Zion National Park Camping | Camping in Zion

Zion National Park camping – Zion National Park is home to some of the most “otherworldly” natural beauty in the United States. Zion’s weird and wonderful geography makes it a tourist hotspot for adventure-seekers around the world. In this article, we’ll give you a full guide to camping in Zion – what we consider the best way to soak it all in.

Zion National Park Camping

Zion National Park camping is a popular way to experience Zion National Park. There are many campgrounds in and around Zion, but there are only three campgrounds which are officially run by the US National Park Service. These Campgrounds are South Campground, Watchman Campground, and Lava Point Campground, and we’ll give more details on each of these below. South Campground and Watchman Campground are by far the most popular options, and need to be reserved well ahead of time via the NPS website. Bookings are very competitive, and the campgrounds tend to be booked solid from March through November. As such, you’ll need to book as soon as reservations open (more on this below) in order to secure your spot in either of these popular campgrounds.

Camping in Zion

Many options are available when camping in Zion. There are also many campgrounds and campsites near Zion National Park, although not affiliated with the Park officially. Official campgrounds in Zion are drive-in campsites. Many campers bring camping equipment and stay on the campsite itself. Some campsites accommodate RV and trailer camping, although there is a fee to bring an RV into the park. Depending on how you like to camp, you will definitely have your preference of campsite. But more important than where to camp is how to camp. Camping in Zion requires an understanding of the climate during day and night, which we’ll cover next.

When to Camp in Zion National Park

Zion National Park is characterized by a wide range of temperatures throughout the year, from quite cold to scorching hot. Planning to camp in Zion requires a keen understanding of the conditions to expect while there, so you can properly pack for the adventure. This is especially true if tent camping. Also note that temperatures vary throughout the park, and you can usually expect colder temperatures at higher elevations. Summers in Zion are peak season for tourism. Summers are also very hot, with daily highs around 90-100F and lows around 60-70F. This means that you’ll want to camp in a sheltered location, and be prepared for hot nights. There’s also plenty of sun, so you’ll definitely want to bring sunscreen.

Camping in Zion
Camping in Zion

Spring and Fall are more moderate, with highs around 70-90F, and lows around 40-60F. If you have the option, we’d recommend camping during the shoulder seasons, where the heat is more bearable, both during day and night. This being said, you’ll definitely want to bring some layers, because it does get quite cold at night. Winters in Zion have mild days and cold nights (often below freezing). Some campgrounds in Zion are closed during winter, but certain campgrounds (such as Watchman Campgrounds) remain open, and bookings are much easier to get during Winter. Highs in winter are around 50-60F, with lows around 30-38F. Needless to say, you’ll want to bring heavy layers and thermal camping gear. Don’t camp in Zion during winter without proper camping attire.

Best Campgrounds in Zion National Park

Now that we’ve covered the logistics, let’s take a closer look at the most popular campgrounds in Zion. As mentioned above, there are three official campgrounds within the park itself. Let’s check them out:

South Campground

South Campgrounds is Zion’s most popular campground, and considered by many to be Zion’s best. South Campground is very accessible, located right inside the South Entrance of the Park, very close to Springdale (a gateway town bordering Zion). South Campground offers campsite bookings for tent, dry RV, and groups, and the campsite is open from March until October. South Campground is almost always fully booked, which makes reservations competitive. Reservations are available 14 days in advance. In order to secure the campsite you want, you’ll basically have to book the full 14 days in advance. Tent campsites cost $20/night, and group campsites cost $50/night. There are 117 campsites and only 4 group campsites (up to 15 people). There are restrooms throughout the campsite, which are never more than a short walk away. It’s easy to see why South Campground is such a popular campsite. Located on the Virgin River, the campsite is flat, with plenty of trees for shelter. Campsites are spacious, with adequate room from your neighbors. There are spectacular views of the surrounding cliffs, and you feel very much in nature.

Watchman Campground

Watchman Campground - camping in Zion national park
Watchman Campground – camping in Zion national park

Watchman Campground competes with South for Zion’s most popular campground, but it’s hard to go wrong with either one. In fact, Watchman is located just a quarter mile from South Campground, on the eastern bank of the Virgin River, across from Springdale. Watchman Campground is open all year, and reservations can be made 6 months in advance. For this reason, it’s slightly easier to book a site in Watchman, but you’ll still need to book well ahead of time. Every campsite in Watchman includes a place for a tent or RV (given size restrictions), access to a fire pit, and a picnic table. Some campsites also have access to electricity, and the entirety of the campsite gets good cell reception. There are 95 electric campsites, 69 tent-only campsites, 6 group campsites, and 2 wheelchair-accessible campsites. There are washrooms throughout the campsite, always within walking distance. One unfortunate part about Watchman is there are far less leafy trees compared to South. Most campgrounds have little in the way of shade, which can make it quite difficult to bear in the summer sun. If tent camping during summer, prepare to leave your site during the day. Of course, this shouldn’t be a problem, with so many awesome things to see and do in Zion. Aside from this, Watchman is a great place to stay. Flat, desert landscape, and excellent views of the cliffs and mountains. Easy to see why Watchman and South are so competitive to book!

Lava Point Campground

Lava Point Campground is the least popular of Zion’s three sites, but this is mostly because it is much less accessible, given its remote nature. Lava Point Campground is located on the northern end of Zion, and accessible via Lava Point Road (off Kolob Terrace Road), 25 miles north of Virgin. The campground is located on Kolob Plateau, which is 7890 feet above sea level, making it chillier than the above two campgrounds. Lava Point Campground has only 6 basic campsites, and all are first-come, first-serve. The campsites are very basic. There are pit toilets and trash cans, but no water and no electricity. It’s open from May to September but this is weather dependent, and icy conditions could cause road closures leading to the campground.

Camping in Zion National Park

Thanks for reading our comprehensive guide to camping in Zion National Park. Zion National Park is a sight to behold, and camping is one of the best ways to do it. Use our guide to plan your ultimate adventure.

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