Best Camping in Arizona
Arizona is much more than the Grand Canyon & we share 10 of the best camping spots in this rugged and beautiful state.
Looking for the Best Spots to go Camping in Arizona?
You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:
- Our picks for the 10 of the best spots for camping in Arizona
- What kind of amenities do these Arizona camping spots have
- Plenty of ideas for things to do when camping in Arizona
In the southwest of the U.S. lies the desert state of Arizona. Tourists come to Arizona in their thousands to marvel at the mile-deep gorge of the Grand Canyon. This spectacular natural geographical feature was hewn from the rock over millions of years by the passage of the mighty Colorado River.
Camping in Arizona can mean sitting out on a warm desert night stargazing, gathering around a campfire with friends and family underneath an umbrella of ponderosa pines, or maybe whiling away a few pleasant hours fishing in one of the state’s many lakes and rivers. The diversity of camping experiences that you’ll find on offer here is quite astounding!
Even during the winter months, when the campgrounds at higher elevations, such as Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, are dusted with snow, you can still find warmth further down in the desert around Phoenix and Tucson.
Camping in Arizona: Our Pick of the Best Campsites
Whether you like to camp under canvas, in a trailer, or prefer the comfort of an all mod-cons RV, Arizona’s campgrounds are largely well-kept and are ideally situated for visitors who want to take in the very best of the state’s natural landscapes.
Here are ten of the best camping spots that Arizona has to offer.
The Grand Canyon
If you want to see the Grand Canyon up close and personal without having to contend with the crowds that throng here daily to enjoy this natural wonder, camping here is undoubtedly the way to go. Just imagine waking early in the morning to watch the sunrise or sitting enjoying a glass of wine as the sun sets over the spectacular natural wonder that is the Grand Canyon.
A few developed campgrounds are found along the rim of the north and south sides of the canyon, of which the southern rim is the more developed and the Mather Campground there is open year-round. The north side of the canyon is higher and, therefore, colder, being open just from May 15th through October 31st.
If you camp at Mather Campground, you’ll have excellent, convenient access to many of the most impressive sites in the park and some fabulous hiking trails. Sometimes, it can get hectic here, but there is dispersed camping available to the south of the entrance to the Kaibab National Forest, which is free of charge.
Lynx Campground, Prescott
The lake offers plenty of recreational opportunities for visitors, and Ponderosa pines shade the nicely laid out, immaculately maintained campground. All the campsites are well-spaced and relatively quiet and private, and at just a ten-minute drive from Prescott, the site is super-convenient for supply runs too.
Here, you and your family can enjoy excellent fishing, fabulous bird-watching, and many hiking and mountain biking trails all within easy reach. The campground is located in a quiet area at an elevation of 5,600 feet, so the days are pleasantly warm and sunny without being overpoweringly hot, and the nights are refreshingly cool.
There are seven loops to the campground, housing 35 campsites. Not surprisingly, given its convenient and scenic location, the sites get booked up pretty quickly during the season, typically running from late spring to early fall.
Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Dispersed camping here is delightful! You can park or pitch your tent right on the shoreline of glassy Lake Powell and enjoy stunning vistas across the water toward the sandstone towers framing the lake. If you own your own canoe, kayak, or boat, you can bring it right up to your campsite on the lake’s edge.
A spacious and flat campground, so you can pick a perfect spot without feeling cramped or crowded. Although there’s a fee to enter the National Recreation Area, camping here is free of charge.
Lake Havasu State Park, Mohave County
The campground offers visitors the opportunity to camp right among small shade-giving trees directly in front of a gorgeous, white beach of soft sand. You can sit and contemplate the spectacular views out over the glittering waters of the lake to the distant hills beyond.
The park does get very busy with boaters during high season, and this location is not for those who want somewhere quiet to chill-out and unwind. However, if you and your family want a lively, action-packed holiday, this site could be just what you’re looking for. All the campsites here are equipped with water and 50-amp electricity, enabling you to run an air-con unit in your setup if you need to.
Campgrounds A and B, Catalina State Park
Not everyone wants to vacation in the middle of nowhere, and if you’re going to camp in a well-equipped site conveniently located close to a city, the campgrounds at Catalina State Park near Tucson (here) might be just what you’re looking for.
Both Campground A and B in Catalina State Park offer expansive sites with paved parking areas in a spacious, flat area. The sites have modern conveniences, including showers and toilets too.
Despite its semi-urban location, there are some incredible mountain views to be enjoyed and wildlife to see, including prairie dogs, white-tailed deer, and even bobcats. There are many different species of birds to look out for too, and at night the air is filled with the hooting of owls and the yipping of coyotes.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Sonoran Desert
If you want to get right away from it all and camp out under the stars where no light pollution can spoil your view of the universe in all its glory, this is the place for you!
