As an avid solo-camper and an older woman who travels in caravans with friends and sometimes with family, I appreciate the beauty, solitude, and diversity of all of the Zion National Park camping options, both inside and outside the park. Given a choice however, I prefer to stay inside the park when I can snag a campsite. When I can’t, there are still fantastic campsites around and outside Zion National park, many of whom are world renowned for their fishing and free boondocking sites.
Zion National Park attracts more than four million visitors every year. I go for the camping and fishing, and the variety of hiking trails, and of course the views. Whenever possible I stay at one of the three campgrounds located in the park. When I can’t get into the park, I stay at one of the half-dozen commercial, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), or conservation area campgrounds located outside the park. The truth is, there is no “bad” camping in Utah.
Related Article – Joshua Tree National Park
Zion National Park Camping Options – In And Around The Park
While the other four nearby National Parks; Canyonlands, Arches, Capital Reef, and Bryce Canyon parks have their own attractions and campsites, Zion National Park camping is ranked by most visitors as the number one National Park to camp in – and for good reason – primarily the views and the quality of the sites. Those who are lucky enough to camp inside Zion find themselves making extra special memories as the National Park Campgrounds are generously sized sites for families, groups, and even singles.
If you’re into trail bike riding, hiking, photography, bird watching, or fishing, like my friends and I are, you’re going to find everything you want and love in the park, and a lot of trails and places outside the park as well. You won’t suffer from a lack of things to do. Let me put it that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re a couch potato looking to kick back at your site all day, every day and play cards, or leave at dawn, return at dusk exhausted from exploring. There are campsites to meet your every need.
Location, Location, Location…
There are only three campgrounds inside for Zion National Park camping – South Campground, Watchman Campground, and Lava Point Campground, but a half-dozen campgrounds outside the park. And while the park is open year-round, with the exception of Willow Wind Campground, most campgrounds are only open from March to November.
That’s the good news about camping near Zion National Park. The bad news is, when the campgrounds are open, they all fill up fast. Plan on making reservations or arriving early in the day (think 5 a.m.!) so you can grab a spot if it’s available. From mid-March through November every campground inside the park is almost full – meaning you’ll need to explore any of the half-dozen private campgrounds around the park.
Zion National Park Camping Basics
All Zion National Park camping sites are drive-up and allow a maximum of two vehicles, only one of which can be an RV or trailer. The term RV includes motorhomes, cab over campers and camper vans. If you’re towing a trailer including 5th wheels, pop-up campers, or cargo or boat trailers, they count as a vehicle, whether they’re drivable or not. If you have more than two vehicles, there is overflow parking for excess vehicles.
Each campsite allows a maximum of six people and three tents; so, plan accordingly. Hammocks are allowed but are limited to the footprint of the campsite. Check out time at all three campgrounds is 11:00 a.m.
Seasons & Amenities
Camping season begins in March and runs through mid-November, the park-wide camping limit is 14 nights. An additional 30 nights is permitted the rest of the year. These limits apply to all park campgrounds.
Springtime in Zion National Parks can make for some of the most memorable and experiences in the state. It’s beautiful, often cool to warm, but in the summer, temperatures in the Park often exceed 100°F/38°C. The further you get into the summer season, the more fickle and dangerous the temperatures, and the weather can get. For instance, from mid-July into late September, Zion experiences monsoons that can produce more lightning, and lead to an increased risk of flash floods. If you’re camping or hiking during this time, pick a spot you can retreat to if you experience rising waters.
The comfort stations in each campground provide flush toilets, cold running drinkable water, and trash containers, but there are no showers or electrical outlets. Bring your solar panels, generators, or fully charged batteries if you expect to need power.
Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit with attached grill. Quiet hours are 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Pets are allowed on a leash no longer than six feet. Hiking in the park with pets is allowed only on the roads and the Pa’rus Trail.
Both the South Campground Watchman Campground are close to Springdale, a small town outside the park. You can find a small market, pay showers, a laundromat, firewood and a limited medical clinic in Springdale. If you get tired of cooking over a fire, or it’s too hot to cook inside or outside your rig, there are also restaurants in Springdale. If you camp outside the park you can drive, walk, bike or take the free shuttle to Springdale from the South or Watchman campgrounds. The shuttle runs from March through November, weather conditions willing.
South Campground – Zion National Park Camping
Open: From March 1 through mid- November
Cost: Camp Sites Starting At
Reservations: Available here www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777
For the first time in the campground’s history, beginning on March 1, 2018 campsites at the South Campground may be had by reservation. You can make your reservations up to two weeks prior to your arrival date. Reservations are strongly suggested–the campground is full every night during the reservation season.
You’ll find great camping at any of the three Zion National Park campgrounds, but I have to say, South Campground is my absolute favorite place to camp in Zion. Utah gets hot in the summer and while tarps help keep the heat down, you can’t beat the large, leafy trees for natural shade. Unless you like Zion National Park camping on top of strangers, you’ll also love the campsite placement. Campsites at South Campground are large, letting you spread out and enjoy your space. They’re placed far enough away from each other that you don’t feel crowded. If you like views, this campground has them. The grassy areas and trees tell you you’re out in nature, but the spectacular views of the cliff walls rising behind the campground aren’t found anywhere else in the country.
One of the best advantages to staying in South Campground is you’re inside the park, so you don’t get caught in the long lines to get into the park in the morning.
Things To Remember:
- There are no hookups at South Campground
- Offers 17 sites with a maximum of one camper or RV, or three tents and up to six people
- There are an additional four group sites, each of which allows up to 15 people at each site
- Dump stations and potable water are available.
- The only facilities are flush toilets
South Campground Reservation Policy
Reservations for campsites at South Campground may be made two weeks prior to your arrival date online at www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.
Watchman Campground – Zion National Park Camping
Open: From March 1 through mid- November
Cost: Camp Sites Starting At
Reservations: Available here www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777
While South Campground is my favorite camping spot inside the park, during certain times of the year Watchman Campground can steal my heart. It has fewer trees, so it’s better option in the Spring or Fall, abut I assure you, you won’t go home unhappy if this was the only camping spot available any time of the year! Most, if not all of the 164 are located in full sun, so bring your tarps and make sure your RV’s awning is in good order.
The good news about the Watchman Campground is it’s much larger than either Lava Point, or South Campground. With 95 of the 164 sites offering electrical hookups, you can run your air-conditioner when temps climb over 100F.
Sixty-nine of the campground’s sites are tents only, including 18-walk in tent sites. There are six group sites which can accommodate between 9 and 40 people.
Watchman Campground Reservation Policy
Reservations for campsites at Watchman Campground may be made two weeks prior to your arrival date online at www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.
Lava Point Campground – Zion National Park Camping
Open: May through September, conditions allowing
Reservations: No reservations. First come, first served
Lava Point Campground is typically open a month later than the other two campgrounds because of its higher elevation. Situated at 7890 feet above sea level, it’s off the Kolob Terrace Road, 25 miles (approximately 45 minutes) north of the town of Virgin. Expect to drive at least one hour and 20 minutes or more, depending on traffic and weather conditions, to reach the campground from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.
Lava Point is a cozy, but primitive campground, with only six first-come-first-served primitive campsites available. You will have access to pit toilets and trash cans, but there is no water. Vehicles longer than 19 feet are not permitted on the road to the campground.
During the Spring and Fall, weather conditions can change rapidly along the Kolob Terrace Road that leads to the Lava Point Campground. Check here for Road Conditions.
Lava Point Campground Reservation Policy
Lava Point is a first come, first serve campground with no reservation policies.
Camping Near Zion National Park
You know what’s coming. Peak demand for camping begins almost as soon as the campgrounds open – from March to September. With more than four million visitors to Zion National Park each year, and less than a total of 300 camping spots inside the park, not everyone is going to find camping inside the gates for Zion National Park camping. The good news is, you can still go camping near Zion National Park and have a great outdoor experience as well.
There are more than a half-dozen parks outside the park, and within a few minutes to under an hour of driving time to the park, or to parking and the park’s shuttle system. Zion National Park camping is abundant, it’s often nearly as beautiful as the campgrounds inside the park, and often free.
Gooseberry Mesa – Camping Near Zion National Park
If you have 4-wheel drive, an adventuresome spirit, and a love for gorgeous boondocking spots, Gooseberry Mesa is your site. This site is very, very popular with trail bike riders as the Mesa is a world-class riding trail. There are two access points to the site. Gooseberry Proper is one access road to the site. It involves one somewhat steep and rough stretch and requires getting through a narrow cattle guard unsuitable for larger RV’s, but if you the drive, rig, and desire it’s totally worth the trek.
If you have a GPS unit, program it for 37.123895, -113.110206. This will take you to a short, easily negotiated double-track off the graded road to Gooseberry Mesa to an area where there is room for multiple rigs of all sizes. You may not be in the park, but the views of Zion National Park from the site are breathtaking.
Gooseberry Mesa Reservation Policy
Gooseberry Mesa is a “first come, first serve” campground with no reservation policies.
Willow Wind RV Park – Camping Near Zion National Park
Open: Year-round with average temperatures of 54F to 98F from May through September
Cost: $40 and up depending on rig, site, discounts, occupancy
Willow Wind RV Park is only 23 miles from being inside Zion National Park camping. With 177 paved, level sites, including pull through sites, a laundry, restrooms and showers, and even a fitness center, Willow Wind is one of the more amenity heavy campgrounds around Zion. They offer tent and teepee camping as well as RV sites.
