Camping in Southern Utah: Everything You Need to Know

by Julia Wald

This must-read Southern Utah camping guide covers everything you need to know – from the best time to go to the best campgrounds and more!

Full of impressive hoodoos, canyons, rivers, and lakes, Southern Utah should be at the top of any camper’s list. Southern Utah has endless places to explore and some of the most scenic campgrounds in the country.

I’ve had the pleasure of traveling Southern Utah extensively, and every time I visit I’m blown away by the incredible scenery and quality of campgrounds.

Whether you plan to camp in Southern Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks or opt for free camping, here’s everything you need to know about camping in Southern Utah!

Camping in Southern Utah: When To Go, Where To Camp, Packing & More!

The Best Time to Camp in Southern Utah

Though you’ll be able to find a camping spot in Southern Utah year-round, the time of year you decide to visit will drastically change the kind of experience you have.

Camping in Southern Utah in the summertime can be extremely busy and crazy hot – so hot, in fact, that hiking the area is often considered dangerous due to the extreme heat.

On the flip side, camping in Southern Utah during winter tends to see cooler days and many nights dropping below freezing. If you visit a particularly high elevation area of the state, you can even expect snowfall.

Additionally, some trailheads close during the wintertime and, as a result, you may have a more difficult time finding quality camping spots.

For these reasons, I recommend camping in Southern Utah during spring or fall. Fall will still have plenty of crowds to contend with, but you’ll find the weather to be much more enjoyable and, if you book in advance, you’ll have no trouble finding a camping spot.

What to Know About Camping in Utah

 Watch for Wildlife

Camping in Southern Utah means being on your toes for wildlife encounters. Along with some bigger mammals, Southern Utah is rattlesnake and scorpion country, so make sure your tent zippers are always completely closed and that you shake out your shoes before you put them on every day.

Additionally, stay aware of any wildlife on trails and, if you encounter any, keep your distance.

While it’s always a good idea to check the weather multiple times daily no matter where you decide to camp, this idea is especially poignant in Utah. Depending on where you go, your campsite could be prone to flash floods, road washouts, or wildfires.

Chances are, these things won’t happen to you on your camping trip, but it’s always smart to stay one step ahead.

 There is All-Season Camping

Despite its often frigid temperatures come winter, there is an abundance of all-season campsites in Southern Utah. Do a little research into the best (and safest) areas to go, and have yourself a great winter camp.

 Stock up on Water

Due to long trails and often scorching temperatures, it’s best to be on the overly-cautious side when it comes to hydration in Southern Utah. Always keep at least a couple of water bottles on you while hiking or other activities, and refill them whenever you can.

Free Camping in Southern Utah

Whether you’re looking to have an off the grid camping experience or just want to save some money, there are plenty of places to camp for free in Southern Utah. A lot of Southern Utah is Bureau of Land Management Land, meaning that you can camp on the land unless otherwise posted, although there are some free designated campsites as well.

However, as imposed all over the country, there is a stay limit on Southern Utah BLM land of 14 days. After that, you’ll have to pack up and find a new spot at least 25 miles from where you were.

Just remember to follow Leave No Trace principles!

If you plan on visiting more than one National Park in Utah during your trip, it’ll pay to purchase an “America the Beautiful” National Parks Pass. For just $80USD, this annual pass will admit the pass owner plus everyone else in a non-commercial vehicle entrance to the park.

Depending on how many people you camp with, this could end up saving you a lot of money.

The Best Campgrounds in Southern Utah’s National Parks

Southern Utah is a prime camping territory. Whether you’ll be camping in an RV, a tent, or under the stars, there is a perfect campground here for you.

Best Campgrounds in Zion National Park

 Watchman Campground

A social campground, Watchman is in the middle of all the Zion action and is right near the park’s visitor’s center and main shuttle stop. Campsites here include hookups, flush toilets, potable water, and even a dump station.

As Watchman is extremely popular, make sure you book your reservation for it early (reservations open 6 months in advance)!

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