Cheap Zion Camping: Use By Donation Camp Near Kolob Terrace

Are you planning a trip to Zion but don't want to break the bank on accommodations? There are several options for doing it cheap or free. Mosquito Cove was the popular favorite until it was washed out and closed due to flooding in 2010. A few of the cheap/free sites that remain are: Watchman campground at the mouth of Zion for $16/night, the Coal Pits Wash Trailhead (we've seen many people camped for free here but aren't sure of the legitimacy), a free camping area known as Sandy Flats (sits in the BLM portion of Kolob Terrace) and our new favorite: The "Use By Donation Campground".

Our original plan was to camp for 1-2 nights at the Use By Donation Campground and then move up to the BLM camping area farther up the road for the rest of our time in Zion.  Instead, two things kept us at the Use By Donation Camp for our full 11 days in Zion:

1) we had a beautiful spot conveniently located next to the creek equipped with it's own rope swing.

2) We spent the first two days watching an endless parade of trucks, jeeps, cars, motorhomes, camp trailers, ATVs and the like heading farther up the road presumably to fill much of the upper BLM camp area with frenzy and noise. Disclaimer: it was Memorial Day weekend, so traffic heading up the road was much heavier than normal.

Although the Use By Donation Camp was technically going to cost a bit more (yes, we do have a conscience and paid what felt was fair for each night we camped), we decided it was worth it just to stick around at our awesome spot.  Having a clear running creek right next to our camp turned out to be a tremendous convenience.  It provided resource for dish and laundry water as well as a refreshing (albeit a little chilly) place to bathe.  Each night we were serenaded by the sounds of the creek and the songs of toads, frogs and other night creatures drawn to the water.  This camp had a few perplexing mysteries as well... there was a random teepee situated atop an overlooking hill (which we hiked to and still found it to be just as mysterious) as well as a section with hexagon-shaped cement pads arranged in varying sizes and positions (which we found out later may be used for some kind of ceremony or ritual).  So how does the donation method work, you ask?  It's actually pretty funny... behind the hand-painted wooden "USE BY DONATION" sign, there is a can with money in it and a rock on top.  That's it.  Just the honor system... and it seemed that everyone was quite respectful of that as there were quite a few bills in the can.

Our camp as seen from above at the teepee.  Click the image for a larger view

Getting there:  Drive as if you were headed to Zion (hopefully you already know or can find that part).  Take a left in Virgin on Kolob Reservoir Rd. (the turn is well marked with a sign for Kolob Reservoir).  Follow that road for 2 miles and look off the right-hand side of the road for a the wooden Use By Donation sign (pictured above).  The first turn-off (just before you see the sign) is a much better road to take as the next one is a bit washed out.  Drive or walk around, find the perfect spot and don't forget to donate.