Willow Wind RV Park Reservation Policy
Willow Wind RV Park accepts reservations up to a year in advance and suggests reserving well in advance if you’re planning to be there for any holiday. Contact Willow Wind for more information and details about their reservation policies here.
Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort – Camping Near Zion National Park
If you can’t get a spot inside the park for some Zion National Park camping, or you’re not into primitive camping at all, the next best thing is camping outside the park. Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort is located outside the park’s south gate in the town of Springdale. While the sites are closer together than the sites inside the national park, the tradeoff is there are more trees, more shade, and you’re within walking distance of the Zion National Park Visitor Center.
The campground has a spacious area for RVs and a section reserved for tents, as well as overflow parking. Large deciduous trees offer some shade, although you’ll welcome the hookups and electricity to run your air-conditioning. Zion Campground adjoins the Quality Inn and is part of the same operation. On-site is a heated pool, coin laundry, and showers. From the front desk, you can get information on river tubing and swimming, as well as other activities in the area.
Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort Reservation Policy
Book your campsite in advance. Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort doesn’t accept same day reservations. Confirmations for any reservation can take up to 72-hours. You can learn more here.
Zion River Resort – Camping Near Zion National Park
Pay attention to the “resort” in the name of this campground. That’s exactly what you get – a wonderful resort experience. If you’re not into primitive, rustic, or boon docking, this is the campground for you! Popular with all ages, this campground has manicured grounds, a playground, a number of shady sites that keep that hot summer sun off of your rig, and paved parking pads, fire pits, and even well-maintained lawns at each site.
There are full hook-ups as well as tent sites. All campers have access to Wi-Fi, showers, restrooms and even special pet areas. If you want to visit Zion, but prefer to leave your rig in the campground, for a small fee the resort offers a shuttle to the park. There’s also an onsite pool, a sauna, and a laundry facility.
There’s more, but you’ll need to visit their website here to get the details of the long, long list of amenities they offer.
Zion River Resort Reservation Policy
Attention Pet Owners: The National Park Service will not allow pets on the shuttle buses into Zion National Park. Therefore, NO PETS are allowed in our tent sites, camper cabins, or people traveling with tent trailers. Motorhomes and hard-sided travel trailers, with air conditioning, are allowed a MAXIMUM of two dogs. NO Pit Bulls, Chows or Rottweilers are allowed in our Park.
Zion National Park Transportation Options
Open: All week from mid-March through November
The Zion National Park Shuttle Service makes camping outside the park easier for park visitors. By coordinating shuttle services with the town of Springdale. Simply park in Springdale and ride the free shuttle to the pedestrian entrance of the park, the closest stop to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.
The Zion Canyon Scenic is only accessible by shuttle bus. The service is free, and the buses are wheelchair accessible. Don’t worry about your gear. The shuttles all have room for almost anything you want to bring with you, including bikes, backpacks, and climbing gear.
Once you’re actually in Zion Canyon feel free to get on and off the shuttle as often as you want, space permitting. Sorry, only service dogs are permitted on the shuttle. Check with the visitor’s center for exact times and a map.
Fees and Advisories
The shuttle service is free, but you’re going to have to pay some fees for other services and passes. First of all, you’re going to have a pay an entry fee, even if you have a campground reservation inside the park. All park visitors are required to purchase a recreational use pass upon entering Zion National Park. Passes are non-transferable. Credit Cards accepted at all fee collection areas.
Weekly passes are non-transferable and are valid for 7 consecutive days including the date of purchase. Weekly passes may be upgraded to annual passes within 7 days of purchase.
Private Vehicle: $30. Valid for 7 days.
Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas.
Motorcycle: $25. Valid for 7 days.
Admits one non-commercial motorcycle to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas.
Per Person: $15. Valid for 7 days.
Admits one individual with no car to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Typically used for bicyclists, hikers and pedestrians. Youth 15 and under are admitted free.
Non-Commercial Organized Groups: Valid for 7 days.
Organized groups such as Scouts, Rotary, Clubs, Youth Groups, Churches, Reunions, etc. that do not qualify for an Academic Fee Waiver are charged as follows:
$30.00 Non-commercial vehicles with a vehicle capacity of 15 or less.
$15.00 per person Non-commercial vehicles with a capacity of 16 or greater. Fees will not exceed the commercial fee for the same-sized vehicle. Youth 15 and under are free.
Individuals or families with any valid Annual or Lifetime pass may use their pass for entry at the per person rate. Pass and photo ID must be present upon entry.