Ten Best AZ Camping Resources

My tent set up in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest

 

 

For those of who you like to research and explore your options, this guides for you! These Camping Resources include everything you need to plan & prepare an outstanding Arizona camping and outdoor recreation adventure!

I have listed resources that provide information on campsites throughout the State of AZ.   Some of these campgrounds require a fee and others don’t.  I provide a summary of the highlights, main reasons to use, and other various details.

Public Lands are meant to be enjoyed and the benefits are two fold. People are healthier and happier outdoors and it boosts the economy. According to the Landlock Public Lands Report- “ Public land access is the engine that drives an outdoor recreation economy worth more than $887 billion in consumer spending”

I am not here to wreck havoc on someone’s fishing hole or hiking trail. Like all outdoor enthusiasts, I despise it when people leave trash behind and don’t follow Leave No Trace principles. However, I believe in getting the word out about our Public Lands so if the day comes when these lands are being taken away, there will be even MORE people who can stand up and fight for our rights to these beautiful and pristine areas across our nation.  

Arizona State Parks   

In 2017, the Arizona State Parks & Trails won the Gold Medal for best managed state park system in the nation!  These campsites are extremely well maintained and provide a plethora of opportunities for exploration.

There are 15 State Parks in Arizona where you can reserve a campsite for tents and rvs, or rent a cabin.  There are a total of 34 parks altogether- some of which are natural and historic parks for day use only.

Reason to Use

If you want to stay in a campground that is well taken care, has amenities, and don’t’ mind paying a fee, then the State Parks might be the way for you to go.

Their website is very user friendly and easy to navigate. You are able to sort by region or by activities which will only bring up those sites for what you’ve chosen. 

Once you select Camping Reservations you will be taken to the calendar and a description of the campground.

Highlights

The AZ State Parks also have cabins you can stay in. These cabins are perfect if you don’t have an RV and would rather not tent camp.   You will be very comfy in these cabins; they have 2 bunk beds (4 beds total), table that seats 4, electricity, ceiling fans, lights, heat/AC, and are kept very clean! 

Recreation

The AZ State Parks website also has extensive information on things to do, trails, events/tours, as well as guided tours.

These in depth guides provide you with information on Hiking, Mountain Biking, New Trails and Off Highway Vehicles for each of the State Parks.  Being an avid Mountain Biker, I fell in love with their explanation of why people love this activity!

Reserve a Campsite

Visit the AZ State Parks and Rec website to reserve your spot. Please note there are camping fees that vary for each park/campsite which goes towards the staff and maintenance of the parks.

 

Arizona State Trust Land

There are 9.2 million acres of State Trust Land in AZ.  This land is not public- (only one on this list that isn’t). I still included this as as a resource since you can camp and play on some of this beautiful land, you just need a permit. Arizona’s State Trust Lands provide support for essential public institutions, primarily public education and K-12 schools.

Reason to Use

If you travel a lot of back roads and camping is secondary then you may want to get a Permit. For example, if you are an avid hunter, then chances are likely you may need to camp or park on State Land. In some instances, entering upon Trust land can be a barrier for you accessing certain places if you don’t have one. Trust lands can be sporadic with small parcels here and there or cover hundreds of acres.

State Trust Land looks like a Checkerboard

Highlights

On the AZ State Land department website, you can see online samples and order hard copy maps of the location and boundaries of various lands including, State Trust, BLM, National Park Service, and Indian Reservations.

You can also view by parcels.


For an excellent history lesson on State Trust Land, visit the Friends of the Verde River website.

How to Get a Permit

Before you camp or park on Trust Land you will need to have your permit. You can purchase one here for $15-$20. There is an option to choose the activity (see image), but not the location. 

 

Public Lands Interpretive Association

PLIA is a non profit organization that partners with the Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA Forest Service to inspire and educate the public about the natural and cultural heritage resources of America’s public lands. Their website provides information on hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking in Arizona.

Reason to Use

I would recommend this resource for those who are from out of town or are not familiar at all with the public lands in AZ.  The search feature is easy to use and you can go from a high level birds eye view to specific details in a short amount of time.  Hard copy maps are also available for purchase directly on their site. 

 

Highlights

The quickest way to get to the AZ campsites is to 1) Select Recreation 2) Type in Arizona 3) Select Camping.  Once you select these options, you will see tent symbols pop up on the map and more specific details for each one on the left hand side. 

public lands in arizona

 

Select on the Tent symbol for the campground you would like to see and you will be taken to additional information.

public lands in arizona

 

If you go to Read More, you will be taken to a page with additional details including the GPS coordinates, and the Google Map of the area. 

 

Camp Arizona     

As far as I know, Camp Arizona has been around a long time. Chances are good that you’ve already come across this site. If you type in the keywords- camping and Arizona, this site comes up on the first page of Google.

