10 Best Places to Camp & Hike in Arizona

 

What could be better than a trip where you camp and go hiking?  I can’t think of anything better!  In Arizona, there are hundreds of places to go camping and hiking so the decision on where to go can be a bit overwhelming.  I have compiled the 10 Best Places to Camp and Hike in Arizona to make your research easier and to save you time.  These are divided into 5 areas throughout AZ- with two camping & hiking spots in each one.  Whether you live in AZ or are visiting, you will be sure to find the perfect spot to go!

As I’ve mentioned in a few other articles, there are so many places to go camping on BLM Land, National Forests, and the Wilderness Areas.   My focus was on the places where you get the benefit of camping and hiking.  There are fees associated with some of these campsites- and there are some that are free.

>>>>>Please visit this article if you want to read about all the places in AZ that do not charge a campground Fee.<<<<<

 

Canyon Country

Virgin River Campsite

The Canyon Country includes the Southwestern section of the Colorado Plateau- a place with deep canyons and high plateaus.  This area includes the north and side of the Grand Canyon, and the mountain country around Flagstaff, Williams, and the edge of the Wester Mogollon Rim.

The Virgin River Campsite is at an elevation of 1900 ft and is located in the Virgin River Gorge between the Beaver Dam and Virgin Mountains.  It is open year round, there are 75 sites (Tent & RV) and no hook ups.

The nearest trail is the aptly named, Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area Trail.  A short easy 1.1 hike that you can take your little ones on.  Dogs are allowed on this trail as well.  You have great views of the river…..and when it’s hot easy access to the water to play along the way..

Managed by the Bureau of Land Management: 435-688-3200

 

Lockett Meadow Campsite      

This beautiful and very popular campsite is in an aspen grove at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks Valley.  Many people do not know that the Peaks are actually remains of an extinct volcano. During the  spring and summer you will see blue, red and yellow wild flowers dotting the peaceful scene. The Fall is the best time to see the golden leaves of the aspen, which cover the steep slopes of the caldera.

Sitting at an elevation of 8600 feet, this campsite is open May-October (gets snow at this higher elevation), there are 17 sites, a 14 Day stay limit and is on a first come first serve basis.

From the Lockett Meadow campsite, you can begin your hike on the Inner Basin Trail #29 .  Trail #29 connects to the Weatherford Trail in 3.9 miles and then leads into the Inner Basin on the eastern slopes of the San Francisco Peaks. Some of these trails are open to Mountain Bikers as well.

For more information, please call Coconino National Forest (928) 526-0866 or visit the National Forest website.

 

Indian Country

 

This country is the home of the Navajo Nation- which is the largest Native American reservation in the U.S.  Many Navajo still live as herders of sheep, goats, cattle and horses.  Navajo families live in modern houses, but there are some that still live in traditional mud and wood hogans.  The plateau is home to the Hopi Tribe and the town, Old Oraibi is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in North America.

 Cottonwood Campsite

Located near Chinle, at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  Perfect campground for exploring Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly, these two amazing canyons make up the national monument.  The campsite in Cottonwood is at an elevation of 5,500 ft ,  open year round, has 104 tent/RV sites, no hook ups, and has a stay limit of 14 days.  Must make a reservation for groups..

You can walk along a paved road that follows the rim or explore the bottom of the canyon with a Navajo Guide.   The White House Ruin Trail is an out and back 2.7 mile trail that gets a moderate amount of traffic.  This scenic trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and can be accessible year-round.

The trail descends almost 600 feet down the cliffs on the south side of Canyon de Chelly, crosses the seasonal Chinle Wash and ends at a famous ancient dwelling in the monument.  A two-level structure with one part on the valley floor and the other 50 feet up in an alcove. An average round trip could take you between 1 to 2 hours, and the path is wide, well-used and not too steep.

The National Park Service and Navajo Nation are actively working together to manage park resources.  For more information, contact Canyon de Chelly National Monument, (928) 674-5510 or visit the National Park Service Website

 

Homolovi Ruins Campsite

The Homolovi Ruins State Park is located  in what is known as the Painted Desert . You will be astounded by the beauty of the gently rolling hills where pastel colors of shale and sandstone rocks catch the early morning light.  Other attractions nearby include the Meteor Crater (best preserved impact crater on earth) and the Petrified Forest National Park.

Elevation of 4850 ft, open year round, 53 tent/RV sites, RV Dump and a stay limit of 14 days.

These are the 3 trails located in the Park.  These are very easy – so this would be a great outing to do with your family if you have little ones.

Nasungvö: The name means “Place of Rest” in the Hopi language. 1.2 miles primitive hike across high prairie grasslands. This trail goes from the campground to the visitor center.

Tsu’vö: The name means “Path of the Rattlesnake” in Hopi. It is a ½ mile loop trail between the twin buttes within the park. This is a nature and archaeological trail where you can see milling stone areas and petroglyphs.

Diné: This 1½ mile trail goes to Diné Point and connects with the other two trails. Diné Point shows a scenic view of the park.

For more information, contact the Homolovi Ruins State Park, (928) 289-4106 or visit their website

 

River Country

The river country is comprised of campgrounds that are along the Colorado River.  The lakes that have been developed as a result of the dam include Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Lake Havasu, and Imperial Reservoir.  At all of these lakes, you can participate in a variety of water recreation.  There are also several national wildlife refuges along this river.

