Theres A Few Things You Should Know First
Backpacking is one of many recreational camping activities in the Grand Canyon. This photo is near the Cottonwood Campground / Image courtesy of The Dyrt campers The Switchback Kids
Large, in-charge, and never-ending. Its no wonder the Grand Canyon is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Heres some fun facts to brag about while youre out camping the Grand Canyon:
Campgrounds Fill Up Fast
Camping is a great way to enjoy the Grand Canyon but remember that the campgrounds fill up quickly. The National Parks are going through a boom in visitation, so you really want to be prepared.
- If you decide youd rather not camp and want to book lodging instead, remember to use booking.com for all your travel needs. Make reservations early!
When To Dispersed Camp Near Grand Canyon National Park
You can camp year-round at the Grand Canyon provided you come prepared for the weather conditions.
However, the best time to camp at the Grand Canyon tends to be during the Spring and Fall shoulder seasons. Youll avoid the crowds and hot temperatures of the summer months, but will still get to enjoy some beautiful, warm days.
Winter camping at the Grand Canyon is popular with those hoping to avoid crowds and find the canyon at its most serene. Come prepared for snow, cold, and difficult road conditions if you plan to camp here in the winter. It is also important to note that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only open from May 15th October 15th each year.
For the summer months, you can expect hot days and more crowds. However, the beauty of planning a dispersed camping trip is that youll avoid some of the crowded designated campgrounds and have an overall quieter experience.
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Our Review Of Desert View Campground On The South Rim
If you dont mind craziness and crowds, both Mather Campground and Trailer Village will serve you well, but if you want to escape the nonsense and immerse yourself in the magic of the Grand Canyon, you have to check out Desert View Campground.
Our most recent visit to Grand Canyon National Park was in April, back when the sites were available without reservations. Scoring a site after driving all day was part of the fun, but as of 2021, you have to do your scoring online.
Desert View Campground is perched on the canyon rim at the eastern edge of the park. If you enter the park through the east entrance of the South Rim, youll be just steps away from the canyon and worlds away from the crowds of Grand Canyon Village.
There are fifty campsites at Desert View Campground, each nestled among the gnarly pinyon pines for a bit of privacy.
All of the sites at Desert View Campground are level and well-spaced, but we do have a favorite, at least for tent camping. If you can, try and score site #46, which has easy access to the rim of the Canyon.
The photo below was taken from the little trail behind site #46.
Here are a few reasons we love Desert View Campground:
Be on the lookout for javelina. We saw two during our stay one right behind our campsite, and another near the Desert View Watchtower. There are lots of elk too.
Desert View Campground also makes a great base camp for longer Grand Canyon adventures or a relaxing piece of a Southwest road trip itinerary.
The Best Time Of Year For Grand Canyon Camping
Technically, Grand Canyon camping is available year-round on the South Rim.
Mather Campground and Trailer Village are open in the winter. Desert View Campground and all North Rim services are closed. Unless you are prepared for winter camping and cold, snowy conditions, winter is not the best time for Grand Canyon camping.
Summer months are the busiest on the South Rim, with campgrounds filling up on most days.
Temperatures on the rim are warm, between the low to mid-80s during the day, and in the 40s and 50s at night. If you hike into the canyon, youll find a different story. For every 1,000 feet you travel into the canyon, the temperatures rise by an average of 5.5 degrees.
In my opinion, the best time to visit the Grand Canyon is in the month of April or between September and October. Late spring and early summer are very dry perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. Starting in September, the days become cooler, but the nights may be frosty.
Crowds are very manageable in both the spring and fall, and if you visit in winter, you wont have to deal with crowds at all.
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Where To Stay On The South Rim
Sites are nestled in the shady pinewood forest, with fragrant Ponderosa pine, Pinyon and Juniper trees separating tent sites for privacy in an otherwise busy campground. Elk and deer are frequent visitors.
There are 327 campsites, and although RVs are welcome, there are no hookups. Reservations are accepted up to six months in advance youll want to make sure you plan ahead. There are also 15 first come, first served campsites that go on sale each morning at 9 a.m.
Desert View Campground , is a smaller, quieter campground, with more rustic facilities at the East Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Reservations are accepted up to six months in advance. The season for Desert View varies but is roughly from mid-April to mid-October.
National Park Service campgrounds in the park do not have RV hookup capabilities. Trailer Village , in the South Rims Grand Canyon Village, is a full hookup RV campground thats open year-round. Youll want to book well in advance during those busy months.
Sleeping Around: Campsites In The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon isnt an alternative place by any stretch of the imagination there were 6.25 million visitors in 2017 alone. But you shouldnt let the crowds discourage you from going. The canyon spans 277 miles and dips as deep as 85 feet at some points meaning theres plenty of canyon to go around for anyone who wants to see it.
