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Zion; Our First National Park Camping Retreat

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

One of the things I love the most about our new camping setup is the opportunity it provides for simple overnight camping without the typical time-consuming setup of a standard tent and air mattress. And since getting our new iKamper setup, we’ve been able to do more camping in the past two months than we typically are able to do in a year.

For our latest overnight adventure, we decided to go beyond our standard Mt. Charleston retreat, and check out Zion National Park -- our first national park adventure together! We stayed at the Watchman campground and even managed to get in a decent amount of hiking in on our first day, an added perk we weren't expecting to be able to do.

We arrived at the campground around 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and after a quick lunch and camp setup, took a short look around the visitor’s center and then took the shuttle up to the Zion Lodge. Maybe it was due to the heat or maybe pandemic, one thing I really loved and was pleasantly surprised about, was how empty the park was. The campground itself was booked up but around the park and on the shuttle, there were not many people at all, which was nice, since our camping outings are meant to be a socially distanced option for getting away. A quick look around the lodge, and we decided to see what hiking we could get in, since hiking wasn’t our main priority for this trip, this was the part we just made up as we went.

We ended up hiking from Lower Emerald Pool to Middle Emerald Pool which was an incredible view and oasis to experience. The clash of desert and woodland forest ecosystems were beautiful and, though minimal, the waterfalls and pools were a sight that we were very happy to have been able to see. After taking in all the breathtaking views at the pools we hiked over to The Grotto and then back to the lodge.

Initially, we anticipated that this trip would be mainly camping with just simple walks around the trails that run through the campground, however we learned once we got there that those trails were closed. Regardless, we were able to get in over almost 3 miles of hiking in and the views were mesmerizing, and the campground was no exception to the dynamic scenery.

The campground itself was overall a really nice experience that delivered 360° views of the rocky peaks and sandstone cliffs that surround the grounds that glowed a vibrant orange and red during sunset and sunrise. From our camp site we could hear the sounds of the Virgin River in the distance and had adequate shade in the morning from a line of cottonwood trees. We were visited by a large family of deer at dinnertime, saw deer throughout the park, as well as huge lizards, squirrels, hawks, California condors and even a couple of turkey vultures.

With the 100-degree daytime weather, we were worried the night would be miserable, so we set up our fan running in the tent for a few hours but were then thankful, and a bit surprised, when the nighttime brought strong winds through, which cooled the temperature and made the night very comfortable for sleeping.

All in all, this was a great first camping trip to Zion, and since we didn’t have the dog with us this time, we got to fully experience the spaciousness of the rooftop tent without the fur baby trying to take up ¾ of the mattress. We are already planning out our next return trips for hiking and camping and can’t wait to experience more of what Zion has to offer.

View more photos, here.

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