Hualapai Mountain Park

This campsite is located 13 miles south of Kingman in the rugged Hualapai Mountains (6200 ft). Relax in the pine tree forest surrounded by the Mohave Desert.  You can camp here year round, there are 81 sites (Tent/RV)-Hook ups are available, and there is a 14 day stay limit.

From this campsite, the best trail to take is the popular Hualapai Mountain Trail.   The summit Hualapai Peak, is a well-known hiker’s destination and is the highest point in Mohave County.  You can easily see the peak and range from all directions;  there is nearly 6,000 feet of vertical difference between the summit and the desert plains below.

For more information, call the Hualapai Mountain Park:  (928) 757-3859

Katherine Landing  Campsite      

This campground is located 34 miles west of Kingman along the shores of the 67 mile long Lake Mohave. Popular recreation includes boating, water sports and fishing.

Campsite:  Elevation 700 ft, open year round, 173 sites (tent/RV), water, RV Dump , no hook ups, and a 30 day stay limit.

Fisherman’s Hike and Lake View Hike are two trails that are not far from this campground.  On the Fisherman’s Hike you can see where prospectors dug searching for valuable ore deposits.  The Lake View Hike will take you to a lagoon for bird watching.

For more information about Katherine Landing, call the Lake Mead national Recreation Area, (702) 293-8990 or visit the National Park Website.

 

High Country

The high country is a campers and hikers paradise!  The land is extremely varied- it ranges from two vertical miles of elevation; ranging from  2,000 ft in the Sonoran Desert to 11,403 ft at the foot of Mount Baldy in the White Mountains.  This remarkable country includes the Mogollon Rim around Payson, central Mogollon Rim around Show Low, and the Tonto, Coconino, and Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.  The White Mountain and San Carlos Apache Tribes manage a portion of the land south of the central Mogollon Rim. Pristine lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, fishing and paddling.  The Salt River Canyon is one of the top white water rivers in the State.

Ponderosa Campsite

The Ponderosa campsite is located 12 miles northeast of Payson, below the Mogollon Rim.  5600 ft Elevation, available year round, 61 Tent/RV sites, RV Dump, no hookups, and 14 day stay limit. Group camping is available so this would be a great spot for retreats or family reunions.  From the campground, you can take a self guided nature trail.  For a more challenging hike, there is the nearby Hellsgate Wilderness and the Highline National Recreation Trail.

For more information, contact the Tonto National Forest:  (928) 474-7900 or visit the National Forest website

 

Blue Ridge Campsite

Blue Ridge campground is located 60 miles southeast of Flagstaff on the Mogollon Plateau.  The elevation is 7300 ft and the campground is open May-Sept. There are 10 Tent/RV Sites (up to 22 ft), no hook ups and 14 day stay limit.  Set up camp among the pine forests- explore the plateau, canyons and streams.

For the hikers in your group, the Arizona Trail Passage 27 runs right through the campsite. This trail goes from Utah to Mexico (which of course you won’t be doing while camping).  For an excellent route description, visit AZ Trail.

For more information, contact the Coconino National Forest, (928) 477-2255 or visit the National Forest website.

Old West Country      

This area is known for the Old West Country due to it’s Western Heritage; the history started with the Native Americans who called this place home. When Southern Arizona became a part of the US over 150 years ago, cowboys and ranchers moved into the area who were attracted to the rich grasslands.  The sky islands of the Coronado National Forest have a diverse and unique mix of animal plants and species.  You can play and participate in a wide range of outdoor activities; rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, and hiking to name a few.

Twin Peaks Campsite

Twin Peaks is located 130 miles of Tucson in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; a unique area of the Sonoran Desert.  At an elevation of 1800 ft, this campground is open year round, has 208 tent/RV sites (up to 35 ft), no hookups,  RV Dump, heated showers, and a 14 day stay limit.

From your campsite, you can hike the Twin Peaks (aka Gadsden Peak) within a 2 hour time frame.

For more information, contact Organ Pipe National Monument, (520) 387-6849 or visit their website.

Rose Canyon Campsite

Located 16 miles northeast of Tucson in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  At an elevation of 7200 ft, this is one of the largest mountain campgrounds in this area that provide a retreat from the heat. You can go fishing at Rose Canyon Lake.  This is a popular place during the summer and fills up quickly.  The campground is open Apr- Oct, 72 Tent/RV sites (up to 22 ft), no hook ups and 14 day stay limit.

There is a 1 mile trail that goes around Rose Canyon Lake; you can access this trail  from the lower parking area to a floating dock near the dam. The surrounding forests have a variety of hiking and mountain biking trails, including several that traverse the 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon.

For more information, contact Coronado National Forest (520) 749-8700 or visit their website.

 

Summary

From the Canyon Country to the Old West… you will find the ideal spot to camp and hike.  The Arizona landscape boasts some of the best recreation in the U.S…   From camping high in the pines, the desert low, or next to a river or lake, there is a camping spot with your name on it.

Have other amazing places in AZ that are great for camping and hiking?  Please leave a comment below!

 

Happy Camping!

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *