From the start of our cross country trip, my husband wasn’t thrilled about the whole “camping” thing. In fact, after our first sleepless night in the tent in West Virginia, I was pretty sure we’d never set up our expensive and luxurious L.L. Bean canvas mansion again. He’s not the camping type, but I convinced him it was the only economical way to get across the country and back. Luckily, he became absorbed with building campfires and making each one better than the last, and I think this became a positive distraction from the realities of sleeping in the wilderness.
It wasn’t until we hit the Grand Canyon that my husband proclaimed that camping was the very best way to experience this beautiful natural wonder. In fact, we believe it is the only way to really see all the Grand Canyon has to offer. Literally we only skimmed the surface. We didn’t venture into the depths of the canyon itself, but camping on the rim afforded us the opportunity to sit on the edge in the early morning hours, sip our cups of coffee, and watch the sun rise in the company of the elk munching on the leaves of the trees. And that, my friends, is remarkable.
Our recommendations for viewing the magnificent Grand Canyon are simple. There are two campgrounds on the Southern Rim, one that takes reservations (Mather) and one that does not (Desert View). Mather Campground is down in Grand Canyon Village. This campground provides all the luxuries of home-a large laundry facility, showers, and even a grocery store nearby. While this may all seem tempting and preferable, skip it. Instead, drive 20 minutes east of Mather to Desert View. During your drive you may be tempted to stop several times to marvel at the scenery, but save this for after you reserve your first-come, first-serve campsite. There are no showers here, no Fluff and Fold, and no Stop and Shop, but you will see the Grand Canyon, including its wildlife, with little interruption. In the evenings, stroll over to the rim to sit on the edge and listen to the scheduled ranger talks. They are really quite interesting and open your mind to the art and culture that the Grand Canyon has inspired over time. Once the day-trippers make their way out of the park, the Grand Canyon is yours. At night, the sky is the blackest you’ve ever seen and the stars are brighter than you can imagine. In the morning, before the tourists arrive, it is just you and the elk. They get so close you can practically touch them, but we don’t advise trying to do so.
Most importantly, get up as early as possible. There is nothing more amazing than having the Grand Canyon all to yourself.
You’ll never see anything quite like it.
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