Photo: NPS

The Grand Canyon’s Best Car Camping

Find stunning sites to camp at one of the world’s Seven Wonders.

There are so many different ways to take in the beauty and magic of the Grand Canyon, and camping there under the stars is one of the best. If you’re car camping, in particular, you can also add creature comforts to the natural grandeur. In short: You can have a grand outdoor experience without the need for ultralight backpacking gear or high levels of endurance. It’s low effort, high reward. And speaking of rewards, as Stefanie Payne puts it in A Year In The National Parks: The Greatest American Road Trip: “There will never be a photograph of the Grand Canyon that can adequately describe its depth, breadth, and true beauty.” 

Payne is right. Photographing the canyon is like taking a picture of a sunset: It never quite compares. There is nothing like actually seeing the Grand Canyon with your own eyes and immersing yourself in its environment for a few days. Follow the full-rundown guidance below on car camping around the Grand Canyon, both inside and outside the national park. (And if you’re keen on camping between the rims or down below, near or on the Colorado River, there’s also no shortage of world-class backpacking and multi-day boating options.)

 

North or South Rim? 

When visiting the Grand Canyon, you’ll need to choose which rim to target (they are separated by a 4.5-hour drive). The South Rim is the more popular starting point, and is far more developed with multiple hotels, restaurants, and campgrounds (the North Rim has only one campground and one lodge). Located 3.5 hours north of Phoenix, the South Rim has all the amenities you’ll need and is accessible all year, while the North Rim (4.5 hours northeast of Las Vegas; 6.5 hours south of Salt Lake City) offers a much quieter, more remote, and more limited experience, as it closes during the winter. That information alone might be enough to help you decide which rim to visit, but just know that incredible camping opportunities exist on either side.  

 

Reservations

Many reservations can be made over a year in advance, and that foresight is often key for booking a trip at the campgrounds listed that are inside the park. Each campground has specific rules on how best to book, if there are any first-come, first-served sites, how to make reservations, and how far ahead of time to do so. In general, your best bet is to visit Recreation.gov at least six months to a year (seriously) before your trip. 

 

When To Go

You can visit the Grand Canyon all year. The North Rim is closed in winter, but the South Rim stays open (just be prepared for cold weather and snow-covered ground in winter). During peak season (summer), the canyon is quite crowded, yes, but only in certain places, and it’s possible to find solitude anytime of year if you go the dispersed camping route. The cooler temperatures of spring and fall always make it a little more pleasurable to spend your days and nights outside, but if you’re camping in the forest you’ll find plenty of shade. 

Photo: NPS

Inside Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim

Mather Campground
Rim: South
Sites: 327
Supplies: Camp store
Cost: $18/night ($9 for Senior/Access Pass)
Amenities: Flush toilets, hot showers, potable water, trash/recycling, laundry, dump station, campfire ring, picnic table
Hookups: No
Cell Reception: No
Season: Open year-round
Accessible: Yes
Reserve: Recreation.gov

Mather Campground is located in the most developed zone on the South Rim (near Grand Canyon Village) and is walking distance from many amenities: grocery stores, restaurants, and even scenic viewpoints and trailheads on the South Rim itself, like the Bright Angel Trailhead and the South Rim Trail. There’s a shuttle stop at the campground that takes guests to various points along the rim. Because it’s so conveniently located and has so many sites (327 of them, each of which hold three tents and two vehicles), it’s not a place that you’ll find solitude. Still, the sites are aesthetically peaceful and nestled among the trees. There are wildlife viewing opportunities, too; elk herd visits to the campground are not rare. Mather has everything you need. Camp store, laundry, firewood, hot showers: It’s basically its own mini-village. There are 14 ADA-accessible sites that have raised fire rings, larger parking areas, and proximity to restrooms (which have paved ramps and an ADA-compliant stall). Most of the ADA sites can accommodate an RV up to 25 feet long. 

 

Desert View Campground
Rim: South
Sites: 49
Supplies: Camp store (open seasonally), gas station, market and deli
Cost: $18/night ($9 for Senior/Access Pass)
Amenities: Flush toilets (seasonal), potable water (seasonal), trash/recycling (seasonal), gas station, deli
Hookups: No
Cell Reception: No
Season: Varies (typically May to mid-Oct.)
Accessible: Yes
Reserve: Recreation.gov

The other developed campground for tent camping on the South Rim is Desert View. It’s located at the eastern entrance to the park, about 40 minutes east of Mather Campground and Grand Canyon Village. With just 49 sites situated in a more remote setting, campers can more easily find solitude around camp as opposed to the highly developed area around Mather. Desert View is also located just a parking lot away from the rim itself and offers walking access to the Desert View Watchtower, Lipan Point, and Navajo Point (the highest vista on the South Rim). Around that same parking lot is the camp store, a market and deli, and a gas station. Just down the road are the Tusayan Ruins, Moran Point, and the Grandview Lookout Tower. The campsites can accommodate tents and trailers and small RVs, but don’t have hookups. There are two ADA-accessible sites located closest to the restrooms.

