During our visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in July 2023, we chose to camp at Mather Campground, conveniently located within Grand Canyon Village. Camping in the desert in July may seem unconventional, but thanks to the Grand Canyon’s elevation of 7,000 feet, the nights were pleasantly cooler. Our trusty camp fan came to our rescue during the warm days. Over four nights, we immersed ourselves in this natural wonder, dedicating three full days to hiking, taking in awe-inspiring vistas, and savoring the spacious campground.
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Mather Campground is a hidden gem, offering an affordable rate of just $18 per night. Our campsite was exceptionally spacious, accommodating up to 3-4 tents with ease. One of the perks of staying in a National Park is the increased chance of wildlife encounters, and Mather Campground did not disappoint. On our first night, Michael excitedly woke me at 1 AM to witness a herd of elk, including an adorable baby, right outside our tent. This delightful herd graced our campsite multiple times daily throughout our stay. While we maintained a safe distance, not all visitors did the same. Slightly removed from the bustling Grand Canyon Village, Mather Campground provided easy access to our desired activities, whether on foot, by vehicle, or utilizing the park’s shuttle service. We have one minor complaint about Mather Campground: the shower situation. I accept part of the responsibility for this oversight, but it’s worth noting that the National Park Service didn’t clearly advertise the showers as fee-based. Although we’ve camped at various other NPS sites with different shower arrangements, transparency during booking would have been appreciated.
Now, let’s delve into our exciting three-day adventure at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, which proved to be the perfect duration for our family.
Day 1: Sunrise Hike and Rim Trail
Our adventure began early on our first morning as we rose before dawn to witness the breathtaking sunrise at Shoshone Point. This less-traveled sunrise spot (we had it entirely to ourselves) rewarded our early wake-up call with an unforgettable experience. The two-mile round-trip trail to Shoshone Point is flat and undemanding, featuring a lovely picnic area at the viewpoint. While it might be a popular spot during daylight hours, it’s an ideal choice for those seeking a peaceful sunrise.
Following our sunrise expedition, we returned to our campsite for a hearty breakfast and coffee before embarking on further explorations. Conveniently, we could walk from our campsite to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Mather Point, where we began our journey along the Rim Trail. While the complete Rim Trail spans almost 13 miles, we opted for a more manageable three-mile stretch, from Mather Point to Bright Angel Lodge. Along the way, we explored various gift shops and enjoyed the numerous viewpoints that the Rim Trail offered. This segment of the Rim Trail is entirely paved, making it accessible for all, and we utilized our MacSports Wagon for transporting our essentials. Every viewpoint along the Rim Trail offers stunning vistas, making it a must-visit for those with limited time or physical capabilities.
Day 2: South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge
On our second day at Grand Canyon National Park, we embarked on our first rim-to-river hike via the South Kaibab Trail. This trail is one of several that leads hikers to the Colorado River, though it was not our intention to complete the entire descent with a toddler in tow. Instead, we hiked to Cedar Ridge, a moderate three-mile round-trip hike that also passes the renowned Ooh Ahh Point. We began our hike at 5:30 AM, completing it in approximately three hours. Along the way, we relished the stunning views below the canyon’s rim, which are nothing short of extraordinary.
Day 3: Bright Angel Trail to 3 Mile Rest House
Hiking the celebrated Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park provides a unique opportunity to traverse the canyon’s depths. This trail left such a lasting impression on us that we dedicated an entire blog post to it. While the full rim-to-rim journey is demanding, there are shorter alternatives like our hike to the 3 Mile Rest House. This trail offers captivating views of concealed rock layers, and we encourage you to take your time and savor them. Starting from the South Rim Trailhead, we reached the 1.5 Mile Rest House, which offers rest stops and water refills, before proceeding to the 3 Mile Rest House. This summer hike necessitates careful preparation, with sufficient water and food being essential. Although it took us a challenging six hours to complete, we wholeheartedly endorse this trail and have the rim-to-rim hike on our bucket list – perhaps during a cooler season. Following your hike, indulge in the diverse dining options available in Grand Canyon Village to replenish your energy.
Beyond hiking, the Grand Canyon’s South Rim offers an array of activities for visitors. Bike rentals are available in Grand Canyon Village, allowing you to explore various bike trails in the area. For a taste of history, consider a ride on the historic train tour. Adventurous souls can embark on a thrilling rafting tour down the Colorado River. Regardless of your interests, abilities, or budget, the Grand Canyon promises something remarkable for every visitor.