Grand Canyon National Park is home to some of the best camping in the country and because of that, it can be difficult to find a campsite during the most popular months of May through August. However, 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 best camping in the Grand Canyon that can be snagged without reservations as well as a few helpful tips below to help you out.
Does the Grand Canyon Require Reservations?
No. Grand Canyon National Park itself does not require reservations. However, some of the campgrounds throughout the park do require reservations, especially during the summer months.
Is Camping At the Grand Canyon Free?
Camping in Grand Canyon National Park will cost you at least the entrance fee to the park. You can, however, find free camping along the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Kaibab National Forest if you would rather skip the entrance fee.
Grand Canyon Campgrounds
Here are some of the most popular and cost-effective campgrounds near the Grand Canyon:
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.
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.
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.
Like groceries, petrol is pretty expensive in and around the Grand Canyon. Fill up in Williams.
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!
Skip the Tent and Take a Campervan to the Grand Canyon
Just about wherever you can camp in a tent around the Grand Canyon, you can camp in a campervan. Plus, with a campervan, there’s no worrying about setting up camp before dark or having to sleep on the ground. Simply choose the campground that works for you, drive in, and park. It’s that simple! You can book your campervan online today and pick it up at our Phoenix or Las Vegas depots which are just about 4 hours away from Grand Canyon National Park.
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.