Where Should I Camp at the Grand Canyon South Rim?

You’re headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for an adventure full of fun, but where should you camp? Here’s a personalized guide to help you decide where to spend the night on the South Rim from remote backcountry sites to RV heaven.

Grand Canyon Camping Infographic
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What type of camper are you?

I love car camping.

Do you want to be close to the Village shops and services?

1. Mather Campground – Conveniences

A tent site at Mather Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Kristin M Caldon

A tent site at Mather Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Kristin M Caldon

Nestled in a pinon-juniper and ponderosa pine forest with ample shade and beautiful elk that stroll the grounds eating grass, Mather Campground is a great place to unwind after a day of sightseeing. Despite the fact its home to more than 300 campsites, there is a decent amount of space between sites, so you don’t feel like your neighbors are encroaching on your space.

Each campsite has a picnic table and fire rings, so be sure to buy your firewood at the Canyon Village Market before you settle in for the night. Bathrooms with running water and electrical outlets for hair dryers and phone charging are relatively close to each campsite.

In addition to water pumps, green garbage and recycling dumpsters strategically located on each of the six loops, the campground entrance is home to a dump station for RVS (but no RV hook-ups) and a building with pay showers and laundry machines. There’s also a horse camp for those who arrive with their hoofed friends. Check in is at noon and checkout is 11 a.m. Maximum stays are 7 consecutive days and 30 days per calendar year, so don’t get too comfortable.

To make reservations, call 1-877-444-6777 or go online at www.recreation.gov. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. This popular campground fills up fast, often by noon the day of, so make reservations as early as possible.

2. Desert View Campground – No showers or shops

Desert View Campground. NPS Photo

Desert View Campground. NPS Photo

Twenty-six miles east of Grand Canyon Village, the smaller, more secluded Desert View Campground has only 50 campsites, all of which are first-come, first-served. Most sites serve tents or small RVs and travel trailers. It cannot accommodate large RVs or travel trailers over 30 feet.

Nestled among pinon and juniper trees, each site has a picnic table and a campfire ring for fires and cooking. There are no showers here and only two water faucets. It is home, however, to flushing toilets and sinks. Pets are allowed but must be leashed at all times.

Closed for winter, this small campground usually open mid-April through mid-October. At $12 per night, campers must pay by credit card only, but those who have the Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Golden Age Passport and Golden Access Passport will get a 50 percent discount on camping fees. Like Mather Campground, there is a 7-day camping limit. Check out is at 11 a.m.

My Tent is an RV

Do you want hook-ups?

1. Mather Campground – No Hookups

2. Desert View – No Hookups

3. Trailer Village – Has Hookups

Grand Canyon Trailer Village at the South Rim. NPS Photo by Michael Quinn

Grand Canyon Trailer Village at the South Rim. NPS Photo by Michael Quinn

This may as well be RVers version of heaven in the desert. A concessionaire-operated RV park, this spot is the only place in Grand Canyon National Park with full RV hook-ups. Close to the South Rim village and all of its activity, the Trailer Village accommodates RVs up to 50 feet long in its paved pull-through sites. Check in and check out are the same: noon.

No wood fires are allowed, but campers can have charcoal fires. Dispose of your trash in the dumpsters provided. Pets are allowed but must be leashed at all times.

Open year-round, make your reservations by calling 877-404-4611 or book online

It’s backcountry or bust for me

How far do you want to hike?

4. Indian Garden via Bright Angel Trail – 4.5 miles one way

Indian Garden Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

Indian Garden Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

Get inspired by this beautiful riparian area surrounded by cottonwood trees half way between the top of the South Rim and the Colorado River. It’s a 4.5-mile steep hike down via the Bright Angel trail to get here, which makes it all the more special.

With just 15 sites, camping in Indian Garden makes you feel worlds away from, well, the rest of the world. Each site has a picnic table, pack pole and metal food storage can, in which you must store all toiletries, food and other items that are scented. The 14 small group sites accommodate 1-6 people while the one large group site accommodates 7-11 people.

Conveniences include a ranger station, potable water year-round, an emergency phone and two sets of composting toilets in the campground, as well as a full row of toilets in the day use area on the trails north of the campground.

5. Bright Angel Campground via Bright Angel Trail – 9.9 miles one way

Bright Angel Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

Bright Angel Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

One of the most beautiful backcountry sites in the Southwest, the Bright Angel Campground is a destination that you must work very hard to reach. Following the striking Bright Angel trail, this epic hike, especially with backcountry gear in your pack, is 9.9 miles, so be sure you have packed all the essentials, including water, food and your backcountry permit (which can be requested four months prior to the proposed month) from the Backcountry Information Center at the Grand Canyon, before you start down Bright Angel trail at the top of the rim.

When you arrive at the campground, check out all the available sites because there are varying degrees of shade, privacy, access to year-round water and proximity to the flush-toilet restrooms.

If it’s really hot, spend time in Bright Angel Creek, which flows through the campground. You also can walk a half-mile to the Canteen at Phantom Ranch. Part of the Phantom Ranch lodge, the only accommodations below the rim, the Canteen has limited hours open to the public. It serves what may be the best lemonade you ever have, as well as tea, beer, wine and some snacks. Relish the air conditioning in this oasis.

The Canteen’s public hours from April 1 through Oct. 31 are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. From Nov. 1 to March 31, it is open to the public 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

If you want to make a reservation to eat breakfast or dinner at the Canteen, call the Phantom Ranch reservations office months in advance daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mountain Time (observing daylight savings time) at 888-29-PARKS (888-297-2757) within the U.S. and outside the U.S. 303-29-PARKS (303-297-2757).

6. Bright Angel Campground via South Kaibab Trail – 7 miles one way

Bright Angel Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

Bright Angel Campground in the Grand Canyon. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

The South Kaibab trail is known for its incredible panoramic views, which make getting to the Bright Angel campground all the more rewarding.

To get to the South Kaibab trailhead, you have to take aa free park shuttle as there is no parking allowed at the trailhead. The hiker express buses leave from Bright Angel Lodge and Backcountry Information Center. Check either for shuttle departure times, as they change depending on the month. Otherwise, take the Blue Line village bus to Canyon View Information Plaza and transfer to the Green Line. The South Kaibab stop is the first on the Green Line.

While this is a shorter route to Bright Angel Campground than the Bright Angel trail, it has little shade and no water, so many headed to the campground will take this trail down and return via Bright Angel trail, which offers water and shade. It can take 4-6 hours to get down to Bright Angel, so be sure you have packed a ton of water in addition to all the essentials, including your backcountry permit (which can be requested four months prior to the proposed month) from the Backcountry Information Center at the Grand Canyon.

When you arrive at the campground, check out all the available sites because there are varying degrees of shade, privacy, access to year-round water and proximity to the flush-toilet restrooms.

If it’s really hot, spend time in Bright Angel Creek, which flows through the campground. You also can walk a half-mile to the Canteen at Phantom Ranch. Part of the Phantom Ranch lodge, the only accommodations below the rim, the Canteen has limited hours open to the public. It serves what may be the best lemonade you ever have, as well as tea, beer, wine and some snacks. Relish the air conditioning in this oasis.

The Canteen’s public hours from April 1 through Oct. 31 are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. From Nov. 1 to March 31, it is open to the public 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

If you want to make a reservation to eat breakfast or dinner at the Canteen, call the Phantom Ranch reservations office months in advance daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mountain Time (observing daylight savings time) at 888-29-PARKS (888-297-2757) within the U.S. and outside the U.S. 303-29-PARKS (303-297-2757).