Grand Canyon, AZ
Under a spectacular canopy of Ponderosa pine, Juniper and Pinyon trees lies Mather Campground. Located just one mile from the South Rim of the canyon, daily visits during sunrise and sunset offer a fantastic array of colors – yellows, oranges, reds and violets pop against the canyon walls, its layers of rock displaying billions of years of geologic history. Below, visitors can view the roaring Colorado River, cutting 277 miles across the bottom of the canyon. Learn about the formation of the canyon at the nearby Yavapai Geology Museum.
While exploring the South Rim on foot, by bike or in your car, keep an eye out for the varied animal life that has made the canyon area home. Elk, mule deer, coyotes, lizards, songbirds and the endangered California condor are frequent wildlife sightings. “We loved staying at Mather Campground. The surrounding forest was filled with deer, elk and birds, yet had enough breaks in the tree cover to allow for decent solar power generation on our portable panel during the day. We felt like we were in an isolated forest, even though we were in the middle of the busiest of the busy national parks,” say Airstreamers Zamia Ventures. The campground is in the heart of the Grand Canyon hospitality complex.
There’s a shuttle bus stop at the campground entrance. From the campground, take the Greenway, a paved walking and biking trail that leads to scenic overlooks and the Visitor Center. The Rim Trail, another paved walking trail, is one mile away and runs for 14 miles along the canyon’s edge. For those adventurous explorers, the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails descend into the canyon. Their trailheads are a short shuttle ride from the campground. Visitors who want to explore in a more leisurely fashion can book a day or overnight mule riding trips into the canyon and along the rim and the park's concessionaire. The campground is dry camping. Amenities include bathhouses, drinking water, picnic tables, grills and fire rings, paved sites and a dump station.
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Trailer Village RV Park
Grand Canyon, AZ
Of the experience of pulling into the Trailer Village RV Park, Airstreamer Nathan @ Wand'rly says, “The feeling when you first approach the rim is utterly unbelievable until it happens.” As if you need more arm twisting, this RV park sits on the South Rim of the magnificent canyon, within walking distance to the first overlook – Mather Point. At Mather, you’ll get fantastic views from its two overlooks built on rocks that project out over the canyon. From there, you have plenty of options as to how you want to experience the grandeur. Take the two segments of a driving tour along the rim.
The first 10-mile ride winds you along the western side of the park to Hermit's Point. Several overlooks are speckled along the way, including Mohave Point, Hopi Point and the Powell Memorial. Then, head east. This section is twenty-five miles and leads to Desert View, a point with some of the most exquisite views of the Colorado River and canyon geology. At the end of this route sits the historic 70-foot Desert View Watchtower with an observation deck. You can also choose to walk or bike along the rim. Bike rentals are available on site. And, if you get tired along your trek, there are shuttles to take you to other lookouts along the rim. Up for a day of hiking?
There are plenty of trails – all of them steep, so be ready for a workout. Bright Angel Trail allows for day hikes of up to 12 miles, South Kaibab Trail of up to six miles, and Hermit Trail of up to seven miles. And, an even more challenging day hike awaits. Take Grandview Trail, which leads sharply up to Coconino Saddle (2.2 miles) and Horseshoe Mesa (6.4 miles). No matter which trail you choose, you’ll take in stunning vistas all along the way. Trailer Village lets visitors enjoy the Grand Canyon National Park in comfort. Nearly all sites have full hook-ups. Amenities include laundry facilities, showers and a camp store.
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Coconino Rim Road, Kaibab National Forest
Grand Canyon, AZ
All of the campgrounds in Grand Canyon National Park full? Don’t fret. You can still have the trip of a lifetime. The Kaibab National Forest surrounds the magnificent canyon. Come well provisioned and ready for dispersed camping, and you can enjoy everything the park has to offer. On the South Rim lies the Tusayan Ranger District of Kaibab, on the northern portion of the Coconino Plateau. This district is bordered on the north by the Grand Canyon. Here’s the icing on the cake of your adventure – your stay in the forest is free! Set up camp, and you’re off on your explorations, mere minutes to the canyon.