 

Trailer Village RV Park (RV Only)
Rim: South
Sites: 123
Supplies: Camp store
Cost: $61–$71/night
Amenities: Flush toilets, hot showers, potable water, trash/recycling, laundry, dump station
Hookups: Yes (sewage, water, electrical with 30-amp and 50-amp sites available).
Cell Reception: No
Season: Open year-round
Accessible: Yes
Reserve: Online

Trailer Village is the only RV campground in the park with full hookups and, like Mather Campground, is conveniently open year-round. It’s located in the main developed area on the South Rim (it’s just across the road from Mather Campground), has prime access to the full suite of amenities, plus has great access to the overlooks and trailheads on the South Rim. It’s about a 1-mile walk to the rim, which means you can leave your vehicle behind and not battle for a parking spot (free shuttle buses also stop every 15 minutes at Trailer Village). The RV park has paved pull-through sites that can accommodate vehicles up to 50 feet long and has gravel sites as well. The paved sites are mostly flat and are ADA-accessible, plus there are three accessible restrooms within Trailer Village. 

 

Inside Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim

 

North Rim Campground
Rim: North
Sites: 87
Supplies: Camp store (seasonal)
Cost: $18/night ($50/night for group sites)
Amenities: Flush toilets (seasonal), potable water (seasonal), trash/recycling (seasonal), dump station (seasonal), Gas station
Hookups: No
Cell Service: No
Season: May 15 to Oct. 31
Accessible: Yes
Reserve: Recreation.gov

This is the only campground on the North Rim that’s inside the park. So, while there’s not much competition, this is still an amazing spot to sleep. Solitude abounds on this side of the canyon. Reserve one of 87 sites during the campground operating season from mid-May through October (the North Rim is closed for winter). The campground is flanked by the Transept Trail and close to the rim itself. (Pro tip: Book Sites 14–19, they are right on the rim.) The campsite is a short walk from the visitor center and is a great basecamp for park adventures. The North Kaibab Trailhead is 1 mile away and the Wildforss Trailhead is just 2 miles away. There are three ADA campsites that are close to wheelchair-accessible restrooms with paved ramps and compliant stalls. While RVs up to 40 feet are permitted, there are no hookups.  

 

Outside Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim

 

Ten-X Campground 
Rim: South
Sites: 70
Supplies: Two miles from Tusayan (gas, food)
Cost: $20/night
Amenities: Grills, fire rings, picnic tables, potable water, toilets
Hookups: No
Cell Reception: Spotty
Season: May 14 to Sept. 30
Accessible: No
Reserve: Recreation.gov

Ten-X campground is managed by the Forest Service and is located 2 miles from the town of Tusayan, about 4 miles from the South Rim entrance. Its 70 sites are set within stands of Ponderosa pine and Gambel oak. There’s a short walking path around the campground, and while the sites offer tranquility, you’re still just a short drive from any amenity you could need in Tusayan. There are two group sites, one can hold 50 people and the other can hold 75 people. 

 

Grand Canyon Camper Village
Rim: South
Sites: 100 RV sites 
Supplies: Stores in Tusayan; ice, propane, and firewood available from the camp store
Cost: $53–$66 for RV sites and $25/night for tent sites
Amenities: Coin laundry, showers, picnic tables, camp rings (at some sites)
Hookups: Yes (30- or 50-amp full hookups, 30-amp water and electricity, 30-amp electricity only)
Cell Reception: Spotty
Season: Year-round
Accessible: N/A
Reserve: Online form for RV sites

This campground is open year-round and located right in Tusayan, Ariz., just 1 mile south of the park’s entrance and 7 miles from the rim itself. Tusayan has everything you can think of (general store, multiple restaurants), plus some things you probably wouldn’t (plentiful shopping, IMAX movie theater). The Camper Village accommodates both tent campers and RVs (many hookup options available). Tent sites are on a first-come, first-served basis and each site fits four adults and either one large tent or two small ones. Showers are token operated ($2/8 minutes). There’s a free shuttle to the South Rim visitor center for easy access to nearby adventures, plus access to the Arizona Trail right from camp.

