Grand Canyon Camping: Mather Campground and Trailer Village

Grand Canyon Camping: Mather Campground & Trailer Village

Mather Campground is located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon about a mile from the Grand Canyon Rim Trail. The Grand Canyon is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It is on most traveler’s bucket lists and it is in the top 10 list of National Parks visited in 2015 with over 5.5 million visitors. The Grand Canyon is home to the Colorado River, is up to 18 miles across and is a mile deep.

Park
Rank
Recreation Visits
% of Total
Golden Gate NRA
1
15,638,777
4.73%
Blue Ridge PKWY
2
15,175,578
4.59%
Great Smoky Mountains NP
3
11,312,786
3.42%
George Washington MEM PKWY
4
10,323,339
3.12%
Gateway NRA
5
8,651,770
2.61%
Lincoln Memorial
6
7,915,934
2.39%
Lake Mead NRA
7
7,175,891
2.17%
Grand Canyon NP
8
5,969,811
1.80%
Natchez Trace PKWY
9
5,891,315
1.78%
Vietnam Veterans MEM
10
5,299,713
1.60%

Source: https://irma.nps.gov/

Since Mather Campground is about a 3 and a half hour drive from Phoenix, we decided the best time for us to go would be over a long weekend, Labor Day weekend.  That way we could really maximize our time in the great outdoors.  We decided to leave Phoenix on Saturday morning to avoid the holiday weekend traffic on Friday night.  We arrived at the Grand Canyon at about noon, which is check in time for Mather Campground. As a quick side note, Grand Canyon National Park has an admission fee of $30 for regular passenger vehicles and passengers ($25 for a motorcycle and passengers, or $15 per individual if entering the park on foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus, Grand Canyon Railway and private rafting trip).

MATHER CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS & RULES

Mather Campground is open year-round, although winter would be very cold for tent camping. The campground is operated by the National Park Service and you are able to make reservations for tent and RV camping.  Be aware that the RV sites do not have any electricity or hook-ups available.  There are restrooms available throughout the campground and there are even laundry and showers available for a small fee.  Pets are allowed, but must be on a leash at all times.  Wood and charcoal fires are allowed only in the camp grills and fire rings provided.  You are not allowed to collect wood from the surrounding forest areas.  You can buy wood from the general store or bring it into the park with you. 

Mather Campground Reservations Website

GETTING SETTLED INTO CAMP

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After getting to our assigned spot, we set up our campsite and even had the kids set up their own tent. Turns out they needed a little more help than we realized. Once we had everything all set up, we had a pretty good time just taking it easy and sitting by the campfire. We had all the normal campfire musts…music, marshmallows and singing silly songs. During that night after everyone was in bed, we could hear the sounds of a pack of coyotes that were nearby. I have heard coyotes before, but this was a first while camping.

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Next morning we woke up to rain.  Rain, rain glorious rain!! It didn’t last very long but we did spend some time just laying in our sleeping bags and listening to the sounds of the rain hitting the top of the tent. Being from Phoenix we do not get rain very often so it was such a nice change of pace!  After the rain stopped we decided it was time to go see the canyon and find out what all the fuss was about!

HIKING THE GRAND CANYON

We spent a large part of the day walking on the Rim Trails of the Grand Canyon.  We were not prepared to day hiking into the Grand Canyon on this trip and it can be very dangerous to do so if you do not have the proper gear.  Many people have to be rescued (or worse) every year.   The views from the Rim Trail are spectacular and it is very easy to see why this park is so popular for visitors.

Grand Canyon view from the South Rim at sunset

GRAND CANYON DESERT VIEW WATCHTOWER

Later that afternoon, we decided to take the short but scenic drive along Desert View Drive over to the Desert View Watchtower.  From Mather Campground, it is about a 30- minute drive but since there are multiple vantage points along the way you will probably end up stopping at each one to see a new view of the Grand Canyon.  Our drive ended up being closer to an hour to get there.

South Rim vista at the Grand Canyon

Once we arrived at the Desert View Watchtower it was just starting to rain again so we rushed inside the start our climb to the top.  The Watchtower is 4 stories tall and along the stairs leading to the top are murals done by Hopi artist Frank Kabotie.  The view from the top (like every other view of the Canyon) was amazing! After the Watchtower, we headed back toward Mather Campground, but not before we stopped at the general store to pick up a few things. The general store is very large and has anything you might need.  I wouldn’t even call it a general store really…it is more like a grocery store that also has lots of camping stuff.

GRAND CANYON WILDLIFE

One thing that we love about camping is the wildlife that shows up to visit.  We definitely got the visitor of a lifetime on this camping trip.  Shortly after getting back to the campsite we saw this elk just hanging out about 20 yards from where we had our tents set up. While we were camping at Mather Campground we also saw a couple mule, heard the pack of coyotes and shared our camping space with a colony of bees that were living not far from our campsite.

Bull elk laying in the forest at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

After hiking around a bit, being a tourist at the watchtower and having a new friend visit the camp site we were definitely ready to sit down by the fire and relax for our last night there. The next morning would bring the whirlwind of packing up camp and making sure everything was left as we found it.  (Don’t leave a mess at your campsites…it’s just rude and disrespectful to the park, the wildlife, and the next people coming in after you!)  On our way driving out, we noticed they had an RV park available to stay at as well.

GRAND CANYON TRAILER VILLAGE

Maybe tent camping isn’t for you. Are you looking for a full hookup for your trailer. Then Trailer Village seems like the place for you to check out.  It is the only campground in the Grand Canyon National Park with full hookups.  They are able to accommodate trailers up to 50 ft in length and have electrical (30 amp and 50 amp sites available), water, sewer and cable hookups at all spots.  There is also a dump station (closed during the winter months) that is located near Mather Campground.  

Trailer Village Reservations Website

DRIVING TO PHOENIX

We decided to take a slightly different route back to Phoenix.  This time we headed the back way into Flagstaff and then start heading down Highway 17 to Phoenix.  Flagstaff is such a neat little town. There is a college there and even a ski resort.  Lots of people head up here in the winter to have a bit of fun sledding.  From Flagstaff, the drive to Phoenix is only about 2 and a half hours. Then we get to unpack all this camping stuff until next time!

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Comments 23

  1. We just got back from our first trip to the Grand Canyon and it was awesome! Mather Campground was booked when we were planning our trip, so we camped at Desert View. Loved every minute of it. Here’s my post if you’re interested. http://backroadramblers.com/magic-in-the-grand-canyon/ We also hiked into the canyon on the South Kaibab trail, which was fun (but hard). Your photos are awesome. Can’t wait to explore your blog a bit more.

    1. Post
      Author

      I had been thinking about Desert View campground! Glad I got a chance to check out your article! From the looks of your pics it seems that desert view isn’t really very deserty…is that even a word… 😉 Great photos and happy camping! 🙂

  2. Wow, thats a lot of visitors to those parks. Havent camped in that area before but I hope I will some day. Give me marshmellows besides a camp fire any day of the week 🙂

    1. One of our favorite family activities has always been sitting around the campfire and making up silly songs. We went to the gift store and found some cheap whistles and they had a blast with them!

  3. I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon in over 10 years and it was only just a brief stop while driving by. I would so love to go back and explore the surroundings and camp!

  4. Oh I loved the Gran Canyon when we visited over 6 years ago and I can imagine that camping there must be incredible!! I cant wait to go back and your pictures are making me nostalgic!

  5. Oh what a fun camping trip! I would love to have heard the coyotes during the night at my campsite. Loved your wildlife pic, that is my favorite part about going to national or state parks. 😉 Looks like a successful and awesome trip!

  6. Lots of great information–thanks for sharing! We visited the Grand Canyon a few years ago and stayed outside of the national park. Next time we’d love to plan a trip more like yours and go camping and do more hiking into the canyon! Sound like you had a great visit!

  7. Camping in the Grand Canyon must have been epic. I went there hiking once. it was good fun! Sleeping there must have been even better.

  8. We used to live in Phoenix, so this was an accessible road trip. Never camped though so I would love to get back and stay at Mather Campground to fully immerse ourselves in the experience!

  9. Being able to camp so close to Grand Canyon must have been an incredible experience. We used to joke that the amount of rains Phoenix has in one year is less than Mumbai’s rainfall in a day during monsoon.

    1. Ha ha yeah we go for long stretches with no rain at all and the majority of our rain is during the monsoons in the summer or December and January. Other than that it is blue skies and hot!

  10. I would like to go try camping. I love nature but I haven’t tried camping again in ages. The best thing in Camping Grand Canyon is you will also be able to enjoy the view. Waking up the next morning with that amazing view and drinking coffee must be the best.

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