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Zion National Park Camping
Enjoy Nature in One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth
Zion National Park is the oldest national park in the state of Utah. Its geography was shaped by the Virgin River millions of years ago. Now the canyons, stone arches, cliffs, peaks and valleys have a uniquely breathtaking charm. To some, the sights in the park are too perfect to be real.
About Zion National Park: Quick Facts
- Originally called Mukuntuweap National Monument, the park’s name was changed to Zion as the Mormon pioneers described the area as a relaxing and peaceful place.
- About 3 million people come to visit Zion National Park every year.
- The park was established on November 19, 1919.
- Zion has a total land area of 230 square miles.
- Springdale is considered the Gateway to Zion, although the park is also close to Cedar City and Orderville.
- It was originally inhabited by Native Americans 8,000 years ago. In the 1850s, Mormons started settling in the area.
- Apart from being the first national park in Utah, Zion is also the oldest park in the Beehive State.
- The geologic layers in the park are 150 million years old.
- 900 various plant species can be found in Zion that cannot be found elsewhere in the state. This is because three separate ecosystems come together in the park.
- Rock art and cliff houses were left by the Anasazi, a native tribe that mysteriously vanished.
- Propane-powered shuttle buses were introduced in 2000 in order to reduce traffic and improve the tourist experience.
Preparing for an Zion National Park Camping Trip
There are some things to be aware of if you plan on camping in Zion National Park. It may look picture-perfect, but there’s more to Zion than meets the eye. Zion can be inhospitable to the unprepared visitor. To make your stay more enjoyable and memorable, here are factors you need to consider:
Weather conditions in Zion can be varied and the seasons make it even more so. Elevation and time of day also play major roles in the climate. Spring may either be wet or sunny, though temperatures can be cool. Summer brings in the monsoons and flash floods are possible. It all cools down in the fall, though there is a big difference in day and night temperatures. Winter is cold in the park and is almost always wet. Always check the forecast before your trip.
The West Temple has spent the day in a shroud of clouds, only to reveal a fresh dusting of snow! #Zion #zionnps #zionnationalpark #FindYourPark #westtemple #snow A photo posted by Zion National Park (@zionnps) on
Weather conditions are posted at the visitor center, but flash floods can occur in the park without warning. The danger is not limited to just hiking in slot canyons. People have been washed off trails to their deaths during flash floods. Although it’s gorgeous when the rain pours, it’s not a safe time to be on the trails. Flood waters originate upstream, so a flood may occur when the weather does not seem bad overhead. If hiking in a narrow canyon and the water begins to rise even slightly or get muddy, begin looking for higher ground. Source: Wikitravel
Obviously camping is one way to get away from it all, but it is necessary to be able to contact someone in case of emergencies. Some visitors have reported good signal in the campgrounds and in the park entrance. As you go further up the canyons, it becomes spotty.
Zion National Park has three available campgrounds: Lava Point, South and Watchman. Since camping is a popular activity in the park, it is recommended to get there early so you can secure a campsite.
There have been sightings of mountain lions as well as bear tracks in the park. A hiker has been bitten by a rattlesnake. Encounters with these dangerous animals may be rare but it is wise to take the necessary precautions if you intend to camp in Zion.
If you are planning to visit Zion National Park with your pet, there are policies and conditions that you need to be aware of. You must keep your pet on a leash at all times and make sure it’s attended to. Also, pets should not be left in the car.
What to Pack for a Zion National Park Camping Trip
- Bandanna (face, head and/or neck covering)
- Cut-off pants (hiking)
- Gloves (night/morning wear)
- Hat (sun & weather protection)
- Jacket (Warmth – wool/synthetic fiber and/or cotton)
- Jacket (wind breaker)
- Pants (heavy duty for outdoors)
- Rain wear (rain suit/poncho)
- Shirts (long sleeve for outdoors)
- Shoes (sport/hiking)
- Socks (cotton/wool or combination for hiking – one pair for each day)
- Sweatshirt/sweater/or down vest
- “T” Shirts (long or short sleeve)
- Underwear (depends on season/altitude for warmth – 20 to 55 degree/night wear)
- Warm, long sleeve shirt
- Ace bandage
- Burn ointment
- Chap stick
- First aid tap
- Foot (blister) pads/powder
- Gauze compresses
- Salt tablets
- Sharp knife
- Suntan lotion
- Day pack with (2 qts of water)
- Ear Plugs
- Eye Wash
- Fire starter
- Survival blanket
- First aid kit (See 1st Aid)
- Flashlight/extra batteries
- Matches (water proof)
- Pocket knife
- Sewing kit
- Soap (washing & hand – biodegradable)
- Sun Glasses
- Toilet paper (In plastic packets)
- Towels (Wet)
- Water containers (two, 1 quart bottles)
Click here to see the rest of the items.
