Zion National Park Lodging: Campgrounds, Cabins, Securing Reservations in Zion Canyon, Kolob Canyons and More

by Amy Myers

Of Utah’s five glorious national parks, Zion is the most popular and the most otherworldly for campers. Larger-than-life red rock ridges contrast against lush green valleys. Along the way, you run into crystal clear pools and lakes that are perfect for a midsummer dip before the sky gives way to the millions of stars that stare down at you each night. Until you visit Zion National Park, you haven’t experienced true natural, geological beauty yet.

Anglo-European pioneers were the first to give the park its name. “Zion” actually translates to “sanctuary” or “refuge” in Hebrew. The Zion Canyon was the result of millions of years of deterioration as the Virgin River carved through the massive rocky structures. The canyon is currently 2,000 feet deep. Within the 229 square miles of the national park, you can find 68 different species of mammals, 32 species of amphibians and reptiles, eight species of fish and 289 species of birds. Clearly, we aren’t the only ones to consider Zion a sanctuary.

Because of the park’s geological and zoological diversity, camping at Zion National Park is an absolute must. Each year, the park sees upwards of 4 million visitors, and last year, 5.04 million. And every single one of those tourists, first-timers or not, has a hard time leaving the southwestern piece of paradise.

Of course, with how popular the national park is, planning for such a memorable trip can be difficult. Between the crowds, the different attractions and the accommodations that each venue offers, it can be a bit overwhelming booking your reservations. If you book the wrong campsite or cabin, you could be spending a good chunk of your vacation driving when you could be taking in all of those sweeping, one-of-a-kind vistas.

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Campgrounds in Zion National Park

Within the park’s borders, there are three campgrounds to choose from. Two are located in the southern region, closer to Zion Canyon, and one is in the northeast region, near the Kolob Canyons. The lower two campgrounds, South and Watchman, are the more popular, as they’re closer to the more popular first-time attractions. Meanwhile, the northern-most campground, Lava Point, is much more secluded and offers a quieter stay at Zion National Park.

Busy season for the national park tends to be between mid-March through November, but Zion is so popular that you may find crowds during the winter months, too. Reservations are required for almost all campgrounds, but it’s a smart idea to book as far in advance so you don’t have to fight against crowds. Visitors can book a max of 14 nights at a time in the park with an additional 30 days allowed for the rest of the year.

Also important to remember is the fact that Zion’s campgrounds don’t offer much shade. Located in the more arid regions of the national park, these campsites don’t have many trees that offer a break from the intense sun. Temperatures in the park in the summer tend to stay between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit with a few exceptions, so you’ll need to provide your own shaded areas. There are a couple of riverside campsites in the southern region, but officials urge campers to use caution when wading in the Virgin River, as there are current concerns of cyanobacteria bloom.

Watchman Campground

The southern-most campground in Zion National Park, Watchman Campground is located just a quarter-mile from the park’s South Entrance. It has a total of 176 campsites, 65 of which are strictly for RVs, 69 for tents and seven for groups. All campsites have a picnic table and firepit with an attached grill. There’s also a comfort station onsite with flush toilets, cold, drinkable water and trash containers. Across the street from the campground is downtown Springdale where you can find pay showers, markets, firewood, a medical clinic and laundromats.

Each campsite has a maximum of two tents and six people unless it is a group site. Reservations for Watchman Campground sites can be made up to six months in advance of your stay.

South Campground

South Campground is just a stone’s throw from Watchman Campground, just a half-mile from the South Entrance. This location has a total of 117 campsites, eight of which are tent only and four of which are for groups. Like the Watchman campsites, South campsites have a couple of creature comforts like flush toilets and running water. It’s also conveniently located near Springdale, just in case you need to freshen up between hikes.

Reservations for these sites can be made up to 14 days in advance. In both Watchman and Sout campgrounds, officials allow hammocks but encourage discretion, as continued use can damage the trunks.

Lava Point Campground

While there is no car or RV camping in the Kolob Canyons, Lava Point Campground Zion National Park is available for visitors looking to explore the western portion of the park. The campground, itself, is close to Blue Creek in the northeast section, off of Kolob Terrace Road. It is roughly an hour and a half from Zion Canyon and over an hour from Kolob Canyons.

Unlike Watchman and South campgrounds, Lava Point doesn’t have any creature comforts. The campground has a total of six primitive sites with pit toilets and trash cans, but no running water. Additionally, there is limited cell reception, so you’ll need to create a contingency plan for emergency communication.

Reservations for Lava Point Campground are required and are available on a two-week rolling window. Zion National Park forewarns that while these sites are primitive, they are not for backpacking trips. Instead, backcountry campers must make reservations for each night of the trip and only in designated wilderness campsites and camp areas.

Lodging within Five Miles of Zion National Park

It’s true that the campsites within Zion National Park fill up quickly. But the good news is that there are just as many lodging opportunities, if not more, in close proximity to the park’s south entrance. For those that prefer to have air conditioning and electricity, this should probably be your first option.

On top of a wide range of amenities, the lodges and campgrounds near Zion Canyon all have spectacular views of the park. So, even though you’re not within the park’s borders, you still feel connected to the experience.

Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort

Just a half-mile from Zion National Park’s South Entrance is Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort. Consider this spot the half-step between a true campground and a lodge. Within its 12-acre property, Zion Canyon Resort has 147 campsites, all of which can accommodate campers and 15 of which are also for tents.

Campers here have access to showers, fire rings, charcoal grills, picnic tables and, during the summer months, the swimming pool. There are also a few sites that back up to the Virgin River, offering extra special views and an opportunity to cool off. RV campers can rest assured that they will have electrical hookups, water, sewer (except for river sites) and cable.

Zion National Park Lodge

Less than five miles from the park’s South Entrance is Zion National Park Lodge. Open year-round, this lodge combines the outdoor beauty of the park with indoor comforts, making it the ideal spot for those that want luxury without feeling separated from nature. The venue has a total of 40 cabins, 28 of which have two double beds and 12 of which have one queen bed. All cabins have gas log fireplaces, private porches, a full bathroom and a kitchenette with a mini-fridge.

Canyon Vista Lodge, Bed and Breakfast

Those looking for a bit of rustic charm during their stay along the outskirts of Zion National Park might want to consider Canyon Vista Lodge, Bed and Breakfast. This lodge is just a little more than three miles from the park’s south entrance and offers incredible, golden-hour sunset views of the massive red rocks.

Canyon Vista offers two types of suites for its visitors, either queen or king. In both rooms, you’ll find a flat-screen TV, kitchenette and mini-fridge. King suites have a full-size dining table and sitting area – great for families, while queen suites have a jetted tub – ideal for couples or solo travelers.

All guests at the lodge have access to a jacuzzi and a spacious patio to enjoy a meal or just a serene moment between activities. Additionally, Canyon Vista offers breakfast vouchers to accommodate the busy schedule of its guests. Instead of offering a set time for their first meal, the lodge lets its visitors order what they want when they want it from breakfast restaurants in historic Springdale.

For all of these locations, the free Springdale Shuttle, which takes guests to and from the national park, makes a stop directly at or close to the lodges and resorts. The shuttle operates from spring to fall and is required for visitors to use in the park during this time to minimize damage to the trails and surrounding areas.