After writing this article, I have come to the conclusion that our nation has an amazing system for maintaining and sustaining our Public Lands. There are so many beautiful places to go camping in Arizona- I’m happy that I get to share this information with you. If you live here, chances are very likely that you still have TONS pf places to discover and if you are visiting, then you’ll have the fun of making those decisions on where you want to camp first. From the desert to the woods, you can discover a place to camp any time of the year.
Camping During the Winter- Desert Delights
Are you longing to go camping in the Winter? Then don’t dismiss the Arizona desert as an excellent place to call home for a while. There are three reasons why you would want to go camping in the Arizona Desert during winter.
First off, you can’t beat the weather; during the summer it is too blazing hot but the temps during the winter are generally from 60’s-70’s. For those of you who are used to a lot of snow during the winter, the Desert can be a utopia.
The lows can get down to the mid 30’s-40’s so if you are tent camping you want to make sure you are prepared for this colder weather at night.
The second reason is that the desert is free from mosquitos and other pesky bugs during the winter. I hardly ever come across bugs when I camp during the winter in the desert. An added bonus is that the snakes aren’t active during the coldest parts of the winter.
The final reason I believe that camping in the desert during winter is the best is that you are able to enjoy activities such as hiking and biking- or even paddleboarding.
Hiking is my favorite activity to do when I am camping. Typically- the campgrounds have plenty of trails, lakes, etc to explore. It is much too hot during the summer to go hiking or mountain biking in the desert.
Free places to Camp – This Land is Your Land
Did a Walmart parking lot come to mind when you read this title? There are plenty of places to camp in Arizona that are absolutely beautiful and a long way from pavement.
Whether you enjoy car camping, tent camping or RV Camping, you can stay at no cost on public lands. You and I own these lands and we are entitled to use them. These include Forest Service land, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas, and WMA’s (Wildlife Management Areas).
National Forests in Arizona– Unparalleled Natural Beauty
Some states have only one National Forest. I feel blessed to live in a State that has many. Their are six forests in Arizona where you can find dispersed camping. These include:
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
- Coronado National Forest
- Coconino National Forest
- Prescott National Forest
- Kaibab National Forest
- Tonto National Forest
Click here to find more information about camping in one of these National Forests.
You are welcome to set up camp outside of designated areas- provided there are no signs noting that camping is prohibited.
Bureau of Land Management in Arizona – Recreation Heaven
Did you know the BLM has 245 Million acres of public land to play and camp on? Out of this acreage, we have In Arizona- 12 million acres available for public use. Here are 10 places in AZ to camp on BLM land:
- Windy Point Campground
- Oxbow Recreation Wildlife Area
- Wild Cow Springs Campground
- Squaw Lake Campground
- Crossroads Campground
- Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and Campground
- Gila River
- Arizona National Scenic Trail
The types of recreation vary from each location, but depending on where you camp you can enjoy boating, hiking, fishing, birding, archeology just to name a few. There are places to RV Camp, Car Camp, or Tent Camp. If you prefer to go on a Day Trip, you can do this as well. Many of these sites have day use areas to escape the rat race and the Phoenix heat.
Wildlife Management Areas in Arizona – To Preserve, Protect, and Participate
If you type in Arizona and wildlife management area, you may get a mish mash of information. I ran into the same thing so I went ahead and gave AZ Game and Fish a call. The lady I spoke with said that there are various agencies that work together to manage and protect the WMA’s in Arizona. So these areas can be a mix of BLM, National Forests, and State Parks.
These WMA’s listed below are places you can camp and are managed by the AZ G&F in partnership with other agencies.
- Alamo Lake Wildlife Area
- Arivaca Lake Wildlife Viewing Area
- Bog Hole Wildlife Area (No camping on site- but is surrounded by National Forests)
- Fools Hollow Lake Wildlife Area
- Raymond Wildlife Area (Baby bison under construction- closed until July 29 until Mommas give birth)
*Here are places you cannot camp- but way too awesome to leave out of my list. If you only have a day or are reading this article even though you don’t camp- then Make it a Day Trip!
- Arlington Wildlife Area
- Wenima Wildlife Area
- Becker Lake Wildlife Area (Excellent for Fishing)
- Chevelon Canyon Wildlife Area
For very specific information on free dispersed camping in County parks, BLM land and National Forests, go to freecampsites.net-> search > Arizona.
I have lived here for over 12 years, and I am still blown away by all of the recreation to be had in the nooks and crannies of the State.
Camping in the Woods – Summer Sunsations
Often times, when people think of AZ, they only picture the desert- flat lands stretching for miles. Arizona actually boasts six different climate zones where one minute you’re in the desert and can be in the cool evergreen forest an hour later. Here are 3 of the Top places that I love to Camp during the Summer.
Do you like waking up to the sound of chirping birds and the smell of Ponderosa Pine, Aspens, and Spruce Trees? There are over 40 Campgrounds along the Mogollon Rim.
Some are primitive and others have amenities – including showers, restrooms, and vault toilets. The Mogollon Rim starts in Northern Yavapai County and stretches 200 miles, ending near the border of New Mexico.
The temperatures during the summer months are significantly cooler than in Phoenix- with July reaching up to 90 degrees. The rim consists of limestone and sandstone which was deposited during the carniferous and permian periods. The land around the Rim sits at approximately 4,000 – 5,000 feet.
An interesting fact is that Zane Grey, the Western Novel Author, built a cabin on the Rim- Northeast of Payson in 1921. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the Dude Fire in 1990.
Flagstaff is located in Coconino County, with an estimated population of 70,320 people. There are campgrounds located on BLM land, National Forests, and within the City Limits. Camping options in Flagstaff range from KOA’s, RV’s parks to Tent or Car Camping Campgrounds. If you want something really different, you can always stay in a Yurt.
The average temperature in June, July, and August ranges from 80- 83 degrees. Flagstaff is a better choice to camp if you want even cooler temps than Payson
If you want to stay active while camping, there is plenty to do! You can go Hiking, Mountain Biking, Birding, Wildlife Identification, and Backpacking. If you want to stay in a Yurt, you can hike in during the summer or snowshoe in during the winter.
Of all the places to camp during the summer in Arizona, this area is my favorite of all. I could be a bit biased- since this is where my Non-Profit holds our Camps every year. I did mention this National forest earlier, but this deserves more recognition.
The White Mountains are located in the eastern part of the state and borders the Gila National Park in New Mexico. The surrounding towns/cities include Greer, ShowLow, Springerville, and Eager. This area has the second highest range in the State- peaking at 11,000 feet.
If you are looking for the coolest place in AZ to camp during the summer- then this area will suit you well. The highs in June, July, and August vary from 72-76 degrees.
There are well over 40 campsites to choose from. For most of these campgrounds- the limit is 14 days and some include showers and restrooms. These campgrounds are approximately 5-5 1/2 hours away from Phoenix. Don’t be surprised if you see elk, turkey, deer, bear, or bighorn sheep.
There are activities galore in the White Mountains as well. Immerse yourself in fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, boating and more!. Or renew your mind and spirit and meditate along the crystal clear lakes and streams.
This area is also well known for the White Mountains Trail system which connects 25-30 trails and is ranked as one of the premier hiking destinations. This is a looped trail system which does not require you to go back over the same terrain.
Whether you choose to camp in the desert during the winter or camp in the woods during the summer, there are so many campgrounds in Arizona to choose from. The Bureau of Land Management, National Forests, and Wildlife Management Areas are places to preserve and protect for our enjoyment and future generations. I am very fortunate to live in such a diverse state and also to be able to share this information with you.
Are you planning to visit AZ and want some guidance? Please contact me and I would be happy to help you out! If you have visited AZ, drop a comment below and let us know what you think.