Top Ten Camps in North America
It's geological perfection with an archaeological twist. At Nankoweap, where narrow Marble Canyon suddenly opens into the three-mile-wide fissure of the Grand Canyon, you'll sleep on a commodious outfanning of white sand beach, gaze up at 2,000-foot-high red canyon walls, and whisper to your tentmate above the whoosh of the Colorado. But the most memorable touch may be the Anasazi ruins perched a mere 40-minute hike upslope. Three days into America's most classic raft trip, this campsite isn't exactly undiscovered, which means that two other groups will likely be camped nearby. Don't fret, strategically placed dunes and willows keep privacy intact.
While your party's cook is prepping Dutch-oven surprise, hike 800 feet up behind the site to the 1,000-year-old granary built into the steep cliff face. Thanks to a natural overhang, this vantage point is an especially good place to sit out late-summer afternoon downpours; stay till sunset for perhaps the quintessential Grand Canyon vista. To raft on your own, get your name on the lengthy waiting list for a permit or, better, call the Grand Canyon Colorado River office (800-959-9164) in hopes of scoring a cancellation (available more frequently than you might think). To ensure that you'll get on the river even more quickly and for the most authentic Powellesque experience, book a trip with the venerable Grand Canyon Dories (seven-day trips, $2201 with $700 deposit; 800-346-6277).
The Way There
Rafts put in at Lees Ferry, 120 miles north of Flagstaff on U.S. 89. For the strong-kneed, there's also the two-day hike down the North Rim's Nankoweap Trail. Backcountry permit fees are $10 per permit plus $5 per person per night. For information, call the Grand Canyon Backcountry Information Center at: 928-638-7875.
Next Time Try
Virginia Falls, South Nahanni River, Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories
Lay your bag on the western banks of the South Nahanni and fall asleep beneath swaying willows to the rush of Virginia Falls if you can: This cascade is nearly twice the height of Niagara.
Location: 340 miles east of Whitehorse
Details: 30 sites; entrance fee $70 (U.S.) per person
Prime Time: July to August
Cedar Ridge, Desolation Canyon, Utah
Put in at Sand Wash for a 50-mile Class II-III run to this swath of shoreline on the Green River, a cottonwood grove with a beach wide enough for a touch football game and conveniently littered with firewood.
Location: 85 miles northwest of Grand Junction, Colorado
Details: rafting permit, $18; no camping fees
Prime Time: May to August
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Best Hotels in Marble Canyon