Of the world's most famous arenas for nature's showmanship, the Grand Canyon is always a headliner. The dramatic landscape flaunts ever-changing colors and angles under changing light throughout the day, attracting an audience from all over the world. Without spending a night at the Grand Canyon, however, viewers will miss a full half of the drama.
Sunrise and sunset are constant crowd favorites, of course, but the growing and fading of light are merely curtains drawing across the stage. Colors that streak the sky and paint the cliffs are the intro and outro to the show's second act--The Night.
The most sublime light on the canyon is under a full moon. When the moon is away, stars shine brighter and more numerous here than nearly anywhere else in the country. Remoteness from urban lights, high elevation, and dry air allow supremely clear and dark night skies here. To truly see the Grand Canyon, don't leave before it's over. Watch the whole performance by camping at least one night in the park.
Campgrounds in and around Grand Canyon are understandably in high demand. The best way to obtain a site is to reserve far in advance. Last-minute planners can also find accommodation, however, as some are first-come, first-served only. Use this guide to review the amenities and availability unique to each campground, and find the one that is right for you.
- Mather Campground: The park's largest and most popular campground is open year round. It is centrally located near stores and museums in Grand Canyon Village as well as many overlooks and trails. Pedestrian/bicycle paths and the free shuttle service connect here. Sites are reservation only and can be booked up to six months in advance.
- Desert View Campground: This is the park's first-come, first-served option and is open May through October. No reservations are available for any sites, so arrive early in the day to secure a spot. Accommodations are smaller and more rustic than at Mather, and the campground is near the park's east entrance, far removed from Grand Canyon Village.
- Trailer Village: Trailer Village is the choice for RV campers who want hookups. The campground is concessioner-operated but located next to Mather in Grand Canyon Village. Sites can be reserved in advance.
- Ten-X Campground: This is not in Grand Canyon National Park, but it is just over the boundary in Kaibab National Forest. It is a good alternative during the summer, when campgrounds inside the park are more crowded and good sites are hard to come by. Ten-X still fills up, but some sites can be reserved. Others are first-come, first-served.
- North Rim Campground: This is the only campground inside the park on this side. It is located very close to the rim, hiking trails, and the visitor center. Sites are comfortable, shady, and offer ample amenities. Advance reservations are required.
- Jacob Lake Campground: A National Forest campground that is not in the national park but close enough to be a good option and has nice amenities. Some sites can be reserved.
- DeMotte Campground: Another National Forest campground, closer to the park entrance than Jacob Lake, but with fewer amenities. Some sites can be reserved.
- Kaibab Camper Village: A commercial campground with RV hookups located outside of the park at Jacob Lake.