We arrived at Zion on a Thursday evening in mid-November'19 without any plans. The Zion South Campground is closed for the season at this time, which we were unaware of. We did not have a reservation, and the sign at the entrance said full. We drove around a bit anyway.
In the 'F' loop, which has access to the walk-in sites, we noticed a parking spot without a reservation tag. So we knocked on the door of the on-duty campground host to ask about its availability. Sure enough, it was a no-show and they allowed us to stay after paying the standard $20 fee. The host made sure to explain how rare this occurrence is and we shouldn't bet on it in the future. Worth a try though if you have no other plans!
It is a very short walk from the parking lot to the 'walk-in' campsites. Maybe a few hundred feet. Sites are pretty close together, and the walk-in sites do not have their own fire pit. Instead, they have a few communal fire pits with benches around.
The sites each have a nice flat tent pad, an awning for shade, a picnic table, and a bear box.
Best we’ve been in awhile!
1st of November and no reservation… the campsite was full but the park let’s stragglers like myself camp together at one of the group campsites. Plenty of picnic tables and a large fire pit and a fire ring with cooking grate. The ground isn’t level at this site and it’s almost impossible to pound stakes into the packed earth without a iron mallet (thank you NEMO Meidr mallet)… so having one I was popular. Plastic stakes won’t work. Many campers loaded their tent with rocks to keep it from blowing away.
I haven’t stayed here yet, but I stayed close and hiked most of the trails over just a few days. This National Park is very underrated and I believe it is very well maintained. Home to one of the “hardest” trails in America, Angel’s Landing. I think it’s rated that because of how dangerous it can be, don’t let that discourage you though, anyone can do it! And the view at the end does NOT disappoint.
Watchman is located just inside the main southern entrance for Zion National Park. It’s a large national park site with multiple loops and hundreds of campsites. The sites are best suited for tent campers and small trailers or vans. They also have park and walk in tent sites. The campground is along the creek which runs through the park. The views from the camp are simply breathtaking and remind me of Yosemite. The hiking trails are world class and shuttle buses system runs within the campground. The sites are very clean and well maintained as well as the other facilities which are first rate including the restrooms, showers, and information centers. The park staff are truly amazing and have to deal with huge crowds throughout the year. They have guard gate at the camp entrance of the camp for passes and traffic control. The park has visitors from around the globe and its proximity to Las Vegas and St George makes for a great day trip. Some of the sites have privacy with small trees and brush depending on your spot. You will have access to fresh water and supplies. You will need a reservation to camp here given the popularity. Zion is an absolute must see and highly recommended. We plan on coming back in the Spring.
There was very little privacy between sights. Bathrooms were okay. Noisy.
Zion is incredible! Just know THAT IT IS HOT during the summer. We were there the first week of June and if you are down in the canyon you will want to be resting from 11-4. Seriously, we barely saw anyone actually moving between these hours and the summer heat isn’t even in full force yet. Because of this it is super important to have a shaded site or have a shaded structure that you can rest under. One section of the campground has pergolas to provide shade, but STILL try to find a site with trees around the perimeter, specifically on the south and west sides for when you are miserably hot in the last half of the day. Seriously, get a wide brimmed sun hat with a chin strap(a baseball hat would not have cut it for me) and SOAK IT before you go hiking.
I stayed at site C19 which had a decent line of trees which provided morning shade and some privacy between us and the neighbors in the D loop that butted against us. The campsites were large enough that it felt like we had decent privacy between us and the neighbors on either side as well despite there being no privacy screen of trees. The trees were wide enough to use for hammocking, but I don’t think I would recommend it because they have fragile bark. Even just hanging up my clothesline resulted in accidental bark removal.
The bathrooms were very nice and I appreciated the noise insulation of the building since I didn’t hear the hand dryers going at all. There is also a private handicap bathroom. No outlets anywhere in the bathroom for those of you that use them. This site was far enough away from the bathrooms that I didn’t notice bathroom traffic, but close enough that they were convenient for middle of the night visits.
PUT YOUR FOOD IN YOUR CAR WHEN YOU ARE NOT ACTIVELY EATING IT- DEER AND SQUIRRELS WILL GET INTO IT. DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE- OBESE SQUIRRELS ARE A HUGE PROBLEM HERE FROM PEOPLE FEEDING THE CUTE SQUIRRELS.
Springdale is right outside the park and provides a wide variety of food choices- just know that you will pay for them. A box of Back to Nature cookies at the coop cost TWICE AS MUCH as my local Whole Foods. I believe that a lot of people recommend stopping in Hurricane for groceries. We really liked Rosita’s Sante Fe Kitchen(we may have eaten there every single day). The average entree cost around$14, which in non-vacation reality is ridiculously expensive, but this was CHEAP for Springdale.
Did I mention that it is REALLY hot? If you want to be active during the middle of the day you can go up to the East Rim trail which is cooler(and requires driving on 9 which is amaaaaaazing- just know that there is a mile-long tunnel that they generally only let one lane of traffic go through at a time so there can be ridiculous delays and there are no signs that I saw telling you this- the only hint was in the brochure that said you could expect a delay but did not explain the nature of the delay or that this was a common occurrence and not just every once in a blue moon. The park is fortunate that there is no cell phone service by the tunnel because people would be calling non-stop reporting the traffic stop since you cannot see traffic control when you are so backed up. You can also go to the Kolob canyon- just note that Kolob canyon and Kolob Terrace are NOT THE SAME thing. I had it in my head to do a hike in the Kolob Terrace and was really confused when I showed up at the Kolob canyon and couldn’t find that trail on the map. The Kolob canyon WAS cooler temperature-wise, but I don’t think I would drive out of my way to go again.
Watchman is one of the most beautiful campgrounds I’ve ever stayed in. The campsites and bathrooms are kept clean and tidy. Showers are just a short walk away at Zion Outfitters. I will definitely be back!
Watchman Campground is one of two campgrounds inside of Zion National Park. It is located near the South Entrance of the park closest to Springdale, UT. You MUST make reservations online 6 months in advance to get a spot and they go SO FAST!
There is so much to love about this park!! I’ll start with the location. The South Entrance to the park is next to a town called Springdale which has so much to offer. There are restaurants, shops for camping gear, grocery stores, gas stations, laundry mat, showers, etc.…anything you could need is right there. (Super Convenient) It is also within driving distance of a bunch of other spectacular places, such as…Coral Pink Sand Dune State Park, Bryce Canyon, Grand-Staircase National Monument, Antelope Canyon, Kanarraville Falls, and many many others! So take some time to plan out a trip. There is so much to see!
The park has plenty of amenities, it is definity one of the nicest parks I have stayed at. Clean, well-stocked bathrooms on every corner, huge visitor/information center and a shuttle system inside the park as well as in Springdale.
Now because the park is such a big tourist destination, it does come with a few downfalls. There are many wonderful trails, but the majority are going to be paved so that they are accessible to everyone, which don’t get me wrong, that is an awesome thing. Anyone and everyone can go experience this amazing place, but we did miss some of the adventure that comes with a dirt trail. The Watchman trail and the top of Angel's Landing trail will give you some sense of adventure.
There are also a TON of camping sites and they will ALL be full, so be prepared to get to know your neighbors and everyone else around. There will be a lot of noise and it feels more like you’re at a theme park than camping, but if you embrace it….you will find such a fun community and leave with new friends and experiences!
We did have a permit for The Narrows but unfortunately due to snow melt it was closed along with a few others. This made for even bigger crowds at the other trails, but it was still an experience I will never forget.
Quick Tip: Get a National Park Pass!!!! We always have our National Parks Pass in our pocket because we like parks, but I found that while in and around Zion we used our pass more than ever before. There are so many National Monuments and Parks around Zion that the pass can be used for and it was nice to just be able stop on the fly and have free entrance. We saved at least a couple hundred bucks on our trip just by have our pass! Without the pass, Zion alone is $36.00 per car to enter.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products from time to time. At Watchman Campground I tested the Stream2Sea Tinted Suncreen.
I was very excited to try out a new sunscreen. Full disclosure, I am what you call very fair skinned. I burn faster than the marshmallows roasting at you campfire….literally. So sunscreen is an absolute MUST for me. My first beach day of the Summer I had reapplied a 40SPF sunscreen 5 times throughout the day and still ended up a ripe tomato.
Now as I had said previously, I had a permit for the Narrows and thought that would be a great place to try it out with all the Sun and water, but the trail was closed. So my husband and I decided to take a day to drive from Zion to Lake Powell, where we rented a 2 person kayak and decided to kayak into Lower Antelope Canyon.
When first applying the tinted sunscreen, I immediately noticed the difference from other “white” sunscreens. You still have to rub it in very well, but you don’t have those white streaks running down you as you normally would. I was worried it wouldn’t blend well with my skin tone, but surprisingly it did. It also blended well with my husband’s skin who is much darker than me. I have quite a few tattoos and I noticed it did look kind of strange on ink. It was almost like you could tell there was a film of goo over the tattoo.
So we heading out in the kayak down into the canyon till we hit land, then began hiking in. We spent about 6 hours in direct sunlight without reapplying and I will say I did not even get pink. I normally would have burned to a crisp, but nothing, no redness on my shoulders or top of my thighs.
This stuff works!
There was however one thing I did not like about it…
It felt heavy. You could tell that you have sunscreen on. You could feel it.
It wasn’t sticky at all, but it did have just a certain feel to it, that you do not get with the spray, lightweight sunscreens we have nowadays.
Overall, my skin was protected. A whole day in the Sun mixed with splashing water and it felt good to not be paying for it in the morning with a huge sunburn!
First time to Utah. BEAUTIFUL sites, very clean. Group site was awesome. We didn’t camp with tents, it was awesome waking up and having deer all around you!
This was our home base before heading out on a two night backpacking trip with students. Park Rangers were awesome.