Camping Overview: Grand Canyon National Park

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Map of the Grand Canyon
Map of the Grand Canyon (Mike Reagan)

Grand Canyon Highlights

  • Outside the park near Williams are several campgrounds that are open primarily May through October. Cataract Lake, Kaibab Lake, Dogtown Lake, and Whitehorse Lake are recommended sites.
  • Inside the park on the South Rim are two campgrounds. Mather Campground in Grand Canyon Village has more than 300 campsites. Reservations are available for stays between April and November. Desert View Campground is 26 miles east of Grand Canyon Village and does not accept reservations. There are 50 sites available from mid-May through October.
  • The North Rim Campground is located north of Grand Canyon Lodge and has 75 campsites open mid-May through October. Reservations are available up to five months in advance.
  • Outside the park on the North Rim are the DeMott Park Campground just outside the entrance with 23 sites, and the Jacob Lake Campground, 30 miles north of the park entrance with 53 sites.
  • Ten-X Campground is run by the National Forest Service two miles south of Tusayan. Open April to September, it has 70 campsites and is a good choice for late-in-the-day arrivals.
  • In the Kaibab National Forest you can camp just about anywhere as long as you are at least a quarter mile from a paved road or water source.
  • The Hualapai allow camping with a permit on the tribal lands at Diamond Creek. Permits are available at the Hualapai Lodge.

Camping

Despite having more than million annual visitors, Grand Canyon National Park has only four campgrounds in its developed areas. These campgrounds frequently fill up during high season. By calling 800-365-2267, you can make reservations at the two largest ones Mather and North Rim—both of which are located near showers, laundry facilities, and stores. These campgrounds, and the first-come, first-served Desert View Campground (located on the South Rim near the Desert View Overlook), all offer comfortable tent camping, fire pits, and at least partial shade. There's also an RV-only campground, Trailer Village (303-297-2757), on the South Rim.

When the park fills up, your best bet is to head for one of several National Forest campgrounds within a short drive of the park. These first-come, first-served campgrounds cost slightly less than the ones in the park and tend to have more generously spaced sites. Although they lack showers, they do have running water and pit toilets, and most are pleasingly quiet. When these sites are full, some visitors opt to camp for free in the National Forest. Before doing so, check at a Forest Service office for the latest rules on acceptable campsites, waste disposal, and campfires.

All overnight camping below the rim requires a permit from the Backcountry office. This is true for undeveloped areas on the rim as well (camping in developed areas is restricted to existing campgrounds). Permits are required (well in advance) and must be made in person or by mail (telephone or fax requests are not accepted). Requests for trip-planning information should be addressed to: The Backcountry Office, Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023, or call 520-638-7888.

When requesting backcountry permits, you will need to state the trip leader's name, the number of people, your exact itinerary, and the campgrounds you are requesting for each night. Listing alternative dates androutes will increase your chances of getting a permit. Persons arriving without permits may put their names on a waiting list for cancellations; go to the Backcountry Office as soon as you arrive in the park. Names are accepted for the waiting list in person only.

To make a campground reservation, call 800-365-CAMP (2267)

Reservation Hours of Operation

Daily: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific Time
Reservation Center CLOSED Christmas and New Year's Day.

If you are calling from outside the U.S. or Canada, dial 301-722-1257. The TDD number for the hearing-impaired is 888-530-9796.

The National Park Reservation Service (NPRS) and the National Park Service (NPS) have implemented a reservation window to make booking your camping reservations more convenient. On the 15th of each month, campers will have access to an entire month of available start dates—up to three months in advance (see schedule below)—except Katmai National Park. You may book reservations as late as one day prior to arrival, subject to availability.

Dispersed camping is permitted in the national forest outside the park; no camping is permitted within 1/4 mile of Highway 64. Other restrictions may apply. Contact the Tusayan Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest.

RV Camping (with hookups) is also available at Camper Village (privately run) in Tusayan. Call 520-638-2887 for information.

There is a campground (no hook-ups) in the park a mile from the rim.

South Rim

Mather Campground
This sprawling South Rim campground is surprisingly pleasant, given its immense size (323 sites) and proximity to the business district of Grand Canyon Village. Its pinyon pine trees are bushy enough to afford a measure of privacy and tall enough for partial shade. All but a handful of sites far enough from busy park roads to feel serene. Open year-round, Mather frequently fills up in summer, but cancellations are common.

Desert View
Located on the South Rim near the park's east entrance gate, this small campground sits on a breezy perch a short walk from the busy Desert View overlook. Even with the overlook nearby, the sites feel remote, especially when the coyotes howl nearby. A few groceries are available at Desert View, but the nearest showers are 26 miles away in Grand Canyon Village. Open from mid-May through mid-October, sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Most become available when people leave in mid-morning.

Trailer Village
This RV park near Mather Campground calls to mind a drive-in movie without the screen. Most sites have little vegetation, and they're close enough together to make the camping seem quite public. However, a few sites have shade trees and grassy spots for camping.

Camping Outside the Park: South Rim - The U.S. Forest Service operates a public campground (no hook-ups or reservations) at Ten-X Campground, three miles south of Tusayan. It is open May 1 through September 30. Ten-X Campground fills early in the day. Group site is available for groups of up 100, reservations required, 520-638-2443.

North Rim

North Rim Campground
Unlike the other two major park campgrounds, this 83-site campground under ponderosa pines has at least a few sites with canyon views. Near showers and a store, and with a rim-side trail beginning nearby, it's a great place to pass a few days. Open mid-May through mid-October, this campground often fills up.

Tuweep
Located on the North Rim on the western Grand Canyon, this primitive (waterless) campground can be reached only by driving an hour or more across remote, bumpy roads that are impassable when wet. The trip is worth it: A few yards from the campsites is a view nearly straight down to the Colorado River. A challenging route from rim to river begins nearby. The first-come, first-served campground often fills up, but in a pinch you can camp on nearby Bureau of Land Management land.

Lodging

Inside the park, lodging is available on the South Rim and, on a limited scale, the North Rim. Rooms are booked well in advance; be sure to make reservations as far ahead as possible. A variety of lodging facilities are available; contact AmFac Parks & Resorts, 303-297-2757. Outside the park, lodging is available in Tusayan, Williams, and Jacob Lake.

There are nine different lodging options on the South Rim, ranging from the luxurious El Tovar to your basic motel. Plain and simple North Rim has one lodge.

Phantom Ranch is possibly the peak canyon experience for those who long for wilderness with clean sheets and china plates. Phantom Ranch is below the rim, and only reachable by hiking or muleback. Reservations for meals and lodging at Phantom Ranch are absolutely required. For reservations call 303-297-2757 or 888-297-2757. Reservations are accepted up to 13 months in advance.

Lodging Outside the Park: South Rim - Lodging is available in Williams (60 miles south on Highway 64) and Flagstaff (80 miles south on Highway 180). In addition, there are the following accommodations in Tusayan, seven miles south of the South Rim:

Grand Canyon Squire Inn 520-638-2681

Moqui Lodge 520-638-2424 Open April to October

Quality Inn 520-638-2673

Red Feather Lodge 520-638-2414

Seven Mile Lodge 520-638-2291

North Rim Lodging outside the Park - Lodging is available seasonally outside the park on the North Rim at Kaibab Lodge (18 miles north of the North Rim: 520-638-2389, mid-May through October 25th; wintertime: 520-526-0924, outside Arizona 800-525-0924); and at Jacob Lake Inn (45 miles north of the North Rim: 520-643-7232).


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 9 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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