Zion National Park is one of the top outdoor destinations in the country for campers, climbers, hikers, and many other outdoor enthusiasts. Known for its expansive desert views, evergreen trees, and awe-inspiring rock formations, Zion National Park makes for a prime camping spot and offers a variety of campgrounds for any camping style.
What type of camping experience do you prefer? Do you like to venture out into the wilderness alone, with nothing but a simple tent and a backpack of supplies? Do you enjoy camping with a community of other nature-lovers? Or are you the type of camper who prefers a nice RV, with all the modern comforts, in a campground with flushable toilets and electricity?
However you enjoy camping, Zion National Park will have the perfect spot for you. There are three different campgrounds ranging in a variety of ways, with options for standard campers and RV-goers alike. Then there are the backcountry camping areas, where you’ll need a permit to stay overnight. These camping sites are off the beaten path, and offer more isolation, more experiences, and more difficulty.
Remember that the campsites in this part of the park are in the desert. This means that properly preparing for high temperatures is important. Some of the campsites have a few trees that allow them some relief from the heat during certain parts of the day, but many of them have no shade at all. Summer daytime temperatures exceed 95 degrees, so staying cool can be challenging. Please take extra precautions against the heat when planning your Zion trip.
The Watchman Campground is great for campers who enjoy having the conveniences of some modern technology with their camping experience. Located only a quarter-mile away from the park’s South Entrance, Watchman Campground is open year-round for both tents and electric RV campsites. Group campsites are available for reservation from March through October.
In total, the Watchman Campground has 176 regular sites, two wheelchair accessible sites, and six group sites. There are six easily-accessible restrooms available as well as access to clean drinking water. There are six loops in the campsite to choose from depending on your camping style. Watchman Campground, like the other campgrounds, allows a maximum of two vehicles per campsite and only one RV or trailer. Each campsite allows a maximum of six campers and three tents, so plan your sleeping arrangements accordingly.
Loops A and B are the electric campsites. Loop B is strictly for RV use. These campsites cost $30 per night. Loops C, D, and F are for tent campers. Camping here will cost you only $20 per night. Loop E is reserved for the six group campsites. These are limited to one campsite per group, with a seven-day limit stay time. Group sites are also tent-only. RVs, campers, and camping trailers aren’t allowed. The group sites can accommodate anywhere from 7 to 40 campers.
Reservations are strongly suggested at Watchman Campground. It’s best to make your reservations at least six months ahead of when you plan to take your camping trip, as reservations for this popular campground are booked full most of the season.
A little further past the Watchman Campground, about half a mile away from the park’s south entrance, the South Campground offers 117 campsites. Once a first-come, first-served campground, the South Campground has recently begun requiring reservations.
The South Campground is open from February to November. Campsites cost $20 per night for up to six people. Group sites cost $50 per night. Each site comes with access to drinking water and a picnic table. There are two restrooms available on site. There are no RV hookups in this campsite, but they do allow generators from 8am to 10am and again from 6pm to 8pm.
The scenic Pa’rus Trail runs through the campsite. It follows the Virgin river through to Canyon Junction. This easy trail is paved, making it perfect for wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes. It’s also dog-friendly. It’s the only trail in the park that allows leashed pets. They’ve recently installed several pet waste stations to assist in keeping the trail clean.
You can even bring your hammock to the campground. Hammocks are allowed as long as they’re in your campsite. The trees must be at least 10 inches in diameter and you can only suspend at most two hammocks on the same tree.
Lava Point Campground
Lava Point Campground is a first-come, first-served campground located about a mile and a half away from Zion National Park’s South Entrance. Lava Point is the perfect campground for those looking for an escape from the crowd and view the lesser-explored part of the park. Solitude is a big part of the Lava Point camping experience.
The campground is typically open from May through September, weather permitting. There are six primitive campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there as early as possible to secure your spot. Lava Point is located 7890 feet above sea level, and is off the Kolob Terrace Road, 25 miles north of the town of Virgin. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to drive to the campground from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.
Camping at Lava Point is free of charge, so you can feel good about not having to pay anything. The downside is that there’s no access to water available at the campsites, so you’ll have to bring enough of your own water to drink and use. The sites do offer pit toilets and trash cans.
Enjoy experiencing the quieter side of Zion National Park with the Lava Point Campground’s scenic valley views. Just make sure your vehicle isn’t longer than 19 feet, as vehicles longer than this aren’t allowed on the road to the campsite.
East Rim Trail to Weeping Rock
The East Rim trail is a popular hiking spot for visitors to Zion National Park. Hikers who take on the East Rim trail usually hike the three-mile path to Hidden Canyon or the seven-mile path to Observation Point. Only a select few outdoor enthusiasts take on the 11-mile path in its entirety, through the hidden canyon, and all the way to Weeping Rock. This trail can be completed in a day or two, and if you’re planning to camp out here,
While there are no established campsites on the trail, there are a couple of spots that are great for camping. You’ll just need a backcountry permit to stay overnight. You must set up your camp well out of site of the trail, away from any springs or other sources of water, and away from the rim. A popular area for camping is the large grove of ponderosa pines near Stave Springs, where you’ll have access to clean drinking water near the Deertrap Mountain and Cable Mountain trail junction.
The East Rim trail begins from the East Entrance, passes through Echo Canyon, and descends down to Weeping Rock. About five miles in on the path is where you’ll run into Stave Springs. This is the only water available on the path. It has usually been known to go dry by early summer, so it’s best to check with park rangers beforehand to see if it’s running, as it’s not necessarily a reliable source for water.
The Narrows is on of the top destinations for campers, hikers, and nature lovers in Zion National Park. As the name implies, it’s the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. A hike through the narrows requires walking directly through the Virgin River, so be prepared to get wet.
Most people choose to begin their hike from the Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk and then walk upstream before turning around and heading back the way of the Temple. Camping out in the Narrows, however, requires you to take the sixteen-mile path from Chamberlain’s Ranch down to the Temple of Sinawava. You’ll need a backcountry permit for the overnight stay, and you’ll need to arrange for transportation to take you to the starting point.
The Narrows is popular during the late spring and summer, when the water is at its warmest and the Virgin River’s water level has dropped. The warmer months, however, are also when storms can cause dangerous flash floods. The surrounding area is comprised of a lot of bare rock, which doesn’t absorb water. During a storm, runoff quickly runs into the narrows. The area can fill up within seconds, leaving you in an extremely dangerous situation. Always check the weather forecast and flash flood potential before choosing to go on this hike.
On the trail, you’ll find twelve backcountry camping sites available along the way. These are the only areas allowed for camping, and only a one-night stay is permitted at each site. Some of these are available for walk-up only, while a few you’ll have to reserve in advance. The sites range in size and can accommodate groups from two to twelve people. Happy camping!