Mather Campground is the main campground on the West Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, located right outside Grand Canyon Village. With over 300 sites, Mather is one of the biggest campgrounds we’ve been to, but it’s usually full every single night, and is open year-round. We’ve already been to Mather twice, once in the heart of winter and again in the peak of summer. This review will focus on what the campground is like in the summer, but check out the video below of our winter trip, where we stayed the first night at Mather before backpacking through the canyon (you can see this video under the TentTalk Travels page as well).
As you can see, the campground is open year round, although there are only a few loops open during the winter months. The campground sits at just a few hundred feet below 7,000ft., so prepare for biting cold and snow in the winter, with more moderate summer temperatures usually around the 70-80′s. The main attraction here is tent camping. RV’s are welcome, but there are no hookups inside the campground, although Trailer Village has them just down the road. Leashed pets are allowed, and showers are laundry are available (as well as soap for those who left theirs at home). There are a handful of group sites, which are usually used by some of the large bus tour groups, and a few communal sites, designed for bikers and backpackers to share (only available from March 1st until mid-November).
Fees are $18 per site per night, including a maximum of 2 vehicles, 6 people, and 3 tents per site (a vehicle that is towing a trailer, pop-up, tent trailer, fifth wheel, or a motor home pulling a vehicle is considered two vehicles.) Golden Age or Access passport holders pay ½ price year round, but the passport number is needed when making reservation and passport holder must be camping at the site. If you’re planning on staying from March until November, it is highly recommended you should make reservations, although with so many sites available you can usually find one without too much advance notice. During the winter months, the campground office is closed and online reservations are not available. Sites are on a first come first serve basis using the self-pay machine located at the campground office at the entrance to the campground (during the winter months, shared Hiker/biker campsites are not available).
|Mather’s Campground Map (click to enlarge)|
Like I said, this campground is massive. The park entrance is off Market Plaza Road, with the dump station and shower and laundry facilities immediately to your right. The campground office is up the road a short ways, where you will register and can find the pay phone and bulletin board. Notice that the Grand Canyon Shuttle stop is right by the entrance. The shuttle runs all across the South Rim, from Hermits Rest and the Hermit Trailhead in the west to the South Kaibab Trailhead and Yaki Point in the east. Buses operate on 4 interconnecting but independent routes, and you can find all the South Rim Shuttle information here. The Campfire Circle is hidden to the left of the road as you travel into the campground before reaching the entrance to Aspen Loop and the group sites of the Sage Loop. As the map shows, every loop has its own bathroom and water spigot, with trails connecting the loops together.
|Mather Campground entrance|
All sites are assigned, and don’t plan on changing your site when you arrive. Group sites S1, S2, S3, S6, and S7 may have up to 50 people and three vehicles, while sites S4 and S5 may have up to 25 people with two vehicles. Quiet hours are 10 pm to 6 am, and generator hours are limited to 7–9 am and 6–8 pm (generators may not be used in Pine Loop). Check in begins at noon, and check out at 11 am, but if sites are available, you can renew after 9 am. The campground is open 24/7, so you can show up at 1am and get your site registration at the ranger station, as long as you come by in the morning and check in (the park gates are open at night as well, so not a worry if you come after-hours). Stays are limited to 7 consecutive days and 30 days per calendar year. Fires are limited to camp stoves and fire rings provided at each site, and firewood can be bought at the store in the Grand Canyon Village (along with a variety of food and other supplies, like replacement string for tent poles). The Park Service recommends you store food and trash in your vehicle or hardsided containers. The Grand Canyon hosts a variety of wildlife— elk, deer, ravens, ground squirrels, and even mountain lions (when we visited, a herd of elk were wandering through the campground, and are regular visitors to the village).
In no particular order, we loved sites 18, 73, 180, 192, and 294. Numbers 9, 60, 84, 112, 125, 154, 173, 188, 189, 293, and 300 were also good looking sites. As always, we look for sites that are relatively clean, spacious, private, and overall well-designed. The only sites we really didn’t like were 163, which was really rocky, and 174, which had little shade and no privacy. Try to avoid the bottom of Aspen Loop, which backs up to the shower and laundry facilities, and if you’re going to stay in Pine Loop, the top half is better than the bottom, with all of the top sites having more shade and privacy. In our opinion, there is no preferred loop or one loop to completely avoid; most sites are nice, the entire campground is well maintained, and there are only a handful of sites that may leave you wanting.
The gallery above is from our recent trip in the Summer of 2013. Below, you can see some of the pictures from our winter trip, in December 2012.
In conclusion, Mather is simply a great campground, especially at $18 per night. Most sites are nice, the campground itself is well maintained, and there are a lot of amenities that you will love if you’re a tent camper (we’re looking at you, showers). Mather’s location is almost as great as the sites itself – with walking access to the Grand Canyon Shuttle, you can get to the most popular viewpoints, the general store and bank, and El Tovar and Bright Angel Lodges, all without needing to take your car. Because of all of these reasons, this campground is almost always full, especially from May to September. If you’re looking for a more intimate place, there are a handful of nearby National Forrest Service campgrounds outside of the park, which are often used as overflow areas during peak summer months (Mather is the only campground in Grand Canyon Village, and the other NPS campground at Desert View is over 25 miles away and doesn’t accept reservations). If you plan ahead, you should not have a problem.
You can make reservations for Mather Campground at recreation.gov, see the campground brochure here, and visit the Grand Canyon National Park Camping Page for even more info. The Grand Canyon National Park Service website is an excellent resource for any and all questions about the greater park.
Stayed at Mather already and think we missed something? Planning a trip and have a more specific question? Leave us a comment below!