Zion (map) is an American national park located in southwestern Utah near the town of Springdale (map). Unlike many other parks in the American Southwest, where visitors look down from the rim of a canyon, visitors to Zion walk on the canyon floor and look up.
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The highly photographed “Subway” is found in this section of the park. The more popular (and more crowded) Zion Canyon area is in the southern portion of the park and contains many of the park’s most famous scenic wonders such as Angels Landing and the Great White Throne.
Carmel Highway runs from the south entrance of the park to the east entrance featuring magnificent landmarks and hiking along the way such as East Temple, Checkerboard Mesa and the Great Arch.
The road into Zion Canyon is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, ending at the Temple of Sinawava (map), which is named for the coyote god of the Paiute Indians. The Zion Canyon road is served by a free shuttle bus from early April to late October and by private vehicles the other months of the year. Other roads in Zion are open to private vehicles year-round.
As free dispersed camping is permitted on Bureau of Land Management land, it’s trivial to camp for free right outside the border of Zion. For example, Kolob Terrace Road–which is about 30km from Springdale just outside the park–has plenty of spots on BLM land. Just drive down that road and pay attention to the “now entering Zion” and “now leaving Zion” signs.
The bits between the “leaving” and “entering” are mostly BLM land. There are many pull-offs on BLM land on this road where you can camp for free. As this road goes in-and-out of the park, there’s also many trailheads along it.