The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and a destination you can’t miss. In our opinion, the best way to experience the Grand Canyon is to stay overnight–when you can view it from sunset to sunrise.
In this article, we’re going to cover the best camping sites for tents, RV campers, and backpacking. We’ll also give you some options for free camping outside of the park, and lodging within the park. This article will cover:
- Camping on the South Rim
- Camping on the North Rim
- Camping at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Best Time Of Year To Go Camping
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 you’ll 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 it’s 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
Camping On The South Rim
There are three campgrounds on the Grand Canyon South Rim: Mather Campground, Trailer Village, and Desert View Campground. All three are pet friendly.
|Mather Campground||Trailer Village||Desert View Campground|
|Year-round||Year-round||open Mid-April to Mid-October|
|300+ sites||84 sites||50 sites|
|Tent + RV friendly <30 ft||RV friendly <50 ft||Tent + RV friendly <30 ft|
|No Electricity||Electric Hook-ups||No Electricity|
|Shower + Laundry||Shower + Laundry||No hot water|
|Reservations Recommended March 1 – November 30||Reservations Recommended April - October||First come, first served only|
This is the largest and most popular campground which accommodates both tents and smaller RV trailers. Located right next to Market Plaza on the south rim, it’s an easy walk to restaurants, shops and the shuttle bus stop.
While the campground is open all year on a first-come, first-serve basis, it’s highly recommended that you make a reservation when visiting in the summer months. During that time the camping sites are typically filled by noon.
There are no electric hookups at Mather Campground, but coin-operated showers and laundry facilities are available.
- Open year-round
- 300+ tent and RV campsites <30 feet
- No electricity
- Showers and laundry available
- Reservations recommended
Trailer Village is the most RV friendly campground in the Grand Canyon. There is no tent camping here because each of the sites is paved and modified to fit motorhomes up to 50ft long. There are electric hookups, Cable TV, water and sewage hookups as well as a dump station (closed during winter) and shower and laundry facilities.
Trailer village is located right around the corner from Mather Campground so you have all of the Market Village amenities just a few short steps away.
While you can camp at trailer village year-round, it’s highly recommended that you make reservations ahead of time if you’re visiting between April and October.
- Open year round
- 80 RV campsites up to 50 feet
- Electric hookups
- Shower and laundry
- Dump station
- Reservations recommended
Desert View Campground
Dry camping at Desert View Campground is the best location if you want to be near the rim. This campsite is higher than the other two, giving it a more arid feel. While it doesn’t come with fancy facilities, Desert View is less expensive and less crowded than the other campgrounds on the south rim.
Desert View campground is out of the way from bus stops and restaurants. The campsites are designed for tents, but you can fit a small trailer or RV under 30ft there as well. If you decide to go camping at Desert View, you’ll be a short hike away from a variety of overlooks, the Desert View Watchtower, and the Tusayan Museum.
You cannot make reservations for Desert View Campground ahead of time and it’s closed in the winter months.
- Open mid-April to mid-October
- 50 tent and RV campsites <30 feet
- No electricity
- No hot water
- First-come, first-served only
Free shuttle buses make getting around the south rim easy. That means you can set up camp, leave your car, and take a bus to the hiking destinations, restaurants, and visitor centers in the area. In the spring and summer, the shuttles make stops every 30 minutes from 4:30am–10pm.
There are 4 shuttle buses that zip around the South rim plus a Hiker’s express bus intended for backpackers:
- Village Route (open year-round)
- Kaibab Rim Route (open year-round)
- Hermit Road Route (March 1 – November 30)
- Hiker Express Shuttle
Free Camping Near The South Rim
Because the Grand Canyon is so popular, you can’t always count on getting a reservation during peak season. Just south of the entrance station is Kaibab National Forest. Free, dispersed camping available there. Just be sure to follow proper boondocking etiquette: leave no trace, do not drive off trails, and be mindful of fire restrictions.
- You can learn more about finding free campsites here.
South Rim Lodging
If camping isn’t your thing, there are six hotels and lodges in the Grand Canyon located right on the rim. In many cases, you can get a great view straight from your room. Of course, staying in the Grand Canyon will require reservations. You can make arrangements for the hotels here:
- Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins
- Maswik Lodge
- Thunderbird Lodge
- Kachina Lodge
- El Tovar Hotel
- Yavapai Lodge
Camping On The North Rim
You’ll get a completely different vibe camping on the north rim as opposed to the south. This area is at a higher elevation making it cooler and greener. The north rim is significantly less populated leading to a more private camping experience.
North Rim Campground
There is just one campground with amenities located on the North Rim: the North Rim Campground. It’s located just a mile from the visitor center. Campsites are tent camping only, and start at $18/night. Although they don’t have electric hookups, there are hot showers and laundry on the road to the campground. There is also a dump station on the premises.
