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What Are the Best Places in Grand Canyon National Park to Camp?

A morning no one should miss. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Claire McAdams)
OutsideOnline Grand Canyon National Park morning North Rim South Rim camp spots

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Visitors flock to Grand Canyon National Park for awe-inspiring views. But if a quick peek over the edge isn’t enough, here are a few places to camp on the South and North Rims:

On the popular South Rim, where most visitors venture, Ruby Hill sits 30 miles from developed areas, offering secluded camping with sunrise views of Point Sublime—a North Rim camping destination (more on that later). Ruby Hill is accessible with a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle. Camping at Cape Final—also a popular destination for South Rim day hikes thanks to its eastern panoramas—involves a quick two-mile hike.

For a truly memorable camping experience, head to the North Rim, which receives a tenth the visitor traffic South Rim does. Park rangers prefer the north side for their own recreation, says Steve Sullivan, Permits Program Manager. Tuweep Campground is the most developed of North Rim campgrounds with nine primitive, first-come, first-served sites. Tuweep can be reached by road; however, the road is harrowing. The last three miles are so rough that a quarter of visitors experience at least one flat tire. The reward, however, is tucking into your tent near a breath-taking, 3,000-foot sheer drop above the Colorado River. From here, Sullivan recommends day-hikes along the rim in either direction “for as long as you want to go.” Because it’s relatively exposed, Tuweep is suitable for spring and fall camping (not summer).

OutsideOnline long exposure night sky starts Grand Canyon National Park tent camp best spots
Long exposure shot in Grand Canyon National Park (Photo: Getty Images/Purestock)

With canyon views on three sides, Point Sublime (visible from Ruby Hill on the South Rim) is also a top vantage and camping spot. Widforss, accessible by a ten-mile hike, is a popular North Rim day-hike destination with the option to stay the night. Backcountry permits are required at all of these South and North rim camping sites. With the exception of Tuweep, which is open year-round, North Rim campgrounds are open seasonally May 15­ to October 15.

The village of Supai, part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation, lies in a tributary canyon accessible only via an eight-mile hike or horseback ride. The tribe manages the land (not the National Parks Service) and thus issues the required permits for hiking and/or camping on reservation lands. The tribe draws its name (meaning “people of the blue-green waters”) from the striking waterfall that plunges from red rocks near the Supai campground, making it a scenic place to spend the night.  

If you’re in the market for less primitive surrounds, there are three developed campgrounds that welcome tent and RV camping: On the South Rim, Mather Campground has more than 300 sites and is located within Grand Canyon Village. Campers planning short trips with day hikes only, and those looking for close proximity to amenities, should opt for Mather. Also on the south rim, Desert View Campground, at the east entrance to the park, is suited to those looking for convenience in a smaller, 50-site package. The North Rim Campground is harder to reach, but, as a result, offers more elbowroom. The latter campground is open seasonally, May 15 to October 15. Mather and North Rim campgrounds accept reservations; Desert View is first-come, first-served. None require backcountry permits.

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Filed To: National ParksGrand CanyonBackcountry CampingNational Parks
Lead Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Claire McAdams
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