Elks bulging, squirrels chasing one another up a pine tree, a lone antelope prancing through the forest, rabbits hopping, birds singing, woodpeckers pecking, sitting around a burning campfire reminiscing about the incredible the day. We experienced all of this just a few miles outside the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park in the Kaibab National Forest.
Free Camping Outside Grand Canyon South Rim
Throughout our journey, we have looked for dispersed camping spots and this was the first time we found a road we could easily drive down without hesitation. Many of the forest and BLM roads in Utah and Colorado were too rough for our RV. Although we saw other Class A RVs camped off many of these “rough” roads, we didn’t feel comfortable driving ours down the same roads. Since we live out of our RV full time, we choose to be extra careful in terms of where we camp and the roads we drive down.
Forest Road 688 (35.9262, -112.1245) is a well maintained gravel road off AZ-64. We did take our tow car in first to scope out the sites and found the best one to accommodate our rig. The site was mostly dirt and pine needles with a large tree that provided some shade. On the weekend, most sites were occupied by campers in tents, cars, fifth wheels and even RVs over 40 feet. During the week most sites were available and there was a day when it seemed like we were the only campers in our part of the forest.
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.
The road was frequented by hunters during our stay and we did hear gun shots two of the days we were camped. It’s hunting season so we expected to see and hear hunters. The last day we were there, the area became very busy with vehicles traveling back and forth along the dirt road. We didn’t know why the area had become so busy until the next day when we went to Mather Campground inside the park to spend a few nights. It turns out when the park campgrounds are completely sold out the rangers direct people to this dispersed camping area.
There was AT&T cell phone reception with 3G at our campsite. Although we had our phones off most of the time, it was nice to check in and be able to make the occasional call. There isn’t much locally for groceries and the food/gas prices are inflated. Lowest grade gasoline was $3.39/gallon compared to $2.39 in Flagstaff. A large order of french fries at McDonalds was $3.99 and a pound of choice ribeye steak was $16.99. We’d suggest stocking up before heading into the area.
Besides the last night of our stay, this has been one of the best camping experiences. There is something incredible about being in the middle of the forest and connecting with nature. We really enjoyed the peace and solitude the forest offered and look forward to coming back.