Camping at Zion National Park
Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah and is known for its stunning red cliffs, canyon hikes, and diverse wildlife. The park covers an area of approximately 229 square miles and is characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries. Zion's unique geography and variety of life zones allow for unusual plant and animal diversity.
Camping in Zion National Park
Zion National Park offers multiple options for camping, from developed campgrounds to wilderness camping.
- Watchman Campground: Located near the park's south entrance, this is a popular camping spot with reservations available six months in advance. It includes tent and electric campsites for RVs.
- South Campground: Also near the south entrance, these sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Amenities include drinking water, picnic tables, toilets, and fire pits.
- Lava Point Campground: This small, primitive campground is located about 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road. It is on a first-come, first-served basis and generally opens from May through September.
Wilderness Camping and Backpacking
- For those looking for a more primitive experience, the park also has designated wilderness campsites which require a permit. These backcountry sites offer a more secluded and immersive outdoor experience, but they also demand better preparation and Leave No Trace practices.
Camping Reservations and Permits
- Reservations: Watchman Campground requires reservations, which can be made up to six months in advance. South Campground is first-come, first-served.
- Wilderness Permits: Backcountry camping requires a wilderness permit that can be obtained at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center or through the park's online reservation system.
- Facilities tend to vary between campgrounds, but generally, you can expect potable water, toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and a limited number of RV sites with electrical hookups (Watchman Campground only).
- There are no showers in the park. However, private campgrounds and businesses in the nearby town of Springdale may offer shower facilities for a fee.
Camping Rules and Regulations
- Fires: Campfires may only be built in provided fire pits or grills and are subject to seasonal restrictions.
- Quiet Hours: Quiet hours typically run from 10 pm to 6 am.
- Food Storage: Proper food and scented item storage is crucial to avoid attracting wildlife. Some sites provide storage lockers, but otherwise, you should store these items in your vehicle.
- Pets: Pets are allowed in the campgrounds but must be on a leash no longer than six feet at all times. They are not allowed on most trails, in public buildings, or on shuttle buses.
Weather and Best Time to Camp
- Spring and Fall: These seasons offer the most pleasant weather for camping and hiking, with daytime temperatures that are usually warm and nights that can be cool.
- Summer: Very hot, with temperatures often exceeding 100°F, which can make camping uncomfortable and hiking dangerous.
- Winter: Cold with occasional snowfall, and some facilities may be closed or limited.
- Hydration: The desert environment can be extremely dry, so carrying and drinking plenty of water is vital.
- Flash Floods: Canyons can be prone to sudden flash floods, especially during summer thunderstorms. Always check weather reports before heading into narrow canyons or slot hikes.
- Wildlife: Although wildlife is typically not a threat to safety, it is important to keep a safe distance from any animals and not feed them.
The most direct route to Zion National Park is via State Route 9 to the park's South Entrance near Springdale, Utah. The nearest major airports are in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah, with both roughly a three-hour drive from the park. Public transportation to the park is limited, so having a personal vehicle is recommended.
Remember to check the National Park Service's official website for Zion National Park for the latest updates on campground status, road conditions, and any other information you might need to plan a successful camping trip.