This must-read Southern Utah camping guide covers everything you need to know – from the best time to go to the best campgrounds and more!
Full of impressive hoodoos, canyons, rivers, and lakes, Southern Utah should be at the top of any camper’s list. Southern Utah has endless places to explore and some of the most scenic campgrounds in the country.
I’ve had the pleasure of traveling Southern Utah extensively, and every time I visit I’m blown away by the incredible scenery and quality of campgrounds.
Whether you plan to camp in Southern Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks or opt for free camping, here’s everything you need to know about camping in Southern Utah!
Camping in Southern Utah: When To Go, Where To Camp, Packing & More!
The Best Time to Camp in Southern Utah
Though you’ll be able to find a camping spot in Southern Utah year-round, the time of year you decide to visit will drastically change the kind of experience you have.
Camping in Southern Utah in the summertime can be extremely busy and crazy hot – so hot, in fact, that hiking the area is often considered dangerous due to the extreme heat.
On the flip side, camping in Southern Utah during winter tends to see cooler days and many nights dropping below freezing. If you visit a particularly high elevation area of the state, you can even expect snowfall.
Additionally, some trailheads close during the wintertime and, as a result, you may have a more difficult time finding quality camping spots.
For these reasons, I recommend camping in Southern Utah during spring or fall. Fall will still have plenty of crowds to contend with, but you’ll find the weather to be much more enjoyable and, if you book in advance, you’ll have no trouble finding a camping spot.
What to Know About Camping in Utah
Watch for Wildlife
Camping in Southern Utah means being on your toes for wildlife encounters. Along with some bigger mammals, Southern Utah is rattlesnake and scorpion country, so make sure your tent zippers are always completely closed and that you shake out your shoes before you put them on every day.
Additionally, stay aware of any wildlife on trails and, if you encounter any, keep your distance.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
While it’s always a good idea to check the weather multiple times daily no matter where you decide to camp, this idea is especially poignant in Utah. Depending on where you go, your campsite could be prone to flash floods, road washouts, or wildfires.
Chances are, these things won’t happen to you on your camping trip, but it’s always smart to stay one step ahead.
There is All-Season Camping
Despite its often frigid temperatures come winter, there is an abundance of all-season campsites in Southern Utah. Do a little research into the best (and safest) areas to go, and have yourself a great winter camp.
Stock up on Water
Due to long trails and often scorching temperatures, it’s best to be on the overly-cautious side when it comes to hydration in Southern Utah. Always keep at least a couple of water bottles on you while hiking or other activities, and refill them whenever you can.
Free Camping in Southern Utah
Whether you’re looking to have an off the grid camping experience or just want to save some money, there are plenty of places to camp for free in Southern Utah. A lot of Southern Utah is Bureau of Land Management Land, meaning that you can camp on the land unless otherwise posted, although there are some free designated campsites as well.
However, as imposed all over the country, there is a stay limit on Southern Utah BLM land of 14 days. After that, you’ll have to pack up and find a new spot at least 25 miles from where you were.
Just remember to follow Leave No Trace principles!
Tips for Camping in Southern Utah’s National Parks
Book Far in Advance
Utah’s National Parks are some of the most popular destinations in the country, and as a result, the campgrounds tend to fill up fast. If you have a specific spot in mind, don’t hesitate to book as early as you can.
Get a National Parks Pass
If you plan on visiting more than one National Park in Utah during your trip, it’ll pay to purchase an “America the Beautiful” National Parks Pass. For just $80USD, this annual pass will admit the pass owner plus everyone else in a non-commercial vehicle entrance to the park.
Depending on how many people you camp with, this could end up saving you a lot of money.
Read more: The Best Cameras for Hiking and Backpacking
The Best Campgrounds in Southern Utah’s National Parks
Southern Utah is a prime camping territory. Whether you’ll be camping in an RV, a tent, or under the stars, there is a perfect campground here for you.
Best Campgrounds in Zion National Park
A social campground, Watchman is in the middle of all the Zion action and is right near the park’s visitor’s center and main shuttle stop. Campsites here include hookups, flush toilets, potable water, and even a dump station.
As Watchman is extremely popular, make sure you book your reservation for it early (reservations open 6 months in advance)!
Lava Point Campground
A first-come, first-served campground, Lava Point Campground is a primitive, free campground that is far away from the crowds. While you won’t find any running water here, there are pit toilets and garbage cans.
Lava Point Campground is open seasonally from June through October.
Best Campgrounds in Bryce Canyon National Park
With 99 full-service campsites, North Campground at Bryce National Park is one of a few large campgrounds in the area and is very close to the visitors center. The campground features a dump station, recycling, flush toilets, and potable water.
Sunset Campground consists of 100 campsites set on a hilly spot in the park. The campground features flush toilets, group sites, recycling, picnic tables, and fire rings. However, most of the campsites here are smaller than others in the area, and getting any vehicle longer than 28 ft into a spot may be tricky.
Read more: Zion National Park Travel & Hiking Guide
Best Campgrounds in Capitol Reef National Park
Cathedral Valley Campground
With only 6 campsites located near Torrey, this top-rated campground is perfect for tenters or smaller (high-clearance) vehicles and features some of the best views in the area. Not to mention, the site is free.
Consisting of 71 full-service sites, Fruita Campground is directly next to the Fremont River and is open year-round. The campground features picnic tables, fire pits, and RV dumps. There are no electrical hookups.
Best Campgrounds in Arches National Park
Devil’s Garden Campground
A top-rated campground in Arches National Park, Devil’s Garden is a full-service campground that is close to hiking trailheads and some incredible scenery. This campground does get full fast though, so book ahead.
Ken’s Lake Campground
Consisting of 31 full-service sites, Ken’s Lake Campground is great whether you’ll be visiting with an RV or a tent. There are vault toilets on site, and Ken’s Lake is just a short walk away.
Best Campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park
Willow Flat Campground
Featuring fire rings, picnic tables, vault toilets, and hookups, Willow Flat Campground is a first-come, first-serve site. With only 12 campsites in the ground, you’re going to want to get here early!
Squaw Flat Campground (Needles Campground)
A well-maintained campground featuring 26 sites, Squaw Flat Campground is home to hiking trails, fire rings, picnic tables, and flush toilets. There may not be any showers at this location, but the beautiful views make up for it!
Southern Utah Camping Essentials
Camping Supplies: Every successful camping trip to Southern Utah needs a quality tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, lightweight backpack, hammock, and camp chair. Additionally, bring along a couple of headlamps or small lanterns for walking around at night.
Toiletries: Camping in Southern Utah, no matter what time of year, means that you’re going to want to bring sunscreen, after bite, bug spray, and deodorant. Additionally, because you’ll be camping, I recommend bringing biodegradable wet wipes, body soap, hand sanitizer, a couple of rolls of toilet paper, and dry shampoo.
Cooking Gear: A camp stove, cooking set, and biodegradable soap are musts for cooking on a campsite. Additionally, I recommend bringing along a bear box for storing food at night – this will help keep away small critters too!
Water: If you stay in designated camping areas, then finding potable water in Southern Utah will be a breeze. However, if you plan on staying in dispersed camping, then I recommend bringing a lot of water with you.
On the flip side, you’ll also want to carry a dry bag with you — especially if you decide to hike The Narrows in Zion.
Clothing: Due to the fluctuations of temperature in Utah, I recommend bringing light layers that you can peel on and off. You’ll want some quick-dry shirts, shorts, hiking pants, swimsuit, and a light rain jacket.