The organ pipe cactus for which the area is named is what mostly attracts people here, although the landscape is one of the most beautiful in Arizona. It’s a green desert here, a land of saguaros, mountains, and, of course, the organ pipe cactus. The hiking around the area is pretty awesome too.
Campgrounds here are very natural, surrounded by the desert landscape and spectacular views of the distant mountains. There are 208 sites on the campsite, divided into peaceful, generator-free areas for tents and another for RVs. Thanks to the remoteness of the location, the campground very rarely fills to capacity.
In some parts of the campground, the only sound you’ll hear is the crooning of the wind and birdsong. That said, a reasonable degree of comfort is provided in the form of flush toilets and showers. If you’re likely to arrive too late to pitch your tent, check out the town of Ajo some 20 minutes away, where you’ll find accommodation to suit most budgets.
Bonita Canyon Campground, Chiricahua National Monument
The Chiricahua National Monument guards a small mountain range called a “sky island” that sits apart from other mountains. The Chiricahua is a dramatic, rugged natural rock formation comprised of massive pinnacles and steps of rock that commands a landscape dotted with pine trees and full of spectacular vistas in every direction.
Visitors come here to enjoy the many hiking trails that meander up and down the hillsides, in and out of the spectacular stone towers. Camping here is especially popular during the warmer months of the year from late spring through fall. Here, you can escape the oppressive desert heat, as the campground is well over 5,000 feet, meaning that temperatures are generally lower, especially at night.
The wooded area where the campground sits is shady, and the campsites are nicely spaced, providing campers with peace and privacy. You can reserve your site before you come if you want to.
Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson
In the Tucson Mountain Park in Pima County, you’ll find the Gilbert Ray Campground (here).
If you want to stay in a campground that gives you the feeling of being out in the wilderness, even though the main tourist town of Tucson is only 15 minutes down the road, this could be the perfect location for you. The campground has 130 sites that are well-spaced for privacy and are supplied with water and electricity.
This pretty campground is well away from noisy roads and has some beautiful views to the west across plains dotted with saguaros and prickly pear cactus, and to the east away to the mountains. From the campground, you can also easily reach the Old Tucson Movie Studios, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and the Saguaro National Park. The hiking from here is terrific too, and the Valley View Overlook trail is just minutes away.
Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona
Oak Creek Canyon (here) is a red-rock river gorge that’s almost a miniature version of the Grand Canyon but without the crowds. Here, you’ll find places for picnicking, as well as productive fishing, and there’s even a swimming hole with a natural waterslide for those who want to cool off after a long hike.
There are three delightful campgrounds in Oak Creek Canyon. Cave Springs and Manzanita Campground are the most convenient if you want to visit nearby Sedona. There are just 18 sites at Manzanita, and finding a pitch can be tricky.
The campground at Cave Springs is about 20 minutes to the north of Sedona and gives you easy access to the stunning beauty of Oak Creek Canyon without the hassle of Sedona’s heavy traffic. There are 89 sites on the campground, and it’s located well away from Highway 89A, set within a peaceful, shady valley filled with towering deciduous trees that provide visitors with plenty of welcome shade on hot days.
The campsites are well-spaced and grassy, with some of the western plots providing glorious views of the canyon’s vertical walls. The sites on the eastern side of the campground give onto the lively, rushing waters of Oak Creek. Close by is Slide Rock State Park, and there are also some of the very best hikes in Sedona within easy reach.
Spillway Campground, Payson
Spillway Campground is located (here) near Payson.
The enchanting, cozy campground is set right on Wood’s Lake’s shores, high up on the Mogollon Rim in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest at an elevation of 7,500 feet. Outdoorsy folks come to the Apache Sitgreaves National Park for the fishing, swimming, boating, and canoeing, as well as for the beautiful hiking views through the forests.
Most of the campsites are just a short walk from the trout-stocked lake, and there are a few that are located right on the lakefront. The sites are well-spaced and private, and shade is provided by the towering Ponderosa pines and other smaller trees. There are only 25 sites here, and all get booked up pretty early. However, there are alternatives at Rim and Aspen campgrounds that are close by.
All the campgrounds in the area open in late spring, as the climate up there is cool. But if you want to come a little earlier, you could check out the campgrounds lower down around Payson.
Arizona is so much more than a desert wilderness! There are spectacular mountain vistas, lakes teeming with trout, barren, rocky landscapes, and even a white, sandy beach in the middle of the desert!
We’ve picked out our favorite ten campgrounds that are spread out right across this beautiful state of surprises. Why not rent an RV, take a summer road trip to the Grand Canyon State, checking out the best of our camping recommendations along the way?