Zion National Park is on the bucket list of many RVers, but what makes this Utah park one of the top RVing destinations?
The answer is that Zion offers a stunning array of unique landscapes in this desert paradise, along with one-of-a-kind hiking and outdoor adventure experiences that keep visitors coming back for more.
To learn more about how to RV Zion National Park, read my tips below to get the most out of your visit, along with a list of the top RV parks in the area that will make your stay even more enjoyable!
Tips for Making an RV Trip to Zion National Park
Zion is a top-rated tourist attraction, hitting number three in visitation among the US National Parks. To help you navigate crowds and make your RV trip less stressful, follow these tips:
1. Book Your RV Campground Early
Zion is one location you definitely want to plan for, as showing up and “winging it” may not end very well.
The park has two campgrounds with RV campsites, and many more RV parks are within a short drive outside the park boundaries that provide amenities that can increase your trip’s overall fun.
The Watchman and South Campgrounds within Zion both take reservations through the National Park website and are close to the Springfield entrance of the park.
If you want to experience Zion directly from your RV door, you must book your campsite as early as possible. There are restrictions on RV size, and there are few amenities at either campground, so consider this when planning your trip.
For outside campgrounds, you may need to book six months or more in advance to get a spot during the high season, which is roughly February through November. Peak months are June through mid-August, with families traveling during school break.
If you have the freedom to travel any time of the year, Zion in winter is a peaceful wonderland.
2. Look For Outside Campgrounds that Offer Shuttles to Zion
If you find the campgrounds within Zion are full for your travel dates or want an RV park with full hookups, do look for an outside campground that offers a convenient shuttle, so you don’t have to drive your recreational vehicle into Zion for day visits.
The parks that offer shuttles charge a reasonable fee, usually under $10 round-trip per person. The RV parks that have shuttles also book up faster than those that don’t, so book your spot as soon as possible.
3. Take Advantage of Zion’s Interpark Shuttle System
If you drive into Zion or take a shuttle from an outside RV park, you can avoid fatigue by using their free internal shuttle system that normally operates from March to November.
The shuttles arrive every ten minutes or less. They will take you from the main parking area to the visitor center, trailheads, overlooks, the history center, and other locations they list on the Zion shuttle stop schedule.
Note that the park doesn’t allow private traffic on Zion Scenic Canyon Drive when the shuttles are running.
To avoid the crush of visitors trying to park in Zion, you must arrive very early in the day. Another option I highly recommend is to park your vehicle in Springdale and hop on the town’s free shuttle that will deliver you to a location where you can hook up with Zion’s shuttle system.
4. Arrive Early to Avoid the Heat
Zion is a desert location, with average daily temperatures June through September above 90°, so plan early days to get in a few hours hiking and sightseeing before it gets too hot.
If getting up, getting to the park, and grabbing a spot on the first shuttle of the day at 7 a.m. isn’t part of your vacation plans, consider booking your Zion RV vacation at a more temperate time of the year, such as March, April, October, and November.
5. Learn the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel RV Permit Rules
One of the things newbie RVers to Zion National Park may not know is that the Mount Carmel Tunnel has vehicle size restrictions and requires a permit and escort through park rangers for those who will fit.
The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel is the main link between the park’s south side and Bryce Canyon and the North Rim section of the Grand Canyon on the east.
It’s a famously breathtaking drive, so do it if you can.
The rules for large vehicles traversing the road and tunnel include:
- Large vehicles must pay $15 for a permit
- Large vehicles must have an tunnel escort
- RVs over 13’1″ in height or over 40 feet long are not permitted at all on the road
- Escort hours of operation are not 24/7 so plan accordingly
The permit is a requirement for any recreational vehicle 11’4″ to 13’1″ tall or 7’10” or more in width, including any mirrors. The permit fee covers two trips through the tunnel within seven days.
Escorts are the only way for larger RVs that technically fit within the 1.1 mile-long tunnel to avoid accidents with oncoming vehicles, as you’ll be going right down the middle of the road on both the right and left lanes.
The timing of escorts is to stop two-way traffic and make it only one-way so RVs can enjoy the park without problems.
The stoppage of two-way traffic can make the site congested during peak season, so allow extra time in your schedule for delays. Please pre-measure your RV, so you know if you need a permit or not before you reach the tunnel.
Be aware that tunnel escort hours change throughout the year, and during winter, you must arrange your permit and escort at the park’s main entrance gate.
6. Add Vacation Days to Explore Nearby Attractions
While Zion National Park can provide a full week of exploration and outdoor adventure, you should consider seeing other nearby attractions such as:
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
- Grand Canyon’s North Rim
- Pipe Springs National Monument
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
- Sand Hollow State Park
- Quail Creek State Park
- River Tubing the Virgin River
- Moqui Caves and Moqui Caverns
- Dinosaur Tracks Trail
After Zion, explore less-traveled sites that offer short hiking trails and spectacular vistas. Utah has nearly 80% of its land set aside for public use by state and federal agencies, so there is much to see and do all year round.
Top Things to See in Zion National Park
Take a break from hiking and take a dip in the Virgin River or pull out your picnic lunch and enjoy the views of Angels Landing. There are water and restrooms available to refresh before you continue exploring the park.
Zion Human History Museum
This museum sits half a mile north of the south entrance and features displays on local Native American culture and early pioneer settlements.
A top choice hike for first-timers, the Narrows puts many aspects of the beauty of Zion in your path. You start from the Temple of Sinawava and Riverside Walk and take a one-mile trail that is wheelchair-accessible.
You can continue further if you prepare by bringing a waterproof bag for valuables and some water shoes with grippy soles, as you will need to wade through parts of the Virgin River. Trust me, getting wet is going to be worth it for the canyon views.
This waterfall flows down the sandstone sides of the cliffs and creates hanging gardens that are a stunning sight to behold. You can access the area by trail.
If you’re game, you can hike up the 5,790-foot sandstone cliffs above the Virgin River to the landing that offers an extensive overview of Zion. The 2.4-mile trail is steep and often slippery, so don’t bring young children and hold onto the cables to keep your balance and footing.
How to Reach Zion National Park by RV
Getting to Zion isn’t tricky. To simplify this guide, I put general driving directions to the park via different routes.
From the South, take I-15 north and then take exit 16 (SR-9) and travel through Hurricane and LaVerkin to the park’s south entrance. SR-9 is always open, and locals refer to it as the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway.
From the North, take I-15 south and exit on Hwy 20, heading east to US-89. Head south on US-89 until you reach Mount Carmel Junction, where you will take SR-9 west into Zion’s east entrance.
If you’re coming from Arizona, you can travel up US-89A through Fredonia, Arizona, up to Kanab, Utah, and follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Turn west on SR-9 to the east park entrance.
You can also travel to Zion from Arizona west and north via SR-389, which changes to SR-59 in Utah. Near Hurricane, take SR-9 east into the Zion south entrance.
Top Zion National Park RV Campgrounds
I put together the top RV campgrounds for visiting Zion National Park. I list the two campgrounds inside Zion that accept RVs and favorite private RV parks nearby worth checking out.
Zion River Resort
Zion River Resort is a short drive outside Zion, and many RVers say it’s a great campground on its own merits. The park offers 112 full-hookup 30/50A campsites and sits along the Virgin River with a backdrop of mountains with a cool list of amenities the whole family will enjoy.
Rates: Daily from $35/Weekly $208
- Pool & Hot tub
- Wi-Fi and Cable
- Camp Store
- Game Room
- Dog Park
- Mining Sluice
Red Ledge RV Park
Red Ledge RV Park is a small park with only 22 full-hookup campsites, but they are big-rig friendly and offer affordable rates. Enjoy a quiet park away from the crowds in Kanarraville, Utah, less than an hour from Zion.
Rates: Daily $30-$34/Weekly $175/Monthly $475-$500
- Campsite picnic table and fire ring
- Bath House and Restrooms
- Dump Station
- Basketball Court
Watchman Campground is inside Zion near the south entrance. The campground hugs the Virgin River and is conveniently close to a shuttle stop for stress-free park exploration. You can book one of the 190 sites in Loops A & B that offer electric and water hookups for RVs, but generator use is not allowed.
Rates: Daily $30
- Free access to Zion shuttle
- Campsite picnic table and fire ring/grill
- Dump Station
Zion South Campground
Zion South Campground is next to the south entrance with 117 campsites, but RVs will have no hookups and will need to plan for a boondock camping stay. The campground allows generator usage from 8:00-10:00 a.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m. to recharge batteries or run lights and appliances.
Camping here is rustic but is worth the experience of immersing yourself in the beauty of Zion. You can make reservations up to two weeks in advance, so book as early as you can within your travel window.
Rates: Daily $20
- Next to Visitors Center and Zion shuttle
- Potable water
- Dump Station
Zions West RV Park
Zions West RV Park provides views of Utah’s red hills and surrounding forest and is only a 30-minute drive to Zion National Park. With 36 full-hookup RV sites, the campground is on the small side, but the hiking, biking, and ATV trails on surrounding BLM land make it feel immense.
Trees at each campsite give you a place to take a break from the sun, and they offer 20 pull-through sites that can handle up to 60′ of RV plus tow vehicle.
Rates: Daily from $45/Weekly $230/Monthly $430 plus power
- Free Wi-Fi and Cable
- Showers and Restrooms
- Picnic Table
- Dog walk
WillowWind RV Park
WillowWind RV Park, offers 176 RV sites with modern amenities, friendly staff, and a fantastic location in nearby Hurricane, Utah. You can escape into nature from the campground or walk into town to grab a meal, visit the post office, or pick up groceries. You can even enjoy time at the Hurricane city pool two miles from the campground or take a day trip snow skiing on Brian Head Mountain.
Rates: Daily $65-$70/Weekly $390-$420/Monthly (Call for pricing)
Pet-Friendly: Yes (breed restricted)
- Wi-Fi and Cable
- Fitness Center
- Clubhouse with pool table
- Showers and Restrooms
- Community fire pits
- Dog run
- Satellite-friendly campsites with no obstructions
- Big rigs are welcome
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Zion National Park is a must-see on any RV trip out west. The yellow and red rock formations, rivers, flora, fauna, and outdoor adventures continue to enrich guests with one-of-a-kind experiences.
I hope you use this helpful guide to plan for your trip so you know what size RV you can drive through Zion, what issues to expect, and which sights you should see once you arrive.
Whether you stay within the park’s limits or choose a private RV park outside Zion, you won’t regret taking the time to visit one of our nation’s most stunning regions!
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide