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If you’re like me you have a love-hate relationship with National Parks. Love, that they open the door into some of the most majestic land you’ll ever step foot in and hate, that they involve a lot of planning. National Parks are some of the hottest destinations in the U.S with over 280 MILLION people visiting each year. Some of these people, including probably some of you, spend months and maybe even years planning your trip to see the parks. Then there are people like me, spontaneous and terrible at planning. So, whether you’re a last second-holiday planner or simply were unaware of the National Park camping demand for peak times, don’t fret! I’m about to share my secret spot for camping in Zion with you, so you too can visit Zion and camp like this…
What’s the secret to exclusive camping in Zion?
Bureau of Land Management Land, or BLM land – and yes Black Lives DO Matter. Anywhere that is registered BLM land allows for one to camp in Zion for FREE and have a fire, in areas where the fire alert is not too high. (Please research if fire warnings are high and practice safe fire techniques.) One of the best-kept secrets, if found, you can camp with entire open fields or forests at your tent’s front door. Created by President Truman the BLM registered unclaimed land that accounts for 1/8 of all the land in the great U.S of A. That’s a lot of land! It can still be tricky to find BLM land since it’s usually unidentified and if you camp even slightly off the land you could get in trouble for trespassing.
Where is the BLM land located in Zion?
It’s actually just outside of Zion in a little town called Virgin. Heading east toward Zion turn right on a side road called Sheep Bridge Road. This road is located right before Fort Zion and the cemetery. As soon as you cross the river you’re on BLM land! I usually drive about a mile or two down the road to the flat upper part for panoramic views. The drive is about 20 min away from town, so make sure you leave early enough to be parked and in the park by 10 am, or you won’t find parking. Also, make sure you have all the resources you need to stay the night away from civilization. Camping here is also perfectly safe. I leave my tent up all day while I hike (save for my valuables) and return at night to start a toasty campfire.
The best part about this spot is from the moment the sun begins to set every second brings out more and more stars. The milky way runs right down the canyon of Zion and therefore, right through your campsite. If you haven’t seen our galaxy without light pollution, you’re missing out. Bring your camera. My boyfriend and I set up our Olympus EM10 on a tripod and practiced our night photography for the first time. We got some amazing shots. We even got out our stargazer app and found our astrological signs and told each other stories of the stars. The entire night, during peak season we were unbothered by anyone, save for a few locals driving back to the BMX track. Never in my life did I feel more in tune with the universe and at peace with myself.
No reservations needed and a free 5000-star sleeping spot. Enjoy!
***I lucked out the first time I camped out here I set up my tent with a headlamp and when I woke in the morning I found the skeletal remains of a small coyote. You can see it in one of the first three photos! So, you are camping with wildlife, as always be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave any food out in an insecure place. Please always remember to pack out what you pack in. Never leave any trash behind. Always be fire safe. Most of all, enjoy camping in Zion!
Susanna grew up in small-town Alaska where the changing climate was always on her mind. Through traveling, she gained an interest in the power of sustainable and regenerative travel. She now attends a Master's program for environmental sustainability and bridges sustainable travel with environmental science. When she's not outside playing, you'll find her drinking whiskey with her cat and partner while trying to get to level 99 in life.