The Best Campgrounds at the Grand Canyon
Spending time hiking, backpacking, or sightseeing are timeless activities in the Grand Canyon. Whether you’re out for a casual day hike to enjoy the awe-inspiring views of the Colorado River from the rim, or dipping below the rim for a more heat-pumping adventure, the Grand Canyon has captivated Microadventurers for over a century. However, camping in the Grand Canyon can be a problem. With over 6 million visitors per year, finding a camping spot in the many campgrounds can be quite overwhelming. We gathered a list of the best Grand Canyon campgrounds to help with your selection process.
#10 Kaibab Camper Village
Being one of the three true established campground on the North Rim, the Kaibab Camper Village might be the most luxurious. In addition to providing a premier camping spot for RV owners (the only RV park on the North Rim), it also has primitive tent camping and cabins. Prepare your car camping dinner and campfire under the shadows of the neighboring ponderosa pine trees. Jacob Lake is just one mile away, so if you need additional firewood, groceries, or beer for camp, it’s just a few minutes away.
#9 Cottonwood Campground
Located seven miles below the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Cottonwood Campground is definitely a great place for your next Grand Canyon backpacking trip. The Cottonwood Campground is located on the North Kaibab Trail halfway between the North Rim and the Colorado River. Because this campground relies on starting your backpacking trip from the North Rim, it sees fewer hikers and backpackers each year than the others on our list. This means that the Cottonwood Campground is much more rustic and quieter than other established campgrounds just up the trail. It also means that your campsite’s neighbors are likely going to be fellow experienced backpackers, not campers looking to casually “sight-see” in the Grand Canyon.
Surrounded by great desert-type hiking trails and sights, the Cottonwood Campground is a great basecamp for backpackers looking to explore the many side canyons and features close to camp. This includes nearby Ribbon Falls, which is just over a mile from camp. If you visit Cottonwood Campground in the fall, the bright yellow canopy offered by the cottonwood trees (hence the name “Cottonwood Campground”) provides a stunning visual treat for anyone looking to experience a rainbow of colors the Grand Canyon offers. Portable water is not available throughout the year, so come mentally-prepared to filter water obtained from the Bright Angel Creek which is also nearby.
#8 Jacob Lake Campground
Jacob Lake campground is one of our favorite Grand Canyon campgrounds on the North Rim due to the fact that it is located right on the main access route to the North Rim entrance of the Grand Canyon with the Jacob Lake Inn and country store just steps away. Nestled amongst huge ponderosa pine trees, the campsites at Jacob Lake Campground offer a true northern-Arizona feel with ample opportunities for hiking and sight-seeing at the North Rim, less than an hour down the road. This means that Jacob Lake Campground is a sought-after campground for visitors looking to car-camp near the Grand Canyon’s North Rim- book ahead of time! The best time to visit this campground is in summer when the days are pleasant and the nights cool. Also, keep in mind that Jacob Lake Campground closes each year at the start of November due to snowfall.
#7 Hermit Trail Campground
One of the most remote campgrounds in the entire Grand Canyon National Park, the Hermit Trail Campground (or BM7) is a difficult but rewarding spot to visit below the rim. If you’re looking to test your strength, stamina, and backpacking skills, pay the Hermit Trail Campground a visit. You’ll have to endure over nine miles of knee-punishing switchbacks and runs from the South Rim to get to the campground. Once you are there, your hardwork and sweat will be rewarded with tranquility and remoteness. The Hermit Trail Campground is located within walking distance of the Colorado River and the famous Hermit Rapids. Near the campground is also Hermit Creek that feeds natural, crystal-clear water into the Colorado River. Expect blooming flowers, quiet nights, unbelievable canyon views, and lots of water-time in the Colorado River when you stay at the Hermit Trail Campground.
#6 North Rim Campground
Get ready for some fantastic views of the entire North Rim of the Grand Canyon as you rest your head at 8,300 feet. Located just a mile away from North Rim Lodge and the edge of the canyon itself, the North Rim Campground has close to 100 developed campsites surrounded by towering ponderosa pines and warm breeze coming from the North Rim. This is a very popular campground during the summer because of the nearby amenities and vista views of the North Rim. There is a nearby general store with all the fixings RVers tend to seek out when traveling. There is a trade-off to the great views and proximity to the North Rim. The North Rim Campground is one of the noiser campgrounds on our list, so romantic getaway-ers beware; best to visit a quieter campground if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.
