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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.
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How to Find Free RV Camping Near the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.