Accommodations inside or around the Grand Canyon are really ridiculously expensive. But, if you’ve got the money, there’s no problem, of course. And also, good luck getting a vacancy. You have to book a room with a view (or even without a view) months before you’re visiting. There are many parking spaces everywhere, so, that would be the least of your problem.
The cheapest way to stay there? Go camping at the Grand canyon! You can see the stars at night and make a bonfire!
I went camping at the Grand Canyon (South Rim) for three nights and four days. And here’s what you’ve got to do when you’re planning to do it on your own or with your friends.
1. Book a campground
Go to www.recreation.gov. Search Mather Campground, the nearest and most accessible to shuttle buses in the South Rim part of the canyon.
Enter the dates you are planning to go camping and choose from the available camp sites. Download or open the map of Mather Campground and search the site number which you are interested in. The nearer it is to the entrance / office, the better. I had 266A which is not a bad location. It’s less than 10 minutes walk to the entrance and bus stop. The toilet and the water pump is just few meters away, too.
Mather Campground is also 5-7 minutes walk to the General Store or Village Market/Plaza. It’s very convenient, really. For backpackers like me ( who doesn’t drive), make sure you’re near the entrance because it’s a long walk to the shower/laundry room if you’re not.
Book ahead to get the perfect spot you want. Fee: 18/night (as of April 2015)
Check in is at 12:00 noon. Check out is at 11:00 A.M.
2. Reserve your camping equipment / camping gear
If you don’t want to bring your own, camping equipment can be rented out at the General Store / Village Market. You need to call them at +1 928 638 2262. They don’t have email contact.
As of April 2015, these are the prices:
There’s a deposit for each item. They will imprint your credit card but will only charge it when there are damages to the items you rented.
3. The General Store has everything
Camping at the Grand Canyon is easier because of the General Store. It is within the village and you don’t have to worry a bit. This is a one-stop shop for all things you need inside the Grand Canyon Village. They sell groceries, camping bags/ gears, souvenirs, wines / beers, cigarettes, frozen food, wood for bonfire, arts and crafts, etc. they also have a cafe that serves mostly sandwiches, pizza and burgers. And they have Starbucks products, too!
In April, it opens at 8 in the morning and closes at 8 pm. So, if you’re planning to watch the sunrise very early in the morning and go hiking after that (because you only have limited time at the Canyon), make sure you buy something to eat and drink for your hike a night before that.
There’s Chase Bank ATM and pay phones outside the building. A huge parking lot is in front of the store.
It’s also here where you can rent your camping gear.
And of course, there are two bus stops here: one goes Eastbound and the other Westbound.
4. Public Transport to the Grand Canyon
Phoenix to Flagstaff – Take a greyhound bus. It’s way cheaper than Arizona Shuttle.
Phoenix to Sedona – Only Arizona Shuttle services this route. (Back and forth)
Sedona to Flagstaff – Only Arizona Shuttle services this route. (Back and forth)
Flagstaff to Grand Canyon (South Rim) – Only Arizona Shuttle services this route. (Back and forth)
Oh, there’s a train that goes from Williams to Grand Canyon and vice versa but it’s not budget traveler-friendly. So, forget about it.
5. Hostel near the Grand Canyon
if you don’t want to go camping at the Grand Canyon, your other option would be staying at the nearest hostel.
The nearest hostel is the Grand Canyon International Hostel at Flagstaff. It’s an interesting, tiny city but historical. Route 66 actually divides the city’s North and South directions. You can’t skip Flagstaff if you’re on your way to the Grand Canyon. Backpackers, at least, stay here for a night.
Another hostel in Flagstaff (few meters from the one above) is Du Beau Motel/Hostel. This is one of the original motels along Route 66 in the city.
Both hostels are few steps away from the Amtrak station where Arizona Shuttle bus and Greyhound Bus drops off and picks up passengers.
They are very convenient walk to Route 66, old town, pubs/bars and restaurants, too.
And oh, it’s also a 15-minute hike to Lowell Observatory where Planet Pluto was discovered. Yes, I know, it’s not a planet anymore.
Enjoy your stay at the Grand Canyon. Just don’t dare yourself taking a selfie on the dangerous edges of the rims. One false step could be your farewell walk to the world.