Thinking about camping in Zion National Park this season?
While there are only a few campgrounds and camping sites within Zion’s boundaries, outside of the park itself lies several places to camp for free via dispersed camping. Most of the dispersed camping areas are within a 15 minutes drive of the park’s entrance.
This might be annoying for some considering you have to drive in and out of the park if you’re trying to hike Zion’s extensive trail system. We see the distance of the dispersed camping areas as a positive- peace and quiet that you won’t get within the park’s boundary. Plus there’s nothing better than camping for free!
Here is a list and breakdown of some of the best free dispersed camping spots and campgrounds just outside of Zion National Park:
Just outside the west/south entrance of Zion National Park
Outside of both the west and south entrance of Zion National Park lies a free dispersed campground. While nothing fancy, both campgrounds are literally minutes away from the park’s entrance- making it a prime spot for every Microadventurer to rest their head at night.
To access either campground, head out of the park and drive 2-3 miles. You’ll see campground signs just prior to the entrances. If you hit Springdale from the south entrance and the gas station and Subway from the west entrance, you’ve gone too far.
Lava Point dispersed camping area
Lava Point Campground is usually open, weather permitting, May through September. It is located off Kolob Terrace Road about 25 miles north of the town of Virgin and takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the South Entrance of Zion Canyon. Located at 7890 feet above sea level, it offers 6 primitive campsites that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
It’s a very rustic outpost with pit toilets and trash bins, but no running water.
Smithsonian Butte dispersed camping area
Smithsonian Butte camping area is backcountry camping in its purest form. Reachable by car to the closest area, head north on S 100 W towards State Street. Turn right at 1st next street on State Street, and then turn right onto UT-9 E/W 500 North. You’ll follow that until you get to Bride Road and take a right. Follow that until you can take a right on 250 S/Grafton Road and then take a left onto Smithsonian Butte Road.
This is a very rustic road, only small durable 4-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Make sure you’re a half-mile from the byway, as it’s a federal regulation that no camping is allowed within a half-mile of the actual byway.
Kolob Terrace dispersed camping area
Located at 1898 Kolob Terrace Road, Virgin Utah this small free camp spot is quiet and pretty. Located off a dirt road, the road is rutted and a sturdy bigger car such as a small SUV is preferable versus a smaller car. Kolob Terrace even has a small stream that runs about 20 feet wide that is next to the campsite and has fire pits for the campsites.
Only located about half an hour from the Zion Park entrance, it is very convenient for those looking for a little more privacy than the free dispersed campgrounds just outside of the park’s entrance.
La Verkin Overlook dispersed camping area
Located 18 miles from the entrance of Zion National Park, La Verkin Overlook campsite is just west of Virgin, Utah. Getting to the campsite requires driving down a dirt road which requires a high clearance vehicle, so smaller cars may have some issues navigating the path. The campsite has incredible views of the canyon and Zion National Park.
It has several campsites along the road you can make camp in and all the spots are on a first-come first-serve basis.
Kolob Reservoir West dispersed camping area
This free dispersed campground is larger than most of the others on our list and offers plenty of room and privacy for you and your crew to camp. The drive up to the campsite is beautiful with gorgeous canyons, cliffs, and meadows along the way. The campsite even has some bathrooms scattered throughout the area, though maybe not the nicest ones in the world, it’s better than nothing. The shore provides great recreation such as kayaking and playing in the water and the sand. It’s a popular campsite but with a little further driving, you can find a private spot.
North Creek dispersed camping area
This free dispersed campground only about 25 minutes from the entrance of Zion National Park is a great spot to camp. A combination of cars, small SUVs and small RVs can make this campground home. There is quite a bit of space to spread out with different vegetation such as trees for shade or closer to the creek for soothing sounds of the water. Overall a very popular and clean area but there are no toilets or water available at the site.
Eagle Craig dispersed camping area
This campsite is for the adventurous soul looking for a Microadventure with their 4-wheel or all-wheel-drive equipped car or truck. There are several pullouts along the dirt road after the trailhead for camping providing several spots for making camp. The road is rough and rugged, hence the vehicle restrictions, but if you keep going down the road you’ll eventually make it to the campground areas. The campsite offers beautiful views of the surrounding areas and Zion National Park is just situated in the north. There are no pre-made fire pits, no bathrooms or water available.
Despite Zion National Park only having a few paid campgrounds and camping areas within the park’s boundaries, just outside of the park lies a ton of free dispersed camping opportunities. What’s great about some of the campgrounds on our list is the proximity to the park’s entrance as well as the remote nature of each spot.
For those looking for a free way to camp near Zion National Park with a little more privacy than the campgrounds within the park itself, consider one of the free dispersed campgrounds on our list.
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.