RV Camping in Grand Canyon National Park
Northern Arizona is very proud of their “deep ditch” or “big hole”–and they certainly have reason to be! Grand Canyon National Park is one of the world’s seven natural wonders and is enjoyed by five million visitors per year. Carved out by the Colorado River, with the help of wind, rain, ice and gravity, the spectacular Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep.
Its towering buttes, mesas and valleys required two to three million years of nature’s work to form. Today, the Canyon’s steep walls and brightly colored strata delight and inspire the multitudes. It is truly the most uniquely beautiful park in the world!
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About the Park
Known as “Kaibab” to the ancient Paiute, Grand Canyon National Park covers 1,904 square miles. The park’s North Rim area is separated from the South Rim section by ten miles of Canyon air and 215 miles of roadway that connects the two tourist regions (a five hour drive via Trans-Canyon Shuttle). The North Rim entrance is 44 miles south of Jacob Lake, Arizona via Highway 67.
Most facilities are closed between late October and mid-May. The elevation here is about 8,000 feet and heavily forested with Ponderosa Pine and Aspen. The beautiful Kaibab National Forest flanks both North and South Rims.
Historical Grand Canyon Lodge is the hub for activities at the North Rim–most trailheads lead from this area. The lodge provides a park information desk, dining room, snack shop, gift shop and a Post Office. The North Rim area sees far fewer visitors despite its natural beauty and fantastic vistas of the inner canyon, Colorado River and surrounding country.
The South Rim area is much more developed and receives the bulk of the tourist crowds. It has two park entrances. From Williams, Arizona (west) take Highway 64/Highway 180 to the south entrance station (60 miles). Coming from Flagstaff, Arizona (east) take U.S. 89 and then Highway 64 at the town of Cameron to the east entrance station (80 miles). The South Rim is open all year, although many of the tourist facilities are not.
Grand Canyon Village (known simply as “the Village”) is the center of activities on the South Rim. There are bookstores, museums, food, lodging, a visitors center, campgrounds, train depot, the village shuttle and more available here. East of the Village, Highway 64 becomes the East Rim Drive while to its west; it is called the West Rim Drive.
A number of trails descend to the inner canyon from the Village area. From late spring to late fall, expect long lines, traffic congestion and mass humanity. The park is now in the early stages of a Future Plan to help relieve these problems. The weather at the park is very unpredictable and should be taken into consideration when planning a stay at the park. The Grand Canyon Explorer web site provides an exceptional Guided Tour of the Park that shouldn’t be missed!
Park Attractions and Activities
The North Rim
The North Rim area has a variety of exciting things to do and see. Most organized activities require advance reservations—so be aware! There are two wonderful scenic drives in the area. Point Imperial Drive is about eleven miles, and runs to the highest point in Grand Canyon National Park. The Cape Royal Drive is 14 miles in length, and offers a fabulous view of the Canyon and Colorado River.
Hikes and walks are outstanding at the North Rim. Bright Angel Point Trail is an easy walk on a paved path with a great view of the South Rim and Roaring Springs some 3,041 feet below. The North Kaibab Trail is the only North Rim trail to the canyon floor. Mule trips are available on this trail. Biking is also excellent at the North Rim and allowed on most park roads.
With its awesome Canyon overlooks, Village facilities and popular “below the rim” trails, the South Rim offers visitors a host of things to do and see. Again, advanced reservations are necessary for most all commercial tours and activities—and many provided by the Park Service. The Guided Tours and Information web site by the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Canyon Explorer’s Reservations and Services Page are excellent visitor resources.
Two scenic drives begin in the Grand Canyon Village area. The West Rim Drive is about an 18-mile round trip to Hermit’s Rest (a great point to view a Canyon sunset!). Between Memorial Day and September, visitors must use the park’s free shuttle bus on this drive. Autos are allowed on the East Rim Drive—a 52-mile round trip to Desert View. There are a number of wonderful observation points and attractions along both drives.
According to the Park Service, there are no easy hikes at Grand Canyon National Park. However, the Rim Trail-Nature Walk, located in the Village, is mostly paved, easily accessed and a good trail to bring the kids. Famous Bright Angel Trail is a two-day hike and a 19-mile-round-trip to the inner canyon. Mule trips at the South Rim have always been a popular adventure, but may be limited in the future. Commercial river trips on the Colorado are a great way to tour the Canyon floor.
Canyoneers is one of an assortment of companies that provide a variety of river packages. Non-Commercial river trips presently have an unbelievable 12+ year waiting list! Fishing in the park is excellent, but requires an over-night hike to the inner canyon. All over-night trips in the canyon require a park permit. If you enjoy a train ride, the famous Grand Canyon Railway is another great way to get around the park above the Rim.
There is a Pet Kennel located near Maswik Lodge in Grand Canyon Village. Also in Flagstaff, the Canyon Pet Resort will provide “care and kinship for pets.”
Park Campgrounds and Facilities
Four campgrounds serve Grand Canyon National Park—three located on the South Rim, one on the North Rim. North Rim Campground (83 sites) is open mid-May through mid-October. Reservations are strongly recommended! It has restrooms, showers, a dump station, small store and laundry. Some sites have a beautiful Canyon view!
On the South Rim, Mather Campground (320 sites) is located in Grand Canyon Village. Reservations are a must between April and November 30th. Mather has restrooms, showers, 50 pull-thrus, dump station and laundry. Next door to Mather, Trailer Village (84 RV sites) provides hook-ups, restrooms, showers and a laundry. It remains open all year—reservations advised. Desert View Campground (50 sites) is on a first-come, first-served system and has toilet facilities only. It is located off the East Rim Drive, about 26 miles from the Village.
There are three backcountry campgrounds: Indian Garden (15 sites), Cottonwood (14 sites) and Bright Angel Campground (31 sites). Located on the Colorado River, Bright Angel is open all year. Phantom Ranch is adjacent to the campground and is on Bright Angel Creek. The Ranch has eleven rustic cabins with toilet only and four dorms with nine bunk beds, toilet and shower.
Area RV Parks and Campgrounds
Most of the nearby towns have a RV park or two. The Camper Village iis in Tusayan, Arizona about seven miles south of the east entrance. It has full-hookups, showers and restrooms. At Jacob, Arizona, north of the North Rim, the Kaibab Camper Village (85 sites) has full-hookups, modem access and many other amenities. In Williams, the Railside RV Ranch (96 sites) is located next to the Grand Canyon Railway. It has full-hookups, modem access, rec. hall and lots more. Also, the Kaibab National Forest provides nine nice campgrounds.