Reason to Use

Overall, this is a great website to find campgrounds and hiking trails.  Once you click on the campgrounds link, you’ll be taken to an interactive map (using Google Maps) where you can select the area you want to look into further.

 

 

 

Once you select on a specific area from the map above, you are taken to a more detailed map of the area and provided with a comparison chart like the example you see below. 

 

 

Highlights

Some handy extras on the site include a printer friendly camping checklist, fishing reports, recipes and Western AZ RV parks.  I especially like their hiking resource- if you enjoy to hike while camping then Camp Arizona would be a great resource to use.

 

The main downside to this site are all the ads (which are distracting)- but it’s functional and provides a lot of information about AZ Campgrounds and recreation.  I like to promote the resources that are in our State and support other AZ Outdoor Enthusiasts.

 

 

OnX   

Best Hunting App - Offline Land Ownership Hunting GPS Maps | onX
Image Courtesy of OnX

 

Yes- this app can do that and help you get anywhere in the State!  With OnX Maps,  if the land is public and there’s a way in, this app will help you get there. With, “Always know where you stand” as their saying, you can count on the app to get you to some incredible places.

Reason to Use

OnX is a great resource for those combining their camping with hunting or off roading excursions.  Some amazing places could be missed purely from not knowing where to go or how to get there. 

Image courtesy of OnX

 Benefits

  • Private Landowner information.
  • Government Lands information.
  • Boundary Lines.
  • Hunting Units (GMUs).
  • 1:24K topography.
  • Roads and trails.
  • Recreation sites.
  • Roadless Areas

Highlights

Within OnX Maps, the two main products include the OnX Hunting App and the OnX Offroad App.

OnX Hunt:  Great for scouting, seeing boundaries between public and private land, land ownership, Topo basemap to gauge terrain, and game management unit boundaries per species, campgrounds, and much more! 

OnX Offroad:  Various land management agencies such as The Forest Service can open and close roads for different reasons throughout the year.  With this app you are able to see which dirt roads and trails on state and federal lands are open and/or when they are scheduled to be open.  You’ll also be provided with additional information like the type of dirt road and the recommended vehicle.

Image Courtesy of OnX

 

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management was established in 1946, and is an agency with the US Department of Interior which is responsible for overseeing 247.3 million acres. The managed lands are used for multiple purposes including recreation, timber harvesting, and livestock grazing. 

Reason to Use

The BLM Website is excellent for finding unique places in your State that you may have never heard of before. This is the only site I know of in which you can access specific wilderness areas and resources for long term visitor areas.  LTVA’s are designated areas on BLM lands in CA. and AZ and designed for those who want to stay for longer periods of time (more than 14 days) between September and April.

 Highlights

  • Website includes a plethora of information: (Below are a few of each to give you an idea)
    • Resources: Every Kid Outdoors, Teacher Lessons, science and outdoor ethics.
    • Services: Tribal Consultations, contracting and land records
    • Programs: Planning and NEPA, Energy and Minerals and recreation and visitor services.
    • State specific information: Camping and recreational opportunities on BLM land throughout the US.

This website is easy to use; you are able to search multiple ways including by State or recreation.

 Features

  • Choose from either developed or dispersed campgrounds.
  • Search option- provides a variety of camping and recreation when you search by location, activity or keyword.

Can search by Featured Places.  Select More Places to Visit to get to the search screen you see above. 

Just in AZ, The BLM manages and conserves 12.2 million acres of public land and 17.5 million subsurface acres.

 

You can also search by using the map

Once you drill down, you get to the description, and contact information for that particular site.

 

Finally, you can search by recreation within each State. 

 

 

The BLM website is one that I do use often because the day use areas & campsites are more off the beaten path.  I’m sure some of the more popular sites  can get busy, but not as much as some of the other National parks and forests.

 

Arizona Highways

Did you know the Arizona Highways Department (Now the Arizona Department of Transportation) began publishing Arizona Highways in 1921?  If you go to the ADOT website, you will find a link at the very bottom of the home page for Arizona Highways online magazine.  

Reason to Use 

Arizona Highways is a great resource to use If your camping will be based more around photography, hiking, food, and tourism. I subscribe to AZ Highways magazine and their images are extremely motivating and inspiring!

You will see places that you’ve never heard of in AZ and then be so excited by the images you’ll want to jump in your car and go! 

Highlights 

AZ Highways is a legit authority on some of the most scenic and jaw dropping places in AZ.  Their explore Section on their website includes: Hiking, camping, scenic drives, local favorites and attractions.

You can start by going to explore>then select Region and activity. 

Once you select the region and activity,  your taken to a page with additional places for that particular area.  The campgrounds include those in the AZ National Forests and Bureau of Land Management. 

Select Read More and it provides you with details on the campsite.

