Free camping near Zion National Park might sound too good to be true.
But, thanks to an abundance of nearby BLM land, it’s actually pretty easy to find a dispersed campsite just a half hour to an hour away from the park.
Today, I’m going to break down my favorite free dispersed campsites near Zion to help you plan your next trip.
Related Post: Where to Go Dispersed Camping in Utah
Please always follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping, especially packing out all of your trash, including human waste.
Best Free Campsites Near Zion
Skip down to the specific free campsite you want to know more about:
Or, use our Zion dispersed camping map to find a free campsite near you.
My Favorite Free Campsites Near Zion
Dispersed camping is outlawed within Zion itself. But there are tons of great dispersed camping opportunities just outside its borders. Here are my five favorites.
Gooseberry Mesa (South Entrance)
Gooseberry Mesa is my go-to for dispersed camping near Zion National Park.
Located just north of Highway 59 near Apple Valley, it takes about an hour to an hour and a half to drive to Zion’s south entrance (the main entrance) depending on your campsite.
The area near the canyon rim (with the best views) gets very busy. Even if you can’t snag a spot here, there are plenty of additional campsites scattered along the unpaved access road.
The road itself isn’t terrible for the first several miles. Boondockers should set up camp in their RVs and trailers in these spots (don’t try to push on to the rim). These are also the best campsites for those without high-clearance which is very helpful in reaching the rim.
Aside from the dispersed camping, awesome canyon views, and quick access to Zion, Gooseberry Mesa is best known for its abundance of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Sheep Bridge Road (South Entrance)
“Location, location, location,” is what Sheep Bridge Road is all about.
The unpaved road runs across a beautiful stretch of BLM land for about 5 miles between Highway 59 to the south and Highway 9 to the north.
These campsites are roughly equidistant to the towns of Virgin, La Verkin, and Hurricane. And, better yet, just a half hour drive to Zion’s south entrance.
Of course, this prime location has one major downside – it gets super busy here. And, this popularity has led to so much overuse that the Bureau of Land Management now restricts you to 56 designated dispersed campsites.
True dispersed camping is no longer allowed along Sheep Bridge Road (part of the larger Hurricane Cliffs Recreation Area). Luckily, these campsites are well spaced with nothing more than fire rings so you’ll still feel like you’re dispersed camping.
The drive into these campsites isn’t horrible, but do expect rocks, ruts, and dust. It’s completely possible to boondock here in RVs and trailers of all sizes (including big rigs) if you take the approach slow.
Dalton Wash Road (South Entrance)
Dalton Wash Road is another great spot for free camping near Zion’s south entrance.
These remote dispersed campsites boast incredible views of the surrounding desert, especially the farther up the road you travel, and are only a half hour to an hour from the national park.
As for the road itself, expect a slow, bumpy, and dusty drive. Dalton Wash Road is reasonably well-maintained for the first several miles. It’s doable in any passenger vehicle, although high-clearance is helpful (and 4WD is always a plus).
Although you’ll likely see small to medium RVs and trailers here, this isn’t really the best spot for boondocking near Zion. The road is quite narrow with few places to turn around. I’d personally look elsewhere unless you have a very small trailer and don’t mind if it gets banged around.
Like most BLM land near Zion, Dalton Wash Road is punctuated with private property. Please respect all private property signs as well as the national park boundary. Make sure you’re on BLM land before setting up camp.
A map app with BLM land boundary overlays (I use FreeRoam) will help ensure you’re on BLM land. Stopping by the nearest ranger station (the St. George Field Office, in this case) is another great way to doublecheck your dispersed camping plans (and even get additional recommendations).
Burnt Flat Gulch (East Entrance)
Burnt Flat Gulch is your best bet for dispersed camping east of Zion.
This expansive stretch of unnamed BLM land is commonly referred to elsewhere online simply as “BLM lands east of Zion,” but I tend to call it Burnt Flat Gulch thanks to its location near this narrow valley.
You have a lot of different options to choose from here. Perhaps the most popular are the campsites between a broad curve in Highway 9 off of BLM roads K1625, K1630, K1640, and several others.
But don’t feel like you have to set up camp in this exact spot. Although interspersed with private property, BLM land covers much of this area. Another good spot to look is south of Highway 9 opposite Burnt Flat Gulch Road (K2105).
Use a quality Bureau of Land Management app – like the ones available from FreeRoam – to find other equally great free campsites on the BLM lands east of Zion.
The majority of the access roads here are accessible to all vehicles, including large RVs and trailers.
Kolob Reservoir (Kolob Canyons Entrance)
* Dispersed camping at Kolob Reservoir is no longer free.
Kolob Reservoir once was a fantastic place for free dispersed camping north of Zion.
Unfortunately for us, it’s now a paid campground with limited campsite. I believe the fees were instated in 2021 because of overuse (and abuse) by dispersed campers.
Although I have nothing against paid campgrounds, Kolob Reservoir is quite expensive (I believe it’s currently around $50 per night) for what is very similar to a dispersed camping experience.
The campsites here are very primitive and the campground itself has little in the way of amenities (aside from vault toilets and portable toilets) which is why I say the fee is high.
With that said, Kolob Reservoir and the surrounding area is truly magical. The drive up Kolob Terrace Road to the reservoir is among the most scenic in the area. The lake itself boasts great fishing and is a gem for standup paddleboarding. Most campsites are right on the lakeshore itself.
Private land surrounds the reservoir so there’s nowhere else for dispersed camping in the immediate vicinity. There are, however, a handful of dispersed campsites at the beginning of Kolob Terrace Road about 45 minutes away.
If you’re willing to shell out to stay at the reservoir, you’re in for a real treat. Not only is it beautiful up there, but the high elevation means it stays substantially cooler than Zion and the surrounding towns, even in the middle of summer.
Is Dispersed Camping Allowed in Zion National Park?
Dispersed camping isn’t allowed within Zion itself.
In fact, I’m not personally aware of any national parks which allow drive-in dispersed camping or RV boondocking.
Because the National Park Service’s main goal is conservation, visitors are required to stay in designated campgrounds (or backcountry campsites only).
Fortunately, as I’ve detailed above, countless dispersed camping opportunities exist just outside of Zion’s borders, mostly on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
But, don’t discount Zion’s developed campgrounds. Not only are they the most convenient way to stay in the park, but they’re also very scenic and peaceful. Watchman Campground is the largest Zion campground plus it’s the only one open year-round (reservations are always required).
Learn more about dispersed camping in national parks.
Related Post: Guide to Dispersed Camping on BLM Land
Let Us Know If You Have Any Questions!
With just a little know-how, it’s super easy to find dispersed camping near Zion.
Although our recommendations above offer a great start, we strongly encourage you to do your own research and wander around a little to find a dispersed campsite of your very own.
There are so many great free dispersed campsites near Zion that it’s not at all hard to find one away from the crowds (especially if you have high-clearance and 4WD).
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