Camping in Zion National Park is no small feat. With more than 4 million people visiting Zion each year, finding a place to pitch a tent after a long day of exploring the canyon requires some extra planning (and of course, a reservation). To help you with those plans, today we’re posting about the South Campground, where we stayed during our April 2018 visit to Zion.
What do you need to know about camping in Zion and the South Campground? The South Campground is a good spot for RV’s and tents to camp inside the canyon. But with 100% certainty, you need a reservation and you should expect the campgrounds to be busy mid-March to late November.
Where is the South Campground located?
The South Campground is a front country campground in Zion National Park. It’s one of only two campgrounds located in Zion Canyon.
To enter the campground, continue from the South Entrance road (Utah Highway 9) approximately 1/2 mile past the gate. A sign for the campground will be marked on the right side of the road. Turn right into the campground entrance.
South Campground Address
Dalton Wash Rd
Virgin, UT 84779
Latitude: 37.2016667; 37° 12′ 6.0001″ N
Longitude: -112.9855556; 112° 59′ 8.0002″ W
What amenities does the South Campground have?
When it comes to camping in Zion National Park’s two front-country campgrounds (including the South Campground) you should expect the popular amenities found in all National Park Service campgrounds. In addition, South Campground is within walking distance of the gateway community of Springdale, offering everything you can’t find within the park boundary.
Within the South Campground expect to find these amenities:
- 117 fully reservable campsites; no electric or water sites available.
- Potable water and flush toilets in multiple bathhouses throughout the campground
- Each campsite has a picnic table and firepit available.
- The campground accommodates both tents and RVs and has a dump station at the facility.
- Good cell-phone service throughout the campground. No free public wi-fi is available.
If you walk roughly 1 mile from the campground to the gateway town of Springdale, you can find full amenities like:
- Public coin-operated showers.
- Restaurants, bars, art galleries, tourist shops and brewery.
- Outdoor supply store and hiking outfitters (these rent equipment if you plan to hike The Narrows).
- Post office, medical clinic, grocery store
How do you make reservations at South Campground? Are reservations necessary for camping in Zion?
Zion National Park has some of the most exclusive camping in the entire National Park Service. Thankfully, the sites are reservable online, 14 days in advance of your vacation. Reservations are 100% necessary whenever you plan to camp in Zion.
There are very few camping options anywhere else in the area around Zion. In addition, by staying outside of the park, you will likely be caught in the long traffic lines to get into and out of the entrance gates each day AND you have the burden of finding a place to park once you get to Zion. Neither are options we recommend.
Trust us on this one. Plan to camp in Zion not outside the park and reserve ahead.
How To Make A Reservation
Reservations for camping in Zion National Park’s two campgrounds can be made online through the federal land’s reservation website: Recreation.gov
The campsites in the South Campground are located in the historic riverbed of the Virgin River. The sites are flat, very close together with a few trees spotted within. Given how quickly the campsites reserve at the 14 days prior to arrival date, it’s best to select whatever’s available.
If you have choices between several campsites, select one on the outer loop as far away from the main entrance road as possible to reduce traffic noise. Campsites on the inner loops will be close together with limited distance between you and your fellow campers.
We didn’t find this to be too challenging given that we spent most of our time hiking around the park and just used the campground for a place to sleep.
Where can I hike near the South Campground?
One of the perks of staying in the South Campground is how close you are not only to some good hiking options but also to the Zion Shuttle Bus stops. Two bus stops, the Zion Canyon Visitors Center and the Zion Human History Museum are both within comfortable walking distance of the campground.
We found this to be especially helpful in trying to beat the crowds into the canyon. During our stay, we tried to be on the first bus departing the Zion Canyon Visitor’s Center early in the morning. It gave us the best chance of seeing some of the trails in solitude.
Other hiking options near the South Campground you should look up:
- Watchman Trail
- Pa’rus Trail
- Archeology Trail
- Check out our post on Easy Day Hikes in Zion for descriptions of these trails.
Any #Park Chaser tips to know?
- Zion is busy all times of the year. It can be hard to have the same wilderness experience you might in parks like Denali or Glacier. Try to visit in the shoulder season if you can. Whenever you go, expect that you’ll find yourself in crowds and that you may have to wait in lines. Remember that you’re in one of the most scenic places in the world and that everyone is there to enjoy it also.
- Summer temps in the canyon can be quite warm. There’s limited shade in the South Campground. To get a break from the heat, try relaxing under the large cottonwood trees down by the Virgin River that runs through the campground.
- There are no evening ranger programs in the South Campground. Evening programs are held in the summer months at the nearby Watchman Campground and Zion Lodge.
- While you can’t actually see the sunset from the floor of Zion Canyon, the evening light on the canyon walls near the South Campground can be quite stunning. Plan a late evening hike along the Pa’rus Trail with your camera to catch the glow!