Can also use their search feature- for example, if you want to isolate and search specifically by cabins.

 

If you visit Arizona Highways, be sure to check out their For Kids Link as well!  The content on the names of AZ towns, interesting facts about AZ Counties, and the history of well known landmarks and trading posts will make great road trip conversation.  

 

USDA Forest Service

The United States Department of Agriculture’s mission is to, “Sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.”  This of course benefits us campers so we have beautiful forests to use throughout the U.S.

In my opinion, the National Forests in AZ include some of the best country for camping.  

Reason to Use

The USDA Forest Service website is an ideal resource to use if you want to camp specifically in a National Forest and then be able to choose from either paid, dispersed, group, and even cabins.  In AZ, we are fortunate to have 6 National Forests with an estimated 20 million acres. 

 

Highlights

This site is easy to use and provides tons of information on camping and recreation for each particular National Forest. The first step from the home page is to select the State and the Forest/Grassland.

This brings you to a page where you have all the options on the left.  

 

Select Recreation and you will see of the various activities you can enjoy in that National Forest.  From the camping & cabins, you will be provided with information on paid campgrounds, dispersed, group, RV, and of course Cabins.

 

Additional resources on this site include a variety of learning resources for educators, parents, and kids. They also provide specific information on the different methods of how they manage lands.  Their programs for youth to be able to work and gain experience in the Outdoors is especially impressive. 

 

National Park Service

Since 1916, the National Park Service has been taking care of our national parks and accommodating more than   318 million visitors every year. To do this effectively, they work with  volunteers,  tribal communities, local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individual citizens.  They actively work together to revitalizing communities, preserve local history, celebrate local heritage, and create close-to-home opportunities for kids and families to get outside, be active, and have fun.

 Reason to Use

The NPS website is a great resource If you want to stay and/or play at one of the 22 AZ National Parks- and see some of the most beautiful and unique historical places in AZ.  Out of the most popular places to visit in AZ, many are are managed by the National Park service. These include the Grand Canyon, Canyon De Chelly, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. 

 

Highlights

The NPS.gov website provides a great deal of information on the history of the parks and landmarks. There are some National Parks where it is day use only.  To find the camping- go to Plan Visit> Find a Park>View by State. You can also download PDF’s of the detailed park maps.

 

national park service

 

Once you select AZ, you will get a list of every one of the parks.  There are some parks that are day use only and others in which you camp. Many of the campgrounds are all fairly primitive, dispersed and do not take reservations.There is a mixed bag of RV/Tent campsites that are free and others that have a fee.   The information on the camping in the National Forests is fairly limited on this site, but it’s enough to get you started.

 

 

A very useful feature on this site is their Alerts section. They seem to do a good job of keeping the site updated so you don’t end up driving for hours to a closed location.  To plan your trip to one of AZ National Parks visit, NPS.gov.

 

 

Tribal Council of Arizona

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” ~American Indian Prove

Reason to Use

For many out of town visitors, they may not think of Tribal lands as a place they can camp and recreate. Due to current circumstances, all or the majority of tribal lands are currently closed, but I wanted to include this anyway for future reference.

 

Highlights/Facts

  • 22 American Indian Tribes in AZ
  • 296,000 people
  • 20 Reservations covering more than 19,000,000 acres. 
  •  American Indian Reservations in AZ- operate within it’s own unique government.  You should not assume what applies to one reservation applies to all of them. 

 

Some of the campgrounds on or nearest to sites like Canyon De Chelly or the world renowned Havasupia in the Grand Canyon are located on the reservations and require a permit. Similar to other land requirements, the Tribes ask for the utmost respect  when visiting their land.

 

Your campsite may also be near or on private Navajo land, where you will come across Navajo people who live in the area,  they will go about their business. But, “they are human beings… and are not museum display… but come from a different cultural background… and may be wary of visitors”, thus their privacy is to be respected.”

 

One of the best resources/hubs for accessing Tribal lands in AZ is Inter Tribal Council of Arizona   The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona provides information, resources and links on every Tribe in AZ.  For instance, if you visit the page on San Carlos American Indian Reservation- you will see  their Government, visitor amenities, special events, and contact information.

The largest reservation (14 million acres of Trust Lands) is the Navajo which is located in parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. For an authentic Navajo experience you can stay in Hogan and learn more about their history and culture.

 Additional Websites:

navajonationparks.org,

sancarolosapache.com

https://www.visitarizona.com/visiting-tribal-lands

https://des.az.gov/about-des/tribal-relations/arizona-tribes-information

https://www.discovernavajo.com/camping.aspx

 

Summary

With so many resources and websites at your fingertips, you’ll be sure to find the perfect camping and recreation getaway. We are fortunate to have a vast array of public land to enjoy- and I know I’m very thankful!  I would love to hear your experiences about camping in AZ.  Please leave your comments below!

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