Like the older campgrounds in many of our country's other national parks, there are
only a few sites in the campground inside Zion that
will accommodate a 36-foot 5th-wheel coach and truck -- let alone
a third vehicle like our Odyssey minivan -- and the ones that do are
snapped up within minutes when reservations open online for the time period you want.
So for this visit to Zion National Park we opted to camp at this
private RV park just half a mile from the park's west gate in Springdale, Utah.
We checked it out last fall when we were staying at
Red Canyon and made a
day trip to Zion specifically to decide where we
would camp this spring if we decided to spend several days here. This was our
favorite of all the campgrounds and RV parks in the area, primarily for its location
so close to the park.
View of The Watchman rock formation
from my desk window in the Cameo
Before making reservations we already knew that Zion is one of the
most heavily-visited of our national parks and that spring and fall are
the busiest times. We hate crowds but really wanted a spring and possibly also
a fall visit this year because of the milder temperatures in those seasons and how
well it would fit in with the rest of our tentative RV travel schedule.
When I called the RV park six months ago to request a reservation, I
asked when would be the least busy time to visit Zion this spring.
The woman I talked with was quite helpful. She gave some windows of time in
April and early May that would avoid various spring break weeks and Easter, times
when visitation to the park soars. We settled on this week and were able to
reserve a site large enough for all three of our vehicles. Then we scheduled
some of our other, more flexible destinations around the dates we'd be
Our site at the end of a row,
under the watchful eye of "The Watchman"
This entry will focus on 1) the drive from Las Vegas, NV to Springdale,
UT; 2) Zion Canyon Campground & RV Park; and 3) some insight
into this bustling little town that is the western gateway to Zion National Park.
Subsequent entries will focus on the park itself, our hikes and bike rides in
the park, and two day trips we took from Springdale.
THE SCENIC DRIVE FROM VEGAS TO SPRINGDALE
We left the RV Park at Nellis AFB in North Las Vegas at 8 AM Pacific Time and arrived
at Zion Canyon RV Park in Springdale, UT at 11 AM -- oops, no, it was noon
their time. We forgot we "lost" an hour going east from Pacific to Mountain Time.
Welcome to Utah! Jim is being passed
by a Class A motorhome and toad.
I wonder if they are going to Zion, too?
Our 153-mile route was very scenic but quite hilly, with a net elevation increase
from about 1,500 feet to 3,900 feet. It was dry and sunny the whole way.
The map section below shows most of our route north on I-15 from Vegas
and Mesquite, Nevada, then through the northwestern corner of Arizona and into far
southwestern Utah. I highlighted the route in yellow:
I love the part of this route through the Virgin River Gorge in the far
northwestern corner of Arizona:
The Virgin River flows through Zion National Park, past the city of
St. George, Utah, and along part of I-15 though Arizona as it courses southwest
for about 162 miles to the northern end of Lake Mead in Nevada.
It is officially designated "Wild and Scenic," and it truly is after either
a downpour or just normal spring snowmelt in the Utah mountains. Because of high,
in The Narrows this week, we won't be able to wade up through this iconic
canyon in the park while we're here.
Entry to The Narrows; no one
allowed past here this week.
When we were over at Red Canyon, UT last October a group of seven middle-aged canyoneers from
California and Washington died in one of the other canyons in the
eastern part of Zion when they got washed away unexpectedly. They were
experienced and knew the risks but proceeded anyway.
It was the same storm -- but a different stream -- that
also resulted in the deaths of several women and children in a canyon near Hilldale,
Flash floods in canyons can be unexpected and deadly. The National Park
Service doesn't want to take any chances this year.
Back to I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge: This is not the easiest freeway to navigate
a big rig --either a large RV or a semi truck -- especially driving north in the
uphill direction. Jim can tell you it was a lot more fun in the minivan when we drove up
to Montana and back in February from Yuma than it was today hauling the fiver.
Jim did a great job, though, even through the one-lane construction areas in the gorge.
The speed limit was reduced to speeds that large rigs can handle so traffic didn't get
backed up too badly behind us when they couldn't pass for several miles.
I-15 is scenic for almost all of its length from California through
Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Montana to the Canadian border, but
is probably the best through this section of northern Arizona and southern
Utah because of all the colorful rock walls in this gorge and past the
western edge of Zion National Park.
Snowy peaks in the Pine Valley Mtns. west of St.
Not in Zion's boundary yet , but typical of the
layered rocks within the park
A little north of St. George we turned east on UT 9 and followed it through the small
towns of Hurricane, LaVerkin, and Virgin . . . to the small town of Springdale.
The last few miles we skirted just south of the national park
rock walls got larger and more impressive as we traveled east:
A multi-use path extends beyond Springdale to the west.
Outskirts of Springdale; the town is surrounded on three sides
by the park's picturesque rock walls.
We didn't see very many flowers in
bloom while driving on I-15 except yellow creosote but the Virgin River Valley was so lush
between Hurricane and Springdale with flowers and bright green spring leaves that Jim
commented on it while driving (via walkie-talkie, not cell phone).
There are some unusual trees at our site with large dark pinkish-purple clusters
I don't know what they are but they sure are pretty.
