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Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country, and for good reason – it’s simply incredible! Use this guide to plan ahead and reserve all the permits needed for your trip so you don’t miss out.
As a Utah resident, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Zion National Park many times over the years. For better or worse, I’ve seen it change and grow.
There’s no way around it, Zion National Park is getting crowded. Over 4 million people visit Zion every year, and due to the geology of the canyon, space is limited.
With so many people planning a trip to Zion this year, you’ll need to plan ahead. This post will help you plan ahead to get reservations for camping, backpacking, and canyoneering.
In this post we’ll cover:
- all of the permit and reservation deadlines for Zion National Park campgrounds and hiking trails for 2022
- how to make campground reservations
- how to reserve permits for popular hikes and canyoneering trips
Get the most out of your visit and don’t miss a deadline!
Note: For any current park alerts and closures, check here.
Zion National Park Camping
Zion National Park has 3 campgrounds – South Campground, Watchmen Campground, and Lava Point Campground.
South and Watchmen Campgrounds are located in Zion Canyon near the South Entrance in Springdale, UT. Zion Canyon is the main park area where most visitors go.
Lava Point Campground is about an hour’s drive up Kolob Terrace Road from Zion Canyon.
Click here for a map of Zion National Park to help with your planning.
Camping is only permitted in designated campsites, not in pullouts or parking lots. Camping is very popular in Zion National Park, and the spots fill up quickly.
When making your campground reservations, please make sure to read all of the rules and regulations before booking.
1) South Campground
Campsites at South Campground will be available to book online in advance beginning on Saturday, February 20th, 2021.
You can make reservations for South Campground 14 days prior to your arrival date at www.recreation.gov.
There are no hookups available at this campground.
2) Watchman Campground
Watchman Campground is open year-round for tent and electric campsites.
You’ll need to make a camping reservation:
Reservations for individual campsites at Watchman Campground can be made 6 months prior to your arrival date online at www.recreation.gov.
3) Lava Point Campground
Lava Point Campground is typically open from May through September.
It’s located off of Kolob Terrace Road about 25 miles north of Virgin, UT.
It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive to Lava Point Campground from the South Entrance of Zion National Park.
Vehicles longer than 19 feet are not permitted on the road to the campground.
Starting in 2022, Lava Point Campground will require a reservation.
Reservations will become available on a 2-week rolling window. See here for more information.
Other campgrounds near Zion National Park
If you can’t get a reservation for a campsite inside Zion National Park, don’t worry, there are plenty more camping options nearby the park, although, you’ll still want to plan in advance.
Possible Lodging Options:
There’s also some nearby BLM land that you can camp on for free. I have more information about how to find dispersed camping here.
Zion National Park Hiking and Canyoneering Permit Deadlines
Wilderness permits are required for many activities in Zion National Park including backpacking, canyoneering, river trips, and some rock climbing.
In this section, we’re going to cover permit regulations and deadlines for popular Zion canyoneering, day hiking, and backpacking trips.
Rock climbing and river trips are out of the scope of this post.
Zion National Park Day Hikes
If you want to visit Zion National Park and do some of the popular non-technical day hikes, you’ll only need a permit if you want to hike Angels Landing.
All other trails do not require permits.
Starting on and after April 1, 2022, everyone who hikes Angels Landing needs to have a permit.
See here for the latest information on when and how to apply for a permit.
Angels Landing is by far the most popular hike in the park. While it is a beautiful view, even if you can’t get permits, there are still plenty of other great hikes in the park.
Wilderness permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips.
NOTE >> With COVID-19, the rules and permitting process for Zion National Park is continually changing. For the most accurate up-to-date permitting information, check out the official Zion Wilderness Reservations page.
How to Get a Backpacking Permit:
To make an online reservation for backpacking in Zion National Park, click here. I will walk you through the process below.
Step 1: Select a “Resource Area”
This is simply just the area and campsite that you want to go backpacking. You will need the Zion Wilderness Map to show you the areas and campsites available.
Step 2: Pick Your Dates
Next, you’ll be taken to a page with calendars of the available dates and the number of slots available on those dates. Choose what works for you out of the available options.
Step 3: Finalize Your Itinerary
The last step is to finalize your group size and fill in trip details such as your entry and exit point. Make sure you carefully read through all of the rules, alerts, and regulations in this step.
Notes for Permit Success:
- Plan ahead, look at the map, and know exactly when and where you want to get permits BEFORE they are available.
- Once you’re in the system, move quickly because they do not hold permits even after you’ve clicked on a date.
- I’ve been in the checkout process only to realize that someone else filled in the form faster and the site I wanted was no longer available… gone in seconds. Have credit card info saved in your browser so you don’t need to type the entire number in… little things like that make all the difference!
Canyoneering Day Trips
All technical slot canyons in Zion National Park require a permit.
Canyoneering combines route finding, rappelling, swimming, and hiking. It’s a lot of fun, but the activity does require advanced planning.
Canyoneering Permits Are Required For:
- The Narrows from Top to Bottom (as a day hike)
- The Subway Hike (in either direction)
- Mystery Canyon
- Orderville Canyon
- Any other technical slot canyon in the park
How to Get a Canyoneering Permit:
Again, the permitting process is continually changing with COVID-19 regulations. Check here for the latest permit process updates and alerts from the national park.
To make a reservation for a canyoneering day trip, including The Narrows one-day, top-down hike, click here.
NOTE: You do NOT need a permit to hike The Narrows from the bottom-up as a day hike.
NOTE: To hike The Narrows from the top-down as an overnight hike, see the backpacking permit system above.
Plan your visit to Zion National Park!
Now you’re ready to plan your visit to Utah’s first national park.
Zion National Park is such a special place, and I hope this post helps you plan your trip and maximize all there is to see and do there.
I didn’t grow up in Utah. In fact, I didn’t even plan to move to Utah, not to mention live here for 6+ years! It was the desert that captivated me and made me totally fall in love with everything Utah has to offer.
Seeing Zion National Park for the first time is a moment you’ll never forget.
MORE UTAH BLOG POSTS:
- The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Guide
- 7 Best Hikes in Arches National Park
- The Complete Guide to Capitol Reef National Park
If you have any questions as you’re planning, feel free to comment below!