Free Camping Near the Grand Canyon South Rim

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The Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the seven natural wonders of the world making it a popular travel destination for visitors from around the world. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon tends to be more popular with campers and RVers because it’s more accessible for every type of RV and lower in elevation than the North Rim. Plus the South Rim is open 24 hours a day year round making it the more visited section of Grand Canyon National Park. In this guide, I will share our personal experiences free camping near the Grand Canyon South Rim with GPS coordinates, information on how to find these camping spots along with tips and resources.

Free Camping Near the Grand Canyon

Free camping, sometimes referred to as dispersed camping, BLM camping or boondocking, is our preferred accommodation when planning a trip to Grand Canyon National Park. While we loved our experience RV camping at Mather Campground inside the park, it can be a challenge to get a campsite depending on the time of year. With beautiful free camping outside the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s our first choice when visiting this awe-inspiring national park.

How to Find Free RV Camping Near the Grand Canyon

Free camping near grand canyon

1. Use an RV Camping App

One of our preferred ways to find free RV camping near the Grand Canyon is through the popular RVing app, Allstays Camp & RV. Search for “Grand Canyon” on the map screen and the app will display the various Grand Canyon camping options. The brown and white icons are Grand Canyon National Park campgrounds, the green and yellow icons are dispersed camping options on public land. To only see free camping near the Grand Canyon, open the advanced filter and turn on the “Avg Rate – Free” option.

Below is an example of what the filtered map results looks like in the Allstays app. For more information about each free camping location, simply tap on the icon to display more details. In this photo, Forest Road 302 dispersed camping is selected and tapping the white banner will show location information which includes GPS coordinates, directions, road conditions, reviews, and more.

free camping near the grand canyon south rim.jpg

Don’t have the Allstays Camp & RV app? Check out our review of this must have RV camping app or use Allstays Pro, which has even more features.

2. Visit the Tusayan Ranger Office

The Tusayan Ranger District forestry office is located at 176 Lincoln Log Loop, Grand Canyon Village, Arizona. Call or stop by for maps and information about dispersed camping near Grand Canyon South Rim. They can also be a great resource for information such as recent road conditions, campfire restrictions and answer any questions about the rules of camping on public land. We’ve found the rangers to be very friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.

Be sure to check the status of these ranger offices before you visit as some may be closed or only offering virtual services. For the Grand Canyon South Rim, check the Kaibab National Forest website for the latest information.

Tips for Free Camping Near Grand Canyon South Rim

Now that you know how to find free camping near Grand Canyon South Rim, here are some tips based on our experiences RV camping in the area.

  • During high peak season, these free camping areas can be very busy when the park campgrounds are full. Try to arrive a day or two earlier to secure a spot that fits your rig.
  • Cell service has improved since we first camped in this area in 2015. However, plan on not having service or have other options during your stay. Check out our Internet for RVers Guide.
  • Free camping on public land means there are no amenities or services. We follow the Leave No Trace Principles by planning ahead and preparing for dispersed camping, including disposing of waste properly.
  • There are several RV dump stations in the area including one at Mather Campground inside the park. Check Allstays or another camping app for other options.
  • You can also fill the RV fresh water tank at Mather Campground.
  • RVs of all sizes can find free camping near the Grand Canyon South Rim. The first time we stayed in the area was in a Class A motorhome towing a Jeep Wrangler and most recently, we stayed in a pop-up truck camper.
  • Stock up on supplies before heading into the area. There isn’t much available locally for groceries, and the food/gas prices in Tusayan (and inside the national park) are inflated.
  • Approach muddy roads with caution. We didn’t experience this ourselves, but a lot of RVers get stuck on dirt roads in this area when they turn to mud. Be especially careful in spring when the snow is melting, and in monsoon season.

Best Free Camping Near the Grand Canyon South Rim

Based on our experiences dispersed camping in the area, the best free camping near Grand Canyon South Rim is Forest Road 688.

This well maintained gravel road is right off AZ-64. Use GPS Coordinates (35.9262, -112.1245) as a starting guide to find free camping near the Grand Canyon South Rim. The first time we stayed here was fall of 2015 in our Class A motorhome towing a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Since we had a four wheel-drive tow car, we scoped out Forest Road 688 before driving the RV in. The site we found was mostly dirt and pine needles with a large tree that provided some shade.

Forest Road 688 Dispersed Camping Joe and Kait

Here are some notes from our experience camping on Forest Road 688:

Available campsites are easier to find during the week. There was a day when it seemed like we were the only campers in our part of the forest. On the weekends, most sites were occupied by campers in tents, cars, small travel trailers, fifth wheels, Class B camper vans and even RVs over 40 feet.

At night, the stars were brilliant against the black sky. The only noise was from the forest or the occasional car driving by on 64. The park ranger informed us there were no fire restrictions, so we collected dead wood from the forest one day and enjoyed a campfire for a few hours that evening.

Campfire Joe and Leo
Joe and Leo sitting by the campfire

The road was frequented by hunters during our stay. We did hear gunshots two of the days we were camped. It was hunting season when we stayed, so we expected to see and hear hunters.

On the last day, the area became very busy with vehicle traffic. We didn’t know why it had gotten so busy until the next day, when we went inside the national park. As it turns out, when the park campgrounds are sold out, the rangers direct people to this area.

Apart from the last night of our stay, Forest Road 688 remains one of our favorite RV camping experiences. There’s just something incredible about being in the middle of the forest and connecting with nature. The peace and solitude you find while dispersed camping is a world away from the busyness of a campground.

The last time we camped at Forest Road 688 was fall 2021 with several friends in their Storyteller Overland MODE adventure vans. As you can see in the photo below, this free campsite near the Grand Canyon South Rim had plenty of room for several RVs.

free camping near the grand canyon forest road 688

If you’re looking for free camping near the Grand Canyon South Rim, we highly recommend this spot. If you camp in this area, leave a comment below and let us know.

Other Options for Free Camping Near Grand Canyon South Rim

What if Forest Road 688 is full? Below are some other options for free camping near the Grand Canyon South Rim. Keep in mind we have not stayed at any of these spots, but they are well known and popular.

Coconino Rim Road

Coconino Rim Road (35.9623, -111.9644) is very close to the Visitor Center and the canyon itself. This might mean that you get more traffic passing by, but you also have a shorter drive and easier access to all of the activities the Grand Canyon has to offer. Not to mention that being close to the Visitor Center means being close to a source of water.

Forest Road 302

Forest Road 302 (35.9681, -112.1185) is also accessible to larger RVs. Some reviewers do mention rutted side roads, so watch out for those, especially if there’s snow or mud present. It also sounds like some people had trouble with AT&T service in this area, so keep an eye on your cell reception if that’s important to you during your stay.

Forest Road 306

Forest Road 306 (35.927, -112.1338) is another option that’s close to Forest Road 688. Reviews of this area mention plenty of large spots and fresh water access close by. As with other free camping near the Ground Canyon South Rim, be wary of mud, and scout ahead with a toad or tow vehicle if you’re unsure.

Don’t Have an RV? Rent One!

If you want to experience RV camping near the Grand Canyon but don’t own one, consider renting an RV. Choose from 5th wheels, camper vans, travel trailers, Class A motorhomes and other types of RVs.

At first, it may not sound like free camping near the Grand Canyon is all that great. After all, it involves sacrificing modern comforts like “endless” electricity, water, access to bathhouses, WiFi and such. But the benefits are more than worth it.

Imagine being serenaded by bugling elk, the singing of birds, and the tapping of woodpeckers. Antelope prance through the forest right outside your window. Your nearest neighbor may not even be within earshot. At the end of each day, you sit next to a campfire and look up at a multitude of stars, immersed in the sounds of nature.

We experienced all of that and more just a few miles outside the entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. To this day, it’s still one of our favorite free camping experiences.

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45 thoughts on “Free Camping Near the Grand Canyon South Rim”

  1. I was pleased to read your review with GPS coordinates for my recent, first-time trip to the Grand Canyon, and I set up camp at FR 688. I’m sure the conditions change at different times of the year. The area is an open range for cattle. In early August, we heard elk bugling close nearby. They did not bother the campsite, but one unlucky motorist collided with one on Hwy 64. Late summer, this area is overrun with yellowjackets. There were a thousand, if not hundreds of angry bees, and I did get stung. Fortunately, I came with an Epi pen. Also, campers must check restrictions for campfires. Arizona recently adopted strict restrictions for any campfires. Despite the bee sting, we enjoyed this site.

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  2. Hi. When I camped on forest land in Montana there was a pit toilet in the camping area. Are there any pit toilets for people who are in tents?

    Thank you!

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  3. My personal favorite spot is 18 miles south of the South Entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park at the base of Red Butte Mountain off of FR 320. It’s very quiet and not very busy usually as it’s not one of the closest locations to disperse camp. Waking every morning and looking at the mountain is major plus!

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  4. Awesome post! I live/work at the Grand Canyon South Rim. A couple of the closest areas I’ve found to the GCSR is off Long Jim Loop Rd. The road is on your left just past the small town of Tusayan, AZ. You can literally hike over the hill and have dinner, restroom facilities, etc. Also FR 2616 has some spots if you drive back far enough. It’s located on the left of Hwy 64 across from the Ranger Station between the South Entrance and Tusayan, AZ.

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  5. Hello & I am so envious of your lifestyle.

    How fun to read what everyone says. I do have a Q you might be able to help with. MY boyfriend and I will be coming to disperse camp hopefully on FR 688 the end of April to hike the canyon. MY 5th…his 1st. We only tent camp for now but absolutely love it. will we be able to have a fire while camping in that spot? Do I need a permit?

    thank you and hopefully you will be able to help.

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  6. Kait,
    so we are planning on arriving near the South Rim on April 22 (Wednesday) and missed out on Mather…all booked up. What time do you suggest we arrive at anyone of the spots you have mentioned to be assured getting one? Fire Rd 688, Forest/Fire Rd 302 or 306. Hoping that a Wednesday will give us a good chance to get a spot. Thanks for taking the time to help us all out by the way. We have a 16′ Airstream Basecamp and this is our first long trip in it. From Seattle. John and Carolyn

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    • Hi John and Carolyn – It’s hard to say what time is best because there’s no check out time when it comes to Forest Service land. My advice would be to get there in the late morning/early afternoon. Give yourself enough time to explore a couple places without being worried about it getting dark. I would also suggest checking recreation.gov for Mather Campground on a regular basis (especially closer to your arrival dates) as people will cancel reservations all the way up to the day of. We’ve gotten most of our campground reservations at parks that way. Good luck!

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      • Thanks Guiseppe (as I call my brother). That will help quite a lot. Again we all really appreciate your dedication to helping all of us out. John

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  7. Thank you so much for the suggestion, we stayed there for two nights beautiful spot. It was hard to get enough signal strength to work online, so we moved to long Jim Loop near Tusayan.

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  8. Hi – stumbled across your site and love it! I am looking to take a trip from So Cal to the south rim and this is exactly what I was looking for! Wondering if you have any suggestions for a place to stop on the trip between So Cal and Az – I’d like to break the trip into 2 days to get there so staying somewhere around Barstow or a bit farther along the 15 before getting into AZ so I can do 3 hours first day and 3 the next. Thanks. Lisa

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  9. Hello
    Just had a 50 gallon water tank fabricated for our Jeep
    Where can we obtain water close to Forest Road 688?

    Thanks,Mitch

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  10. hello,
    thanks for all the great info and tips – do you have any info on nearby dump station or where you can fill up with fresh water?

    Thanks

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  11. Awesome spot. Have stayed there too and it was fantastic. It snowed on me though! But please, leave the dead wood on the ground! May not seem like a big deal, but it’s a fragile ecosystem and plays host to many creatures and contributes to biomass. 🙂

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  12. Hi guys! Thanks for this amazing post! Looking to use this spot on the weekend of the 30th of march. You said you spoke with a ranger to check about having fires? What ranger station is the cloeslt? Id love to call the, ahead of time and check out the fire restrictions!

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  13. Thanks for the info! We had reservations st the Bedrock Flintsone RV park and when we got there we rilized why they had availability. We are 45ft and 50 amp. We were told we would have no problems. The spaces are tight and they are only 30amp. The place is really run down. We were happy to move on. I googled “blm camping near the Grand Canyon” and this was the first that popped up. It was about 20 miles from Vale where the other RV park was. We could not be happier. Nice wide open camp sites and plenty of places to choose from on a Tuesday 5/23/17. We have a Heartland Cyclone 4200 and we are 45ft long and about 18ft wide with our slides out and out side porch down. No space issues at all and we are about 100yrda from the other RV. Thanks so much! Oh and one last thing. Verizon cell service with 4bars of LTE!

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  14. Great post! Thank you so much. I’m a travel nurse looking for somewhere cheap or free for my 2 days off on our way down from Colorado. This was extremely helpful, much appreciated!

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  15. We will be leaving Flagstaff on the 40…where do we turn off to get to the 688 Forest Rd.?
    The area is exactly what we are looking for!! 🙂
    Thank you.

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      • Hey there! My wife and I are full-timers who are almost to the Grand Canyon currently. We were looking for free camping spots and came across your article which was super helpful! However, we could not locate “Forest Road ” near the grand canyon. When we out in the GPS coordinates you have it says the road is called “Fire Rd 688”. Is it possible you have the name of the road wrong in the article? Just trying to clear up our confusion and help any others that may come after if this is in fact a mistake. Thanks!

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        • Hi Lauren. Thanks for catching that mistake. It is Fire Road 688 and not Forest Road 688. I’ll update the post to reflect that. Enjoy your time at the Grand Canyon!

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  16. Just wanted to say thanks for your efforts. Were are new to full time rv life and have a truck and 5th wheel that total 48 ft. Finding an open campground near the grand canyon in the timeframe we needed, and that could accommadate our rig size was proving daunting. Your post helped me greatly!

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    • Hi Don! You are very welcome and thank you for your comment. We really appreciate the feedback and glad this post helped you. Welcome to full time RV life. Enjoy the Grand Canyon and see you on the road!

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  17. Hubby and I plan to hit the road full-time in January in a 38′ Thor Challenger. This is all so new to us..may be a silly question but how do you know the spot you picked was a free spot? I am a bit confused about the boondocking rules and how to find spots and to know if they are free or have restrictions.

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    • Tammy, great question. In terms of camping in National Forests, when you drive onto the Forest Road there will be a sign that says “Camping” along with the day limit, usually 14 days or it will say “No Camping”. This guide on dispersed camping by the National Forest Services is a good read http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/fishlake/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5121831. We usually like to stop in at the Ranger Office and get a Motor Vehicle Use Map which will show where dispersed camping is allowed. If you have additional questions, feel free to send us an email. See you on the road next year!

      Reply

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