Zion National Park, Utah
There are many things to do in Utah and camping in Zion National Park is just about at the top of our list.
Zion National Park is the most popular in the state, and it is distinguished by Zion Canyon’s steep red, white and pink cliffs. The most famous features of the park are the forest trails along the Virgin River, the Emerald Pools, the petrifying Angel’s Landing trail and the Zion Narrows trail which is mostly underwater.
Setting up base and camping in Zion National Park allowed us to experience two days that we will never forget.
Things to do in Zion National Park
Driving through Zion National Park is an epic road trip in itself. Enjoy the winding roads cutting through the diverse lush vegetation and sliced canyon slopes.
Follow the Zion Canyon Park Map and enjoy the splendid views, this was one of the most scenic drives of our USA Road trip.
Enjoy the sight of Utah’s first ever national park and follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers once walked.
Look up to the enormous sandstone cliffs lathered in cream, pink, and red colours that compliment a brilliant blue sky. Enjoy the unique array of plants in different colours and look out for mountain lions, tarantulas and bats on the desert like terrain.
Hop on the Zion Shuttle
Drivers in vehicles can only access half of the park until they can go no further at Canyon Junction. The Zion Shuttle Bus will take visitors through to the other end of the park.
The Zion Shuttle is free for all and it runs every 7-12 minutes in peak season.
If you are camping in Zion National Park, the Zion Shuttle stops right beside the South and Watchman Campgrounds.
The Weeping Rock
Seeing the Weeping Rock was one of our favorite things to do in Zion National Park. The trail to the Weeping Rock is around a half-mile round-trip but the unstable terrain and moderately steep climb makes it up to an hour from start to finish. The trail is unfortunately unsuitable for wheelchairs and strollers.
To start of the trail is marked with cottonwood, ash and maple trees and you will find many visitors taking this route due to the natural beauty and short length.
The Weeping Rock is what is says it is, it’s a cliff edge that constantly weeps, drenching vegetation and surrounding rocks beneath it, so tread carefully on the pathway.
Natural hanging gardens and a watering hole can be found at the top making it a picturesque spot to sit down and take it all in.
The constant flow of weeping water from the Weeping Rock alcove comes from the Echo slot canyon above.
The Kayenta layer of the slot canyon makes up the floor which prevents water from absorbing into the ground, it then forces itself out at various sites across the park, such as at Weeping Rock.
The seepage is not a quick process. The water has been lying in the rocks for around 1200 years.
The view from the Weeping Rock climax alcove is worth the steep incline for a collective view of Observation Point, Lady Mountain, Great White Throne and the Organ.
A lovely extra on the hike up to the Weeping Rock is the trailside exhibits, offering signage with the names of flora found along the path, such as the horsetails. There is also advice to visitors who wish to drink the water and/or climb where they are not supposed to.
The Riverside Walk and the Narrows
Starting at the last bus stop on the Zion Shuttle, the Temple of Sinawava, the Riverside Walk begins. The 2 mile round trip takes visitors through a flat and diverse landscape of towering canyon walls, mini beaches, weeping cliffs and lush vegetation.
The Riverside Walk also leads you right to the start of the underwater trail to the Zion Narrows.
The famous Zion Narrows hike was so good we even wrote a blog about it. Be sure not to miss it.
One of the most popular hikes of the park is the Angel’s Landing trail. The Zion Shuttle bus stops right by the trail head and, as well as the Narrows, it is said to be one of the most thrilling hikes in the national park system.
Image Credit: Clipground
Image Credit: citrusmilo
The Angel’s Landing Trail cuts right by a narrow rock fin with dangerous drop-offs on either side. It is one of the most intimidating hikes in the world that attracts the most hikers, of all levels of ability.
Tread carefully and speak with the rangers before you head out to discuss weather and hiking conditions.
Though the trail sees hundreds of hikers embark on the adrenaline pumping path, there have been a total of 15 deaths on the Angel’s Landing Trail.
The Emerald Pools
The Emerald Pools trail offers some of the park’s most breathtaking scenery, displaying natural hanging gardens, waterfalls, pools and a dazzling display of monoliths that form the Emerald Pools Trail System.
The name and the features of the hike make this one of the most enchanting experiences of Zion National Park.
Camping in Zion National Park
There are only three campgrounds in Zion National Park, the South Campground and the Watchman Campground are most popular, both of which are in close proximity to the main South Entrance.
We stayed in the South Campground and it was one of our favourites from the 8 national parks we camped at.
The South Campground
We spent a couple of nights camping at the popular South Campground which is located ½ mile from the South Entrance.
There are 117 camping spots in total (including three wheelchair accessible) and they are available first-come, first-served.
We got there early, at around 9:30 just before campers were checking out at 10am and we managed to score on of the best spots (as advised by the ranger), right by he Virgin River.
The spot was quiet, secluded and we had an incredible view of the canyon walls from the front door of our tent.
Campers begin lining up for a campsite as early as 5:30 am. The camp host at the station by the South Campground will not assign campsites until 7:00 am.
The South Campground is a popular spot for wildlife. We saw this cute dear pass right by our tent as well as a scorpion and a variety of birds including a Stellar’s Jay and the Peregrine Falcon.
Other campsites at Zion are the Watchman Campground, also close to the South entrance where reservations are accepted on the official website.
There is a third site, Lava Point Campground, which is around an hour and a half away from the South Entrance. Lava Point is typically open May through September, weather permitting. There are only 6 primitive sites at the Lava Point Campground available on a first come first served basis, the facilities are a little more sparse, consisting of pit toilets and trash cans and there is no running water available.
Highlights around the entrances
The most common exit out of the park is the East via the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, this is an exciting way to leave or enter as it takes you right through a purpose built tunnel carved out of the canyon wall.
It’s a surreal experience as you pass through, be sure to check vehicle/pedestrian/bike restrictions and regulations before you set off.
Keep your eye out for the magnificent Fort Zion store a few miles away from the South entrance of Zion National Park.
Fort Zion is a souvenir store and there are many buildings to enjoy with old facades typical to the history of Utah’s wild west.
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