Search
  • Basecamp Outdoor Gear Team

Where to camp near Zion National Park

Planning a camping trip to Zion National Park? First and foremost, decide what you want to do and see in Zion National Park. Then, refer to the below list for the campgrounds that will suit you best. Below is a summary of the best places to camp in or near Zion National Park. Skip to section according to your travel needs:

Campgrounds inside Zion National Park

Private campgrounds near Zion National Park

Dispersed Camping near Zion National Park

State Park Campgrounds near Zion National Park

tent in the desert
Camp with a view at Zion National Park

Note that Zion National Park is relatively small and most of its points of interest are concentrated in the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Therefore, when talking about campgrounds close to Zion, we're really referring to proximity to the Scenic Drive. This drive begins at the South Entrance, in the town of Springdale, UT.


Campgrounds inside Zion National Park

There are only three campgrounds inside of the Zion National Park boundaries, and only one of them (Watchman Campground) is open year-round.


Watchman Campground

Watchman Campground is the most coveted campground in Zion. Just a walk away from the visitor center, the park shuttle stop, and the town of Springdale. It is a quiet campground on the banks of the Virgin River, shaded by large cottonwood trees.

Open year-round for tent and RV camping. Amenities include flush toilets, running potable water, and good cell phone service. All sites have picnic tables and fire rings. Paid showers available in the town of Springdale, 10 minutes away on foot.

Our thoughts about this campground: LOVE IT! Great location, beautiful settings, open year-round. Bring 0F sleeping bags in winter!

Reservations: YES, book here 6 months in advance. Spots go quick!


South Campground

South Campground is exactly the same as Watchman in terms of amenities and location. However, it is set a few minutes farther from Springdale and nearer the main road through the park. As such it is a bit louder, but it's still very nice and a great alternative if Watchman is sold out. Note that this campground is only open during the busy season (mid-March to mid-October)

Our thoughts about this campground: Great alternative to Watchman in summertime.

Reservations: YES, book here 2 weeks in advance. Spots go quick!


Lava Point Campground

Lava Point Campground is a small fee-free campground only open in summertime because it is in higher elevation (7890 ft.) The Kolob Terrace Road that leads to it may close in winter due to snow. Driving between Lava Point Campground the Zion's main entrance in Springdale takes about 1.5 hours!

This campground has only 6 campsites, each with picnic table and fire ring. There's a pit toilet but no running water. Vehicles longer than 19 feet are not permitted on the windy road to the campground.

Our thoughts about this campground: Love it for its isolation and fresh air in the summertime, but it is far away from everything.

Reservations: First-come, first-serve

river, cottonwood trees, red rock cliffs
Typical Zion Canyon views: Virgin River and the Zion cliff faces

Private Campgrounds near Zion

There are A LOT of private campgrounds surrounding Zion National Park, all claiming to be the best and closest to the park. Even the campgrounds in St. George, an hour away from Springdale, claim to be at the "gateway to Zion." Of course each campground has its pros and cons, so definitely check a map and the campground amenities prior to making any reservation!

Below is a short list of campgrounds that we think are worth checking out if the park options are sold out.


Zion Canyon Campground

Zion Canyon Campground really is the closest private campground to the park entrance. You can literally walk to the visitor center. It's overpriced, just like everything else in Springdale, but offers all the amenities you can think of. Showers and wifi included in the nightly rate. Open year-round for tents and RV camping.

Our thoughts about this campground: Great location! Tent sites on the bank of the river are nice. A bit crowded and expensive.

Reservations: YES. Book here


Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

Zion Ponderosa is a camping resort with all the amenities you can think of and then some. Getting here requires a much longer drive, but it may be worth it depending on your plans and expectations. Best of all, it's higher in elevation so the air is much cooler in summertime.

Our thoughts about this campground: This is a fun place for families with tons of kid-friendly activities. The resort offers tent camping, but you might feel out of place between all the glamping and wooden cabins.

Reservations: YES. Book here


Wright Family Ranch

Zion Wright Family Ranch is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Zion Ponderosa. This charming, isolated spot offers no amenities whatsoever, which only adds to its allure. Getting here requires a much longer drive, but it may be worth it depending on your plans and expectations. Best of all, it's higher in elevation so the air is much cooler in summertime.

Our thoughts about this campground: It's a big picturesque open field. There's nothing here, which is wonderful in my opinion. But your experience depends on other campers. If there's a rowdy group next to you, then it will interrupt your serenity.

Reservations: YES. Book here


red and white rock cliffs
Approaching Zion National Park

Dispersed Camping near Zion

Dispersed camping is a term used to describe free roadside camping. These are unofficial yet legal camping spots with no amenities whatsoever. Practice Leave-No-Trace principles and keep our public lands wild and clean.


Gooseberry Mesa

Gooseberry Mesa, southeast of Zion, is known for its mountain biking trails. Getting here requires driving for about 30 minutes on a dirt road. This means that even though you're close distance-wise to Zion, it takes a while to drive there. Note that the dirt road can get impassable after rain, so check the weather before going out there.

Our thoughts about this campground: Amazing views! You definitely need a high-clearance vehicle to get here, preferably 4WD.

Reservations: First-come, first-serve.


Smithsonian Butte

Smithsonian Butte is another beautiful desert area that requires driving for about 30 minutes on dirt roads. This means that even though you're close distance-wise to Zion, it takes a while to drive there. Note that the dirt road can get impassable after rain, so check the weather before going out there.

Our thoughts about this campground: Amazing views! You definitely need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to get here.

Reservations: First-come, first-serve.


Kolob Terrace Road

There are a few spots to set up a tent along the dirt roads that depart the Kolob Terrace Road within 2 miles of Virgin, UT. If taken, you can continue up the Kolob Terrace Road as it winds past Lava Point Campground. You'll finally reach Kolob Reservoir and some more pullouts for dispersed camping.

Our thoughts about this campground: This area is fairly popular due to its proximity to the main road and ease of access.

Reservations: First-come, first-serve.

State Park Campgrounds near Zion

Utah state park campgrounds are amazing! All are set in pristine picturesque environments, offer free hot showers, and have very reasonable rates. The following state parks are within 30-60 minutes of the Zion National Park boundaries.

Snow Canyon State Park

Sand Hollow State Park

Quail Creek State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park


Summary of all Campgrounds in and around Zion National Park

The bottom line for camping in Zion is that you should do whatever you can to camp at Watchman Campground. It's the best location with the best amenities for a reasonable price. But it is often sold out! So check out the rest of the campgrounds in this post for the alternatives that suit you best.


If you need more information regarding any of the campgrounds mentioned above please don’t hesitate to contact us!

7 views0 comments