Camping in Grand Canyon National Park

Camping in Grand Canyon National Park: The Mather Campground

In April 2018, after a full day of trekking around Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Hoover Dam, we finally headed towards our last destination of the day:  Mather Campground in Grand Canyon National Park.  To be honest, from what we’d already read and researched about Grand Canyon, we had low expectations for what we’d find when we got there.

More than 6 million people make a stop in Grand Canyon each year.  We anticipated Mather Campground (and Grand Canyon National Park) would be:

  1. Full of crammed-together campsites.
  2. Overly developed with no trees or scenery.
  3. Dominated by giant RVs and noisy generators.
  4. People. Lots and lots of people.

But within the first few minutes of reaching the South Entrance gate and pulling into Mather, we saw how terribly wrong we’d gotten it.

About Mather Campground

Mather Campground is located on the south rim near Grand Canyon Villiage.  With more than 300 sites it still is large for national park standards. The campground is organized around a central road running through the middle with loop roads of 40-60 sites on either side.

Here are all the reasons we were surprised to find Mather Campground was the perfect spot for our 3 nights in the park:

Mather’s campsites are good sized and with better spacing than we planned.

To be honest, this was difficult to measure while we were in the campground.   Although fully reserved, there were several nights where campsites around us were empty, giving the campground a much larger feel.  As in all campgrounds, we stay in, we recommend choosing sites on the end of loops or on the outer-most loops for the maximum nature experience.

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We encountered elk grazing in the campground multiple days of our stay.

The sites were well-shaded and we even saw some wildlife.

The sites in Mather Campground are nestled among small and large Ponderosa pines.  The trees are in stark contrast to the red and golden rocks you might expect at the Grand Canyon.  Each day we also had elk wander through the campground, something we never expected to see in such a busy park.

No giant RV’s or generators.

One of the great things about camping in Grand Canyon National Park is that large RVs have their own campground called “Trailer Villiage.”  Just down the road from Mather Campground, this is where those massive RVs (anything longer than 30′) are required to camp in the park.  Because there are water and electrical hookups in Trailer Villiage, these big RV’s don’t create extra noise or distraction in Mather.

Oh, and don’t forget the people.

So this one is tricky. We wouldn’t have started if we didn’t believe people should visit national parks.  But when we visit parks like Grand Canyon, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by how many people are in such a confined space. Instead we do our best to choose ‘low traffic’ times to visit and stay in places like Mather Campground.

Our April vacation was split right between spring break and the busy summer travel season so the campground was relatively quiet during our stay. Despite being in the bustle of Grand Canyon Villiage, Mather Campground didn’t feel overly crowded.

It’s definitely not Isle Royale or Gates of the Arctic National Park, but the crowds were better than we expected.

Directions and Reservations for Mather Campground

Mather Campground
Grand Canyon Village
36°03’02″N – 112°07’16″W

Elevation: 6,971 ft/ 2,125 m

Mather Campground reservations can be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service up to 6 months in advance. We booked early as in many national park campgrounds, reservations fill up quickly.
Phone: 1-877-444-6777




Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 130/423
Next Stop: @hawaiivolcanoes


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