We spent the last week of March visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s truly an amazing location that draws tourists in the millions for good reason. To see the canyon is to witness the incredibly formative and enduring power of nature.
Unfortunately, visiting Grand Canyon National Park was also 160 miles of additional driving off of our planned route across I-40, meaning additional gas costs for the extra trip. So, we knew we’d have to be careful about expenses in order not to bust our travel budget for the month. Fortunately there were some great camping options that enabled us to visit the Grand Canyon without putting too large of dent in our wallet.
The south rim of the Grand Canyon is surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest – a rugged landscape filled with fir, spruce, pine, juniper and even some aspen. There are a number of forest service roads accessible from highway 64 that allow for free dispersed camping within 10 miles of the actual park itself. After a bit of scouting, we opted for road 302, where we found a beautiful camping spot tucked in among the trees, and only about 1 mile away from the tourist town of Tusayan.
It definitely felt like we hit the free camping jackpot – a scenic, private site with a fast 4G internet connection, and ample sunlight for our solar panels! And we were only a short 1 mile walk away from town, meaning we could camp in the woods and still trek into town for groceries as needed. Seriously, what could be better?
After a few days of sun and daytime temps in the mid 60’s, the weather took a chilly turn with about an inch of snow coming down over the weekend. We weathered the cold thanks to our propane heater which performed like a champ. (An honorable mention goes to our down comforter for stepping up to the plate to keep us toasty at night despite the 20 degree temps!)
Biking The Rim
Rather than take the bus to the Visitor’s Center, we opted to bike along the Arizona Trail, which picked up in Tusayan. We were expecting a more rustic trail, but were delighted to find a paved, well maintained, and fairly easy bike path that ran all the way into the park itself! From there, we followed the South Rim bike trail, which was an awesome experience and gave us an opportunity to check out a few different vantage points.
In addition to biking along the rim, we also made time to do a short hike down the South Kaibab Trail. As incredible as it is to see the canyon from the rim, walking along its trails gives you a whole new appreciation the landscape (and the park service employees who built these crazy trails)!