The Grand Canyon is one of natures greatest feats and that is definitely worth seeing on a trip through the Southwest. But Grand Canyon camping on the South Rim or North Rim is far from a rock-up-and-see-what-happens kind of thing. Youll need to make your bookings as far as 6-months out at more popular campsites in the Grand Canyon like Mather. Even the North Rim Campground gets crowded if you wait.
Finding booking your Grand Canyon campsites kind of tricky? Below youll find everything you need to know with detailed info on how to book campsites in the Grand Canyon, plus info on RV camping, backcountry camping, campsites outside of the park, and what to do if you wait until the last minute to book your Grand Canyon campsites.
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Can You Stay Overnight At The Bottom Of The Grand Canyon
Yes, at Phantom Ranch, which is the only lodging at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It has cabins and dormitories, but not a campground. To reserve a spot, you must enter a lottery 15 months in advance, and to get there you must raft, hike, or ride a mule to the bottom.
There are a few backcountry campgrounds inside the canyon for hikers and rafters, but you must get a permit from the park to use these.
Beware: hiking into the Grand Canyon is not something to take lightly.
Forest Service Road 22
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 5 milesRestrooms: NoMap
A good option for dispersed camping near the North Rim is Forest Service Road 22. Youll be just five miles from the entrance station here, making this one of the most convenient options for dispersed camping in the area. Although not the most scenic or secluded, youre right off the main highway making it easier to get services and enter the park here.
This is a popular access road for the National Forest, so do expect some traffic to pass your site throughout the day. However, this also means that the road is generally passable by most vehicles.
There are no services here, so come prepared to be self sufficient.
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Where To Hike In Grand Canyon National Park
Whether youre a novice or an expert, its a safe bet youll find a hiking trail to fall in love with at the Grand Canyon. There are hundreds of miles of maintained hiking trails, and thousands more in the back country. Regardless of departure youll have to hike to get to an area suitable for Grand Canyon camping. Consequently, we suggest you plan ahead, and check out our Grand Canyon campgrounds guide to ensure youve planned out your routes in advance. Heres some of the best Grand Canyon hiking trails available to the public today:
Grand Canyon South Rim Trails
Once used by natives to get down to the Indian Garden, this 9.5 mile trail is extremely popular today. Similarily, like the hermit trail dont skip leg day, as there is an elevation gain of 4,460 feet. This makes a great Grand Canyon day hike.
This 7 mile hike offers the single most direct route to the Colorado River. However, there is no running water, nor camping available on the way down. Consequently, this is best utilized for people looking to recreate on the Colorado river who simply want to get there and start their day.
Grand Canyon North Rim Trails
For more trails, check out our trail guide on Grand Canyon North Rim Hiking!
How Much Does It Cost To Camp At The Grand Canyon
Its not free to camp in Grand Canyon National Park, so make sure you budget for your nights spent in the parks campgrounds. While its a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel, its still money youre spending during your vacation.
In 2022, Mather Campground cost anywhere from $18-$50/night, depending on what site you stay in. At Desert View, a tent or RV site in 2022 cost $18/night. At North Rim Campground, fees range from $6 to $50. At Trailer Village RV Campground, one-night stays can range from $64-$74 a night in 2022, depending on the site and its amenities. Reserve and pay for your site online in advance to guarantee you have a place to set up your tent or park your RV at the end of the day. All these campgrounds fill up, and hoping that youll get a site by driving up is not a strong plan.
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Why Youll Love Grand Canyon National Park Campgrounds
This is the place to go for RV camping within the grounds of the Grand Canyon National Park. Trailer Village offers a surprisingly long list of services and is located near many other convenient amenities within Grand Canyon Village. At the same time, its one of the very few places where you get to go to sleep and wake up in the magnificent Grand Canyon. Being able to wake up and walk over to the rim of the Grand Canyon is a once in a lifetime experience
The Best Time Of Year To Go Camping In The Grand Canyon
There are large temperature fluctuations within the Grand Canyon. The altitude difference can make the top of the canyon considerably cooler than the bottom.
The best time to go camping on the South Rim is during Spring and Fall. That way youll get milder temperatures, and avoid the heat of summer. During the winter, you might run into some snow while camping.
The North Rim is a higher elevation making it wetter and cooler than the South. Summer months are the best time to go camping on the North Rim. The North Rim is also closed during winter so its nearly impossible to camp between October and May.
- Spring and Fall is the best time to camp on the South Rim
- Summer is the best time to camp on the North Rim
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Camping Near The North Rim
If the North Rim Campground is full, or if youre traveling in an RV you still have options. There are three campgrounds nearby that you might want to take a look at: DeMotte Campground, Jacob Lake Campground, and Kaibab Camper Village.
Each of these campgrounds is open mid-May to mid-October. They all take reservations, but also have walk-up sites. DeMotte and Jacob Lake are dry camping sites, with vault toilets and few amenities. These are tent camping only campgrounds.
Kaibab Camper Village is where youll want to stay if you visit the Grand Canyon in an RV. Their campsites can accommodate larger motorhomes and have electric hookups, showers and laundry. All of these campgrounds are pet friendly.
Forest Service Road 611
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 6 milesRestrooms: No, but pit toilets available at East Rim Viewpoint trailhead.Water: NoMap
Forest Service Road 611 is a popular dispersed camping that is convenient for exploring the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Located just off Highway 67, you will have easy access to the North Rim Visitor Center and also be close to the popular East Rim Viewpoint trail.
Getting here couldnt be easier, as youll simply take Highway 67 south towards the Grand Canyon before turning off onto FR 611. Follow that until a junction, where youll want to stay on FR 611 heading east. Campsites soon begin and continue for several miles along the road.
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Forest Service Road 328
Distance to Grand Canyon South Entrance: 1.3 milesRestrooms: NoMap
Forest Service Road 328 is located immediately south of the Grand Canyons South Entrance Station. Youll turn west off of Highway 64 onto FR 328 and continue for approximately 1/2 mile past the No Camping signs before youll start to see sites appear.
Parking can be a bit difficult here, so this is best for tent campers or those with smaller vehicles. Expect quite a bit of traffic here given the proximity to the park, but it is hard to complain given the location.
The road here is dusty but passable for most vehicles. As with most of the dispersed campsites near the Grand Canyon, dont expect any water or services along FR 328.
Dont Leave Food In Your Campsite
For your safety, and the safety of local wildlife, dont leave food out in your campsite.
Its awesome to see the many deer wandering through the National Park campgrounds. However, these deer like to get into trouble! Theyll snatch up any food in sight.
Be a good steward and keep your food in the RV!
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The City Of Williams Az
The main campsite here is the Grand Canyon Railway and RV Park. This is owned by the Grand Canyon Railway, which makes daily trips to the Grand Canyon National Park.
You can camp at the RV park and take the historic train ride to the park. Entertainment is provided on the train.
The RV park has many amenities and costs about $60 per night.
Dispersed Camping Near The North Rim Of Grand Canyon
There are also areas that are part of the Kaibab National Forest skirting the national park boundaries of the North Rim where you can camp. These places have no infrastructure but can be camped on.
Fence Point is one of a handful of North Rim overlooks that offer primitive camping with rim-side views. A 4WD, high-clearance vehicle is necessary to get there. Consult the Kaibab Visitor Center in Jacob Lake for information and directions. Its open mid-May through mid-October. Know the specific restrictions and guidelines in place by visiting the Kaibab National Forest site . You can also get specific, up-to-date information at the Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center at Jacob Lake. The phone number there is 643-7298.
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Camping At The Bottom Of The Grand Canyon
There are three backcountry campgrounds on the corridor trails in the Grand Canyon. Each offers water, vault toilets, a picnic table, and food storage bin:
- Indian Garden Campground is 4.8 miles down the Bright Angel Trail
- Bright Angel Campground is 9.9 miles down the Bright Angel Trail or 14 miles down the North Kaibab Trail
- Cottonwood Campground is 6.8 miles down the North Kaibab Trail
To use these campgrounds, youll need to obtain a Backcountry Camping Permit. They cost $10 per permit + $8 per person per night. Permits are limited. You can submit a request up to 4 months in advance.
You do not have to stay in the three campgrounds if youre backcountry camping, but you do need to give an estimated schedule of where youll be when filling out the application. Park rangers divide up the canyon into sections and limit the number of people spending the night in each area.
Opinionsocial Distancing Rules Are Actually A Great Reason To Get Closer To Nature
I knew it would not be easy at all, and I also knew that setting up a tent would be the first test of Ross and my relationship. Would this be a trip where we bickered constantly, like we did as children? Or would this be a strengthening of our sisterly bonds? Everyone knows that assembling a tent with another human being is the single biggest threat to a relationship.
We calmly tackled the pile of silver poles and slippery waterproof fabric.
No, wait. You hold the thingy, I said.
What thingy? I cant see. Ross said, irritation in her voice.
We were working with items that could not have weighed more than eight ounces each, but we were sweating profusely trying to get them to all come together in the shape of a tent.
Hang on, dammit. A pole almost poked my eye out.
Just tell me what to do, Ross said.
We both knew we were one wrong move or testy comment away from becoming entangled in both the tent parts and a shouting match, but eventually we had a tent.
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