Rachel Baldwin

Boondocking near the Grand Canyon

Rachel Baldwin
Boondocking near the Grand Canyon

 After the heat of Sedona, Alex and I were so ready to get back into a cool forest.  The only problem is that we really wanted to head to the Grand Canyon next but we were approaching Memorial Day Weekend-not an ideal time to visit a National Park.  We decided to brave the crowds and thought maybe arriving mid week would help us beat the rush.  Turns out, we had no problem finding a private, quiet little forest home for the week.

 We pulled into Tusayan, the small town outside the South Rim entrance of the Grand Canyon on Wednesday afternoon. Just before entering Tusayan, there’s Forest Road 302 that leads back into Kaibab National Forest.  We turned on this dusty gravel road and scouted a good spot for the week.  The very first few sites we passed were occupied by lots of tent campers, the next handful we passed had other rigs parked in them so we continued almost exactly two miles down the road to a large site shaded by lots of trees.  Despite the shade, which could limit our solar intake for the week, we decided this was our perfect spot.  With our potential campsite identified, we still needed to fill our freshwater tank and we knew Mather Campground inside Grand Canyon National Park had fresh water and a dump site so we made our way to the park, filled our fresh water tank and then turned around and drove right back to our campsite.  Because of the way this site was set-up, Alex decided to back into it and we spent the next hour yelling directions back and forth as he determinedly backed down the long drive way, avoiding tree branches and large rocks.  About 45 minutes later we were in the space we wanted, we hadn’t killed each other, and we started to set up our home for the next few days.

Our unpacking routine is pretty easy.  After we let the slides out, I usually sweep and shake out the rugs to get rid of extra road dust and then we just have to unpack a few plants that rest in a basket in the shower while we drive and we’re pretty much ready to rock and roll.  We don’t have much of an outdoor set-up yet because we only have two camping chairs-no fun rugs and solar lights like other campers.

 The next day we woke up early with a plan to visit the Grand Canyon before the weekend rush.  The South Rim trail is pet-friendly so we started there.  We arrived around 9am and the park was already starting to fill up.  

This was my first time seeing the Canyon and the first view was exciting and also sort of numbing- as though my brain couldn’t quite piece together the enormity of the millions of years of geologic history that I was seeing.  

We walked the trail until late morning, until the path became crowded with hundreds of tourists, and then we headed back into our little forest hideaway to ride out the holiday weekend rush.

 The rest of our stay was filled with book reading, music making, campfires, cheap beer, s’mores, listening to elk calls in the evenings, and walks through the forest.  We ventured back into the park just twice-once for groceries (the park store has more selection and better prices than the Tusayan General Store) and again to watch a sunset.  The day we went in for groceries, the line to get in the park entrance was over a mile long.

We’re looking forward to returning to the Grand Canyon someday and really exploring the park and hiking down into the Canyon.   

Tips for future campers:

  1. Stock up on groceries before you near Tusayan.  There are two grocery stores-one in Tusayan and the other in the park.  Both are overpriced but the park store has much more selection.

  2. The South Rim and Greenway trails in the park are dog-friendly

  3. Mather Campground has a free dumpsite, free fresh water, a laundromat, and showers for $2.00 per 8 minutes.

  4. The restaurants are “tourist” priced as well so be prepared to make your own meals.