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Ultimate Guide for Camping in Zion National Park

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Zion National Park is one of the most popular camping destinations in the United States. The park is located in southwestern Utah and is known for its red cliffs, canyons, and rivers. 

Zion National Park has something for everyone—whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or a leisurely stroll. There are a variety of camping options available in the park, from backcountry sites to developed campgrounds. 

The best time to camp in Zion National Park is in the spring or fall, when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller. However, camping is possible year-round if you’re prepared for the weather conditions. 

In this guide, I’ll give you all the information you need to know about camping in Zion National Park, from the best time to go to what to pack.

Ultimate Guide for Camping in Zion National Park

The best time to go camping in Zion National Park

Zion National Park attracts a large number of visitors, especially from March to October so it’s the best time to go camping. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit, with pleasant temperatures and a greater chance of seeing wildlife.

Summers can be extremely hot, and there is a high risk of flash flooding in some areas. In the winter, it may snow. As a result of the park’s various elevations, the climate is quite diverse.

So, if possible, go during the mid-seasons. I recommend going there at the end of August, and it was so hot that I had to cover myself with a scarf while hiking.

10 best Zion National Park camping areas

The most popular camping area is near South Gate. This is the area closest to the park’s main attractions and contains the two main Zion National Park campgrounds. The town of Springdale, which is just outside the gate, has RV parks.

Without a doubt, the South Campground is the best place to camp in Zion. The large, leafy trees provide some shade from the midday sun. The campsites are large and well-spaced, and the cliff faces in the back remind you that you are in one of the Southwest’s most spectacular landscapes.

Conveniently located near the south entrance, just outside of Springdale, this campground offers the advantage of being in the park but close enough to town that you can run out and pick up whatever you may have forgotten in the park in the morning.

This campground is open from March 1 to the end of November, and reservations are recommended. Reservations are available up to 14 days prior to your arrival.

The campground has no hookups, but there is a dump station and drinking water. Facilities consist of flush toilets. The south campground has 117 sites, and each site is allowed a maximum of one motorhome or camper, or two tents, and up to six people. Four group sites, allowing up to 15 people each, are available.

Zion Canyon Campground – Springdale, UT

Springdale’s only campground and private RV park, Zion Canyon Campground, offers a variety of amenities. Full hookup sites for motorhomes are available, as are standard and riverfront tent sites. Pets are permitted at up to two per motorhome site, but not at tent sites. There are 131 motorized RV sites and 15 tent sites in total.

South Campground – Springdale, UT

If you want to camp inside Zion National Park, there are several options, including the South Campground. This campground is half a mile from Springdale’s south entrance and close to the visitor center.

There are 117 total campsites at this campground, but none have electrical hookups. Some sites are only available for tents and do not require an appointment. The South Campground is open all year and provides seasonal drinking water as well as a dump station.

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Lava Point Campground – Virgin, UT

Lava Point Campground is another campground within Zion National Park that is usually only open between May and September. It is located off Kolob Terrace Road, 25 minutes north of Virgin, Utah, at 7,890 feet above sea level.

This campground is about an hour and 20 minutes’ drive from the south entrance of Zion Canyon. However, once you arrive, there are six primitive campsites available for reservation.

Watchman Campground – Springdale, UT

Watchman Campground is a popular choice for Zion visitors because it has electric hookups for motorhomes. There are a total of 176 campsites here, with 95 having electric hookups, 65 for motorhomes only, and 69 for tents only. This convenient campground is directly across from the visitor center and a quarter mile from the park’s south entrance.

Zion Crest Campground and RV Park – Springdale, UT

When you book a campsite at Zion Crest Campground & RV Park, you’ll be just outside the park’s eastern boundary. This campground is part of the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, which also has restaurants and recreational opportunities.

The campground itself has RV and tent camping options, as well as bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. The RV area offers full hookups as well as return sites with space for multiple slides.

Zion Wildflower Resort – Virgin, Utah

If you don’t want to rough it and prefer a glamping experience near Zion, consider Zion Wildflower Resort. This one-of-a-kind property provides luxurious glamping accommodations such as feather beds, modern bathrooms, and air conditioning.

Stay in a romantic canvas tent, a pioneer-style boxcar, or a private bungalow with all the amenities of a hotel room. On-site entertainment options include hammocks and garden games.

Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground – Virgin, UT

Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground is another nearby option, offering RV sites and cabins just minutes from Zion National Park. It is located along the Virgin River and provides easy access to nature. It’s a resort for families with a pool, clubhouse, gazebo kitchen, and playground.

It hosts fun events all year and has many amenities such as a business center, free internet, a charcoal grill with tables, and a big screen TV with recent movies.

Zion Wright Family Ranch – Virgin, UT

You can get off the beaten path and find a quiet place to wake up in southern Utah at Zion Wright Family Ranch. Camping and horseback riding are available at this family-owned campground, which has been in the family for six generations. Horseback riding is an unforgettable experience for people of all ages and abilities.

The campground is only 30 minutes from Zion National Park, so you’ll be away from the crowds while still being close to everything. If you don’t want to rough it, you can also glamp in a fully equipped yurt or rent a camper.

Terrain de camping Hi-Road – Mount Carmel Junction, UT

Hi-Road Campground, which offers tiny 400-square-foot cabins with high-end amenities, is another campground that offers glamping options. The facility is less than a mile from Zion National Park’s east entrance.

There are 20 cabins in total, with rates starting at $175 per night. Air conditioning, Wi-Fi, microwaves, full bathrooms, and beds are among the amenities provided in these rustic but luxurious cabins. Pets are permitted in some cabins.

Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort – Orderville, UT

Camping, jeep tours, canyoneering, hiking, and horseback riding are all popular activities at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.

It’s on the east side of Zion National Park and has eight different lodging options, including cabin suites, vacation homes, glamping, deluxe glamping, Conestoga wagons, cowboy cabins, RV camping, and tent camping. When you stay here, you can easily book tours to see the best of the Zion area.

If you plan to visit Utah, you should not miss out on visiting Zion National Park! It is one of the five state parks in this group known as the Mighty Five, and you will see why. 

Utah is a semi-desert region known for its red sandstone, which has been shaped by erosion to form spectacular rock formations such as the deep canyons dug by the Virgin River in Zion.

Must-have items for your Zion National Park camping trip

Must-have Camping Gear

  • Tent with mallet and sardines
  • Waterproof ground sheet
  • Sleeping bag
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Light towel
  • Soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Swiss Army knife (with screwdriver, saw and scissors)
  • First aid kit
  • Garbage bags
  • comfy camping chair

Camping equipment for the tent

  • Tent with mallet and sardines
  • Spare canvas for tent
  • Mosquito net
  • Squeegee to dig a gutter around the tent in case of rain
  • Waterproofing spray
  • Tent repair kit
  • Hanging lamp
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Windscreen
  • Padlock

The basic food

  • Salt / Pepper / Herbs / Spices
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Tea and coffee
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa powder
  • Milk
  • Pasta and rice
  • Canned goods
  • Mustard
  • Dry cookies
  • Crackers
  • Water

Tips for a great camping trip in Zion National Park

Camping is the enjoyment of discovering simple things and embarking on an adventure without having to travel far from home. However, if you haven’t properly prepared your camping equipment and some essentials are missing, it can quickly turn into a nightmare. 

If you are well prepared with your luggage, bag, and camping essentials to put in your backpack or trunk, you will have peace of mind and avoid disappointment on the way or once you arrive.

Even if you want to travel light, having a minimal set of tools, accessories, and utensils is necessary for camping with peace of mind. Check off the camping equipment checklist before you leave. It will provide you with everything you require.

Zion National Park’s Top Attractions 

Terrace Kolob

The location of the famous metro hike, Kolob Terrace, is accessible from Highway 9 via Kolob Terrace Road just after passing through the small town of Virgin.

Most of the hiking trails in this area are longer backcountry hikes best suited for more advanced hikers with orienteering skills. The scenic route is a breathtaking experience, especially during the fall colors when the aspens turn gold.

Kolob Canyons

Because of the shape of the canyons, which resemble a colossal hand dragging through the area and leaving canyons carved behind the fingers, this upper section of Zion is sometimes referred to as Kolob’s Fingers. Exit 40 of Interstate 15 leads to this collection of short canyons.

Highlights of this section of Zion include the Kolob Arch and the scenic lookout at the end of the road. Stop at the small visitor center near the entrance to buy or show your park pass and ask the rangers any questions you have.

Sion / Canyon principal

Finally, highway 9 east of St. George leads to the park’s main and most popular section. Because of its popularity, this section of the park is the only one that has a shuttle to accommodate more visitors at once.

The main canyon contains two of the most popular hikes in the country (Angels Landing and The Narrows), as well as many other incredible trails. The visitor center and museum offer detailed information about the area and the history of Zion National Park.

FAQs about Camping in Zion National Park

How to avoid getting lost while hiking in Zion National Park? Tips for wildlife encounters while camping in Zion National Park

Simply daydreaming, lovingly observing nature, and ignoring the markers is enough to get lost. And when we get lost in nature, we all panic.

In this article, I’ll show you what to do if this happens to you so you can get back on track without stress.

The first mistake many people make when they get lost is panicking. To say that this is it, they will never find their family and they will have to survive in the wild for several years before being eaten by a bear.

And I can understand it. It is not easy to think otherwise. And yet, that’s what you have to do. Not to panic is the first thing to do when you are lost in the wilderness.

