Free Camping near Zion National Park in Utah

Free Camping Zion National Park

This is a complete blog and video guide to FREE camping on BLM land near Zion National Park in Utah. There are free camping opportunities to the east and to the west of the Park – this guide focus on the west side of the Park.

Hurricane Cliffs Free Camping
Hurricane Cliffs Free Camping on BLM land

In this guide, you will find maps with directions, updates on road conditions, locations of most campsites, and availability of amenities such as cell coverage, water, and toilets,

About Zion National Park and BLM land

Zion National Park is almost surrounded by BLM land and National Forests. The St George Field Office manages the BLM land west of Zion.

Zion Surrounds Map
Zion Area Map
BLM UTAH Districts
BLM UTAH Districts (source https://www.blm.gov/)

The BLM District office is in Cedar City – it manages four field stations including St George Field Office. St George Phone: (435) 688-3200

St. George BLM Field Office
St. George BLM Field Office (source https://www.blm.gov/)

Maps and Directions

I highly recommend the Avenza Maps App!

Unfortunately, at this time there are no Motor Vehicle Use Maps for the area west of Zion National Park. Google Maps and Google Earth are your best friends for this area!

For directions I suggest you download the Zion National Park map for Avenza.

There is very little information about the Zion area BLM camping online except for one document regarding Smithsonian Butte camping – https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/upload/blm_camping_south.pdf

To see the boundaries of the BLM land where you are camping, refer to the Interactive BLM Utah map

You can also use phone apps as described in another article

Camping inside or near Zion National Park

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is about 80 minutes from the South Entrance along the Kolob Terrace Road.

There are many private campgrounds in nearby towns.

Video footage of the FREE camping areas

I am working on a series of driving and drone videos to show what it’s like to camp for free near Zion NP!

Links will be posted as soon as these are available.

Recommended FREE Camping Areas on BLM land nearest to Zion NP

Dispersed camping is allowed on public land for a period not to exceed 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period. The 28 day period begins when a camper initially occupies a specific location on public lands. The 14-day limit may be reached either through a number of separate visits or through 14 days of continuous overnight occupation during the 28 day period.

After the 14th day of occupation, the camper must move outside of a 25 mile radius of the previous location until the 29th day since the initial occupation.

As shown on the map below, there are five well-known FREE camping areas within an easy drive from Zion NP. Of these, Smithsonian Butte is now off-limits for the casual camper (reasons described below). The others are:

  • N Kolob Terrace Rd – many sites on both sides of the road near North Creek
  • Hurricane Cliffs (Sheep Bridge Rd) – East – thirteen designated campsites on the west side of Sheep Rd
  • Hurricane Cliffs (Sheep Bridge Rd) – South – twelve designated campsites on the west side of Sheep Rd but further away from Zion NP
  • Hurricane Cliffs (La Verkin Overlook Rd) – West – eight designated campsites close to Virgin Dam and nearby trails
Zion National Par - Free Camping Map
Zion National Park – Free Camping Map (west) – Click to enlarge

NOTE – What about the very popular Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway? It is close to Zion NP but you cannot camp within 1/2 mile on either side of the road! Read the Rules. This makes practical camping not feasible for Zion visits, especially with terrible road conditions and steepness.

Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway
Smithsonian Butte National Back Country Byway – note the steep climb in the distance

There are a few free camp spots to the east of Zion. Those will be covered in a future guide.

Free Camping in the N Kolob Terrace Rd area

If you plan to spend a lot of time in Zion and are looking for minimum dirt road driving, then you should consider this area. N Kolob Terrace Rd is tarmac.

N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping Zion
N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping Zion – Click to enlarge

In the map above, you see three sets of campsites – the first batch is to the right after about a mile, then a few sites towards the mesa on the left after about 1.6 miles followed by the North Creek area camping just before 2 miles.

The dirt roads towards the mesa are very bad but short! You can find secluded spots there.

The creek area has many sites but the vegetation keeps them relatively private. On busy nights there are lots of RVs in there and you may have to deal with close neighbors and noise.

Having some shade in summer (with a cool stream) is certainly a plus for the creek area!

N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping 2
N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping – at North Creek
North Creek Camping near Zion
North Creek Camping near Zion
N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping 3
N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping – Mesa (west) side
N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping 4
N Kolob Terrace Rd Camping – East side after 1 mile

About potable water and toilets – as shown on the map you can either drive to La Verkin (Maverik fuel with a free dump station) or the first bus stop in Springdale (water).

Verizon has very spotty (if any) LTE service at these campsites.