What to Do in Zion National Park
1. Angels Landing
Perhaps one of the most dramatic and exciting hikes in America. Visitors ascend mid-canyon along the face of a rock cliff, and then enter a narrow upper canyon before ascending on a back-and-forth section of trail called Walter’s Wiggles. Beyond this you will traverse a narrow fin with a drop-off on both sides (1,000+ feet) and then ascend the last section of the hike along a spine that leads to the top of Angels Landing. Via zionponderosa.com
2. The Subway
The Subway, also known as the Left Fork of Great West Canyon, is likely the second most sought after place to visit in Zion National Park after the Narrows. It often makes “Top Natural Wonders Of the World” lists, and on any given visit you are likely to run into international visitors. Why the attraction? The Subway offers stunning scenery and colors. The curved walls, crystal clear stream, and vibrant colors will leave an impression on most everyone that visits. Via roadtripryan.com
3. Kolob Canyon
Kolob Canyon is the unsung beauty of Zion National Park, complete with arches, bridges, and waterfalls. It cannot be reached via the main park entrance, but must be accessed by taking exit 40 off of I-15. The canyon can be toured by car or on foot. Adventurers might consider hiking cross-country to Kolob Arch. The trek is both exhausting and exhilarating. Via redriverranch.com
4. Zion Human History Museum
Enrich your visit with a stop at this quaint museum, ½ mile north of south entrance, which tells the story of the park from the perspective of humans who have lived here throughout history, including ancestral Puebloans and early Mormon settlers. Permanent exhibits show how inhabitants dealt with wildlife, plants, and other natural forces. Temporary exhibits include finds from recent archaeological excavations. A 22-minute film screens throughout the day. There’s an incredible view of Towers of the Virgin from the back patio area. Via fodors.com
5. Canyoneering and Rock Climbing
Canyoneering is also one of the more popular things to do in Zion. However, it is a serious endeavor that often involves rappelling, swimming, and other skills. Those interested in canyoneering should contact one of the guide services that teach courses and lead trips into the park. Via visitutah.com
6. Scenic Drive
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive offers the best overview of the park and can be completed during a one-day visit. The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway (Utah 9) descends nearly 2,000 feet from the high mesa country at the East Entrance to the lower South Entrance. Begin the drive in the east; you’ll go through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, which was bored through canyon rock in the late 1920s—and became the longest tunnel in the U.S. Stop at Checkerboard Mesa for a view of the weathered sandstone beds. Get out of the car at the Canyon Overlook and walk the one-mile round-trip trail to view the West Temple and the Towers of the Virgin. Via National Geographic Travel
7. Horseback Riding
A trail ride is an excellent way to explore the natural wonderland in and around Zion National Park. Let the horse do the work as it carries you into scenic areas away from the crowds of tourists. This is classic Western scenery and there is no better way to see it than on horseback. Via utah.com
8. The Narrows
The most famous backcountry route is the unforgettable Narrows , a 16-mile journey into skinny canyons along the Virgin River’s north fork (June through October). Plan on getting wet: at least 50% of the hike is in the river. The trip takes 12 hours; split it into two days, spending the night at one of the designated campsites you reserved or finish the hike in time to catch the last park shuttle. The trail ends among the throngs of day hikers on Riverside Walk at the north end of Zion Canyon. A trailhead shuttle is necessary for this and other one-way trips. Via lonelyplanet.com
9. Court of the Patriarchs
A Methodist minister named many of the features in Zion during his visit in 1916. He named three peaks at the Court of the Patriarchs after figures from the Old Testament; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Mount Moroni sits in front of Jacob, and is named after the Book of Mormon prophet that appeared to Joseph Smith. Via sacredcliffs.com.
The Pa’rus Trail offers a paved, carefree alternative for bicyclists to connect with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Shuttle buses are equipped with bike racks. Biking is a great experience in and outside of the park with many trails in the surrounding area that will take you to scenic overlooks and through some spectacular backcountry. Via harvesthouse.net
11. Emerald Pools
Three small pools can be reached via a number of trails. The one-mile Grotto Trail connects to the Zion Lodge and can combine with the Lower Emerald Poll and Kayenta Trails for an easy 2.5-mile loop. The Upper Emerald Pool Trail from Zion Lodge is a one-mile rocky trail that meets the pool at the base of a cliff. The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is just more than a mile long but is a paved and easy hike. Via familyvacationcritic.com
Want to know more about Zion National Park? Check out the video below!
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Want to learn more about America’s national parks? Check out the rest of our National Park series.