RV or vehicle-based tent campers in and around Grand Canyon National Park
have four choices for places to stay - NPS campgrounds within the park, commercial campgrounds in the nearby towns, national forest campgrounds, or free primitive camping also in the national forests. Each option is available at both the North Rim and the South Rim - see below.
Backcountry camping for hikers is allowed in many locations but is closely regulated, and places are limited, so the required permits often have to be reserved many months in advance.
1. NPS Campgrounds
The main South Rim
camping facility is the 327-site Mather Campground
, situated in a wooded area on the east side of Grand Canyon Village (see map
), at its closest point about 1,000 feet from the canyon rim, and also within walking distance of the park visitor center (one mile), and the various services of the village. The campground is open all year, and places may be reserved in advance via www.recreation.gov
, something advisable for all visitors during the busy summer season as the place is often fully booked. 2015 rates are $18 per night, dropping to $15 between mid November and the end of February. Sites are suitable for tents and RVs up to 30 feet in length; amenities include tables, benches and fire grills, restrooms, drinking water, showers and laundry, though no hookups, however these are available (for twice the price) at the adjacent Trailer Village
operated by Xanterra
, and this can accommodate vehicles up to 50 feet.
A second South Rim NPS campground is located 24 miles east of Grand Canyon Village, at Desert View
. This is smaller (50 sites; maximum vehicle length 30 feet), has fewer facilities, is closed in winter (usually between October and April) and is not reservable in advance, though is also busy in summer. Rates are a little cheaper than Mather Campground, at $12 per night in 2013. Sites are quite well spaced, along a short paved loop on the wooded plateau a short distance southeast of the Desert View visitor complex and about 800 feet from the canyon edge.
Along with most other facilities on the North Rim
, the NPS campground is open only from the middle of May to the middle of October, and as with Mather Campground on the South Rim, advance reservations are recommended since even though visitation is much lower in the north, all 90 sites are often taken in midsummer. The campground is on the west side of the road one mile before it ends at Bright Angel Lodge, and within sight of the canyon edge; the 1.5 mile Transept Trail
runs from the edge of the camp along the rim and links with the busy path to Bright Angel Point
. Rates are $18, or $25 for a few 'premium' sites that have views of the canyon. From mid October to the closure of the entrance road by snow (end of November), sites are available at a lower price of $12 a night, since most services are closed. There are no hookups at the North Rim Campground , but facilities include a table, benches, fire ring and drinking water, plus (for a fee), showers and laundry.
2. Commercial Campgrounds
Just outside the park entrance along AZ 64, Camper Village
is a popular but rather expensive campground in the small town of Tusayan, a short walk away from various restaurants, shops and other attractions - summer rates range from $29 for a tent site to $56 for a full hookup RV site. Facilities are better than in the park, however, including wi-fi and sports courts. The village occupies a treeless site on the east side of Hwy 64 towards the north edge of town, bordered by the Kaibab National Forest; several trails into the woods begin right beside the campground.
Further south, the next nearest commercial camping is at Valle
, 24 miles from the national park beside the AZ 64 - US 180 junction, while to the east, the closest campground is at Cameron
along US 89 in the Navajo Reservation (32 miles from the east entrance station at Desert View) - a full hookup facility on a rather barren strip of land lacking any trees or benches, but quite reasonably priced. Nearby are a restaurant, trading post, hotel and several gas stations, plus a historic bridge over the Little Colorado River
Kaibab Camper Village
has a quiet location southwest of Jacob Lake
, 0.7 miles west of AZ 64 via paved forest road FR 461, and is open at the same times as the North Rim itself, from mid May to mid October. Facilities include fire rings, tables, showers, laundry, a general store and full hookups, for which the 2013 rate is $36 a night. Tent sites cost $17. The surroundings are part forest, part meadow, and the place is quite tranquil and scenic. This location is 30 miles north of the national park entrance station. The next nearest commercial campgrounds are in Fredonia and Kanab, along US 89 to the west.
3. National Forest Campgrounds
There is one national forest camp close to the main South Rim entrance, on the east side of AZ 64, 2.2 miles from Tusayan and 3.8 miles from the national park entrance - the Ten-X Campground
has 70 spacious sites, in thickly wooded land far enough away from the main road to be quiet and peaceful. Rates are $10 per night; drinking water is available but there are few other facilities. The campsite is open between May and September, and has a resident host.
The USFS operate two camps along the North Rim entrance road. Closest to the park (5.3 miles north of the entrance station) is the 38 site DeMotte Campground
, just inside the edge of the fir/spruce/aspen forest on the west side of the highway, near the meadowland of DeMotte Park. Drinking water is provided and the nightly fee is $17; there are no hookups and no advance reservations. Limited supplies may be purchased at Kaibab General Store along the main road, while meals are available at the nearby Kaibab Lodge. The other campground is at Jacob Lake
, just north of the AZ 67 - US 89 junction, and also has a woodland setting, with 50 sites and a rate of $17 per night. A gas station, store and restaurant are just a short walk away.
4. Free Camping
Free primitive camping near the South Rim is allowed on Kaibab National Forest land once a quarter of a mile from AZ 64, and there are plenty of tracks leading into the woods, including one (FR 302) right at the south edge of Tusayan, so visitors can camp close enough to walk into town for meals or shopping, yet still enjoy a quiet and undisturbed night in the forest. Other options are FR 328 (Rowe Well Road) just north of town, and a dozen or more tracks further south. There are also some good places near the less-used east entrance, such as along a disused road that parallels AZ 64 to the north - this track (a former alignment of the highway) can be accessed from several places but the main one is 6.6 miles east of the park entrance.
Free camping is possible in the Kaibab National Forest bordering the national park to the north - along the many unpaved tracks either side of AZ 67, one of the closest being FR 22, West Side Road, which forks west off the highway 4.7 miles from the entrance station, curves around a few bends whilst climbing a hillside then reaches a 4-way junction. There are several verges suitable for camping along this initial stretch, and other, better areas around the intersection.