There are plenty of trails nearby with spectacular views. Take the Vishnu Trail, a 1.1-mile scenic loop that begins just north of the historic Grandview Lookout Tower. Great for biking, horseback riding, hiking and viewing the forest, the trail goes out to a point on the Coconino Rim with glorious vistas of the canyon in the distance. Watch the sunrise at Grandview and the sunset at Moran Point, one of the most visited points on the East Rim. This scenic overlook offers far-reaching views along a broad section of the Grand Canyon and is named for artist Thomas Moran. His renditions of the canyon inspired Congress to make it a national park in 1919. Back at camp, you can expect a gentle landscape dotted by intermittent steep drainages, such as the Coconino Rim and Red Butte. There are signboards posted with various information for campers, including the contact information for the local forest ranger. Daytime is perfect for birdwatching among the pines, shrubs and wildflowers, with pygmy nuthatches, steller’s jays and rufous-crowned sparrows.
At night, expect a dark sky lit with myriad stars and the distant howls of coyotes. You can restock your water supply, shower and do laundry at Mather Campground, about 15-minutes away. For provisioning, the little town of Tusayan will have all you need.
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North Rim Campground
North Rim, AZ
The North Rim Campground is located on the Kaibab Plateau and Walhalla Plateau in northern Arizona, where the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park sits. This side of the canyon is more rustic and less crowded than its cousin to the south. It’s also home to vibrant wildlife, scenic hiking trails and unmatched views of the canyon. Perched at an elevation of 8,200 feet, the campground offers fantastic sites. Layers of visible rock below display billions of years of geologic history. The campground borders Transept Canyon – a side canyon that drains into the Grand – providing a stunning view for the premium campsites.
Because of the elevation, summer temperatures are pleasant, and afternoon thunderstorms frequent. Snowfall begins early; this side of the canyon’s season spans only from mid-May to mid-October. Be prepared for any type of weather if your trip is early or late in the season. Hiking is the most popular activity for visitors to the North Rim. Campers have access to the Transept Trail, which cuts along the rim to the visitor center and lodge. There is the Bridle Trail, which winds through the forest and connects with the North Kaibab Trail. North Kaibab is the only maintained trail into the canyon from the North Rim. You can choose how far you trek. A short 1.5 miles to Coconino Overlook or 4 miles to Supai Tunnel will give you an appreciation for the canyon's immense size and opulent natural beauty. For a strenuous day hike, continue to Roaring Springs. Begin your trek before 7 am, though, as Roaring Springs lies 3,050 feet below the canyon rim and is 9.4 miles round-trip. All trails are a short walk from the campground. At camp, you’ll have a picnic table, campfire ring with a cooking grill and access to drinking water from spigots placed throughout the campground.
There are 90 campsites. The visitor center and the Grand Canyon Lodge, complete with dining room, deli, general store, gift shop and post office, are one mile south of the campground.
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Forest Road 611 East Rim, Kaibab National Forest
North Rim, AZ
Airstreamers Aluminarium describe Forest Road 611 East Rim as “spectacular camping on the rim.” While this area lies in the adjacent Kaibab National Forest, you won’t miss a thing in terms of the canyon’s North Rim experience. Quite the opposite. “This location is phenomenal,” says Aluminarium. “Its proximity to the National Park and access to the main highway, along with the views, make it the best place to camp in the North Rim.” Forest Road 611 is in the North Kaibab Ranger District. As a bit of history, Major John Wesley Powell, famed explorer of the Colorado River, was the first in written record to apply the term “Kaibab” to the plateau. The term is a Paiute Indian word meaning “mountain lying down.”
The Kaibab Plateau is a sea of forested land. Sage, grasslands and canyons of lower elevations surround the forest canopies. With elevations of up to 9,000 feet, this plateau is bordered on the south by the Grand Canyon and on the east and west by tributary canyons of the Colorado River. Come well-stocked for your trip and ready to explore. While there are few roads on the North Rim, there are a handful of notable vehicle accessible lookout points, such as Point Imperial, Roosevelt Point, and Cape Royal. Make use of the many hiking trails. If you’ve trained and are ready to traverse the canyon, North Kaibab Trail can be followed down to the Colorado River. It connects across the river to the South Kaibab Trail and the Bright Angel Trail, continuing up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Those looking for day hikes should check out moderate Widforss Trail (9.1 miles out-and-back), the easy Uncle Jim Trail (4.7 miles) and the moderate Transept Trail (2.9 miles). All offer terrific views of the canyon below. Mule rides are available for trips to a variety of places, including several thousand feet down into the canyon.
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