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How to find camping in Grand Canyon National Park without reservations

  How-To's & Resources, National Parks

January 4, 2019 How to find camping in Grand Canyon National Park without reservations
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona by campervan

Grand Canyon National Park is only about 4 hours from our Phoenix and Las Vegas depots. Between the months of May and October, it is possible to get a campsite in and around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon without reserving a site 6 months in advance. We’ve listed some of the sites and other tips below to help you out.

Grand Canyon Campgrounds

Mather Campground

By far the most popular and most-requested campground in the South Rim, this place books up 6 months in advance during the high tourist season. If you don’t have reservations, show up at the reservations booth anyway and ask if there are any cancellations. There are also showers at Mather. Take a bunch of quarters ($2) because they’re coin operated.

Desert View Campground (Closed in Winter)

25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village on Desert View Drive is Desert View Campground.  These 75 sites are on a first come, first serve basis and are less crowded, less convoluted and way more laid back than tourist-packed Mather. The drive is spectacular so you’ll want to make this trip anyway. Show up in the morning and keep an eye out for people that look like they’re packing up. Be bold: walk up and ask if they’re leaving and if it’s ok to secure their site once they’re gone. Get a campsite reservation form, fill it out and wait for them to leave.

Ten-X Campground

4 short miles south of the town of Tusayan (Grand Canyon park entrance) is the little known Ten-X Campground. This well-run, private camping area has larger, more remote campsites than either Mather or Desert View. Between 40 to 70 of the sites are saved for first come first serve, so, like Desert View, show up around 9 am and keep an eye out for likely candidates to be moving on.

You may also try for a reservation at either Mather or Ten-X in case there’s a cancellation during the busy months. (928) 638-2443 or try the recreation.gov website.

National Forest Land

Remember, it is legal to car camp within any National Forest area in the United States. Kaibab National Forest surrounds the south rim of the Grand Canyon thereby making it one HUGE, free campground. Look for the many pullouts along Hwy 64 south of Tusayan.

Note: Remember to choose well-maintained roads, as you’re not covered by our insurance if you’re off of the pavement.

Gearing Up

Groceries

While the Grand Canyon Village does have a fully functional supermarket, we recommend gearing up before you enter the park. There’s a Safeway in the town of Williams, AZ just to the south as you exit I-40 on Highway 64. Williams is/was a Route 66 stopover and an interesting place to check out anyway.

Gasoline (Petrol)

Like groceries, petrol is pretty expensive in and around the Grand Canyon. Fill up in Williams.

Showers

The Grand Canyon National Park Visitors Services area, located just next to the check-in booth at Mather Campground offers showers for $2. Bring quarters.  

Best Way to Enjoy the South Rim During High Season

The roadways can become a parking lot during the months of June – September at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Park your campervan for a few days and rent a bike to avoid the madness. Contact the guys at bikegrandcanyon.com for more details.   

Dress appropriately. Desert does not always = warm. Bring layers!

Looking for more camping tips? Check out our post on finding campsites in Yosemite National Park without reservations. Or, if you’re ahead of the game, read about when to book national park campsites for the summer.

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