The Grand Canyon has inspired countless visitors over the years. This incredible natural landscape is one of America’s most visited and most treasured National Parks. However, it is also known for being a difficult and expensive place to visit. For those camping, you can have a truly unique experience during your visit by planning a free, dispersed camping trip near the Grand Canyon.
There are thousands of acres of National Forest surrounding the park, making it a perfect destination for those with a sense of adventure and willingness to look for great campsites.
We’ve created this Grand Canyon dispersed camping guide to help you filter through the countless options and find the perfect campsite for your next trip. You’ll find everything you need to know including maps, campsite descriptions, when to go, and more, all designed to help you plan your perfect Grand Canyon trip.
Let’s get started.
Grand Canyon Dispersed Camping Guide
- The Basics
- The Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Grand Canyon National Park
The following sections contain all the must know information you need to plan a successful dispersed camping trip near Grand Canyon National Park. This includes everything from when to camp to what to bring.
This is the essential info before you head out!
When to Dispersed Camp Near Grand Canyon National Park
You can camp year-round at the Grand Canyon provided you come prepared for the weather conditions.
However, the best time to camp at the Grand Canyon tends to be during the Spring and Fall shoulder seasons. You’ll avoid the crowds and hot temperatures of the summer months, but will still get to enjoy some beautiful, warm days.
Winter camping at the Grand Canyon is popular with those hoping to avoid crowds and find the canyon at its most serene. Come prepared for snow, cold, and difficult road conditions if you plan to camp here in the winter. It is also important to note that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only open from May 15th – October 15th each year.
For the summer months, you can expect hot days and more crowds. However, the beauty of planning a dispersed camping trip is that you’ll avoid some of the crowded designated campgrounds and have an overall quieter experience.
South Rim or North Rim?
This is the classic question for those planning a visit to the Grand Canyon. Here are a few key points to help you make your decision of which rim to visit:
- The South Rim receives approximately 90% of all visitors to the Grand Canyon
- The North Rim sits over 1,000′ higher than the South Rim, making it difficult to access and only open from May 15th – October 15th
- Transportation, services, and amenities are all easier when visiting the South Rim.
- The North Rim is more remote and difficult to reach. This also means you’re much more likely to find solitude and avoid the crowds.
For more information, visit the Plan Your Trip section of the National Park Service website.
What to Bring
As you’ll read below, many of the dispersed campsites near the Grand Canyon are remote and lack services. As such, you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient and not rely on the amenities often found at developed campgrounds.
While we’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tent, sleeping bags, and camp chairs, below are some of our favorite items specifically for dispersed camping near Grand Canyon National Park:
- Map: A good map is essential to making sure you are on public land, exploring the area, and learning more about your surroundings. We recommend this National Geographic version for a good overview of the both the North and South Rims.
- Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
- Portable water container – Most of the camping areas included in this guide do not have dependable water access. As such, a portable water container is essential.
- Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
Permits and Fees
One of our favorite things about dispersed camping is the lack of need for any permits or fees to be paid. Dispersed camping near the Grand Canyon is no different, and only the Point Sublime camping area requires a permit.
For the other campsites in this guide we still recommend contacting either the Grand Canyon visitor center or the USFS Kaibab National Forest office for the most up to date information on current conditions and camping options.
Pets are generally welcome at most of the dispersed camping areas included in this guide. However, it is important to note that there are strict pet regulations inside Grand Canyon National Park:
- Pets are not permitted below the Canyon rim
- Pets are only permitted in specific sections of the National Park
Keep in mind that the Point Sublime dispersed campsite included in this guide is located within the National Park. As such, the NPS pet regulations apply.
Dispersed Camping Near Grand Canyon National Park
The following section includes our top sites for dispersed camping near the Grand Canyon. We’ve organized the camping areas geographically based on whether they are located near the South Rim or North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
In addition, our Grand Canyon dispersed camping map below gives an overview of each site’s location with a full description included in the following section. Enjoy!
Dispersed Camping near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
The following are our top six dispersed campsites near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. If you’re Arizona road trip has you exploring more of the state, don’t forget to check out our Flagstaff and Sedona Dispersed Camping Guides.
