Camping should be easy…at least finding a campsite should be. But, it’s not. This I have learned the hard way. It actually requires A LOT of advance planning. And, that’s just summer car camping in Colorado. If you want to go camping in the Grand Canyon, well that’s an entirely different game. One I can’t wait to learn from my friend, camping extraordinaire and fellow writer, Janalee Card Chmel.

Janalee will be sharing a series of articles with Carpe Travel over the next few months that will cover everything from booking campsites in the Grand Canyon to family friendly activities to packing lists and more. She has taken her three kids, husband and I think even the dog for what I consider mega-camping trips to some the best National Parks in the United States –  Yellowstone, Zion National Park, the Grand Tetons, Bryce Canyon and Glacier National Park, and yes, the Grand Canyon. This year they’re making the trek back for more camping in the Grand Canyon (by way of Zion National Park), which is where the series begins…

To kick things off we begin with the most critical, time-sensitive requirement – booking your campsite so you can actually make camping in the Grand Canyon a reality.

Things to know to make camping in the Grand Canyon actually happen

Booking Summer Camping in the Grand Canyon

By Janalee Card Chmel

To use a cliché: I will never forget the first time I saw the Grand Canyon. I literally stopped dead in my tracks and lost my breath, like someone sucker-punched me in the gut.

We had been driving for hours from Bryce Canyon to the North Rim and when we pulled into the parking area for the historic Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim, we still hadn’t glimpsed the canyon. My husband dropped me off in the circle drive and I marched into the lodge to secure our campsite reservation.

Little did I know, the entire lodge is built right on the edge of the canyon with a giant wall of windows greeting you upon entry. When I speedily walked through the immense front doors of the lodge, I felt like I had recklessly launched myself over the precipice! I stutter-stepped, hiccuped to get my breath… and then, I started crying.

Yes, seriously. I started bawling like a baby. People coming in the door behind me (those apparently more accustomed to this view) streamed around me like I was a rock in a creek while I caught my breath. Suffice it to say, the Grand Canyon overwhelmed me.

So, we’re going back in June 2016! And we’re taking friends who have never been there before. This series of articles will cover everything from booking campsites to family friendly activities to packing lists and more. But first, the most critical, time-sensitive requirement is to book your campsite.

First Step for Camping in the Grand Canyon: Book Your Campsite

Camping in one of America’s greatest national parks requires lots of planning months in advance. Here are the steps to take when booking camping sites in the Grand Canyon’s North Rim Campground. (The same timing applies if you are booking sites at Zion National Park, which is also a very popular destination.)

Scout the Sites You Want in Advance

  • Seven months prior to your camping trip in the Grand Canyon, start scouting out the campsites you want. Consider whether you want hookups for a camper, easy access to the bathrooms, or a quick jaunt to the laundry and shower facilities.
  • For a map of the campground.
  • For information about campsite hookups and facilities.
  • According to , “Sites 11, 14, 15, 16 and 18 provide a prime view of the canyon and are considered premium sites.”

Our goal was to get one of the premium sites, so we knew we had to call exactly six months to the day prior to our camping plans.

Call, Don’t Book Online:

  • tells  tells you that you can book the sites online but our experience showed that it was much more effective to call the representatives. Once they help you pick a site, they hold it while filling out all of the information required (length of your vehicle/camper/tent, credit card, etc.). My husband and I actually had two phones and two computers going at the same time to see if we could beat the system somehow… Nope! Just call.
  • Phone lines open as of 10:30 am EST. Be ready to dial exactly six months out from your desired camping date.

Some Things are Beyond Your Control

Despite all of this planning, we were unable to secure a premium site because they had been booked previously by people whose stays overlapped ours. However, because we were prepared, we had a backup plan and booked sites 12 and 13, directly across the road from the premium spots. We’re still happy.

So, now our sites are booked and the fun planning begins! The next article in this series will include fun facts about the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, including some fascinating stories about the Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim. (It’s fun to tease kids with these tidbits to get them excited about the trip, too). See you then!

Do you have other tips or things to know about camping in the Grand Canyon? Let us know in the comments.


  1. You have to do your research and get a jump start on the planning. These are very helpful tips, thank you for sharing. I hope you will have a great time on your trip!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, I’m from India and didnt know that you needed to book in advance to camp at the grand canyon. Its an amazing place though.