The North Rim Campground is reservation required May 15 – October 15 and first come, first serve the rest of the year. There are 90 campsites.
You’ll either need to travel by car or on foot around the North rim because there aren’t any shuttle buses. Moving from one end to the other is about 23 miles.
While you shouldn’t have a problem getting a larger vehicle like an RV to the North Rim Visitor Center, winding roads prevent vehicles longer than 30 feet from getting beyond the visitor center to Cape Royal on the east.
Primitive Camping On The North Rim
Tuweep campground is a primitive campsite located nearly a 5-hour drive west of the North Rim entrance station. There are 9 campsites here that require a backcountry permit. High clearance vehicles are required and four wheel drive is recommended. Because of its remote location, Tuweep is not easy to get to. But that also means you won’t see many neighbors and you’ll get some of the best views in the canyon all to yourself.
Camping Near the North Rim
If the North Rim Campground is full, or if you’re 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.
|DeMotte Campground||Jacob Lake Campground||Kaibab Camper Village|
|7mi from park entrance||44mi from park entrance||44mi from park entrance|
|May 15 – October 15||May 15 – October 15||May 15 – October 15|
|38 sites||51 sites||46 sites|
|Tent/Small Trailers||Tent/Small Trailers||Tent + RV friendly|
|No Electricity||Electric/Non-Electric sites||Electric Hook-ups|
|Vault Toilets||Vault Toilets||Toilets/ Shower/ Laundry|
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 you’ll 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.
Free Camping Near the North Rim
Similar to the south rim, you can find free camping in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument north of the park. You can find information on dispersed camping at vermillion cliffs here.
- Learn more about finding free campsites.
The Grand Canyon Lodge is the only hotel in the park on the North Rim. You can choose to book a motel room, or one of their many small cabins that line the rim. Reservations are available up to 13 months in advance.
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 (south rim)
- Bright Angel Campground is 9.9 miles down the Bright Angel Trail (south rim) or 14 miles down the North Kaibab Trail (north rim)
- Cottonwood Campground is 6.8 miles down the North Kaibab Trail (north rim)
To use these campgrounds, you’ll 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 you’re backcountry camping, but you do need to give an estimated schedule of where you’ll 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.
Camping At Phantom Ranch
Phantom Ranch is the only established lodging at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You can only get there by hiking on foot, traveling by mule, or rafting the Colorado river.
- From the South Rim: Phantom Ranch is 7.5 miles down the South Kaibab Trail or 10 miles down the Bright Angel Trail.
- From the North Rim: Phantom Ranch is 13.6 miles down the North Kaibab Trail
At Phantom Ranch, you can choose to either rent a cabin, or stay in the dorm. There is no tent camping there. Dorm prices start at $53 per person.
While you can pack your own food, one of the cool things about Phantom Ranch is you can order Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner to be cooked and served when you make your reservations. There’s also a duffle service available where the park will deliver your bags (up to 30 pounds) to your room at the base of the canyon. That makes for a much simpler hike!
Phantom Ranch is one of the most sought-after accommodations in the Grand Canyon. While it’s open year-round, there is a lottery process to go through to win your spot. You’ll have to enter the lottery 1 month in advance prior to your stay. Entry forms become available on the 15th of every month.
Other Things To Do In The Grand Canyon
Hiking, photography and camping are among the most popular things to do in the Grand Canyon. But there’s also a few other that may not have crossed your mind.
Mule Rides are available on both the North and South Rims. Reservations on the South Rim are so popular they’ve started a lottery system to earn your spot. For mule rides to the base of the canyon from the North Rim, or on the National Forest trails, you can sign up through Xanterra.
Bicycle Rentals are available on the South Rim. And you can load your own bike onto the shuttle buses. Hermit Road is an 11 mile stretch and perhaps the best place in the park to ride your bike. There is less traffic, and awesome views of the rim. Beyond that, there is also a 3 mile greenway trail perfect for cyclists and hikers.
River Trips range from half-day excursions to 25 day adventures. You can either take a commercial rafting trip, or plan your own non-commercial trip. Not all sections of the Colorado River are advanced. With many commercial rafting companies you can book a smooth and easy experience. Some even use motorized watercraft so you can relax and enjoy the views.
Nearby Points of Interest
The Grand Canyon is an adventure in itself. But if you’re visiting for more than a few days, it might be worth taking a day trip to one of these famous destinations nearby:
- Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a 2.25 hour drive from the South Rim
- Antelope Canyon is a 2.5 hour drive from the South Rim in the same direction
If you’re excited to visit the Grand Canyon or want to learn more, these are some great resources to help plan your trip: