Zion N.P. Campsite: Alaska Trip
The weather here in Southern Utah is going to be great the rest of this week but there is a storm coming that will cool it off a bit here. However, our next destination is the Grand Tetons and they are expected to get snow next weekend so we decided to stay put where it’s warm rather than drive into cold and snow. That’s the wonderful thing about all your plans being written in Jello, it’s so easy to adapt to curve balls like changing weather patterns!
I’m writing this on May 15 and we are at a camp very near Zion NP off of Kolob Terrace Road, just east of the town of Virgin, UT. I had a favorite campsite in mind closer to Zion, but when we got there it had been closed by the BLM, so we had to scramble to find a back-up campsite. According to my map there is quite a bit of BLM land on this road so we decided to give it a try. The road runs alongside North Creek so it is very pretty and within one mile of State Route 9 the main road from Interstate 15 and Zion. As we headed up the road we noticed numerous tents and RVs on a wide spot along the river. They were obviously camping and had been there for a while, but it was equally obvious that it was not a formal campground. We needed a spot and this one looked great so we settled in here. No one we talked to knows who owns the land, they just know it’s free camping so that’s good enough for us! After we’d been here for three days a guy came by and said it was private land but available for camping by donation. He suggested $10 a day but said whatever we paid would be fine. I think we will be here for about a week and I will pay $20.
However, no excuse for complaining from us, we have a beautiful camp in the Cottonwood trees on a nice little creek with a Walmart about 15 miles away, what’s not to love? There’s nowhere I would rather explore than Zion National Park so I’m keeping busy photographing it. We are further from it than I’d like (about 20 miles) but it’s worth it. Yesterday I hiked along the Virgin River in the Zion Canyon and photographed it and tomorrow I will drive through the tunnel to the Plateau on the East side and photograph it. Expect lots of photos in future posts!
Finding this camp is pretty easy, but because I’m not sure of its ownership I can’t promise it will be available to you when you visit here. If you are coming from the west take SR 9 from Hurricane, UT to the tiny town of Virgin UT, and watch for signs that point to the left (North) to Kolob Reservoir. If you are coming from the East drive through Zion NP, through Springdale and through Rockville until you are almost in Virgin and start watching for signs that point to the right (North) to Kolob Reservoir. You’ll see what looks like a regular green street sign that says Kolob Terrace Road, turn on it and check your odometer. Drive up the road for almost exactly 1 mile and the road will drop down and be right along the river.
You can’t see the actual river, but you will see the thick Cottonwood trees growing alongside it. Right now there are quite a few tents and RVs tucked into the trees so it is easy to spot, but if you come in the off-season they may not be there. There are numerous little dirt roads that turn off of Kolob Terrace Road and run along the creek so just turn onto one of them and explore till you find an open campsite you like. There is also a dirt road that turns to the left and people are camping back there as well. It’s not as pretty as by the river but they can’t be seen from the road.
Here are some photos of this campsite with maps to it also.
That’s a great improvised campsite. I hope you have good weather the whole way, but if you have to find a place to wait things out, this is surely one of the better ones.
Calvin, it’s a good one!
I sure hope that the guy going around asking for donations was in fact the owner and not just a scammer 🙂
I enjoy following your travel. We’re planning a similar trip soon so I’m taking notes.
Have fun guys.
Nicole, that also occurred to me! If it were BLM land they would have heard about it and been after him. So I’m inclined to think it’s on the level. If not it’s no big deal.
Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing them. Just curious: how much clearance do you have under the van? Just wanting to compare with mine.
Looking forward to your next update.
Jo, I haven’t measured it, but I have a 1 Ton (G3500) and the 1 tons have the most ground clearnace of all vans. But Judy has a 1/2 ton and she has no problems. We’ve seen lots of small cars in here tent camping. Clearance isn’t an issue here.
Sweet! I’m contemplating on MTB’ing the Gooseberry Mesa outside of Hurricane and was wondering if there were any camping spots in the area.
Joe this is a nice one and there is lots of BLM land in the area.
I’m really enjoying your pictures…the landscape is so completely different from where I live (coastal pacific northwest, so lots of green and trees everywhere). Sounds like you have to be very flexible when on the road. It would be interesting to know, statistically speaking, how often things actually go according to plan in any given person’s life. Have fun!
Peggy, on our trip to Alaska, they will very seldom go according to plan because our plan is to NOT have a plan! At best we have a general outline and we are keeping to it pretty well.
Another landmark for this site is a dark 2-story wood tower (just the frame) on the right by the side of the road. There are turnoffs just before and after. The “roads” down to the creek are lumpy, rutted and have occasional boulders that need to be dodged, and in some spots the bushes will brush the sides of your vehicle. But take it slow and you should have no problems. It’s worth it.
There’s also a municipal trash dump station on the way in/out.
As for cell service, I got a strong 4G AT&T signal at the site, but no Verizon. (Bob has a better antenna, so he got a weak signal.) But if you drive west on highway 9 a couple of miles you can get a Verizon 4G signal.
Actually, I’m getting 3 bars of 4g. It’s not blazing fast by any means but I can do everything I need to do from camp. I use a Wilson Sleek amplifier. It’s the newest one that specifically amplifies Verizon 4g signals. Most older ones don’t and so if you are in a 4g area you get no boost. That’s whats going on with Al.
thanks for making that distinction, looks like I bought an older one that would not work there.
This sounds like lovely site, another one to add to the travel file!
The app US Public Lands show most of Kolob Terrace Road going through BLM land. You may have hit on one of the private sections but odds are against it. One of the things I like about this app is that it will use your gadget’s GPS signal to tell you precisely where you are so you can make sure to stay in the colored rather than the white areas.
Linda, I hear lots of good things about that app. It turns out this is private property but its on a donation basis.
The 2 story tower Al refers to contains a wind chime in the top level. Very muted so not an overwhelming presence. It took me a long time to figure out where the tiny bell like sound was coming from.
The large boulders in the creek create lovely gurgling noises as well. A very pleasant camp.
There are other bits scattered around the site, like planters and whirligigs, that seem to say someone wanted to spruce the place up.
Also, up on the hill across the creek there is a small single light at night. There’s one across the road, too, at about the same height. I think someone placed solar yard lights up there. Look for them, Judy.
I’m grateful for your blog and the other ones, too. Believe me, I am grateful. The way things are turning out for me (divorced, unemployed for many months, nearing 70, seemingly too old to be hired)I feel the best thing to do is take to the road, or, rather, take an R-V sometimes to the road and sometimes to a place to sit for a week or two.
I first read “Travels with Charlie” in the spring of 1964 but never dreamed I would be living that way myself. Thank you again. (I’m going back to boning up on expenses and other details of my future life).
Sal, there are thousands of us just like you out here. Older folks society has no use for. We’re getting the last laugh by living mobile because these are the best times of our lives.
You can do it!
Bob, on the topic of wireless, how do you plan to get online while you are passing through Canada?
And would you know of the best deals for Canadians visiting the US?
Ming, I’ll try to either get free or paid for wifi through Canada. In the south I don’t think it will be hard, but in the north I don’t expect much. other than the Canadian Rockies, I plan to just blast through Canada as fast as possible.
Hey bob..thanks for sharing your experience. I am in my 40’s and collecting disability 750$ monthly. I can’t wait to hit the road. Won’t be for a year or two but that gives me time to research. Thanks again
Joy, I know literally dozen of people, many of them women and people on disability, who make about that or even less and live great lives boondocking in their vans. You can do it and it should be the best time of your life!!