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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!
I had no idea that national parks in the US were such a popular destination. I always felt like my calling was to visit Asia and discover the places there, but I would love to visit a national park in my home country when I die.
I love Zion National Park. I have always wanted to go back to hike the Narrows. I had no idea camping was allowed. Thanks for sharing!
To be honest I haven’t heard much of nation parks until now. I know there are some in England which are popular but I’m not sure if people can camp in them. The camping Idea looks like great fun, in Australia parks have public BBQ’s and that would be handy for popular camp spots in America.
This one sounds totally irresistible! I am a new convert of National Parks and your post totally driving me nuts at this moment… Itching to plan one now, who on earth would want to miss the milky way and in a national park kinda set up!
Only difference here is that we are continents apart and yes, much that I don’t like, this one needs some serious planning!!!
Super blog post.
The National Parks in the U.S are stunning. I hope you make it to them. There’s several that are pretty close to each other so you can knock like 4 of them out in one stellar road trip!
Wow, beautiful photos! I never went camping, even if I bought a tent last year. Here in the UK is not free to camp, you have to do it in a proper camping place. I will try to go at least once this summer after seeing your pictures. I live by the coast and I would love to see the milky way! :)
What a beautiful park with wonderful pictures, I would love to visit many more national parks in the US :)
Wow! This is totally going on my bucket list! haha. I love watching stars, last summer we made a little fire on one hidden beach in Zadar, Croatia and just layed there and watched it. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this! Great pictures also :) x
I’ve heard of this park better never actually seen anything about it!! It looks beautful!
Hi Susanna. Thank you for this insightful post :) I bet you had great adventure – the night sky in the mountains is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen!
I’ve heard about this park before and I always wanted to go. It is on my list :-)
Wow! these pictures are amazing. I am still trying to be good at night photography, but never seem to get the stars right, lol. I mostly gets all blurry and shitty (lacking the patience I guess).
Anyhow, beautiful spot as well. I was utterly against camping for like 10 years..and now i am starting to warm up again.
I’m still learning, my stars a little blurry. But thank you, it does take a lot of patience, but I guess when you’re out camping in the middle of nowhere you have nothing else to work on. Glad you’re warming up to camping again it’s such a great way to experience nature. Enjoy!
This is so true! The same goes for national forests and a fair amount of other public lands in the US. If you have a 4WD, it just gets even better! ;)
Gorgeous! Zion, Moab, Canyonlands, and Arches are all bucket list items for me! I’d like to spend about a month just exploring that whole area.
So i’m going in march is there anything I need to know for camping in this area? I was hoping to get a spot in the park however I waited too long. Your spot looks beautiful. Any tips and or advice would be helpful. We’re traveling from Boise.
Hey Brittney, thanks for reading and for your question! I’m happy to help.
I think I covered most of the basics, but I’ll cover the most important things, in more detail. Here is a link to a BLM map for the surrounding area. You can camp for free anywhere it is marked in the yellow color. https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/upload/blm_camping_south.pdf You are allowed to have a fire depending on the fire warning at the time, just make sure to look for the fire danger the time you go. You can literally just drive 1/2 mile off the road, I marked on the map in my post. Just park on the side of the road, pitch your tent and enjoy the 5 billion star hotel. There is SO much room, so you don’t need to worry about it filling up out here. I left my tent up during the day while we hiked and returned at night, we just took all valuables with us, but if you’re worried just put the tent away at night.
This land is about a 20 min drive from the Zion entrance, so you will need to drive in and out if you want to visit the park or go to any store. We just had a cooler and food we cooked over the camp fire and went into town one night for dinner. Do note my warning about the Zion parking lot filling up, if you’re not in the park by like 9-9:30 in the summer you have to park on the side of the road. Other than that, I think you’ll be fine. Let me know if you have any specific questions. I might email this to you as well, so I know you have it!