairs for the day. My son and niece happily played in the water and sand just below us. I found the sand to be quite coarse, and I kept my flip flops on, but it didn't bother the kids at all.
We brought our own kayaks, and I paddled across the reservoir a couple of times. Motorized boats (except electric) are not allowed at Palisade State Park, so it's an excellent place to swim, kayak or paddle board, surrounded only by the sounds of nature and families at play. Paddle boats, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available for rent at the park.
More fun activities
Palisade State Park has an 18-hole desert canyon golf course, which is sure to appeal to many families. We didn't golf, but I was tempted by the Lakeside Grill at the clubhouse, which serves casual fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner for moderate prices.
If you have ATVs you can ride them from your campsite to the trails in Six Mile Canyon, just outside the park entrance. There aren't a lot of hiking trails at Palisade, but you can hike around the reservoir. The far end has nice views of farms in the valley below. Trout fishing is also a popular activity at the reservoir.
The Junior Ranger program kept my son and niece occupied all evening. Pick up a book from the ranger desk at the park entrance, complete the required activities and then return to the ranger desk to be sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive a free souvenir ranger badge. There is also a fun playground for kids near the beach and Arapeen Campground.
Go in July
I visited with a park ranger, and he said that July is the best time of year to enjoy the reservoir at Palisade State Park. If you come much earlier, most of the beach will be covered by water. If you come much later, water levels will be low, and the lake will not be nearly as fun for swimming and boating.
Plan your trip during the week, if you can. Weekends can be crowded. The busiest time of year is during the Mormon Miracle Pageant in late June. It's an evening event in Manti that draws thousands, and according to the ranger, they all spend the day at Palisade. Find dates for the pageant at www.mormonmiracle.org. If you are planning to attend the pageant, arrive early and expect big crowds at Palisade State Park, especially on the weekend.
Palisade State Park has a variety of lodging options to meet your needs, and all of them cost less than an economy hotel room:
- Tent spaces, most on grass
- RV spaces
- Group camping areas
- Tent cabins
- Log cabins, with kitchenettes and heat/air conditioning. Some cabins have private bathrooms.
Reserve your site or cabin up to sixteen weeks in advance at www.reserveamerica.com. Popular sites and dates go fast! There are upright charcoal grills at the camp sites, but no fire pits. You can rent a fire ring from Palisade State Park or bring your own, if it is 16 inches above the ground.
We stayed in one of the new tent cabins, which has one queen bed, one double trundle bed and a futon. Plan to bring your own bedding and towels. Technically, there are beds for six, but the futon looked so narrow that I had my son sleep on the double bed with me instead of putting both kids on the futon.
The tent cabins are spacious, with plenty of room to bring an extra air mattress or cots. The tables and stools all fold, if needed. In the tent cabin next to ours, a grandma stayed with her eight grandchildren, and they only needed one extra air mattress and a porta-crib for everyone to sleep comfortably. What a fun memory for all those cousins!
The tent cabins are new at Palisade State Park, and given the space, convenience and low price, I expect that they will be a popular option for families. However, we found that they were still a little closer to nature than we would have liked. There were two ventilation holes near the ceiling, which we stuffed with towels at night to keep mosquitoes out. We also found a harmless water snake in the corner one afternoon. That was very exciting for a few minutes, and my son ranks it as one of his best memories from the trip. The park is aware of these issues, and I'm sure they will (literally) work out the bugs over time.
There are several sets of bathrooms at Palisade State Park, all with modern plumbing and showers. The bathrooms near the tent cabins at Sanpitch Campground are the oldest, and they are showing their age. The showers are better at the other campgrounds, but otherwise, I found all the bathrooms to be adequate.
One of the things my parents and I agree we liked most about Palisade State Park, is that it truly felt like a vacation. There is enough to keep active kids and adults busy, but there isn't anywhere you have to go, or anything you have to do. My parents and I spent the better part of two days just sitting under a tree together on the beach and it was wonderful!
Good to Know
Where: Five miles south of Manti, Utah, just outside the town of Sterling.
When: Open year round, but most activities are available only during warm weather months
- Day Use – $8 per vehicle, $4 per senior vehicle
- Camping starts at $20 per night
- Check current rates at www.stateparks.utah.gov/parks/palisade/park-fees.
How Long: A few hours to a few days
Amenities: picnic tables, restaurant, modern restrooms, showers, equipment rentals, boat ramp
Disclosure: We were hosted at Palisade State Park by Utah State Parks for the purpose of review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.
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