Where to camp at the Grand Canyon (South Rim)


by Matt. Updated Oct 2021

Recently we visited the Grand Canyon and camped at two different campgrounds. We LOVED it! With campgrounds filling up faster than ever, it’s important to know your options. If want to know more about camping at the Grand Canyon, this article is for you. 

There are 5 campgrounds within Grand Canyon National Park: Mather, Desert View, Trailer Village RV Park, the North Rim, and Phantom Ranch.  The largest and most popular campground is Mather Campground. There are also many camping, glamping, and boondocking options nearby the park.

Keep in mind that the Grand Canyon is HUGE; it’s basically like 4 different parks:

  • South Rim (most popular)
  • North Rim
  • Grand Canyon West (Tribal land not part of the National Park; home of the Skywalk)
  • “Grand Canyon East” (also not part of the National Park. “Grand Canyon East” is an informal designation encompassing Tribal lands and National Monuments; home of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon)
Map overview of the different sections of the Grand Canyon
Map overview of the different sections of the Grand Canyon

Keep on reading to prepare for your visit to the Grand Canyon. In this article, we will cover camping inside and outside the park on the South Rim.

For North Rim camping, please see our North Rim article covering everything you need to know if you’re visiting the North Rim!

For more trip-planning information, see our Grand Canyon page.

Important Information

Here’s some basic information that may answer a lot of questions you have.

How much does it cost to camp at the Grand Canyon?

Campgrounds inside the park are generally $18 per night. Amounts can vary if you have a senior pass, need a group site or horse site, or need hookups.

Campgrounds outside the park range from free (boondocking) to higher-end RV parks and glamping sites that can be over $100 per night.

Can you camp in your car in the Grand Canyon?

Yes, the National Park Service allows you to sleep in your car inside the park, but you still need to reserve a campsite. You cannot just sleep in your car in a parking lot, for example.

Can you camp for free (boondock) at the Grand Canyon?

No, not inside the park. But there are some free campsites nearby the park. See below for some options.

Keep in mind that boondocking sites can be crowded and can be very difficult to reach, as they are often not maintained.

Can you use an RV or trailer to camp at the Grand Canyon?

Yes! The national park campgrounds allow RVs less than 30′ in length. There are no hookups, but there are dump stations. The Trailer Village RV Park at the South Rim is run by a private company and allows RVs up to 60′ long. There are also plenty of options for RVs outside the park.

Do you need reservations to camp at the Grand Canyon?

Yes. There are no “first come, first serve” campgrounds in the park. So make reservations as early as possible. Campgrounds inside the Grand Canyon open up for reservations 6 months in advance. They can fill up quickly, but cancellations do occur so keep checking back.

Can you stay overnight at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?

Yes, at Phantom Ranch, which is the only lodging at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It has cabins and dormitories, but not a campground. To reserve a spot, you must enter a lottery 15 months in advance, and to get there you must raft, hike, or ride a mule to the bottom.

There are a few “backcountry” campgrounds inside the canyon for hikers and rafters, but you must get a permit from the park to use these.

Beware: hiking into the Grand Canyon is not something to take lightly.

Should I stay inside the park or outside the park?

We prefer to stay inside the park because you avoid the lines to enter the park and they often offer campfire ranger programs.

What are the campgrounds like inside Grand Canyon National Park?

Campgrounds in and around the Grand Canyon are heavily forested. You might picture the desert when you think about the Grand Canyon, but the top of the canyon (the “rim”) is high elevation and forested.

South Rim Campgrounds INSIDE the Park

Mather Campground

With over 300 sites, this is the main campground at the Grand Canyon.  Mather is located close to the Grand Canyon Village and the main visitor center.

As with most National Park campgrounds, the fees are very low: around $20 per night.

image of truck and camper

Pros:

  • It’s close to the main sites
  • It’s affordable ($18/night)
  • Elk wander through the campground
  • It’s inside the park, so you don’t have to wait in line to get into the park.
  • It has a laundromat and showers
  • It has a dump station

Cons:

  • There are no hookups for RVs
  • No large RVs (30 ft limit) 

We loved our stay at Mather and would highly recommend it. For more information, visit the park website.  If you want to book a reservation, you must go through recreation.gov

Trailer Village RV Park

This campground has 123 sites and accommodates larger RVs. Most national park campgrounds do not. This campground is owned and operated by a concessionaire, Delaware North.

image of rv park
Trailer Village is located within Grand Canyon but is not owned by the NPS; photo from NPS website

It is located right next to Mather Campground.

Pros:

  • Reservations can be made up to 13 months in advance (unlike the National Park sites, which only allow 6 months)
  • Accomodates larger RVs and trailers
  • Dump station and hookups
  • Close to the main sites
  • It’s inside the park, so you don’t have to wait in line to get into the park.

Cons:

  • Starting at $61/night, it’s more expensive than Mather.

See the Trailer Village RV Park website for more information and to book a reservation.

Desert View Campground

Located over 20 miles from Grand Canyon Village, this campground is more secluded and peaceful. It only has 50 campsites, so if you don’t care for crowds, this is a great option.

Desert View Campground; photo from NPS website

Pros:

  • It has nearby amenities: Gas station
  • Less crowded
  • Affordable ($18/night)
  • It’s inside the park, so you don’t have to wait in line to get into the park.

Cons:

  • No dump station
  • Only open May through November
  • Books up due to few campsites
  • No big RVs (30 ft limit)

See the park website for more information. To book a campsite, you must use recreation.gov.

map of campgrounds near south rim
Some common options for camping at the South Rim

South Rim Campgrounds OUTSIDE the Park

There are so many options outside the park that it’s impossible to cover each one. But here are a few options to consider.

The City of Tusayan, AZ

Tusayan is the closest city to the Grand Canyon. It’s only a 10-minute drive. It has two campgrounds:

  • Grand Canyon Camper Village. They over tent sites, RV sites, and hookups.
  • Long Jim Loop Camping. This is disperse camping (often called boondocking). It’s free camping on public land. There are no amenities of any kind, nor are there any camphosts making sure people follow the rules. To get there: while driving from Tusayan toward the Grand Canyon, turn left on Long Jim Loop shortly after the roundabout.
Camping options in Tusayan, AZ

Ten-X Campground

Located just south of Tusayan, but still within 15 minutes of the Grand Canyon, this is another popular option. It’s owned by the Forest Service.

It can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet. There are no hookups. Reserve online through recreation.gov.

Grand Canyon Junction/City of Valle

Located 45 minutes away from the park, this tiny town has only 832 people, but it seems like they all own campgrounds! The town

There are too many to discuss, but the map below shows some of the sites, as well as this link on Hipcamp.

The City of Williams, AZ

The main campsite here is the Grand Canyon Railway and RV Park. This is owned by the Grand Canyon Railway, which makes daily trips to the Grand Canyon National Park.

You can camp at the RV park and take the historic train ride to the park. Entertainment is provided on the train.

The RV park has many amenities and costs about $60 per night.

Tuba City, AZ

This city is located East of the East Entrance. As far as I can tell, there is only one place to camp here: NavajoLand Tuba City RV Park.

It’s located on the Navajo Nation tribal land. It does not have a website, so you’ll have to Google it for directions and reviews.

Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff is the largest city near the Grand Canyon. It is located about 1.5 hours away.

It is an amazing place for the outdoors, with 4 National Monuments nearby.

There are so many RV parks, campgrounds, and boondocking sites here that I won’t go into them. Flagstaff deserves its own section on our website, which I will make someday!

Campgrounds fill up fast

Camping is a great way to enjoy the Grand Canyon, but remember that the campgrounds fill up quickly. The National Parks are going through a boom in visitation, so you really want to be prepared.

You want to have a solid game plan for getting the most out of your trip.

What’s the best way to do that?

We provide you with a step-by-step game plan for seeing the park. No wasting time figuring out what to do and when. We tell you how to structure your day to see the best sites.

The itinerary is over 30 pages and is full of maps to guide you.

AND it comes with an audio guide to give you the best stories about the park! The audio guide is over 2 hours of stories and lessons about the park.

It was created entirely by me through my research. I am a history teacher at Weber State University and I love finding and telling stories!

Get the Grand Canyon Guide now!

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