You can find many stories on the internet of people who got lost and, out of panic, did not analyze the situation and preferred to keep walking, thinking that they would eventually find their way back.

By panicking, you will in fact persuade yourself to continue walking, climbing, or climbing trees. And by doing this, you will get even more lost.

So, above all, keep your cool. Sit back, breathe, and read on!

Are you really lost?

Many people who become lost in the woods or mountains were not lost in the first place. Indeed, if they had analyzed their surroundings at the time they became lost, they would have quickly realized that they were only a few minutes away from their hiking path.

When you realize you’re lost, simply ask yourself, “Am I truly lost?”

Follow a river

Follow a river if you’re lucky. You will eventually find a home. Find a stream and walk downstream in its direction. Indeed, the goal is not to return to the source, but to find housing.

However, a stream will not always be nearby. In this case, you’ll need to start measuring the circumstances, but we’ll get to that later in the blog post.

Are you lost in nature?Get your map ready

It’s time to pinpoint your precise location. That is why, wherever you go on an adventure, you should always bring a map and a compass with you.

If you don’t know how to orient yourself on a map, I invite you to watch this video, which demonstrates a technique commonly used by sailors to find their way. To do so, locate three easily identifiable points on your map that are close to you.

Measure the situation

If you can’t find any shoe marks and you don’t recognize the landscape at all, you’re going to have to think even smarter.

Calculate the time. When you’re lost in the wilderness, it’s important to know the time. If you have a watch, look at the time to see how much time you have left before it gets dark. If you don’t have one, follow this technique:

Extend your arm and place your hand horizontally, so that it is parallel to the horizon, until you place it under the sun. Keep your palm facing your face. 

Count the fingers below the horizon without taking into account the thumb. 

Count that each hand equals one hour and each finger equals 15 minutes of sunlight gained. 

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For example, if you count two fingers, that means it’s half an hour until dark

If it’s going to get dark soon, you’ll need to start looking for a safe spot. Indeed, you can ask any experienced hiker; it is almost impossible to find your way in the dark. Especially when there is no moon and you are stressed.

So you’ve won a free night under the stars. But be careful; you will have to eat a little, but especially drink and warm up. Many people who have gotten lost in the wilderness have been found in a state of dehydration or advanced hypothermia.

So, start by finding a safe place to sleep. To do this, look for an open area free of animals (no droppings, no footprints), if possible, not too far from a stream (not too close either if it rains), or in a cave to protect you from the wind and rain (but not in a cave). Many animals can live there and will make you understand that they do not want your visit.

Then light a fire to warm up, taking care not to set fire to the nature around you.

What to do if you encounter a bear while camping in Zion National Park 

What to do if you encounter a bear while camping in Zion National Park? Avoiding close encounters with bears is the most effective way to ensure your safety.

Therefore, when in a dense forest, be vigilant, and in the mountains, move only on designated paths. If you are forced to deviate from the trail, make noise. Especially when visibility is limited—for example, during fog.

Keep in mind that walking against the wind can also surprise an animal. Be extra cautious when staying in places where you are likely to encounter a bear: in a coniferous youngster or dense thicket (where a bear may rest during the day), in places abundant with forest fruits, near carrion and game feeding points. Look out for tracks or other signs of bear presence—if they are fresh, be alert! 

Make the animal hear you in advance so it can get out of your way

You can whistle, talk, or sing—do your best not to startle it. Bears have a well-developed sense of smell and hearing and will avoid direct contact with humans if possible. Experience shows that surprise is the most common cause of attack. 

Remember that the forest is the home of animals, and we are just guests in it. Do not disturb them. After dark, move around in the forest only if absolutely necessary, because at this time the animals become active and feed intensively. They also need peace and quiet! 

Be aware that a bear is not a bear. If you are walking with your dog, always keep him on a leash. Running loose increases the risk of encountering a bear. Don’t try to lure animals with food, don’t approach them to take a picture, and don’t disturb them during their winter sleep. This irresponsible behavior can have dire consequences—not only for you, but also for the bear.

During a direct encounter with a bear, the most important thing is to remain calm. Do not succumb to panic, and try to orient yourself to the situation. Do not approach the animal under any circumstances. If the bear is not aware of your presence, retreat quietly and slowly when it is not looking in your direction. 

Watch it. Don’t shout, as by doing so you may surprise him and provoke him to attack. Make sure there is enough space and a clear escape route for the animal, in case it suddenly spots you. If you encounter a curious young bear, remember that its mother is likely to be nearby. Turn around and leave the place the way you came.

Conclusion

That’s it for my guide to camping in Zion National Park! I hope you found it helpful and that you’ll go out and explore this amazing park for yourself. If you have any tips of your own, be sure to leave a comment below or share this blog post with your friends.


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Ultimate Guide for Camping in Zion National Park

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