 

Dispersed Camping - South Rim
Rim: South
Supplies: Stop in Tusayan or Grand Canyon Village before heading out
Cost: Free
Amenities: None (some previously impacted sites have fire rings, which are good to use, but don’t build any new ones).
Hookups: No
Cell Reception: Likely no
Season: Year-round
Accessible: It depends (no pavement and no amenities available)
Reserve: None needed

If you’re new to camping or get nervous without amenities—like toilets, drinking water, and trash disposal—first get comfortable at the developed sites listed before trying dispersed camping (outside of a developed campground where there are no established campsites). Most of the vast Kaibab National Forest, which is the land that surrounds both rims of the Grand Canyon, is open for dispersed camping. On the South Rim, the national forest more or less starts just on the other side of state Route 64, the park’s main thoroughfare road. 

View the Forest Service guidelines and restrictions for more information, but here are the basics: Drive down any Forest Service road and pick a flat spot that looks nice. Camping is free and allowed for up to 14 days in any 30-day period. It’s best to use previously impacted sites and always use existing fire rings and practice Leave No Trace ethics (pack it in, pack it out). On the South Rim, right in Tusayan is Long Jim Loop Camping, which is a popular dispersed camping area (most of the time these areas aren’t named like this). If you have more specific questions about the rules or best places to go, contact the local district office, which can also provide a helpful Motor Vehicle Use Map.  
 

Outside Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim

 

DeMotte Campground
Rim: North
Sites: 38
Supplies: North Rim Country Store across the road
Cost: $22/night
Amenities: Toilets, potable water, trash collection, fire pit, picnic table, grills/fire ring
Hookups: No
Cell Reception: No
Season: Generally open May 15 to Oct. 15
Accessible: N/A
Reserve: Recreation.gov

DeMotte is operated by the Forest Service and its 38 sites are located 7 miles north of the entrance to the park and about an hour from Fredonia, Ariz. You’ll find peace and quiet sleeping under the stars and the pine trees of the Kaibab National Forest. Keep your eyes peeled for the tassel-eared Kaibab squirrel, which only lives in this part of the world. A short 20-minute drive takes campers right to the North Kaibab Trailhead. DeMotte, like the rest of the North Rim, closes during the snowy winter months but it’s generally open from May 15 to Oct. 15. Half of the sites can be reserved in advance.

 

Jacob Lake Campground
Rim: North
Sites: 51
Supplies: General store and gas station nearby, 30 miles away from a larger town (Fredonia, Ariz.)
Cost: $22/night
Amenities: Toilets, fire rings, potable water, trash collection, picnic table, satellite TV access, fire pit
Hookups: No
Cell Reception: N/A"
Season: Late spring to early fall
Accessible: N/A
Reserve: Recreation.gov

The Forest Service also operates Jacob Lake Campground, which is a 50-minute drive from the North Kaibab Trailhead. It’s located right by the Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center and the Jacob Lake Inn, which has a general store and sit-down restaurant. Two adjacent group campgrounds can hold up to 100 people each. Right from the campground, users can walk a 1-mile nature loop, or drive 10 minutes to a trailhead for the Arizona Trail. There are also many mountain biking and hiking trails nearby, as well as opportunities for horseback riding.

 

Kaibab Camper Village
Rim: North
Sites: ~97
Supplies: Camp store
Cost: $20-45 (RV sites). $20/night (tent sites)
Amenities: Toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, showers, laundry
Hookups: Yes (electric, water, sewer available)
Cell Reception: N/A
Season: The campground opens May 14 at noon, and closes Oct. 15 at 10 a.m.
Accessible: N/A
Reserve: resnexus.com

Kaibab Camper Village is just a quarter-mile south of Jacob Lake and is the only campground on the North Rim that has full RV hookups (they can also accommodate rigs over 40 feet). They also have tent sites (and cabins) available. The campground is located among the pine trees and next to a meadow (Jacob Lake is also nearby but no fishing or swimming are allowed). Like Jacob Lake Campground, the Camper Village is about 50 minutes from the North Rim and its trailheads and viewpoints. 

 

Dispersed Camping - North Rim
The same rules and caveats apply to dispersed camping on the North Rim as they do to the South Rim. Options abound for dispersed camping on the north side of the Grand Canyon, but it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re up to date on current restrictions; call the Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center or North Kaibab Ranger District before heading out. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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