Get a jump on the season at Zion National Park, where it's possible (indeed, comfortable) to camp alongside the Virgin River while sites in many Western parks are still under snow. Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit.
Ditch the crowds by staying here, about an hour north of Zion Canyon.
6 sites open June through October; free. No large RVs; no running water. 435/772-3256
Try for the nearly riverside, relatively private sites at the campground’s north end.
127 sites open March through October; $16/night
Towering sandstone formations make up this gateway to Zion Canyon. Wade in the Virgin River; watch for grazing deer at dusk and dawn. Insider tip: Bring an awning for shade in summertime.
From $16 (plus $25 park entrance fee per vehicle); 435/772-3256
Snow Canyon State Park (outside the park)
A few miles northwest of downtown St. George and 60 miles west of Zion National Park, the park’s a great place to camp on the way to or from Zion. A few sites have a spectacular view of the canyon.
31 reservable sites year-round; $15-$18. 435/648-2255.
BEST LODGES AND INNS
Cabins with fireplaces and lodge rooms in the heart of the park.
From $159; zionlodge.com or 888/297-2757.
Desert Pearl Inn
Stylish rooms, with balconies and patios overlooking the river, blend modern and Southwestern elements.
From $98; desertpearl.com or 435/ 772-8888.
Under the Eaves Inn
A range of room choices, including the huge Eaves Suite, in a classic Springdale house.
From $75; undertheeaves.com or 435/772-3457.