Many people touring the Southwest of Utah are well-versed in primitive camping. This basically means there is nothing there for you to use: no graded, gravel parking lots, restrooms, trash cans or water. You pack in EVERYTHING you need and pack out EVERYTHING when you leave. It is highly encouraged to use existing camp sites (semi-cleared areas with existing fire rings). In fact, it is easier to use existing sites because the spots area already cleared, and most of the spots that are developed were chosen because they are the best locations. This is also the best way to reduce our impact on these precious lands as well as to protect our rights to use them. If abused, the BLM or National Forest could easily charge camping fees or shut down overused areas completely.
Dixie National Forest
The Dixie National Forest covers nearly two million acres of Southern Utah and has thousands of miles of dirt roads. Dispersed camping is allowed in most areas and is limited to 16 consecutive days. To camp longer than that, you need to move at least 10 miles to continue camping within the forest boundaries. There are some fee areas within the forest but not many. Know where you are camping. Obtain a map of the Dixie National Forest before camping to ensure that you are within the legal boundaries. Much of the national forest near Saint George lies north of the city.
The link below has all the rules you need to follow to choose your campsite within the Dixie National Forest.
The Bureau of Land Management’s general policy is that the BLM land is open to the public for recreation, including dispersed camping. Like the national forest, there are thousands of miles of dirt roads here. All along these roads are existing primitive camp sites. BLM primitive/dispersed camping is limited to 14 consecutive days within a 28 period. To camp on BLM lands longer than this, you must move at least thirty miles every 14 days. Like all dispersed camping, there are no amenities. Pack out what you pack in. We highly recommend that you obtain BLM maps before camping to avoid private property or special restriction areas. Maps, special permits and more info are available at the Saint George BLM office and on their website. Please check out the link below for more details.
Saint George BLM Office and site: http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/st__george.html
BLM Dispersed Camping Rules: http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/st__george/recreation/camping/dispersed_camping.html
BLM Camping near Zion
On your way to or from Zion, there is some amazing, breath-taking land available to camp in for free if you have what it takes to rough it and leave no trace. The links below lead to great maps showing the BLM’s preferred areas and rules for dispersed camping near Zion. The sites are very pretty. Please leave them as you find them.
BLM Camping near Saint George:
The Arizona Strip
Take River Road south through Saint George until it becomes dirt. You have now entered the vast span of BLM land known as the Arizona strip. Dispersed camping is allowed here except in Little Black Mountain Archaeological Site.
Curly Hollow Road
From the I-15 freeway near Saint George, take exit 4/Bloomington.
Navigate the roundabout/traffic circle to head south along Pioneer Road, continue for 0.7 miles.
Turn right onto Man Of War Road, continue for 0.8 miles, where the road ends at a stop sign.
Turn left onto Bloomington Drive, continue for 1.4 miles.
Turn left onto Navajo Drive, continue until the road turns to dirt. This area is open to dispersed camping except for the fenced-in Bear Claw Poppy habitat.
BLM Camping West of Saint George:
Simply head west out of Saint George on Sunset Blvd. approximately 20 miles, until you pass through the Shivwitts Paiute Indian Reservation. Once you see the sign that you are outside of the reservation, there are several dirt roads on the left and right side of the highway between the reservation and the town of Littlefield. Dispersed camping is allowed here. Hint: this land is full of great Rock Climbing!