#5 Mather Campground
Perched little over a mile (as the crow flies) from the edge of the South Rim, the Mather Campground is a classic Grand Canyon campground to visit. With over 300 camping sites, Mather is the biggest and most established Grand Canyon campground on our list. Located right at the entrance of the Grand Canyon Village, it is first campground that is visited by interested parties at the South Rim. Don’t expect to get a walk-up site unless it’s the dead of winter. The campground is very developed with restrooms, showers, and just a short drive or shuttle ride to the edge of the South Rim or the general store and bars found within the Grand Canyon Village. Mather Campground is one of the most frequented campgrounds on our list but the proximity to all things “Grand Canyon” is what makes it one of our favorites.
#4 Desert View Campground
A relatively smaller and underrated campground located at the South Rim is the Desert View Campground. Located on the far east side of the Grand Canyon, expect views of the drier and more desert-esqe features of the canyon, hence the name “Desert View.” Unlike the other campgrounds, Desert View offers actual views of the Colorado River. One of the best features of the Desert View Campground is the proximity to the rim and the historic Grand Canyon “Watchtower.” Both can be visited by walking just 15 minutes from your campsite. The campground itself is small and is first-come-first-serve. To increase your likelihood of a camping spot, get to the campground early and utilize weekdays and the Grand Canyon’s off-season if possible.
#3 Indian Gardens Campground
A bucket list campground for a lot of Grand Canyon patrons and backpackers alike, Indian Gardens Campground is truly a paradise in the desert. Located off the South Rim, Indian Gardens is a short 4-hour, 4.6 mile descent from the canyon’s edge. While the views of the canyon are blocked by the height of the walls, the perennial creek that runs right through camp makes up for the views. Expect lots of greenery, flowers, and sitting next to the flowing creek during your visit to Indian Gardens.
#2 Bright Angel Campground
By far the most sought after campground in the entire Grand Canyon National Park, Bright Angel Campground is Holy Grail of campgrounds by most Microadventures who visit the park. Lying at the bottom of the canyon off of the Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail, most backpackers hike down one day, rest and play for a day, and then hike out the following morning. With just over a 4.5 mile descent down the South Kaibab Trail from the South Rim, it is just strenuous enough for the amatuer backpacker. The campground is just half a mile north of the Colorado River which is perfect for a rest day. Many backpackers who stay in Bright Angel visit the beaches along the Colorado River to play in the water and watch the rafting tours float by. The best part of the Bright Angel Campground (in our opinion) is the bar and restaurant located in the heart of camp. You can actually fill out a postcard to be delivered to your friends or family by mule train while sipping on an ice-cold Grand Canyon Brewing Company beer at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Bright Angel Campground is a lazy backpacker’s heaven.
#1 Tuweep Campground near Toroweap
If you are looking for an uncrowded, simple, and remote camping experience to soak in the views of the Grand Canyon, Tuweep Campground is the number one contender. Located in the middle of nowhere off of the North Rim, it’s a bit challenging to enter the Tuweep Campground as the roads require a 4×4 or high-clearance car. Consider the difficulty of access as a positive: you will probably be the only campers out there. If you do happen to see others (or a photography tour) during your visit, you may have to flip a coin to see who will actually sleep in a campsite: there are only nine spots available at Tuweep.
Located less than a mile from the edge is the famous Toroweap Overlook. This overlook is unlike other viewpoints on both the South Rim and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Toroweap Overlook sits right on the edge of the nearly 3,000 foot cliff that dumps into the Colorado River river at the bottom. Looking to the west and downstream of the Colorado River you’ll be able to see nearly 300 miles of the river and Grand Canyon walls. The views are breathtaking. Even if you’re not a professional photographer or hobbyist, we recommend bringing a camera and a tripod to attempt to capture all the views to share with friends and family later. The Tuweep Campground is truly the best camping spot in the Grand Canyon.
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.