Forest Service Road 688
Distance to Grand Canyon South Entrance: 5.4 miles
The most popular dispersed camping area near the Grand Canyon is Forest Service Road 688, located just 10 miles south of Grand Canyon Village. This is a wonderful place to camp with approximately 20 campsites located on a well-graded road. Everything from larger rigs to tent campers can be accommodated on FR 688, so this is a great option for just about anyone.
Although there are no services here, you are a short drive from Grand Canyon Village which has tons of amenities. For those hoping to camp close to the park, FR 688 should be your first stop. You’ll be close to some of the most popular parts of the Park, including the South Rim Trail and Mather Point.
As you’d expect, FR 688 can get a bit crowded during the peak season, so be sure to arrive early if you’re hoping to secure a spot.
Coconino Rim Road
Distance to Grand Canyon South Entrance: 15.5 miles
Restrooms: No, but pit toilets available at Grandview Lookout Tower
The Coconino Rim Road dispersed camping is as close to camping within the park as you can get. In fact, you can only access this dispersed camping area from within Grand Canyon National Park. Located a short distance off of East Rim Drive, you’ll be perfectly located to visit the Grandview Lookout Tower, hike the Grandview Trail, or take in any of the other sights along the South Rim.
Keep in mind that there are no services here other than the vault toilet at the base of the Lookout Tower. You’ll want to come prepared with as much food and water as you can, since it is a bit of a drive to the closest services in Grand Canyon Village.
You can access the Coconino Rim Road dispersed camping area by either coming from Grand Canyon Village to the west, or from the town of Cameron to the east.
Forest Service Road 302
Distance to Grand Canyon South Entrance: 3 miles
Located just three miles from the South Entrance Station, Forest Service Road 302 offers great dispersed camping near Grand Canyon National Park. Situated on the edge of the town of Tusayan, you’ll enjoy easy access to services in town and even be able to walk to the Grand Canyon shuttle if you’d like.
The main downside to camping along FR 302 is that you’ll find yourself directly under many flight paths from the nearby airport. This will include a steady stream of helicopters and planes out on sight seeing tours during most days. However, if you plan to be out exploring during the day, it shouldn’t have too large of an impact.
To get here, turn off of Highway 64 on the south end of Tusayan onto FR 302. Continue until campsites start to appear, about a 1/4 mile from the highway. The road is passable by most vehicles.
Forest Service Road 306
Distance to Grand Canyon South Entrance: 5.1 miles
Located on the opposite side of the Highway 64 from FR 688 is the Forest Service Road 306 dispersed camping area. This is a great option if you find that FR 688 is full, or if you’re looking for a slightly quieter experience. The road can be a bit washboard at times, but generally speaking can accommodate most rigs.
As with most of the dispersed camping near the Grand Canyon, the further back along the road you head the more likely you are to find a bit of seclusion. You’ll still have an easy time heading into the park from here as well as accessing the services in Tusayan.
Long Jim Loop
Distance to Grand Canyon South Entrance: 1.4 miles
Long Jim Loop is a popular dispersed camping area near the Grand Canyon tucked behind the small town of Tusayan. Although these sites aren’t the most private, you’d be hard pressed to find a more convenient location for exploring the South Rim. You can even walk to the Grand Canyon Shuttle Park and Ride from your campsite.
The road is passable for most vehicles and some of the sites can accommodate larger RVs. Given the location of Long Jim Loop, you should try to arrive as early as possible since the sites do tend to fill up. The town of Tusayan is the southern gateway to the Grand Canyon. Although you can pick up any last minute supplies here, you’ll be better served by stocking up in advance given the high prices in this tourist town.
There is no water source at Long Jim Loop, so come prepared with everything you need.
Forest Service Road 328
Distance to Grand Canyon South Entrance: 1.3 miles
Forest Service Road 328 is located immediately south of the Grand Canyon’s South Entrance Station. You’ll turn west off of Highway 64 onto FR 328 and continue for approximately 1/2 mile past the ‘No Camping’ signs before you’ll start to see sites appear.
