Winter RV Camping in Zion National Park

TheRVgeeks Trip Tips, Winter RVing 37 Comments

We’re visiting one of our favorite places on Earth: Zion National Park. Zion was Peter’s very first national park, sparking a life-long love affair with the great outdoors… a big factor in our decision to become full-time RVers.

Although we’ve been to Zion many times, this is our first winter visit.

One big advantage of the off-season is that there’s almost nobody there. We weren’t sure what to expect in the campground, so we employed our usual full-timers’ strategy of arriving early on a weekday. It turns out we had nothing to worry about, as we were virtually alone for our three-day stay, except for a couple of other RVs and a few intrepid tent campers (“intrepid” because the forecast called for a nighttime low of 10° F during our stay).

Zion’s Watchman Campground has a decided advantage over many National Parks, as there are a decent number of big-rig-friendly sites, including some with 30-amp hook-ups, and even a few 50-amp sites. Plus, there are two convenient dump stations.

We’ve driven both of our RVs through the Zion – Mount Carmel Tunnel during previous visits. If you’re planning to take your RV through the tunnel, be sure to check in with the ranger station first. Hours for oversize vehicles are limited, and a special permit (and fee) is required.

When you arrive at the tunnel, they’ll shut it down to oncoming traffic, and you’ll drive your RV right down the middle of the road all the way through! It’s a pretty cool experience, although possibly a little intimidating for novice RVers.

We’ve always loved Zion, and think it’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been. But the snow is like the icing on the cake, adding stark white to the palette of red rock, green trees and vivid blue sky. We couldn’t have imagined Zion being any more beautiful than every other time we’ve visited… but it actually was.

Check out the video for a tour and overview of this magnificent, magical wonder of nature.

To begin planning your trip to Zion, visit the National Park Service website.


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Comments 37

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      Hi Glenn! This was our GoPro (Hero 4 Silver). We used a suction cup mount, attached to our glass moonroof, so it stuck up about 6″ above the roof of the car. We did that to prevent all the reflections and glare we’d get from shooting through the windshield. Ideally, we’d have preferred to use our main camera (Sony A6000) for the higher quality, but since it was sunny most of the time, we figured the GoPro images quality would be good enough, and provide more stable footage than sticking the Sony out the open roof on a tripod or something (not to mention it was awfully cold for that! ;-)

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  4. Good day,

    Thank you for your ongoing posts and tips. Park rules state a 50′ maximum combined length. Did you unhook your toad before entering the park or just navigate the eastern entrance towing your CRV?

    Thank you in advance for any reply,
    Bob

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      Hi Bob! It’s actually only the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel that has size restrictions, not the park as a whole. We entered the park, with our toad connected, through the West entrance in Springdale, and immediately entered Watchman Campground, which is right there. All other driving we did around the park was in our car, including our trips through the tunnel.

      As we mentioned in the video, we’ve driven both of our motorhomes through the tunnel during past visits (our 39′ Bounder in 2003 and our 43′ Newmar in 2010). We also saw the size restrictions on the NPS website, and can’t remember if 1) They didn’t enforce the length restriction when we went through (we’re 43′ single and obviously well over 50′ combined), or if the rules have changed since we last drove the RV through. Not sure if they’re as strict about the length limit as the height limit, which would of course be an immediate problem if they didn’t enforce it. ;-)

  5. Thanks for the great video. It makes me want to have the days go faster as we will be Camphosting at Zion this summer.
    We are so excited and seeing your video just makes it more wanting.
    You guys are great and you have helped this “woman full-timer with a tag-a-long husband” with many questions that have been answered by your website. Thanks

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      Thanks so much Jaydee! We’re so excited for you to be camphosting in such a wonderful location. Hope you have a blast. We bet that even your “tag-along” husband will, too. :)

  6. Thank you for that advice I will take you up on it and check it out. You guys are great! Keep the rubber side down in the wind at your back.

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  7. Guys….I could not agree more with your assessment of Zion…it IS the most spectacular NP. I’m very impressed with your record of hiking Angels Landing! Years ago I hiked that trail with my son (9yo)…it was one of the most scary and breathtaking hikes I’ve ever done. I was so impressed that my young son made it all the way to the top…great photo op. He was fearless. However a few years later, he was maybe 15 yo we “attempted” the same hike. We only got to the beginning of the chains and he had enough….scared and shaking we turned around! Such fond memories of parenting, ha ha….I’m confident he will return to Zion one day and make it to the top of Angels Landing.

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      Isn’t it funny how we can change as we get older… and not always in the direction you’d expect. That your son would be fine at 9 and had to turn back at 15 seems counterintuitive, right? We had friends join us for the Angels Landing hike several years ago, and one of them has a terrible fear of heights. I asked him if he wanted to summit, and if he thought he might make it if he had help and support the entire way. He was very motivated to overcome his fear, and we helped him with virtually every step, and talked him through (of course coming down was almost more difficult!). I think it’s fair to say that to this day, he’s proud and thrilled that he stood on top with us. Hope you son can get back up there when the time is right. But at least he’s got the summit under his belt at least once! We were a little frustrated to miss the climb this time. Next time again, for sure! :)

  8. Both Zion and Bryce canyon are beautiful places to visit. we love that area in the summer so we can take our Razors and travel all the beautiful trails around both parks. Spectacular views not found any place else. thanks for the great video and I sure enjoyed meeting you both in Quartzite.. keep up the great work..

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      Thanks so much for coming out to say Hi in Quartzsite, Jerry! We love Bryce a lot, too. Also, the other three Utah Parks (Arches, Canyonlands & Capitol Reef) are favorites of ours as well.

  9. Great video, as usual. As newbie full-timers, we’ve not yet worked our way to Utah, but plan to do so this fall — and Zion, of course, is high on our list. Thanks for whetting our appetite for this great national park.

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      Hope you’re enjoying being full-timers, David! And we can’t recommend Utah enough… LOTS of truly beautiful places to visit. We’ve been to all five National Parks in Utah (repeatedly), and each one is worth a visit. We’re sure you’re going to enjoy it!

  10. Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! Thanks for sharing guys! What a wonderful peek-see at Zion. I wish I could go with my wife in our new travel trailer. She has been to Zion but I never have. I suffer from severe P.T.S.D. and anxiety and if I get too far away from medical services my brain starts imagining all kind of crazy things. Taking this video tour was definitely a second best.

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      So sorry to hear about your situation, Tony. Glad we could take you along with us on a virtual trip. FYI… might be worth looking into the medical situation in Springdale, which is RIGHT at the west entrance gate. Since that’s a small town, St. George is not that far away, and definitely a major enough city to have top-notch services. Might give you the comfort you need to check it out someday. :)

  11. The first time I ever went to Zion, I was just 8 years old. It was 1960, and we had an old Chevy truck wist a camper on the back. The most vivid memory I have of that 1st visit was when my sister, who was driving at the time while my parents napped in the camper, tried to take it through the tunnel. She destroyed the upper right side of the camper! Ha! My dad was so angry, he was speechless! Funny what a kid remembers. :)

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  12. Watching your video was absolutely wonderful. We stopped in the Zion, Bryce area in October 2016 on the way north from a 5 month cross continent trip. Your video brought back warm memories of our visit. As far as scenery we liked Bryce better but Zion was right up there. The weather was warm as long as the sun was shining but even in late October it was crowded. You are right about entering from the east, fantastic. I think the big horn sheep are on the payroll. We saw them too! Good thing you aren’t at home this winter. It is nasty!!

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      So glad our video could evoke such fond memories! Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches… southern Utah is blessed with some amazing views, isn’t it?!

      And we know all about the bad weather BC has been having this winter… we just narrowly escaped south and missed the first big storm… but we arrived back early enough to get slammed with the second one! The piles of snow around us are so high, we’re not sure if we’ll EVER be able to get the RV back out of the site we’re in! LOL! ( Look for an upcoming video about dealing with the heavy snow and cold temps! ;) )

  13. Hi guys.
    We’re new to RVing and came across your website while doing research on RVIng last year. Have watched all your videos and have learned a lot of great information. Zion and Bryce are on our places to visit list. This brings me to a guestion, you show the entrance from the west side of Zion with the tunnel entrance of 13′ 4”. I’m wondering how accurate that is.
    In your video WeBoost install you use the trucker antenna, and after installing it, it appears to be several inches taller than your ac unit.
    I’m curious how tall your rig is to the highest point?
    Our fifth wheel has two ac units with the front one being the highest point at 13’4″, so I all ways use 13’6″ as a rule of thumb.
    Thanks guys safe travels.

    Bye the way we have a 2016 Croos Roads CM38RL CAMEO

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      Thanks so much, Steve! We’re guessing that the 13′ 4″ is accurate enough that they’re very likely to enforce the rule barring any vehicle over 13′ 1″ from using the tunnel. We’d bet your SOL on taking your 5th through. Our rig is 12′ 4″, and although we haven’t measured yet, the WeBoost is about 8″ above our A/C unit, so we’re guessing we’re now about 13′ even (but the spring on the WeBoost antenna does give us some wiggle room). We haven’t changed our minimum clearance tolerance though, as 13′ has always been the lowest clearance we’d consider driving under. On that note, we’d recommend you consider upping your minimum overpass height a little. 2″ is not very much, since re-paving can add a couple of inches or more to the height of the pavement without the signs always being promptly updated. Considering the consequences of striking an overpass, we wouldn’t be comfortable cutting it that close.

  14. Kathy & I love Zion’s scenery as well, although we’ve only been there in spring and summer, both times on motorcycle trips. Spring was on a wet and miserable day but the shuttle busses were running so had to use them. The summer trip was when it was very hot and super crowded and every shuttle bus was packed.

    Now that you have shown the beauty of the winter landscapes going there in winter is now another ‘want-to-do’ for us. Just to be able to drive ourselves up the Floor of the Valley Road will make it worth the effort!

    I will also agree that coming from the east is highly recommended for the first visit. The tunnel ‘windows’ are, as you said, spectacular. Your video does a great job of showing this.

    One comment – if I remember correctly large vehicles are prohibited, as you point out, for good reason: the tunnels are not made for big rigs. That got me thinking so I looked it up. From the Zion Park website:
    “Prohibited Vehicles
    Vehicles over 13 feet 1 inch tall, Semi-trucks, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, vehicles weighing more than 50,000 pounds, single vehicles over 40 feet long, combined vehicles over 50 feet long.”

    I’d be eliminated by both the height and the length restrictions.

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      Hi John! We also saw the size restrictions on the NPS website, and can’t remember if 1) They didn’t enforce the length restriction when we went through (we’re 43′ single and obviously well over 50′ combined), or if the rules have changed since we last drove the RV through (April, 2010). Of course we’re only 12′ 4″ tall, and we assume your King Aire, with those impressive Gerard awnings on top, is over 13′ 1″. We’re guessing the the height restriction isn’t one they’re likely to ignore. ;-)

  15. Wonderful video gentlemen! Thoroughly enjoyed it over a cup of coffee early morning in Hong Kong. Zion has been at the top of my list of destinations for years. As we approach our transition to the RV lifestyle it’s fantastic to have resources available such as the ones you provide. Entertaining and so professionally done! Happy travels and thanks so much for sharing the beauty of Zion….Dave and Anita

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      Thanks so much Dave and Anita! Great to hear from someone already sipping tomorrow morning’s coffee! So glad we could provide a little additional incentive for you as you prepare to go RVing. We loved our visit to Hong Kong, too. :)

  16. Ok, so what are the other two in your solid top three parks?
    I have been to Zion in the dead of summer. While it was hot and humid, it truely spectacular . So much so, I didn’t even notice the heat until I stopped hiking. The vistas were extraordinary.
    Thanks for sharing your trips and advice. I appreciate it all.

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      Thanks John! In order, our top favorite, must-see U.S. National Park picks are 1) Yosemite, 2) Glacier, 3) Zion, 4) Crater Lake, 5) Sequoia, with Yellowstone & Grand Teton tied for 6th. Yellowstone is the most VAST, but there’s something about the intimacy and focused grandeur that we love about some of the other parks. And of course Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway and Waterton Lakes in Canada might just surpass them all!

      You’re right about Zion being hot in the summer. We generally visit in spring or fall, when the weather is sublime, and the crowds are down a bit.

  17. Hi guys
    Just view your Zion National Park video and we found it breath taking beautiful. We really enjoyed it. We would like to see more of your trips. Great job guys

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  18. My Son and I and another friend did Zion in February a few years back. As you stated…it’s awesome anytime, but particularly in the off season! Best pictures of my photo library are from that trip to Zion and Bryce! So pretty and so peaceful!

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      So glad to hear we’re not the only ones who’ve experienced Zion in winter. After seeing how magnificent it is in the snow, we were surprised that more people weren’t willing to brave the cold to see it. Bryce rocks, too! :)

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