Free water at Springdale Bus Stop
Free water at Springdale Bus Stop

Free Camping in the Hurricane Cliffs (Sheep Bridge Rd) East Area

To escape the crowds you can head south on Sheep Bridge Rd out of Virgin for 1.75 miles. The dirt road is washboard at times but very doable in all vehicles.

But be warned – on mountain bike event weekends the place gets crazy busy and dusty!

Hurricane Cliffs East Campsites Map
Hurricane Cliffs East Campsites Map – Click to enlarge

Do stop at the information board after a mile to read the rules and look at the camping maps.

Hurricane Cliffs Camping Info
Hurricane Cliffs Camping Info

The first camping area is to the right (after 1.75 miles) and you MUST camp in one of the 9 designated sites.

Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 39-48
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 39-48 – Click to enlarge

There are 4 more sites a short drive further south. These sites are larger and I often see more than one RV in each site – just be considerate and give your neighbors plenty of space or move along.

Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 36-38
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 36-38 – Click to enlarge

About potable water and toilets – as shown on the map you can either drive to La Verkin (Maverik fuel with free dump station) or the first bus stop in Springdale (water).

Verizon has very good LTE service at these campsites.

Free Camping in the Hurricane Cliffs (Sheep Bridge Rd) South Area

Many will say this area is too far from Zion (4.25 miles to SR 9) and I agree but the sites are far apart and with easy access to SR 59 (0.65 miles) and the city of Hurricane.

Hurricane Cliffs South Campsites Map
Hurricane Cliffs South Campsites Map – Click to enlarge

The information board is at the entrance to Sheep Bridge Rd after the turn from SR 59. Please stop to read the rules and look at the camping maps.

Camping Hurricane Cliffs South Info
Camping Hurricane Cliffs South Info – Click to enlarge

After only 0.65 miles of washboard dirt road, turn left into the designated camping area.

Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 9 -12
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 9 -12 – Click to enlarge
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 6 - 8
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 6 – 8 – Click to enlarge
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 1 - 5
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 1 – 5 – Click to enlarge

About potable water and toilets – as shown on the map you can either drive to La Verkin (Maverik fuel with a free dump station) or the first bus stop in Springdale (water).

Verizon has very good LTE service at these campsites.

Free Camping in the Hurricane Cliffs (La Verkin Overlook Rd) Area

This area is perfect if you plan to explore Zion National Park and want to be closer to towns with affordable gas and supplies. The dirt roads are bad but short!

Please camp in designated campsites only – there’s a lot of illegal camping here which ruins the areas closed for regeneration.

Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 49-56
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 49-56 – Click to enlarge

Note the red ? in the upper left corner. I see RVs camped there all the time but the location is marginal and not a designated site! Basically on the BLM line so be careful.

Sites 50, 51 and 52 are large and shared by many RVs! Spacing and privacy can be an issue.

Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 49-54
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 49-54 – Click to enlarge
Hurricane Cliffs Campsite 53
Hurricane Cliffs Campsite 53 – Click to enlarge
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 55-56
Hurricane Cliffs Campsites 55-56 – Click to enlarge

About potable water and toilets – as shown on the map you can either drive to La Verkin (Maverik fuel with a free dump station) or the first bus stop in Springdale (water).

Verizon has very good LTE service at these campsites.

Precise Campsite Locations and Recommendations

If you want GPS waypoints and my personal recommendations for free campsites, please consider becoming a Patron (Supporter) of my work for a small monthly contribution!

https://www.patreon.com/letseeamerica

The reasons are:

Many travelers want dispersed camping to remain “secret”. In their opinion, these free locations will become overrun with campers if one discloses too much information.

I disagree! Let me explain.

I understand the visitation impact of COVID-19 on Public Lands. We are told to go outside and enjoy nature as a safer alternative to indoor activities. The result is obvious – there are more folks camping and there are more thrash and land damage to deal with.

Popular dispersed camping areas are near capacity on most nights – leading to frustration for full-timers who depend on free camping in order to travel on low budgets.

The truth is – information about dispersed campsites are freely available. There are phone apps showing locations, many websites do the same and Rangers will gladly share tips about where to camp for free in their Districts!

So the issue is not about sharing dispersed campsite locations with the public. It’s happening already.

In my opinion the REAL challenges are:

1. Education – how do we educate the general camping public about the importance of camping etiquette on Public Lands?

2. Spacing – how do we get folks to spread out and explore locations further away from the major access roads and crowds?

3. Amenities – how do we convince the Public Land authorities to provide more toilets, potable water, and trash bins?

My Contribution

I share general information about dispersed camping to the public because I believe it is educational (at the very least it helps to prevent illegal camping and it helps with spacing when folks know where more campsites are located).

To further assist with spacing, I do not share the locations of my favorite campsites or recommendations with the general public. I am trying to prevent people from rushing to the same few free campsites (the very best ones) around the country. This information is only available to my patrons.

Free Camping near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

Dixie NF Free Camping Guide

This is a complete blog and video guide to FREE camping in Dixie National Forest near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Dixie NF Sign
Dixie NF Sign

In this guide, you will find maps with directions, updates on road conditions, locations of most campsites, and availability of amenities such as cell coverage, water, and toilets,

About Bryce Canyon National Park and Dixie National Forest

Bryce Canyon National Park is almost surrounded by the Powell Ranger District of Dixie National Forest.

Dixie National Forest Districts – Click to enlarge

Dixie National Forest is divided into four Ranger Districts as shown on the map above. Our focus is the Powell Ranger District with an office in Panguitch, Utah. Phone: (435) 676-9300

Powell Ranger District Office in Panguitch, UT – Click to enlarge

Maps and Directions

I highly recommend the Avenza Maps App!

Then download the free Dixie National Forest Powell Ranger District Motor Vehicle Use Map.

You now have live access to the Forest Roads (FR) and other roads in the areas near Bryce Canyon National Park. In this guide, I reference the FR numbers often.

Another important resource is the National Forest website – Dixie National Forest

The MAP section of the Dixie National Forest is crucial to visit and read – Dixie National Forest Maps.

Camping inside or near Bryce Canyon National Park

There are two campgrounds inside Bryce Canyon NP and several commercial campgrounds near the Park.

Dixie National Forest offers three FEE-BASED campgrounds near Bryce Canyon NP. I will not discuss them in this guide:

  • Red Canyon Campground
  • Coyote Hollow Equestrian Campground
  • King Creek Campground (a bit too far down a washboard road for easy access to Bryce Canyon NP)

Video footage of the FREE camping areas

I am working on a series of driving and drone videos to show what it’s like to camp for free near Bryce Canyon NP!

Links will be posted as soon as these are available.

Recommended FREE Camping Areas in Dixie NF nearest to Bryce Canyon NP

You may camp in a dispersed area for up to 16 days. After 16 days, you must move at least 10 miles for camping in another dispersed area.

As shown on the map below, there are four popular FREE camping areas within an easy drive from Bryce Canyon NP. These are:

  • East Fork Road – many sites off forest roads from East Fork Road all the way down to the King Creek camping area
  • Dave’s Hollow – a few campsites very close to the Park but beware of camping restrictions
  • Tom’s Best Spring Road – many campsites in a large area with easy access
  • Corral Hollow – several campsites close to Red Canyon
Dixie NF Camping Travel Guide
Dixie NF Camping Areas closest to Bryce Canyon NP – Click to enlarge

NOTE – What about Johns Valley Rd to the north of Bryce Canyon? You can see the green NF land to the very top left of the map above.

I know some folks camped successfully on the west side of Johns Valley Rd near a cow pasture but that is private land on all the maps I studied. I do not recommend it at this time.

Across the road on the east side, a few opportunities exist along with FR 419 and FR 418 towards Henderson Pt. I plan to check it out in the future.

Free Camping in the Dave’s Hollow area

If you plan to spend a lot of time in Bryce Canyon then you can save travel time by camping in Dave’s Hollow. It is the closest free camping area.

Free Camping in the Dave’s Hollow area -RED is NO CAMPING) – click to enlarge

In the map above, you can see the campsites along with FR 103 and FR 088. There are probably a dozen or so sites depending on what you are looking for. Obviously, a travel van looking for a quick overnight has more options than a 40ft Toy Hauler hoping to stay two weeks.

There’s nothing special about these sites in terms of views, etc but they are secluded and private (close to the road though), somewhat level and close to the Park.

Dixie NF Campsite Daves Hollow
Dixie NF Campsite – Daves Hollow

Access is from either East Fork Road or the Bryce Canyon main road. Both roads are doable in 2WD vehicles with travel trailers (in most weather conditions).

IMPORTANT – if you enter from Bryce Canyon on FR 1173 you must drive west for 1.7 miles to the NO CAMPING sign before looking for campsites!

No Camping zone! – click to enlarge

About potable water and toilets – as shown on the map I recommend the Bryce Canyon Shuttle Station in Bryce Canyon City. There is a water filling station in addition to toilets and with gas/groceries nearby.

Verizon has reasonable LTE service at these campsites.

Bryce Canyon City Shuttle Station – water and toilets – Click to enlarge

Free Camping along East Fork Road

If you follow East Fork Road south past Dave’s Hollow there are several Forest Roads branching to the east.

On the map below (down East Fork Road south) you can see 3 sites along with FR 1164. These will do in a pinch but try elsewhere first. During my last stay, East Fork Road was very bumpy and unpleasant to drive.

Dixie-NF-Camping-Map-Daves-Hollow
Dixie-NF-Camping– look down south along East Fork road – Click to enlarge,

Verizon has reasonable LTE service at these campsites.

Free Camping in the Tom’s Best Spring Road Area

Many will say this is the best area to camp and I agree. There are countless campsites for every need and with easy access to Bryce Canyon NP and Red Canyon.

Dixie NF Camping Map Toms Best Spring Rd
Dixie NF Camping Map Toms Best Spring Rd

Note the Pit Toilets across the road when you turn onto Toms Best Spring Road! This makes camping here very convenient! There’s no water, however. The closest free water is at the Red Canyon Visitor Center.

Dixie NF Camping Map Toms Best Spring Aerial
Dixie NF Camping Map Toms Best Spring Aerial

There are many campsites and several access roads not shown on my maps. Basically, there are 5 loops to consider. Most folks prefer the first 3 loops closest to Byway 12.

  • Loop 1 (FR646-FR3625) branches to the left (west) of Toms Best Rd.
  • Loop 2 (FR3626) goes to the right
  • Loop 3 (FR3627) is also on the right a bit further down Toms Best Rd.

There are two more loops further away (you can see the campsites on the map) but let’s focus on the closest 3 in this guide.

Larger RVs tend to prefer Loops 2 and 3. The roads are dusty but easy to navigate. Loop 1 offers excellent views and is perfect for Vans and 4WD vehicles. The roads are rougher but 2WD vehicles should be OK in most weather conditions.

Dixie NF Campsite Toms Best
Dixie NF Campsite – Toms Best Spring Rd

Verizon has reasonable LTE service at these campsites.

Free Camping along Corral Hollow Rd

This area is perfect if you plan to explore both Bryce Canyon NP and Red Canyon.

Dixie NF Camping Map Corral Hollow Rd
Dixie NF Camping Map Corral Hollow Rd – Click to enlarge

There are at least 10 or so campsites along Corral Hollow Rd (doable in most vehicle types).

The campsites begin after 0.5 miles. There is a campsite to the right, 3 campsites straight ahead (on a slope, however) and the rest is to the west as you continue the drive.

Dixie NF Campsite Corral Hollow Rd
Dixie NF Campsite – Corral Hollow Rd

Closest free water and toilets are at the Red Canyon Visitor Center.

Verizon has reasonable LTE service at these campsites.

Precise Campsite Locations and Recommendations

If you want GPS waypoints and my personal recommendations for free campsites, please consider becoming a Patron (Supporter) of my work for a small monthly contribution!

https://www.patreon.com/letseeamerica

The reasons are:

Many travelers want dispersed camping to remain “secret”. In their opinion, these free locations will become overrun with campers if one discloses too much information.

I disagree! Let me explain.

I understand the visitation impact of COVID-19 on Public Lands. We are told to go outside and enjoy nature as a safer alternative to indoor activities. The result is obvious – there are more folks camping and there are more thrash and land damage to deal with.

Popular dispersed camping areas are near capacity on most nights – leading to frustration for full-timers who depend on free camping in order to travel on low budgets.

The truth is – information about dispersed campsites are freely available. There are phone apps showing locations, many websites do the same and Rangers will gladly share tips about where to camp for free in their Districts!

So the issue is not about sharing dispersed campsite locations with the public. It’s happening already.

In my opinion the REAL challenges are:

1. Education – how do we educate the general camping public about the importance of camping etiquette on Public Lands?

2. Spacing – how do we get folks to spread out and explore locations further away from the major access roads and crowds?

3. Amenities – how do we convince the Public Land authorities to provide more toilets, potable water, and trash bins?

My Contribution

I share general information about dispersed camping to the public because I believe it is educational (at the very least it helps to prevent illegal camping and it helps with spacing when folks know where more campsites are located).

To further assist with spacing, I do not share the locations of my favorite campsites or recommendations with the general public. I am trying to prevent people from rushing to the same few free campsites (the very best ones) around the country. This information is only available to my patrons.