Grand Canyon Camping Trip
Updated: May 30, 2022
The Grand Canyon is absolutely breathtaking. It looks almost unreal when you see it up close, like an old painting. It is a masterpiece, and everyone should get to experience it at least once.
We stayed on the South side of the Canyon, but there are countless options no matter where you are. Here are our recommendations:
Where to Stay
There are a ton of options of places to stay in the Grand Canyon, but I am so glad that we chose to stay at the Desert View Campground. We were just a 15-20 minute walk from the edge of the Canyon, making it easy to walk over for sunrises and sunsets. Camping also made me feel more in touch with nature.
The staff was very nice, the site is family friendly, and we had almost everything we needed. If we forgot anything, we could walk to the Desert View Tower general market. We went there a few times for ice, fire starters, and things like that. The only thing missing from Desert View was a place to shower, but we made do! It is also compact, but you won’t be there most of the time.
We booked our campsite at Desert View about a month in advance. There were 7 of us, so we booked two sites right next to one another. It was $80 per campsite for 4 days, and we had the perfect amount of room.
What to Know:
We visited the last week of May/first week of June which was a perfect time! It wasn’t too crowded or hot and we did not get eaten alive by bugs.
As I mentioned, Desert View Campground did not have showers. We went paddle boarding halfway through the trip and brought biodegradable soap and shampoo to take makeshift baths. There are also showers available at other campsites, but they typically have long wait times.
Keep an eye on the time difference. Depending on which side of the canyon you are on, they may be on Mountain Time Zone (which does not recognize daylight savings). It should not be a huge issue, but just be mindful if you have reservations or other time-sensitive plans.
Eat your meat as early into the trip as possible! It is the most difficult to keep fresh and the highest risk if it spoils.
Do your best not to bring more than one camp stove, canopy, or any other large items. The campsite is not very large and you will wish you had more storage in your car. We used a spreadsheet to organize our camping gear, but we still ended up with two camp stoves.
The bus system is tricky to figure out at first. We spent a bit of the first day trying to navigate it.
If you plan on visiting more National Parks, opt for the America the Beautiful pass rather than the Grand Canyon pass. It is $80 versus $35, but it gives you access to all of the national parks.
Pack your food in hard top containers! Crows will attack and tear up your camp site. The camp staff had to write us a note and it was so embarrassing.
It is tough, but try to wake up for one sunrise. It is worth it.
You’ll never be able to capture everything in photos, so do your best to just enjoy the view!
Day 1: Drive Los Angeles to Grand Canyon
We woke up bright and early on day one to drive from Los Angeles, CA all the way to Grand Canyon, AZ. Along the way, we stopped at a Walmart to buy food, ice, or anything else we had forgotten (cough cough, shark sleeping bag).
We got to our campsite around 5 or 6pm which gave us the perfect amount of time to set up our tents, cook some dinner, and get a campfire going. Even from our campsite, the sunset was gorgeous.
Day 2: Hike and Sunset
The next morning we went into town, checked out the museum and gift shops, and took the buses for the first time. It took us a while to navigate, but we were in no rush.
We then did the South Kaibab Trail, which is one of the most popular Grand Canyon hikes. We only took it to the Ooh Aah Point, but you can go further into the canyon if you would like to. The view from here is stunning!
After we got back to our campsite, we walked over to the Desert View Tower for golden hour and the sunset. The view was spectacular once again, and we got to enjoy it in our own little spot.
Day 3: Paddleboarding in Lake Powell
Paddleboarding Lake Powell was one of the highlights of our trip! The lake is absolutely stunning, as you can see from the many photos.
We went straight from Desert View to Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks, which was about two hours. It was $60 to rent a paddle board for the day, but they drop off the boards right on the lake for you and it's all very straightforward. In general, one paddle board should fit two people.
As the name suggests, you can either paddle board or kayak on the lake. I'm glad we chose paddle boards, but it was quite challenging at first. However, once you reach the canyons, the water is still and beautiful. We set up a campsite of sorts on the rocks.
We brought a speaker for music, a cooler full of beverages and snacks, inner tubes, and a waterproof sleeve to hold one of our phones. We sat in the shade listening to music, drinking, and playing in the water. It was truly wonderful.
Some of our group paddle boarded all the way to Antelope Canyon. If you want to go all the way to the end of the canyon, be prepared for a long journey.
We unfortunately did not get the chance to check out Horseshoe Bend while in the area, but I recommend making time to do so.
Day 4: Desert View Tower and Hummer Tour
On our last full day, we decided to spend the morning close to our campsite at the Desert View Tower. We enjoyed the shade, got ice cream, and just took in the views of the canyon.
That evening, we booked the Buck Wild Grand Canyon Sunset Tour. A hummer tour guide took us around to different sunset viewpoints. We saw wildlife, got some wonderful photos, and it was honestly very fun to be driven around in a big hummer.
It was a bit pricey at about $100 a person, so there is always the option to do it yourself! If you are looking to do your own sunset tour, you should stop at Pipe Creek Vista, Duck on a Rock Viewpoint, and Moran Point. Moran Point was my personal favorite.
Day 5: Sunrise
We chose to wake up for the sunrise on our last day, so we could get on the road as early as possible. I am not a morning person by any definition, but I do not think my trip would have been complete without a view of the sunrise.
I loved that we could walk to the canyon from our campsite. It made the whole experience so much more peaceful. Also, this little corner of the canyon was exclusively ours for that moment.
It was a perfect way to say goodbye to the Grand Canyon.
*Correction, it was not a goodbye but a see you later.
What to Pack
Grand Canyon Pass - The pass is $35 per car. You can purchase ahead of time or upon entrance.
Tarp - You will need 1 tarp per tent.
Stakes - Odds are these will come with tent, but be sure to grab some if they don’t come with the tent.
First aid kit
Pot and pan
Spatula / tongs
Coolers - You will need to buy ice. Often.
Fire starter - Unless you're a Boy Scout, get 1 fire starter per night.
Mugs - For hot drinks
Hard top containers - You should only keep your food in hard top containers or in your car! If not, crows WILL attack your campsite!
Body wipes - We went through a ton of these because we didn't have showers.
Toothbrush / toothpaste