We only live a few hours away from Zion National Park, but to really maximize our time exploring, we wanted to find a good place to camp overnight and get an early start. I did a bunch of research in the area and finally settled on Public Forest Service land in Leeds Canyon, Leeds, Utah. Definitely possible to camp here a few nights, if you desire (up to 16, in fact).
Before getting into the campground itself, here are a few things to keep in mind so that you know if this is the place for you or not, without wasting time!
1. These are free campgrounds, but you can only camp in the designated campsite areas. These are clearly numbered at the pull-in, so you know you’re in the right spot.
2. This is a long stretch of dirt and gravel road. There were a few cars that we passed, but definitely some sketchy spots for a car. We were in a Jeep Wrangler (standard, no lift) and almost had to put it in 4WD at one point when a larger truck ran us off the small road and off the steep washed out side of the road (when he had a shoulder and we did not). Not a total jerk, he did stop and wait to make sure we could get out alright without help. If you’re in a car, just be extra careful.
3. You probably don’t want to take a trailer passed the first so many campsites. The good news is they do post a sign letting you know when this point is.
4. There are 15 campsites, so there is a chance they could be full if you get here late. Though we arrived as the sun was setting on a Friday in September, but there were still several empty sites.
5. There are no services here. Clean up after yourself. Pack food and water.
6. There is a creek that runs through here, many of the campgrounds are along side of it.
7. Check ahead with COVID, there might be closures and less campsites to choose from.
8. It’s about 40-50 minutes from here to Zion National Park. Not terribly far, but far enough from the more packed campgrounds that you feel more secluded.
Reiterating that last point, it’s about a 40 minute drive from the campground to the entrance of Zion National Park. I am the type that likes to stay away from the hustle bustle (like when I go to Japan, I stay about 15-20 mins via train to the main areas of Tokyo). I just find it more fulfilling and relaxing this way. If you’re wanting somewhere closer, that might be the biggest drawback to Leeds Canyon. But my god, is it gorgeous there.
We left on a Friday in September at about 2 PM (had to wait until I got home from work), we packed the night before so it was all a matter of tossing it in the Jeep and going. It’s about a 3 hour drive from where I live, to Leeds Canyon. We had a quick stop for gas, then stopped for dinner at an amazing pizza place in Cedar City (Centro Woodfired Pizzeria) and it took a bit longer than if you stopped at a fast food joint. Had to be seated, order, wait while they cooked the pizza, then eat. We did have some leftovers that we took and stored in the cooler, and ate a little later before bed.
There was also this fun little stop we made that had gardens and trails and an old kiln that you could go inside. We couldn’t resist making that extra stop and checking it out. This wasn’t too far from the campground entrance.
What I’m getting at here is we didn’t approach the campgrounds until the sun was setting. It was getting darker and would soon be harder to see the numbered campsites. We did consider they would be full and we’d have to drive into some town and find a hotel room. There were actually several available campsites, I’d say we had seen 3 before we stopped. There were more further down, but we found one on the side with the river, so we decided to stop and have a quick look around the campsite before it got too dark to do so.
There was a fire pit here, but we didn’t use it. We got here kind of late, and knew we’d have an early morning call, so we didn’t bother. The area occasionally has problems with people not fully putting out their fires. Y’all… come on… we learn this as small children, make sure your fire is OUT, and not smoking when you stir it. If it is, that’s not good enough, dump more water in it and stir some more. If you aren’t responsible enough to check this, you’re not responsible enough to have a fire going haha be smart about it, folks. Another thing some campsites run into is toilet paper behind trees, etc. …Y’ALL. Bury. Your. Human. Waste. Please. It’s not that hard, and if you can’t manage this, please go to a campsite that has bathrooms.
Luckily our campsite didn’t seem to have the toilet paper issue, and we enjoyed checking the area out. There is soft sand around the area, so it would probably be really convenient for pitching a tent/sleeping on the ground without any extra cushioning. We just folded the seats down in the back of her Wrangler and rolled out our sleeping bags there. Which is surprisingly comfortable, to me (and my sister).
Anyway, we woke up about 6 AM because we always wake up early when camping, and packed up all of our stuff before heading to ZNP. We stopped at the first Maverick we came across, to top of the tank, use the bathroom and get some coffee. I think I also grabbed a few cliff bars to snack on along the way, before/after lunch to keep me energized.
I believe it was around 7:30 AM when we reached Zion, and there weren’t too many people there. When we lined up for the shuttle, we only had to wait for the second one to come by, for us to board. As opposed to several hours later, when we made it back to the visitor center, and there weren’t even empty parking spots. Quite a drastic shift. So as I always suggest when going to busy places, the earlier, the better!
This was a really fuss free, no frills campground with gorgeous scenery and one hell of a sunset. When we want to go camping now, we say “let’s go to Leeds” because it was just a really nice location. If you’re looking for somewhere not too crowded, but not too far from Zion National Park, why not give Leeds Canyon a shot?
GPS Coordinates: 37.283273, -113.395514
Take I-15 Leeds Silver Reef exit, head West on Silver Reef Road. This will eventually turn into Oak Grove Road. Keep following to FR 032, which is a dirt road. The campsites will have numbered signs at the pull in.