If a Zion National Park camping trip is on your list of must-do experiences, you won’t want to miss this guide. Zion is one of the most visited national parks in the United States and for good reason! The park is full of stunning natural beauty and plenty of activities to enjoy.
With millions of visitors every year, the park can get quite crowded and campground reservations can fill up quickly. This guide is full of tips, tricks, and information to help you beat the crowds, get one of the best campsites, and make the most of your trip.
Keep reading for the complete guide to Zion National Park camping and get ready for your adventure!
What to Expect When Camping at Zion National Park
Summer is the most popular time to visit Zion. For smaller crowds, try visiting in early spring or late fall. Winter is also a lovely time to visit the park and by far the least crowded. Some areas of the park close in winter due to snow, but there is still plenty to see and do.
Temperatures are cold in the winter and can be very hot in summer, though summer nights can sometimes be chilly, especially in higher elevations. Temperatures can vary by over thirty degrees in a single day so it’s good to be prepared, especially if you are moving between higher and lower elevations.
Since it is a desert, there is very little rainfall. February and March are the wettest months on average, and May and June are the driest. Heavy rain is possible at times and flash floods can be dangerous. Check the weather and current alerts on the park website when planning activities.
Zion National Park is a beautiful area of sandstone cliffs and canyons. Red-rock cliffs tower majestically above the valley with many beautiful and unique rock formations.
Where the Virgin River flows through the park there is an abundance of life. The park has over 1,000 different species of plants including wildflowers, cottonwood, juniper, pine trees, prickly pear, yucca, and more.
Hundreds of different animal species make their home in Zion National Park including 78 species of mammals, 291 species of birds, and many reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Many of the animals hide out from the harsh desert sun during the day and are more active at night.
Fees and Permits
A recreational use pass is required for all visitors, including Zion National Park campground guests. Fees are an important part of preserving and caring for the land and animals in the park, as well as maintaining park facilities.
A weekly pass is $35 for a private vehicle and $30 for a motorcycle.
Zion national park camping fees vary depending on the campground and type of site you choose. More information on the campgrounds including fees is below
Zion National Park Camping
There are three campgrounds within Zion National Park. Watchman Campground, South Campground, and Lava Point Campground.
Watchman Campground is located 1/4 mile away from the south entrance of the park, near the Zion Canyon visitor center.
Watchman Campground is the largest campground at Zion National Park with over 180 campsites. There are spots for both RVs and tents as well as seven group campsites and two wheelchair-accessible sites.
95 of the campsites have electric hookups, these are all located in the A and B loops. There are no full hook-up sites. A dump station is available for guests.
There are a few campsites near the Virgin River in the A and B loops. These are arguably the best campsites in the park and usually book up quickly. If you’d like to be near the river, sites 7, 9, 11, 13, and 14 in loop A and 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 55, and 56 in loop B offer the best views.
The tent and RV sites are open year-round and cost $20-30 per night. The group sites are open from March-November and start at $50 per night.
The restroom facilities at Watchman Campground have flush toilets, drinking water, and sinks for washing dishes. There are no showers.
All of the campsites at Watchman Campground require a reservation. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. Between March and November, the campsites are often fully booked so make a reservation early to ensure you get your preferred dates and campsite. Reservations can be made online or by calling 877-444-6777.
The South Campground is located about 1/2 mile from the south entrance of the park and not far from the Zion Canyon visitor’s center.
There are 117 total campsites at the South Campground. Most sites accommodate tents or RVs with a maximum length of forty feet. There are eight tent-only, walk-in sites and four group campsites. No electric hookups are available.
Sites 68, 71, 72, and 74 offer the best river views. Sites 58-63, 77-78, 80, and 82 also offer good river views.
Several restrooms with flush toilets, drinking water, and sinks for washing dishes are available throughout the campground. There are no showers.
Reservations and Fees
The South Campground is open from mid-March through mid-October. Campsites are $20 per night. Reservations can be made up to two weeks in advance either online or by calling 877-444-6777.
Lava Point Campground
Lava Point Campground is located at 7,890 feet elevation in a remote area of the park. If you don’t mind the drive, it’s a great option for camping at Zion National Park in the summer because temperatures are cooler here than lower in the valley. It’s also a lot less crowded than the larger campgrounds.
Accessing Lava Point Campground
The Lava Point Campground is located about an hour and twenty minutes away from the south entrance of the park. Visitors access Lava Point via the Kolob Terrace road, a narrow road with steep grades and winding curves.
The road closes in winter due to snowfall and reopens in the spring when the snow melts. Vehicles must be under twenty feet to use the Kolob Terrace Road.
Campsites and Facilities
There are six primitive campsites at Lava Point campground. Pit toilets are available. There is no fresh water so make sure to bring enough of your own for drinking, cooking, and washing up.
There are plenty of trees that shade the campsites and the nearby Lava Point Overlook offers spectacular, panoramic views of the park.
These sites used to be first-come first-served but they now require a reservation. Reservations can be made online or by calling 877-444-6777.
If you’d like a little more peace and quiet on your Zion National Park camping trip, why not try a backpacking site? There are a large number of backpacking sites located throughout the park. Half of the sites are first come first served and half can be reserved online ahead of time.
All Backpacking in Zion requires a permit. Visit the Backpacking page on the park website for more information.
Things to do while camping at Zion National Park
There are many beautiful hiking trails in Zion National Park. Zion Canyon is one of the most popular spots to hike with plenty of trails to choose from at different difficulty levels.
One of the most popular trails in the park is Angels Landing, a strenuous trail with stunning views. In an effort to reduce overcrowding on the trail, a permit is now required to hike Angels Landing. A lottery system has been implemented for distributing permits. Learn more about the lottery and how to get a permit at the park’s website.
The 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs at Zion offer many excellent rock climbing opportunities. Because sandstone is soft and requires more advanced techniques, most of the areas within the park are recommended for experienced climbers only.
Permits are only required for overnight climbs.
Biking is a great way to see the park. Bicycles are allowed on all roadways within the park and on the Pa’rus trail. Bicycles are allowed on the shuttle buses making it a convenient way to get around and see the park in a different way
Look at the Sky
One of my favorite things to do while camping is to look up at the sky. At night, you can see so much more of the stars without the obstruction of city lights.
Sunsets and sunrises in the desert are also uniquely beautiful. The sun glinting off the sandstone cliffs at Zion is truly breathtaking and makes for the perfect start or end to your day.
Ranger Led Programs
Ranger-led programs are a great way to learn more about the park. Programs are offered throughout the year for both kids and adults. Take a guided hike, listen to a talk, or become a junior ranger.
Anyone can become a junior ranger, the program is not just for kids! Learn about the park, take the pledge, and receive your junior ranger badge.
What to bring for Camping at Zion National Park
You’ll need all the typical gear for your Zion National Park camping trip. A tent or RV, sleeping bags, cooking utensils, flashlights, etc.
If you forget anything, there are many options in nearby Springdale to pick up what you need.
In summer you’ll want lightweight clothing to protect your skin and help keep you cool. Pack layers for cool nights and early mornings.
If you’re visiting during cooler months, make sure to pack clothes that will keep you warm, especially at night.
Wrapping up Zion National Park Camping
Whichever campground you choose, you’re sure to have a great time on your next Zion National Park camping trip. If you love camping at national parks you won’t want to miss the national park camping guides section on the website. For more about camping in Utah, check out the Ultimate Guide to Arches National Park.