    1. Yes, just showing up might now work especially during peak seasons.

  3. Hey Elaine!

    Thanks for the great help buddy.I need such informative tips.I will plan for camping here in the Grand Canyon next year and I hope till that time you will put some more useful stuff.The Foremost thing I will do by myself will be the booking for campsite.Keep Posting 🙂

    Fred Carter

  4. You know, I was born in Arizona, and I still haven’t been to the Grand Canyon. Just seeing this post reminds me that I should get on it!

    1. Seriously?!?!? That’s like someone in Colorado who has never been up to the high country. It’s a sin. You need to correct this. 😉

  5. Really cool post. I’ve only visited the Grand Canyon and I’d love to go camping there. I’m glad I read your post about reserving in advance! That probably saved me a lot of headache. So much good stuff here. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. I’ve always wanted to camp the Grand Canyon. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Great resources here! Thanks for sharing:)

  8. I agree that planning and preparation are needed anytime you plan a trip especially for camping. The Grand Canyon is somewhere I’m looking this year. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I was planning on visiting the Grand Canyon this year. I had no idea you have to book in advance. Thank God I have read this post, I would have been so frustrated.

  10. I’m new in camping. I’ve been hanging out with my friends who are into camping. And now, I get excited every time I get an invitation from them. Reading this article makes camping my new hobby. lol. Anyways, very informative and Grand Canyon will be part of my bucket list. Thank you for sharing this, it’s awesome! 🙂

  11. I plan on traveling from the Caribbean this summer and going to the Grand Canyon is definitely on my bucket list.Thanks for the cool guide and tips.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you’re able to make it. Cheers!

  12. Wow, I did not know that you had to reserve camping site 7 months prior to your trip.. That’s insane!

    But I am sure that the moment you felt after you saw the grand canyon for the first time was all worth it!

    Hopefully, I will see it in the future. Thank you for writing this article, now I am even more intrigued to see it !!

    1. I know, it’s insane you have to book so far out. I’ve found that’s the case even in Colorado, at least for weekends in the summer. So much for spontaneity. 😉

  13. If you want to plan for camping , you should go to proper camping equipment like tent ,sleeping bag,backpack etc

  14. Grand Canyon is a great place for camping, the views are out of this world. It was worth spending every cents. A must visit place in USA. Also love the maintenance at the location.

    Thanks for sharing your nice post.

  15. Always wanted to go hiking in the Grand Canyon but wasn’t sure what it would be like or what I’d need to take with me.

    Thanks for all the helpful information!

  16. I’d love to head out on a Grand Canyon trip. Just a few weeks ago we did a trip to Zions Canyon and hiked the narrows. Hiking a rim to rim would be fun especially if I could get a campsite down in the canyon.

      1. Another fun one in the Grand Canyon area I would like to do is Havasupai. I hear it’s really hard to get a campsite down in the canyon though.

          1. I went years ago when I was in the Boy Scouts. It was awesome. I’d like to take my family down there some day.

  17. Hey buddy, Great job!!! being grateful as you posted such a useful and informative post. I would like to save it for later. Thanks a lot for sharing your great thoughts. Looking forward for more from you

  18. Great information about camping. I will recommend your website to my friends.

  19. Great article for a first timer camping at the Grand Canyon. I found this article very helpful, although my chances of going to the Grand Canyon are very low. Nice job

  20. Many thanks for sharing. We’re planning to make it to Grand Canyon this summer. I fully agree with the “learning the hard way” part. It took me quite a few camping trips to figure out what I need, what I don’t need, etc. I summarized all of that on my website hoping it will help other fellow campers. Stop by if you’re interested. Btw, I loved this point: “Phone lines open as of 10:30 am EST. Be ready to dial exactly six months out from your desired camping date.” LOL. I find myself online early mornings trying to catch one of the good spots at the campgrounds we go to every year. It’s amazing how many people wait for the exact time the reservation systems roll forward. It’s a competition. 🙂

  21. Love your post, and so jealous. I have been meaning to go camping in the grand canyon myself, but just seem to put it off. No reading about your trip. I have to go.

  22. It is pretty amazing there.
    I got to spend some time camping in Joshua Tree National Park down in Southern California. Visited but never camped the Grand Canyon though.
    Good read though! Thanks!

  23. Hi Elaine Schoch,

    I love camping and hunting, please share some best place for hunting in north CA!

    and Thanks for the article!

    1. Sorry, I’m not much of a hunter so I can’t make recommendations there…

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