When? November 2017, 2 nights
Who? Two twenty-somethings not really knowing what they were getting themselves into…
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The Booking Process
We were both excited at the prospect of staying inside a National Park, and waking up and being able to get straight into exploring seemed perfect!
With the vehicle we had, we were welcome to stay in tent-only or RV sites. This was fortunate as Mather Campground does not allow RV’s, so we happily fit into a tent space.
Mather Campground is a strange combination of primitive campsite meets modern technology. The booking process was very clear, as was the Grand Canyon National Park accommodation website in general. You got to pick exactly which spot in the campsite you would like, and where this was in relation to the check-in desk, toilets and showers etc. This was great as we preferred to stay near the toilets and this was really simple to do on the website.
It’s worth mentioning again that there are no RV hookups at Mather Campground. At the time of year we visited, very few campsites were open on the South Rim. We would have preferred to have an RV hookup so we could plug in our heater, but we were prepared to overlook this as we were keen to stay in the park (and we definitely did not realise what desert night-time temperatures were like at this point…)
The toilet and shower blocks were very standard for camping – clean but fairly cold and a very ‘outdoory’ feel.
Wifi is also not available on this campsite – being in the 21st century it’s becoming the norm to have wifi literally everywhere, but there is definitely something very natural and peaceful about not having any electricity or wifi for a couple of nights!
If we had one recommendation, it would be to check out the evening temperatures for wherever you plan to stay. One night we were there it got down to -5°C (23°F), and I am (mostly) not ashamed to admit we cheated and put the car heater on at about 1 AM. I accept 100% responsibility for not checking this beforehand, but I would not like to wish this kind of temperature on a future unprepared visitor!
Staying In a National Park
Despite the weather and lack of hot tub (seriously, American campsites are awesome), I was still right in thinking it would be really cool to wake up in a National Park. The Grand Canyon National Park runs a shuttle bus service which picks up and drops off outside of the campsite, and takes you to most areas of the park. This is ideal as the buses set off before sunset and drop off until after sunset, giving the perfect opportunity for those must-see views.
Knowing you’re already in the action as soon as you wake up is a unique experience that I can’t help but recommend. Do your research on temperatures, and this will be an experience you won’t forget. Deer are not a rare sight and it reminds you that even in a place as well-known as the Grand Canyon, nature is – rightly so – still and always will be at the heart of American National Parks.