Technically no. But to date, and to our knowledge, there are no official rules prohibiting it.
There are no camping facilities. No water source. No electric. No artificial lights. For the most part no room to place things like tents, cots, chairs, or sleeping bags, unless you don’t care about pissing people off.
It can be noisy.
Hotter than blazes during the summer months. Many complain it is noisy throughout the night. Cold nights during the cooler months.
There is only a pit toilet near the trailhead.
The parking area fills and people start parking along both sides of the narrow road.
Some self centered people think it is OK to park, then set up chairs or sleeping bags in the parking space next to them. They are actually posting it on social media as the way to start the trip. Come on people…that is not OK to be fair to others. This is the kind of behavior that ends up creating conflicts, rules, and restrictions.
There are often not enough parking places to go around just for vehicles. Starting in 2018 it appears they are upping the headcount allowed to visit on a given day. So parking will become even a bigger hassle.
The reservations in recent years have been completely sold out. The parking lot overflows as it is. If you are inconsiderate enough to take extra parking spots to set up sleeping space or gear, and say “to H&LL” with others. Be prepared to deal with belligerent people trying to find a parking space. This is a good way to put yourself in a bad situation with escalating conflicts.
Some people are silent complainers. You might win a face to face confrontation. But this is the kind of stuff that gets your vehicle messed up once you hike away from it.
That doesn’t even count the chance of getting run over/backed over accidentally in the dark if camping on the pavement. We are all here to enjoy this area. Be courteous and think of others. Don’t cause a situation. None of us are here for a negative experience. Plan better and please do not subscribe to, or promote this type of thinking.
Sleeping in a Van and Truck is certainly more doable. Depending on the season of course. Even then this area is my last choice for sleeping accommodations. I have slept in my van once in the parking area. There are way better options for a more enjoyable adventure.
In some cases you might be able to park along and off the side of the road and stretch out between your vehicle and the guard rail….or your vehicle and the canyon wall on the other side. Or the other side of the guard rail. But there are hazards we will mention below, in that scenario too.
Once you get there, and see the situation, most have the same recommendation we have. Check Google Earth to appreciate the recommendation not to sleep here, given just the terrain.
On the rising canyon side, there is a concern about falling rocks. Bad enough a rock may land on your vehicle. Worse if you are out in the open and one lands on you.
On the dropping canyon side…falling kids, if you have them along.
On the dropping canyon side there is often not even enough room to park a vehicle off the pavement.
Below is a photo off Google earth to indicate what I am referring to.
Click LINK to Activate Google Maps for the Hilltop Trail Head Parking Area
Sleeping in this area is a tough way to start out this trip, if you are tired.
During, Spring, Fall, Winter, at least the heat won’t be much of a factor. More likely the cold will creep in on you. Ideally, if this is your option for an early start, you have a van or can sleep in the back of a PU Truck.
There are Hotels and Camping about an hour, to an hour and a half, before the intersection of RT#66 and IR#18. Check Peach Springs Arizona, Seligman Arizona, and Grand Canyon Caverns Campgrounds that also has lodging.
Many people opt for these…and they fill up too. So reserve early. Then get up and on the road right as it begins to get light. (Before actual sunrise) Make this last hour or so of the drive and arrive just before or around full light.
The switchbacks will remain in shadow and be the coolest of the day for about 2 hours. You should have no problem making it down the switchbacks before the sun gets high enough to shine on you.
Don’t travel that last 60 mile stretch of road in the dark. It is “open range”. Lots of dark cattle, elk, deer, etc. The road is desolate and no lights. Failing to heed this warning might very well result in a very damaged vehicle or something worse. Don’t be in that big of a hurry,
Though I have never personally had issues with vehicle break-ins, from time to time there are reports this occurs. Be it a local or some tourist, I have never heard. But this is like any other parking lot situation. Do not leave valuables in your car. Things you do leave behind stash out of sight, preferably locked in the trunk.