Camping at the Grand Canyon South Rim

Many people have the Grand Canyon on their bucket list, but are unsure about how to plan the trip. How to get there and where to stay? What can you expect?  In this post I will give you a few options for camping and describe my camping trip in April 2018. Make sure to watch my video for all the visuals.
The North Rim is only accessible in the summer, officially opening in the middle of May. (It’s much colder because it is 1500 ft. higher in elevation). The South Rim is open year round, and even though not all campgrounds are open 12 months of the year, you would still have camping and lodging options.
Scroll to the end of this post to watch my video to provide all the visuals for this post.

RV Camping 
Trailer Village.
If you require a site with a hookup (available only on the South Rim at Trailer Village), you need to reserve and pay in advance for your site by contacting Delaware North’s website.

Camper Village
Commercial campground located seven miles south of Grand Canyon Village in the town of Tusayan. Call (928) 638-2887. Open seasonally. Hook-ups and coin-operated showers are available.

Camping (tent / RV / van):

Mather Campground
Close to the National Park, but because of that it fills up months in advance. If you go in the summer, reserve at least 4-6 months ahead of time. I tried to reserve a spot in April 2 weeks in advance and there was none available. So even in the off season, you should look 2 months ahead to be safe. They have group sites, tent sites, RV sites, sites for campers with horses and all sorts of options. My personal opinion: Desert View campsite is prettier, but this site is much closer to the National Park, and if you have a reservation, then you don’t have to stress.

– bench, fire grill, bathrooms with running water and flush toilets.
– Forest type setting quiet, peaceful (but honesty I liked the other campground much more, the scenery was much prettier)
– Hook ups for RVs
$18 / night
– pets must be leashed, and cannot be left unattended.
Reserve:   National Recreation Reservation Service (877) 444-6777.

Desert View Campground
30 minutes from the National Park, but on the way you can stop to view the gorgeous scenery at one of the many lookouts. Only 50 campsites and YOU CANNOT MAKE RESERVATIONS. FIRST COME FIRST SERVE ONLY. Season opens April 14th.  check in 11 am, check out 12 noon.

Personal opinion: much prettier than Mather Campground, and as long as you have a backup plan for camping, it’s worth it. It is 25-30 minutes from the park but there are many lookout points along the way with gorgeous views, starting at 5-7 minutes from the campgrounds.

-same as the other campground, bench, fire grills, bathrooms with running water and flush toilets. Trash containers.
– Hook ups for RVs. Here you can camp in your tent, RV, van, car or in hammocks / sleeping bags.
– The setting is beautiful. Neighbors are kinda close but you can walk way back away from everything.
-$12 / night.
-Pets must be leashed and cannot be unattended.

If you come here, do what I did:

  • arrive early (8 am) and look for a campsite. Park your truck and go pay for it. Pay by credit card, but if the machine doesn’t  work, (it didn’t when I was there)  have exact change with you.
  • In case you cannot find a site, don’t leave, wait, because people who are leaving will be packing up around 10-11 am to be out by 12 noon. You most likely will find a site, but if you arrive after noon, most likely it will be full.
  • have a back up plan to camp in the forest that way you don’t have to stress (of course you need a full set up for that)

Kaibab National Forest
This is right outside of the National Park, you just have to make sure you’re .25 mile off the highway. Double check fire and other restrictions. This can be an excellent back up plan just in case you don’t find a campsite. Make sure you have a full set up, and ready to camp without running water and bathrooms.
Take everything with you, leave no trash behind (even if it’s biodegradable)
Even in April you might have snow on the ground in the morning, but it’ll be gone in a few hours. Of course check the weather. this year has been unusually, the weather we’ve had in April is more suitable for March.

You will most likely encounter free roaming elk and deer, maybe even close to your campsite. Don’t approach them because they might feel threatened and they will charge at you. Also you should never feed any wildlife, because this way they can get dependent on humans, as well as lose their fear and they might feel comfortable biting or kicking, etc. Their lives depend on you leaving them alone.
Also you should not pick up any wood from the ground (it is prohibited in the campgrounds but you should also leave them in the forests). Leave nature the way you found it. You can buy fire wood at the stores.

Our trip:
We came hoping for a campsite at Desert View, with the back up option at the National Forest. If I came back again (and I will), I will do the same thing, but I will stay 2 nights and I will bring my dog. My daughter and I had a wonderful time, but a day and a half / 1 night is definitely not enough.

We spent a few hours in the National Park, and on the way back stopped at a few of the lookout points. They’re perfect for sunsets or sunrises. The only thing is that if you’re camping, watching the sunset at a beautiful view means you will get back at your campsite in the dark. The rim is not visible from Desert View  campgrounds. I like to cook  my dinner when the sun  is going down and eat it while I can still see it, and then sit around the campfire after the Sun is gone. So it’s either see the sunset, or have dinner and see it, too.
I woke up at 5:30 am to see the sunrise, it was only a 10-15 minutes ride. It was gorgeous, with hardly anyone around. I loved all the elk and deer around us.

Grand Canyon National Park

Entrance fee is $30. I was lucky because we happened to go on earth Day, on which day entrance to any and all national parks are free. Check to see if they have specials. There are many things to do at the National Park, these include

  • various hikes (day hikes and overnight). If you’re not a hiker at all, you can just walk along the paved road right next to the rim (like so many people do) and take in the gorgeous view. You can always hop on a shuttle bus to take you to your destination, should you get tired.
  • bicycle tours (you can rent bikes)
  • mule rides. 3 hours, walking along the rim. If you feel adventurous, check it out
  • white water and soft water raft
  • car or commercial bus tours
  • educational activities: book store, museums, ranger walks with information the science, history, culture and nature of the Grand Canyon.
  • there are shuttle buses, so if you can’t walk too  much, you can hop on one to take you to your destination, there is a network of 3 different routes.

Things to know:

  • be prepared for a lot of people, from all over the world. That is pretty cool, actually.
  • you may take your dog, as long as the dog is on a leash
  • entrance fee is $30. On Earth Day it’s free. We happened to go then, I didn’t even know, so we saved $60.
  • be careful. There are rails along the paths, but you can walk / climb out to the ledge. Yes, you can fall and will not survive. Please be super careful with children.
  • If you take a hike, make sure you are experienced and are up for it. In the summer months 600 people get rescued by rangers, and 160 people get rescued by helicopters. Hiking here is the opposite of what’re you’re used to: the easy part comes first, you walk down, which is easy, but you might be too tired to walk up. The weather can be extreme, especially in the summer. Fatigue and dehydration / overhydration is your biggest enemy. Even experienced hiker have a hard times sometimes. Check out the various levels of hikes and pay attention to the intensity level. Play it safe.
  • Do not hike alone.
  • you do not need to pay for parking!! (this is not Disneyland)

I’m hoping this post was helpful and you will feel more comfortable making your next trip. Check out the following websites, and watch my video, which gives you about the same information that I gave you here plus more visuals.

Watch this video to see the visuals accompanying these tips.


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