If you’re looking to go for an escape where you can sit under the shade of trees, look over breathtaking views, and hear birds chirp on the crack of dawn, you’ll absolutely love camping out in Arizona. And just like many other states, Arizona has plenty of places that you can get away to for camping. And no, it won’t just be camping in the desert!
There are probably way too many beautiful places to list for camping and if you’re searching around, you’ll find plenty of options, but I decided to help you narrow down some of the options and share my experiences of the places I’ve camped in around my beautiful state.
If you’re a beginner in camping and unsure what to pack along with you, don’t forget to check out my guide to a beginner’s equipment for camping!
1. Mogollon Rim, Payson: If you’re looking to camp out by a forest with cliff views
Located on the eastside of Arizona and close to the border of New Mexico, you’ll be enchanted when you see the Mogollon Rim, a geological feature that cuts across northern Arizona and connects with the Colorado Plateau. The views my friends and I camped out by are breathtaking as we got to camp so close off the edges of the cliffs along the rim and over the cliffs, you can see all the ponderosa pines and mountains that appear like layers in certain lighting (blue hour is the best). The elevation you’ll be on is about 7,000+ feet.
We camped out at Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. There are many camping grounds to find in this national forest and many of them do not require a paid permit to camp out here. However, there are also not any amenities to be found so you’ll be roughing it and having to create your own fires. I recommend if you want to check out a lake nearby, you should go to Willow Springs Lake, it is completely swimmable in the summer and you can also choose to bring your own kayaks or tubes.
Watch me camp here!
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2. Mount Lemmon, Tucson: If you’re looking to camp by a lake in higher elevation
Tucson is located in the south of Arizona. There are so many places to check out in Tucson and many of them are desert sceneries, but there are also forests to find in higher elevations as my friends and I camped in.
We chose a campground among the Santa Catalina Mountains in Mount Lemmon and it is the Rose Canyon Campground, and the elevation will be around 9,000+ feet high. Check out the Rose Canyon lake because there are hiking trails near it and fishing you can do. On the way there, you should not miss out on the scenic drive through a scenic road called Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, a highway full of hoodoos and scenic look outs.
3. Flagstaff: If you’re looking to camp among forests with cooler weather
Flagstaff is a perfect destination for camping, although it gets really cold there during early fall months through winter. You can find free campsites in Flagstaff here. In Flagstaff, you can choose to camp along the pines and see views of the San Francisco Peaks or other mountains nearby. You will be rewarded with the best night sky to stargaze among the big bright stars and Milky Way — yes, the same sky setting where the planet Pluto was discovered.
Although I haven’t camped in Flagstaff yet, I did camp very close to it in a city called Parks, where it’s only about half an hour difference from Flagstaff and it shares the same views you’ll find in Flagstaff. I camped in Parks recently as part of an event set up by my church so we can hear church leaders speak out and this only occurs at least twice a year. It’s also the first camping trip I’ve done affiliated with a religious church organization and I loved it as I got to spend time with friends and church fellows. It was more organized in terms of having porta potties and tables there, and where we camped was a specific area most likely rented by my church in Parks.
Pro tip: The temperatures can really drop at night like 30 degrees in just around October, so you need to LAYER up and bring as many blankets as you can and bring winter attire. The trick is to bring camping gear that can withstand colder climates.
4. Skyline Regional Park: If you’re looking to camp and hike in the desert
The first time I’ve ever camped out in Arizona, back in 2019, was at Skyline Regional Park. Luckily I had met friends who were into camping that got me more involved in camping and this place was not far off from where we all lived at. Among the White Tank Mountains, Skyline Regional Park is a perfect escape to the desert if you really want to be immersed among Saguaro cacti and the dry climate.
You do need to rent out a campsite here to camp and it is $20 per night. There are picnic tables and grills here too so you can do a cookout and near the campsites are hiking trails, plenty of them here and I see myself returning to hike here often.
At night, you can really see the stars. You can read my story here of how we experienced that night of camping here where we literally slept under the stars!
5. Sedona: If you’re looking to camp among red rocks
Although I personally haven’t camped out here yet (I will update this post when that changes!), I’ve heard from plenty of people who have camped here and loved it. Sedona is one of the best cities you’ll ever want to visit when you are in Arizona, so it’s no mistake to put this onto your list of camp spots. You will be guaranteed to be surrounded by red rocks and soil and trees.
There are a few campsites where you can camp for free in Sedona: Loybutte Road, Pumphouse Wash, Angel Valley Road, Edge of the World, Schnebly Road near Munds Park. As for paid spots to camp in Sedona, try Manzanita Campground, Cave Springs Campground, and Pine Flat Campground.
6. Other phenomenal places for camping in Arizona
Other places I have to list for camping but did not mention above are:
- Lost Dutchman State Park – There are 134 sites in their park campground (some with hookups for RVs) and you will be nestled along the glorious Superstition Mountains.
- Grand Canyon National Park – Of course, the Grand Canyon will probably be the most majestic camping spot on this whole list because it is indeed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. You will be surrounded by the towering canyons and probably get glimpses of the Colorado River.
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – Although famously known for having the Horseshoe Bend, this area has so many spots that are just worth seeing, even for a day trip, but camping here will be better. There are red rock formations and soil, man made lakes and canyons to find in this area so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play among the sun, water, and dirt.