Parking can be a bit difficult here, so this is best for tent campers or those with smaller vehicles. Expect quite a bit of traffic here given the proximity to the park, but it is hard to complain given the location.
The road here is dusty but passable for most vehicles. As with most of the dispersed campsites near the Grand Canyon, don’t expect any water or services along FR 328.
Dispersed Camping near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The following are our top six dispersed campsites near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Saddle Mountain Overlook
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 18 miles
The Saddle Mountain Overlook dispersed camping area has some of the most spectacular views you’ll find in the area. Situated on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, this dispersed camping area has room for approximately five campsites and is about a 1 hour drive from the North Rim Entrance Station.
The road in is made up of large gravel, so you’ll want to take it pretty slow. The drive is well worth it though as you’ll enjoy beautiful views out over the Grand Canyon from here. The sites are all clustered together, so you won’t get much privacy but that is an okay tradeoff in our mind!
This is a remote area with no water or other facilities so you’ll need to come prepared to be fully self sufficient.
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 17 miles
The Marble View dispersed camping area is a secluded and spectacular place to dispersed camp near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. You’ll follow a Forest Service Road for over 15 miles before emerging from the forest to a stunning view and campsite. The area can accommodate around five groups, but given the long drive it is rarely full.
There are no services at Marble View and you are quite a distance from civilization here so come prepared and enjoy some of the best dispersed camping in the area.
Although you’re only 17 miles from the North Entrance Station to the Grand Canyon, the drive will take you about 1 hour given the narrow road to get there.
Forest Service Road 22
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 5 miles
A good option for dispersed camping near the North Rim is Forest Service Road 22. You’ll be just five miles from the entrance station here, making this one of the most convenient options for dispersed camping in the area. Although not the most scenic or secluded, you’re right off the main highway making it easier to get services and enter the park here.
This is a popular access road for the National Forest, so do expect some traffic to pass your site throughout the day. However, this also means that the road is generally passable by most vehicles.
There are no services here, so come prepared to be self sufficient.
Forest Service Road 611
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 6 miles
Restrooms: No, but pit toilets available at East Rim Viewpoint trailhead.
Forest Service Road 611 is a popular dispersed camping that is convenient for exploring the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Located just off Highway 67, you will have easy access to the North Rim Visitor Center and also be close to the popular East Rim Viewpoint trail.
Getting here couldn’t be easier, as you’ll simply take Highway 67 south towards the Grand Canyon before turning off onto FR 611. Follow that until a junction, where you’ll want to stay on FR 611 heading east. Campsites soon begin and continue for several miles along the road.
Forest Service Road 294/Locust Point
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 32 miles
For the adventurous, FR 294/Locust Point offers some of the most spectacular dispersed camping near the Grand Canyon. You’ll have to navigate over 25 miles of dirt roads to get here, but the rewards are well worth it. You’ll find a quiet and rarely visited section of National Forest with amazing views looking out over the Grand Canyon. You’ll also be close to the Rainbow Rim Trail, which connects five spectacular viewpoints, including the nearby Locust Point.
Given the very remote location of this area we can’t stress enough how important it is to come prepared. There is no water or facilities in the area, so plan to bring all of the food and water you need. Additionally, given the length of the drive on remote Forest Service Roads it is very important to have a map or GPS and to be prepared should you encounter a flat tire. Preparedness will pay off for this remote camp site!
Distance to North Rim Entrance Station: 20 miles
The final, and most unique, option for dispersed camping on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is at Point Sublime. There are only two campsites here and you’ll need to obtain a backcountry user permit to camp here, but the views are the most spectacular you’ll find from any of the camping areas in this guide!
The road here is incredibly rough so you’ll need a 4WD vehicle with high-clearance to reach the campsite.
For those hoping to camp here we recommend calling ahead to the North Rim Visitor Center to discuss you plans with a Ranger. They’ll be able to give you the best intel on how to reach the campsites, the backcountry permit process, and other must know information.
Although there is no water here, amazingly there is a basic bathroom for campers to use!
Have a great trip!
We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a dispersed camping trip near Grand Canyon National Park, and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure!
Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!
Looking for other great dispersed camping in Arizona? Be sure to check out our other guides below: