If you like to hike, you probably like camping. There are a couple campgrounds within and near Grand Canyon National Park. If you’re visiting the South Rim, I recommend staying at Mather Campground — but unless you book early, it can be hard to get a good spot. Here’s what you need to know about where to camp at Grand Canyon.
I hope you’ll forgive me for leading off with some ground rules — but it’s probably better to hear it from me than from a citation-writing park ranger. The rules are common-sense and easy to abide by:
- Leash your pets.
- Don’t gather firewood.
- Don’t wash your dishes at the water stations.
- Keep it quiet after 10 pm.
- Don’t. Feed. The. Animals.
Seriously, I’m not joking about that last one. The most frequently seen busy-season injury at the park clinic isn’t from falls, heatstroke, or dehydration — it’s squirrel bites. Grand Canyon squirrels are habituated to humans, they are bold, and they bite. If you need any more incentive to stay away from the squirrels, remember that their saliva can spread rabies, their fleas can spread the plague, and their droppings can spread hantavirus. This is true of most park mammals.
And don’t even get me started on the ravens.
Mather Campground has a lot going for it — most visitors will find it to be the best camping within the park. Shaded campsites provide some relief from the sun. The nearby general store is close enough to get s’mores ingredients, but far enough away that you can’t see it. A free shuttle bus system connects the campground to the visitor center, several trailheads, and other South Rim attractions.
There are 319 normal-sized campsites available for $18 per night. Each of these sites will accommodate a maximum of two vehicles, three tents, and six people. There are also seven large-group campsites, each of which costs $50 per night and can accommodate up to 50 campers.
Make your reservations early — I can’t stress this enough. Park Service says that the campground usually fills up by noon during the busy season, but don’t be surprised if all the sites are snatched up before then.
If you value peace and quiet, you may try to reserve a site in the campground’s “Pine Loop” (sites 265-319). This is a generator-free loop, which means that you’ll be (relatively) far away from any of the noisy, chugging generators that power creature comforts for the RV crowd. Although there’s an element of luck to finding a good campsite, sites 277 through 293 will put the most distance between your tent and the campsites that allow generators.
Desert View Campground
Desert View Campground is located near Grand Canyon’s eastern border with the Navajo Indian Reservation. The nearby Desert View lookout boasts one of the most impressive vistas in the park. The campground is cheaper than Mather Campground, but it also has fewer amenities and is farther away from the most popular trails. There are no showers and only two water faucets within the 50-site campground. It’s also a 35-minute drive from the Visitor Center, and 45 minutes from Grand Canyon Village.
The campground is open seasonally from May 1st through mid-October. According to Park Service, the campground is usually full by early afternoon.
That said, if you want to camp off the beaten path — or if nothing else is available — Desert View can be a good option. It’s also a good option if sites are available and if you plan on arriving at the park before noon. The campground is located near the east entrance station (close to the border with the Navajo Reservation). You can spend the afternoon exploring Desert View and the nearby Tusayan Ruin museum, just ten minutes down the road. The next morning, pack up early and enjoy the scenic drive into Grand Canyon Village.
Rates are $12 per night, with a maximum occupancy of six people, two tents, and two vehicles at each site. Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Payment must be made at a self-service station using either a credit card or exact change. The campground does not accommodate vehicles longer than 30 feet. A campground map and additional information can be found in the Desert View informational bulletin and map.
If you haven’t made reservations and are arriving late in the day via the park’s South Entrance, try to grab a spot at Ten-X Campground. It’s located south of the town of Tusayan on Highway 64, about ten miles from the South Rim. The drive there takes about twenty minutes, plus whatever time you might spend waiting at the park entrance station.
Ten-X is a seasonal campground located outside of Grand Canyon National Park, within Kaibab National Forest. The campground is surrounded by gambrel oak trees and tall ponderosa pines.
According to the US Forest Service, Ten-X is generally open to overnight camping between May 1 and September 30, although the exact opening and closing dates will depend on winter snowfall and other factors.
Camping rates are $10 per site per night. There are 70 single-family campsites and two large-group sites. Of the 70 single-family sites, 15 can be reserved online and the rest are first-come, first-serve. The two large-group sites accommodate 50 and 75 people, and can be reserved online for $75 and $125 respectively.
Best secret spots to camp near Grand Canyon National Park
The first rule about secret spots is you do not talk about secret spots.