Backcountry Camping Guide

Plan Up to Four Months Ahead

To backpack and camp below the Rim overnight, you will need to apply for and obtain a Backcountry Permit from the National Park Service. Go here for info and the forms: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm

The Backcountry office is the same group that will issue your permit and reserve your campsite if available.
Submit the permit request form in one of the following ways:

  • Bring request to the Backcountry Information Center, located inside the park on both the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily, year round, for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center (located in the administrative building) is open daily mid-May to mid-October for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time.
  • Fax request to the Backcountry Information Center, 928-638-2125.
  • NOTE: You can send a fax 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year - HOWEVER the first day of every month we receive many faxes and the number may be busy.
  • Mail request to Grand Canyon National Park, Permits Office, 1824 S. Thompson St., Suite 201, Flagstaff AZ, 86001

Permit requests are not accepted by telephone or by email.

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Camping in the Backcountry
All overnight camping below the rim requires a permit from the Backcountry Office. This is true for undeveloped areas on the rim as well. (Camping in developed areas is restricted to existing campgrounds.) Permits are required and must be made in person or by mail or fax. Telephone and email requests are NOT accepted.

Applying well in advance (up to, but no more than 4 months) is recommended although a small number of permits are sometimes available for the same day.

For first-time backpackers in Grand Canyon National Park, the most popular itinerary is to spend a few nights at either Bright Angel or Indian Garden Campground. The Bright Angel Campground can be accessed by either the South Kaibab Trail or the Bright Angel Trail (6.8 and 9.3 miles from the Rim, respectively); Indian Garden Campground is accessible from the Bright Angel Trail (4.6 miles from the Rim.) Both campgrounds have restrooms, treated drinking water, established campsites, individual food storage canisters (to thwart the critters), and are frequently staffed by helpful park rangers.

Cottonwood Campground is a small campground 6.8 miles below the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the North Kaibab Trail. Bright Angel Creek nearby offers a cool and refreshing place to get wet. Seasonally (mid-May to mid-Oct) potable drinking water is available at the campground. During other times of the year you should be prepared to filter/treat water obtained from the creek. Cottonwood has an emergency phone and toilets. Day hike destinations include Roaring Springs, Ribbon Falls, and Manzanita Canyon.

Below the rim at Indian Garden, Bright Angel or Cottonwood Campground, with approved backcountry permit, the costs are $10 per permit plus $5 per person per night camped below the rim (2 maximum consecutive nights) and $5 per group per night camped above the rim.

Persons arriving without permits may put their names on a waiting list for cancellations; go to the Backcountry Office as soon as you arrive in the park. Backcountry Office is open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. MST daily. Names are accepted for the waiting list in person only.

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Camping Inside the Park
On the rim, campsites range from $12 to $25 per site/vehicle. Below the rim at Indian Garden, Bright Angel or Cottonwood Campground, with approved backcountry permit, the costs are $10 per permit plus $5 per person per night camped below the rim (2 maximum consecutive nights) and $5 per group per night camped above the rim.

Atop the South Rim in busy Grand Canyon Village, within walking distance of Market Plaza, you'll find two developed (vehicles-permitted) campgrounds: Mather Campground offers over 300 camp and RV sites (no hookups) suitable for tents, trailers and small motorhomes; and Trailer Village - the only Grand Canyon RV campground with full hook-ups - a concessioner-operated RV park with full hook-ups. Reservations for Trailer Village are made through Xanterra Parks and Resorts.

Desert View Campground, also on the South Rim of the park but 25 miles to the east of Grand Canyon Village along Desert View Drive, is available on a no-reservation, first-come first-served basis. There are no RV hook-ups at Desert View.

Reservations can be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at http://www.recreation.gov/. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. All campsites run $12 - $25 per night. Maximum six people, two vehicles (including cars, trucks, trailers, pop-up campers, tent trailers, fifth wheels, RVs, and motorhomes) three tents allowed per site. No more than 7 nights stay is allowed. The campground is open May 15 - October 15 annually.

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Camping Outside the Park
Camping is available seasonally outside the park on the North Rim at De Motte Campground (in the national forest, 16 miles north of the North Rim, summer only, no hook-ups or reservations), Jacob Lake Campground (in the national forest, 45 miles north of the North Rim, summer only, no hook-ups or reservations), and Kaibab Camper Village, a private campground 1/4 mile south of Jacob Lake on highway 67, hook-ups available. Phone (928) 643-7804 May 15-October 15. Off-season phone (928) 526-0924, outside AZ 1-800-525-0924. Dispersed camping is permitted in the national forest outside the park; there are restrictions, however. Contact the North Kaibab Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest, P.O. Box 248, Fredonia, AZ 86022 or call (928) 643-7298 for information.

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Safety First

Grand Canyon National Park is in a remote part of the country. Remember:
  • Bring an extra set of car keys it could be a long wait for a locksmith.
  • Film is available at both rims, but the closest camera repair is in Flagstaff, Williams, or Page.
  • There is an automobile mechanic on the South Rim, but you may experience delays waiting for parts.
  • Distances are deceiving in this part of the country: it may look like you can visit three parks in one day, but reality is often different.
  • Keep your gas tank full the next gas station may be quite some distance down the road.
  • Carry water in your car, particularly during summer months.
  • Cell phone service is very limited, if at all available, inside the Park.
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A Day At The Canyon from John Burcham Photography. John Burcham is a commercial, editorial photographer based out of Flagstaff, AZ. You can see more of his work at www.johnburcham.com