Last year, 4.7 million people visited
The huge bulk of these visited the park's South Rim, easily accessible to the
sweeping hoards coming up from Grand Canyon National Park Phoenix
and such points. This travel season it's likely you won't get a campsite for your
RV for love or money, at least not without an early reservation. The
campgrounds at the park's main entrance north of Williams are just too popular.
Here's a word to the wise. Your intrepid travel writers of the open boondocks spent several happy days and nights camped out just a raven's wing away from the South Rim entrance station. We paid nothing. We heard almost nothing. We saw very few folks. What's the secret? Boondock in the
, which girds the
National Park's loins. There's lots of good camping not far from the crazy
crowds at the Rim, and Uncle Sam invites you to stay for no fee. Kaibab National Forest
You can 'spy out the land' using Google Maps -- just put in
as your starting point. Zoom in until the town's details start showing up.
You'll find the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon just east of Highway 180, the
main highway running from Interstate 40 up to the big trench in the earth that
is the truly Grand Canyon. Behind the hotel (to the right or east) is a road
labeled "302." That's Forest Service road 302, just one of many roads
snaking through the forest near Tusayan, but this one could be the closest to
the park's entrance. Tusayan, Arizona
If you want "quick access" to the park, just drive on past the sign that tells you camping is allowed 'beyond this point.' You'll be less than a mile from the highway, in easy reach of fuel, shopping, and plenty of noise pollution. We made the mistake of pulling off at the first fire pit rings we spotted coming in the 302 road. We had the folding chairs out, the awning unfurled, and a bit of firewood gathered in time for the noisy swarms to begin buzzing the camp. We aren't talking mosquitoes here, folks. These were big mechanical birds that give environmentalists fits: scenic helicopter flights. Apparently those first tempting campsites are right on the main flight line. We managed the noise for a little over an hour, hoping it might shift. It didn't, so we did.
Follow that main forest service road north, then follow it more as it bends east, and keep your eyes peeled. You'll find a variety of little pull-out spots heading off into the woods and meadows that make up this part of the
. We found
ourselves seven miles east of Tusayan, in some of the quietest country we've
landed in for a long time. Yes, a few vehicles run up and down the road, but
compared to most places, it's like paradise restored. Kaibab
We did find we had to take a little caution with the local wildlife. Our traveling houseplants were soon off the rig and out in the sun. Our hanging flower pots were in a famous place -- hanging off the roof access ladder. And my favorite pot of "Hen and Chicks" were soon installed on the ground under the hanging pots, all the better to catch the excess "runoff" water. But by Day Two, our little bit of paradise was likewise discovered by a wayward squirrel -- who discovered a whole new world of flavor in those succulent "Hen and Chicks." The Wife Unit thought the little marauding rodent was a gas as he selectively picked his way through my baby greens, but Mr. Squirrel was soon thwarted when the Hen and Chick family was relocated to the hood of the truck.
There are months of wonderful camping weather just ahead of us. Just be sure you keep your potted peonies secured from rodent rage!