Our next stop on the big summer camping trip was Zion National Park. Mr. TypeTwoFun had been wanting to hike The Narrows for years, and we were happy to oblige. Although we weren’t his usual adventure buddies, he didn’t seem to mind. There are two campgrounds in Zion. We opted to stay at the Watchman Campground because it was the only campground in Zion that took online reservations and they had electric hookups available. We were arriving on a weekend, and I didn’t want to arrive in the park and find that all the campgrounds were full.
Picking a campsite was a little tricky. Before I reserve a site, I love to research campsites on Campsite Photos to make sure we are getting a site that fits our needs. The photos on Campsite Photos were taken in the winter, so it was hard to gauge just how much shade was available in the sites. We compared a couple of different websites and hoped for the best with site A012. When we arrived, the picnic table was completely shaded, but the parking space for the pop up had full sun. Let me tell you, it was not fun to set up the pop up with full sun in 90+ degree weather. We opted to use our Pop Up Gizmos on the bunkends, but we have yet to find a system of installing them that works for us. We finally coaxed the Gizmos on and did a bare minimum set up. It was just too hot in the full sun to set up camp, so we headed out to the Visitors’ Center to find a cooler activity.
The Visitors’ Center was a short walk from the campground, but it was really more of a gift shop. Fortunately, Zion has a fabulous shuttle system and there happened to be a stop right at the Visitors’ Center. You can take the shuttle system all over the park. The shuttles themselves are air conditioned buses, and there is a great prerecorded audio tour that plays on the way up through the park. It is a nice way to see and hear about the park in the heat. We actually got off the shuttle and did the short hike to Weeping Rock, which was absolutely gorgeous. The water dripping down the rock face makes for a nice, cool little hike. Shuttles run about every 5-7 minutes, so we had no problem getting around the park. I was pretty impressed.
When the weather cooled down, we were able to set up camp. The sites are a little close together, but they are spacious. We had room for our tow vehicle and pop up with room to spare. Did I mention they had electric hookups? 🙂 The kids loved being able to charge phones and iPods, but we had very weak cell signal in the campground. Each site also had a fire ring, grill, and picnic table, with plenty of room for camp chairs, ice chests, etc. There are a lot of little ground squirrels running around, so make sure you keep an eye on your trash. We had a few rip apart our trash bag within minutes while we were using the restrooms.
The next day we took the shuttle to the trailhead for The Narrows and had a great experience there. Mr. TypeTwoFun blogged all about it here if you’d like to know more about that hike. We liked how you could take the shuttle just about everywhere you needed to go within Zion. It was great to take it back to camp after a long hike through the water. There is even a shuttle from Zion to the neighboring town of Springdale, although we didn’t take that route. We did drive our car into Springdale a couple of times because ice and firewood are not sold within the park. We found that those two items were really expensive in Springdale. In fact, they were probably more pricey here than anywhere else on our trip.
We loved the clean bathrooms and convenient comfort stations in the campground. They made dishwashing a breeze. The campground has no showers, though, so that was kind of a pain. We were told that pay showers were available in Springdale, but that wasn’t very convenient. At the end of a long hike, we didn’t want to get in the car and hunt down a pay shower in a neighboring town, so we used lots of wipes and washcloths and toughed it out.
We also wished for an A/C unit on the pop up at several points. We went to Zion in June, and it was hot. One night, we slept with no blankets and all the windows of the PUP open. It was still pretty hot. The Gizmos helped, but we just couldn’t get them to fit the bunkends right, and one windy night they kept us up with their flapping. We are going to have to fix that issue!
Things we loved:
- The shuttle system! It was so convenient and we learned a lot about the park through the audio tour.
- Clean bathrooms and a large dishwashing station
- Lots of hiking trails just a short shuttle ride away — The Narrows hike was AWESOME!
- Electric hookups! Woo Hoo!
- Dump station and drinking water available in the campground
Things we learned:
- We use a lot of water! We had to rig up a clean 2 liter bottle to refill the fresh water tank a couple of times. We’re going to have to figure out a better system for refilling the tank when we aren’t close to a water source.
- We need a better system for installing the Gizmos. The definitely make the bunkends cooler, but they are a pain! Maybe velcro?
- Although we would have liked to use the awning, the bag ripped on the trip and we were afraid to touch it. We also aren’t very good at putting it up or taking it down. We are going to need to find a better way to use it. I smell a project coming on! 🙂
We loved Zion National Park. The views from the campground were amazing… especially in the early morning. We were there 2 days, and there was so much we didn’t get to see. I think we’ll be back very soon.
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