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Insider's Guide: How To Camp in Grand Canyon National Park

Everything You Need to Know to Camp in One of the Natural Wonders of the World


a brilliant sunset over the snowy Grand Canyon splashes vivid purples, pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges across the desert sky

Yavapai Point: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ - Photo Credit: Chris Blake


 

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It is hard to talk about the Grand Canyon without resorting to cliches. Despite the best attempts to wax poetic about how epic, awe-inspiring, powerful, and yeah, pretty darn grand it is, language simply fails to do justice to this geographical wonder. Ultimately, you have to experience it for yourself, and camping in Grand Canyon National Park is the best way to do so. We’re here to help you do it right!


Camping in Grand Canyon National Park


With five to six million people visiting every year, successfully camping in Grand Canyon National Park requires some advance planning — don’t think you can show up mid summer with no reservations and expect things to work out!


Whether you are coming with your trailer, campervan, or backcountry kit, we’ve rounded up the details on all of the best camping options available in the park to help you plan an unforgettable Grand Canyon adventure.


The view from the South Rim has the Grand Canyon yawning below, stretching for miles and miles of striated red rocks and cliffs

South Rim: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan



Developed Campgrounds


The Grand Canyon is split into two distinct sections: the South Rim and the North Rim. On opposite sides of the mile deep and 18 mile wide canyon, the two rims are separated by a five hour drive around the perimeter.


Nearly 90% of all park visitors head to the South Rim, thanks to railway services in Grand Canyon Village and its proximity to Flagstaff and Phoenix. There are more camping options here - but this means more campers as well. Campgrounds are typically fully booked at least six months in advance of the busy season (May-October).


The remote North Rim offers solitude, but fewer developed camping options. There is only one campground on this side of the National Park.


Two hikers admire the view of the Colorado River snaking along the bottom of the vast Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ - Photo Credit: Martin Permantier



South Rim Campgrounds


The South Rim features three campgrounds within Grand Canyon National Park boundaries:


Mather Campground

  • Total Sites: 327

  • Tent Only: 55

  • RV Only: 0

  • RV Hookups: No


Located in Grand Canyon Village, Mather Campground offers the best access to the South Rim’s shops, restaurants, and tour guides. During the busy season, from March 1 to November 30, all but 10 of the 327 sites at Mather are available by reservation only.


The campground is open throughout the winter as well, but the campground office is closed and sites are unreservable. Campers can self-register at the kiosk on a first-come, first-served basis.


Trailer Village RV Park

  • Total Sites: 123

  • Tent Only: 0

  • RV Only: 123

  • RV Hookups: Yes (80 sites)


Trailer Village RV Park is the only campground with full RV services (electrical, sewage, and water) within park boundaries. It is only 1 mile away from the South Rim trails and Visitor Center, and is also serviced by the park shuttle.


Trailer Village is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to 13 months in advance. Sites are typically fully booked a year out for the busy season.


Desert View Campground

  • Total Sites: 49

  • Tent Only: 0

  • RV Only: 0

  • RV Hookups: No


Is Grand Canyon Village too bustling and touristy for your taste? Then consider Desert View Campground, 25 miles away near the park’s serene east entrance. All 49 sites can accommodate tents, RVs, and small trailers, but there are no hookups or dump stations.


Desert View is open from mid-April to mid-October. Reservations are required, and can be made up to six months in advance.


A waterfall sluices down the brick red canyon walls at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan



North Rim Campgrounds


The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is tucked into the northwest corner of Arizona. You have to drive through vast, sparsely populated swaths of Nevada and Utah desert to get there. The reward is what could be considered a more “authentic” park experience - with only a fraction of the traffic and less of the tourist kitsch that fills Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.


North Rim Campground

  • Total Sites: 87

  • Tent Only: 12

  • RV Only: 0

  • RV Hookups: No


Developed camping in this section of the park is limited to the North Rim Campground. Most sites can accommodate either tents or RVs, but there are no RV services. The campground features a general store and a hiking trail that leads to the North Rim Visitor Center and Bright Angel Point.


The campground is open from May 15 to October 15 every year. Reservations are required and can be made six months in advance.


Stormy skies over the vast snowy reaches of the Grand Canyon

Mohave Point: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ - Photo Credit: Chris Blake



Backcountry Campgrounds


Camping in Grand Canyon National Park’s backcountry, a full mile down from the busy rims, is a coveted experience. Permits are required for any overnight trip in the canyon.


Permits are granted via a lottery system, with a limited number of permits available for each month and each area of the National Park. More information on Grand Canyon backcountry permits, including dates to apply for the lottery, can be found here.


Most backpackers stay at the three established backcountry campgrounds within the park’s “Corridor Zone”—Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood. Hikers can stay a maximum of two nights, consecutively or non-consecutively, at any of these three campgrounds.


This zone includes the most popular, well-maintained trails in the canyon, and is recommended for hikers new to the park. All three campgrounds feature picnic tables, pit toilets, and food storage lockers.


Other areas of the Grand Canyon are classified into one of three zones:


  • Threshold Zone: Non-maintained trails, scarce water, and less-maintained campgrounds that only have pit toilets. Camping here is recommended only for experienced backcountry travelers.

  • Primitive Zone: Trailheads accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles. Park infrastructure is nearly non-existent in Primitive Zones, and trails are generally not maintained. Exploring these areas is only recommended for very experienced Grand Canyon hikers with advanced route-finding skills.

  • Wild Zone: Trails are indistinct or nonexistent, and water sources are extremely scarce. Exploring Wild Zone areas should only be considered by expert backcountry travelers with deep experience hiking in the Grand Canyon specifically.


Finally, there is the highlight of Grand Canyon backcountry accommodations: Phantom Lodge. These historic cabins, nestled alongside the Colorado River, are a 5+ hour hike from either rim. Definitely more “glamping” than camping, staying at Phantom Ranch lets you experience the Grand Canyon backcountry in comfort. But again, you need to get lucky to stay here — reservations are based on a lottery system, and you have to enter the lottery 15 months ahead of your intended stay.


A fine mist settles over a rock staircase descending down into the depths of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ - Photo Credit: Alexandre Chambon



Camping on Havasupai Lands


The Havasupai Indian Reservation lies just beyond the western border of Grand Canyon National Park, featuring stunning turquoise waterfalls and gorgeous canyon hikes. The Havasupai Tribe hosts thousands of campers and hikers every year.


The Tribal Council has suspended all tourism since 2020 due to COVID-19, but campground reservations are expected to once again be available in 2023.


Reservations are required for everyone hiking or camping on Havasupai lands, and can be made through the Tribe’s reservation system.


The sun begins to peek over the rim of the Grand Canyon, illuminating cliffs and hoodoos sprawling out below

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ - Photo Credit: Joshua Bedford



Planning Your Grand Canyon Camping Trip


Navigating permits, reservations, and lotteries is now the norm for our country’s busiest parks. This can make trip planning challenging and frustrating. Our goal at Pathloom is to change that, making outdoor adventures accessible and stress-free to plan—for everyone.



Camping in Grand Canyon National Park doesn’t have to be a headache to organize: explore our outdoor trip planning app to find out how we’re making adventure easier for all.



 

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