What To Do: When the campground is full.

Posted by Grace Haag on

So imagine you are on this awesome Great American Road Trip where you haven't made any reservations.  You want to live wild and free and not have to worry about being tied to a strict schedule....and you looked online and saw all of the campgrounds in the major parks were full.  You read in several places there are often first-come spots available so you'll try your luck and figure it out.  And then you arrive and there aren't any spots. Anywhere...You begin to panic just a little.

Has this happened to you? Because this was our story this summer when we arrived at Grand Canyon.  All of the campgrounds within the park were full and we headed out of the park 5 miles into Tusayan to TenX Campground in the Kaibab National Forest...which was also full.  We pulled up and arrived to a "Good News/Bad News" type of sign. "No Vacancy. Free Camping is located..." so that's what we did and it was one of our favorite camping experiences of our trip.

What to do when the campground is full

I read about Dispersed Camping while researching the trip so I had it in my back pocket "just in case" we needed it.  Luckily the folks at TenX made it easier for us to locate spots within the Kaibab National Forest.  Dispersed Camping is just camping without the campground and all its amenities.  Most National Forests allow it (some require permits though) anywhere within the park.  We found a spot on Forest Road 302, less than a mile away from the main drag in Tusayan and 5 miles from the Grand Canyon National Park entrance.  All of the spots were numbered and we noticed there were established fire rings too (although it fires weren't allowed due to the high winds during our stay)  Our spot was secluded and private and quiet...and we drove by elk each time we left for Grand Canyon National Park!

Pros & Cons of Dispersed Camping:
Pros: FREE, private, secluded, primitive, quiet, spacious
Cons: Primative- no showers, no water, no bathrooms, no trash bins

I realize those cons might be deal breakers for some of you...but keep an open and explore your options to solve the hygene issue.  Keep in mind if you are nearby the National Park- you can use their Pay Showers and bathrooms and refill water containers too.

Tips for Dispersed Camping:

  • Research Ahead of time for places to camp and regulations- every forest has different rules.
  • Check FreeCampsites.net to read reviews of existing sites near where you want to go.
  • Stop at the Forest Service Ranger/Info station to get a map and find out about any restrictions and closed areas.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • Take a camp stove incase you fires aren't allowed.

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