The Grand Canyon’s dizzying cliffs and vast scope can easily overwhelm―as can its more than 4.5 million annual visitors. You’ll feel a greater sense of peaceful solitude when sleeping in a tent, and you’re more apt to capture the canyon’s dazzling light, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
If you're planning to camp within the park, make the reservations one year in advance―or try for a first-come, first-served spot at North Rim or Desert View Campgrounds. INFO : Seven-day pass $25 per vehicle. nps.gov/grca or 928/638-7888.
BEST SITE: North Rim Campground. Just 2 miles from Bright Angel Point, the North Rim Campground is an easy walk to the difficult 14.2-mile trail that descends into the canyon. Facing the canyon, site 14 is lovely. Set at the far end of the campground, it’s fringed with aspens and ponderosa pines and offers easy access to the Transept Trail. An added bonus: a perfect sunset view. Insider tip: Reserve as soon as you have a date in mind. Info: From $18 (plus $20 park entrance fee per vehicle); 877/444-6777 or recreation.gov.
Desert View. Head 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village for the most peaceful and scenic camping on the South Rim―not to mention the park’s most beautiful sunrise spot. Professional photographers camp here to capture the unfolding layers of color and shadow at dawn. The best time to secure a spot is midmorning, when people are packing up camp. 50 sites mid-May–Oct; $12. 928/638-7888.
OUTSIDE THE PARK
DeMotte. Five miles north of the North Rim entrance, the Forest Service campground was recently remodeled. It’s adjacent to a grassy meadow and offers excellent interpretive programs. At 8,760 feet, expect cool evenings. 38 sites, open mid-May–late Sep); $17. fs.fed.us/r3/kai or 928/643-7395
Havasu. Tucked into the 185,000-acre Havasupai Indian Reservation, this pretty campground is located 10 miles below the rim and boasts spring-fed waterfalls and loads of nearby swimming holes. The sites fan out along the creek between Havasu and Mooney Falls and are surrounded by cool cottonwoods. It’s a three- to four-hour drive west of the South Rim to Hualapai Hilltop; hike, ride a mule ($150 round-trip), or fly ($187 round-trip) the 8 miles to Supai, and the campground is a 2-mile hoof from there. Campground accommodates up to 200 people year-round; $12 per person plus $30 per person entrance fee. No cars or RVs. 928/448-2121.
Jacob Lake. Set in a ponderosa pine forest about 45 miles from the North Rim, the campground has hiking and biking access to Buck Ridge Viewpoint, where you can catch views of Bryce and Zion. Just across the street is Jacob Lake Inn ($$; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily; 928/643-7232); if you tire of camp cooking, head here for a mean trout almondine and excellent baked goods. 53 sites mid-May–mid-Oct; $14. fs.fed.us/r3/kai or 928/643-7395.
Ten-X. Located 2 miles south of Tusayan, the Forest Service campground is set in the woods and has barbecue grills, large sites covered with soft pine needles, and an amphitheater with excellent weekend programs. 70 sites May 1–mid-Sep; $10. fs.fed.us/r3/kai or 928/638-2443.