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Best Grand Canyon Lodging and Camping

From tents to luxury accommodations on the Canyon Rim, you’ll find plenty of Grand Canyon hotel options to suite your overnight needs.

 

There are dozens of options for lodging near the Grand Canyon, but because the park is enormous, staying beyond the boundaries means hours of precious vacation time-wasted driving. When we go on a Grand Canyon vacation, my family and I always opt for in-park lodging.

Be aware, though, that these accommodations are tremendously popular and fill up as much as 13 months in advance, especially during the very busy summer months, over Spring Break and during the holidays. Cancellations happen, of course, so last-minute bookings at Grand Canyon hotels are indeed possible—a few years ago I scored reservations for Thanksgiving week only a few days in advance. I felt like I had won the lottery.

Xanterra Parks and Resorts manages all South Rim accommodations, and accepts reservations by telephone and online (tel. 888-297-2757 or e-mail reserve-gcsr@xanterra.com). www.xanterra.com

Forever Resorts manages the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, and also accepts reservations by telephone and online (tel. 877-386-4383). www.grandcanyonforever.com

South Rim Lodging

South Rim hotels offer the loveliest vistas in the park, year-round accommodations and the most visitor facilities. This hub of activity is often overcrowded—but there is plenty to see and do, and a short hike will take you away from the masses.

El Tovar

This 1905 lodge, a registered National Historic Landmark, sits directly on the Canyon Rim and in the heart of Grand Canyon Village. The fashionable El Tovar offers the most luxurious accommodations in the park, and has hosted presidents and celebrities. The exterior of the lodge, built of native stone and Oregon pine, follows the lines of the canyon—so much so that when you approach from the trails below the structure is barely discernible.

Romantic interiors are elegant, and dimly lighted public spaces are rich with Native American artwork and colorful rugs. Service is gracious and understated. Recently renovated rooms offer all the modern comforts including air conditioning (a must-have in the summer), although they are somewhat small. Standard rooms are $174 to $205.

Bright Angel Lodge

Built in 1935 and designed by renowned park architect Mary Colter, the charming Bright Angel Lodge is just a few minutes’ hike from the popular Bright Angel trail. The lodge exterior is meticulously crafted of stone and rustic timbers, and as with all Colter designs (there are many in the park), the structure fits seamlessly into its surroundings. Although not fancy, lodge rooms are comfortable and clean, and some share community bathroom facilities. Note that there are no TVs in standard rooms here: Decide for yourself if that is a good thing.

The star attractions of the lodge are the Bright Angel cabins (which come equipped with full baths and TV). Opt for a rim cabin—part log, part Southwestern adobe—perched at the edge of the canyon. Still onsite is the Bucky O’Neill Cabin, the second-oldest structure in the park. Colter designed the rest of the Bright Angel cabins to cluster around this existing cabin. (I’ve been trying to rent it for more than a decade, so far with no luck). Bookings for rim cabins are hard to come by, but given the jaw-dropping views and the delightful experience of having such a comfortable shelter close to the edge, makes them well worth the effort to secure. Standard rooms are $79 to $90, cabins are from $111 to $174.

Thunderbird Lodge

Directly on the South Rim, tucked between the more evocative El Tovar and the prettier Bright Angel Lodge, the Thunderbird Lodge offers contemporary styling—but frankly, the exterior of this complex looks like an office park to me. Although the charm is lacking, rooms offer plenty of space for families and come well equipped with a fridge to keep drinks cool (very welcome after summer hikes), in-room safes and large bathrooms. Some rooms have views of the canyon, but again, these cannot be guaranteed at booking. Standard rooms are $170 to $180.

Kachina Lodge

Overlooking the South Rim and close to everything in the Grand Canyon Village, the contemporary accommodations at the Kachina Lodge have a motel feel—think 1970s design, inside and out. The views from the lodge can be impressive—although only about half boast canyon views, and sadly, these cannot be guaranteed at booking. Standard rooms are $170 to $180.

Maswik Lodge

Since the Maswik Lodge is a quarter mile from the Rim—and the accompanying crowds—accommodations here tend to be quieter than options closer to the canyon. The lodge grounds are thick with Ponderosa pines, and the well-maintained lawns attract abundant mule deer at sunrise and dusk. Rooms are light and airy, with southwestern décor. Basic, but lovely, small cabins are also available in the summer. Standard rooms are $90 to $170; cabins start at $90.

Yavapai Lodge

Located a mile from the heart of Grand Canyon Village and a half mile from the South Rim, the Yavapai Lodge is somewhat isolated—which can be a good thing in the thick of the summer crowds. This huge motel facility is located in a nicely wooded landscape and is your best bet for securing last-minute accommodations. Note: Around half the rooms do not offer air conditioning (and the ceiling fans provided in their stead are rather useless in the dry Arizona heat). Standard rooms are $107 to $153.

Next: North Rim Lodging

North Rim Lodging

Grand Canyon Lodge

This is the only in-park Grand Canyon lodging on the remote North Rim, and because of the higher altitude (and more treacherous weather), is available only from mid-May through early October. The impressive lobby has soaring, 50-foot ceilings, and just beyond, the light-flooded octagonal Sun Room has enormous picture windows that look out onto pristine wilderness. The Grand Canyon Lodge offers a number of accommodation choices, including basic motel rooms and several types of cabins, some with nice vistas. Beware the pioneer cabins, which are the epitome of rustic: When my husband and I stayed here a few years ago, our room was infested with red ants, and we took cold showers every evening—not by choice. [At press time, the cabins were in the midst of a renovation.]  

Canyon Interior

Phantom Ranch

This outpost of civilization on the floor of the canyon, just north of the Colorado River and nestled alongside Bright Angel Creek, is the only lodging available inside the canyon. Designed by Colter in 1922, the main lodge and rustic cabins are constructed of native stone and wood, and are nestled within a small grove of trees and shrubs. The Phantom Ranch is accessible only via an 8-mile hike, mule ride or river raft, and reservations here are highly coveted.

Guests in the main lodge bunk in dormitory-style rooms segregated by sex—there are no private rooms available. Shared cabins are reserved for guests who have booked overnight mule trips. [Read more about Grand Canyon tours.] Reservations are taken 13 months in advance, and this planning is absolutely necessary during spring, summer and traditional holidays. If you are hiking in but don’t want to carry a load, for $64 one way (30-pound limit) the ranch will haul your gear via mule train from the South Rim. Dorm room is $41 per person.

Next: Grand Canyon Campgrounds

Camping Throughout the Park

There are a few conveniently located campgrounds in the park, and these represent real bargains. Expect to pay between $10 and $25 per site, depending on facilities. It is vital that you secure a reservation for Grand Canyon park campgrounds a few months in advance if you plan to visit during spring and summer, because walk-in reservations are extremely difficult to obtain.

Mather Campground

The Mather Campground on the South Rim allows tents and RVs, but there are no hookups for the latter. You’ll find coin-operated showers and indoor plumbing onsite. Tel. 928-638-7851.

North Rim Campground

On the North Rim, this small campground allows tents and RVs, but there are no hookups. The North Rim Campground facility offers coin-operated showers, a Laundromat, and a store that sells basic provisions (including ice) close by. Open seasonally from mid-May to mid-October. Tel. 800-365-2267.

Trailer Village

Linked to the heart of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim via a free shuttle service, this campground is prettier than the name implies, with large trees and shrubs separating many of the commodious RV sites. Full hookups are available at the Trailer Village. The area is overrun with deer and ground squirrels, so do not leave food outside! Tel. 303-297-2757. 


Destinations: Grand Canyon National Park

Themes: Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Sleep


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