I'll show more photos of flowers in subsequent entries about our
hikes and bike rides in the park.
CAMPING AT ZION CANYON RV PARK
Visitors to this
campground/RV park register at the Comfort Inn
at the front of the property; it's all part of the Ferber Resort complex:
All the campsites are between the back of the motel and the Virgin River,
with many of the tent and small RV sites situated on the waterfront.
Because of this RV park's prime location just half a mile from the west entrance
and visitor center of Zion National Park, it's relatively expensive -- more than
we usually pay. Since we weren't able to reserve a site in the park's campground that was large
enough for our rig, this campground was our next best option for exploring the park this week.
Lots of empty sites Monday morning but the
campground was always nearly full by evening
The rate was $49/night + tax for our site with full hookups, including WiFi and cable
TV connections. The WiFi signal was weak in the evenings when more people were back in the
campground so we used our private Verizon MiFi connection then.
We saved some $$ with the weekly rate of $331.93 (pay for six nights, get the seventh
night free). Folks in the campground can use the laundry room, pool, and other facilities
in the motel.
We got a good pull-through site with plenty of room for all of our vehicles:
I love the view from our doorside (dining and living room windows) facing toward The
Watchman formation. You can see it in several of the photos in this entry. In the picture
above it is lit up in the early morning sun.
We are at the end of a row with no one on our off-doorside. We lucked out with no one
on our doorside all week, either. There isn't much room on that side. During the week a few of the sites were vacant in the campground but on
weekends it was mostly full.
The Virgin River, which is running fast, high, and brown, curves around
the east and south sides of the campground.
Some of the tent and short back-in sites
are right next to the river:
There is a mix of every type of campground accommodation possible:
people sleeping in cars and vans, pop-up tent campers, truck
campers, rental and privately owned Class Cs, a few nice Class As, and
lots of travel trailers and fifth wheels.
There is also a good mix of nationalities, based on all the different
languages I've heard when walking the dogs through the campground this
The location of this RV park is excellent for accessing the park.
Instead of driving into the park and trying to find a spot at the
crowded visitor center, we either walked, rode our bikes, or took the
free town shuttle to the pedestrian entrance each time we went into the
Before we left the
area we drove through the campground inside the national park to note
numbers of sites that would be suitable for our 5th-wheel and truck. If
we come back, we might try to get one of those by going online on the
first available date and time (usually midnight!) to try to make a
reservation. Zion Canyon RV Park is convenient but the park campgrounds
are even more so!
PHOTOS FROM SPRINGDALE
The town of Springdale has only about 500 residents but the population
swells to many thousands for much of the year with visitors like us who come
from all over the USA and the world to visit Zion National Park:
Jim guides the Cameo through town on the
way to the Zion Canyon RV Park.
Pretty little house with
colorful roses blooming in front
Like many tourist towns close to popular national parks or other attractions,
Springdale has lots of different types of overnight accommodations, restaurants,
gift shops, and art galleries.
Although we aren't into shopping as a recreational activity (!), I did take a
walk one afternoon to check out some of the art galleries. My favorite was the
Worthington Gallery, where dozens of handsome metal art pieces displayed outside
were twirling in the breeze:
That's just a few of the sculptures for sale. Too bad
we're full-time RVing because I would have been sorely tempted to buy one of
them if we had a yard to put it in.
I also liked this metal bighorn sheep sculpture in front of the West Gallery.
It reminded me of the real bighorn ram I saw near the trail during my favorite hike
in Zion National Park this week:
I don't know if the sculpture was for sale or not. I'll show pictures of the
live ram I saw on the Observation Point Trail in one of the journal pages dated April 14.
Springdale also has the Virgin River running through town, and a handy bike path
that stretches from several miles out into the country to the west gate of the
We visited a grocery store, got a couple things at an outdoor shop, and ate
lunch one day at a Thai restaurant.
We also went a couple times to Springdale River Park, a nice city park where Jim
could play ball with Casey in a large grassy field while I walked Cody off-leash
on trails across the river:
Note that during busy seasons at Zion, and on most weekends
year-round, it is very difficult to find a place to park a vehicle
inside the park unless you get there early in
the morning. Visitors
are encouraged to park in town and either walk or ride the free shuttle buses
to the park entrance. The buses are comfortable and come by at frequent intervals.
The next picture shows the back of one of the city's shuttle
buses. Jim is riding toward me on his bike with Casey:
It's a good idea to get to Springdale early, too, because parking
spaces are somewhat limited along the city streets and you may have to
park a mile or more from the park entrance. Some businesses also post
signs in front with limited time allowed so patrons can find a spot to
park while shopping.
We lucked out with mostly dry weather and mild temperatures ranging from the upper 40s
or low 50s F. to mid-70s the week we were here. Although the Virgin River was
running too high and fast from recent rains and snowmelt for The Narrows to be open,
we were otherwise able to hike and ride our bikes as much as we wanted in Zion National Park.
The elevation in town and Zion Canyon is approximately 4,000 feet so it warms up
faster in the spring than at higher elevations where we went on two day trips this
week. I'll describe those in subsequent entries.
Next entry: introduction to uber-popular Zion National Park
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil