Arizona

16 Best Places to Camp in Arizona

by DT Christensen

best camping in arizona
Grand Canyon North Rim Campground // Photo: Grand Canyon National Park

Camping in Arizona is a year-round affair: summer and fall are perfect times to hit high-country lakes and creeks, and winter camping in the desert can’t be beat.

No matter where you’re at in the Grand Canyon state, you’re only a road trip away from a change of scenery, making Arizona’s camping spots some of the most diverse in the country.

Thanks to our six National Forests, 22 National Parks and more than 30 State Parks, Arizona’s home to endless camping opportunities, whether you’re tent-bound beneath the stars or glamping it in an RV. 

Here’s a look at 16 of the best campgrounds in Arizona, from remote desert campsites to comfortable, family-friendly places to sleep among the pines.

Note: Some of the campgrounds mentioned may be closed or partially closed due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Please check each campground’s updates and policies before making travel plans.

1. Lost Dutchman State Park

lost dutchman state park
Lost Dutchman State Park

Why you should camp here: Popular desert camping and hiking on the fringe of the Phoenix metro area.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, fall, winter
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, camping cabins
  • RV hookups: Yes

In cooler months, Lost Dutchman State Park is one of the best camping spots just outside of Phoenix. The park skirts the base of the Superstition Mountains and offers easy access to a handful of our favorite Superstition trails like Siphon Draw Trail and Treasure Loop Trail.

The campground is busy but well maintained with nearly 140 campsites, half of which offer electric and water hookups. Sites are clean and include picnic tables, fire pits and grill grates. You can choose from three loops in the campground; the northern loop gets you closest to Siphon Draw Trailhead and the southern affords killer views of the Supes.

“I can’t say enough,” says reviewer Annika Phillips. “Hiking, camping, picnicking with family, this is the place. I have lived in the valley for over a decade and it took me WAY too long to discover this place.”

The campground’s open year-round but ideal in the winter. There are also five air-conditioned camping cabins available if you’re hangin’ out here in warmer months.

2. Lynx Lake Campground

lynx lake prescott arizona
Paddling on Lynx Lake near Prescott, Arizona.

Why you should camp here: Family-friendly lake camping within two hours of Phoenix.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

There’s no lack of things to do at Lynx Lake Campground in Prescott National Forest. The campground sits at 5,600 feet on the west side of 55-acre Lynx Lake, where you can fish, boat and hike to your heart’s content.

Lynx Recreation Trail is a good place to start: the trail wraps around the lake and connects to a number of offshoots for more exploring. The lake is stocked with trout and boating’s permitted, though swimming’s off the table.

“Beautiful lake with a great walking path around it,” says Ann L. “The campsites are large and only 5 or 6 on each spur, so you are not on top of the other campsite.”

The campground’s 35 sites are divided among 8 small loops and each include a table and grill. The season runs from April 1 to October 31 and north of the campground you’ll find Lynx Lake Cafe, Store & Marina for camp provisions.

This is a great place to chill for a weekend, but it does get busy and summer days can get surprisingly hot, especially on shade-less stretches of the lakeside trail.

Alternate: Hilltop Campground offers a similar vibe on the south end of the lake – it’s still small, some sites can be reserved and the Homestead Trail runs right through the middle.

3. Fool Hollow Lake Recreational Area

fool hollow lake
Fool Hollow Lake Recreational Area

Why you should camp here: High-country camping in Arizona’s gorgeous White Mountains.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Don’t be fooled by this state park’s proximity to Show Low – it may be close to town, but it’s one of Arizona’s best camping getaways. At 6,300 feet, it’s also one of the few high-elevation campgrounds that’s open and enjoyable throughout the year.

The park includes just over 120 campsites, 92 of which have RV hookups. The remaining 31 primitive campsites are reserved for tents only. Sites are divided into three areas and seven loops, and a quick glance at the campground map shows which loops claim the best lake views.

“Great campground and lake,” says camper Brandon Esplin. “They had great camp hosts that really take care of the place and also had a good, clean dump station for taking care of that on the way out.”

Fool Hollow Lake also hits the recreational trifecta, allowing fishing, boating and swimming. The 150-acre lake has bass, walleye and stocked rainbow trout, and fishing platforms around the lake to help find your lucky spot. In the summer, you can rent a kayak from J&T’s Wild-Life Outdoors.

A 1.8-mile trail follows the western part of Fool Hollow Lake, but for more challenging hikes in the area, check out the White Mountain Trail System and its 200-plus miles of trail in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

4. White Horse Lake Campground

white horse lake
White Horse Lake // Photo: Kaibab National Forest

Why you should camp here: Mellow lakeside camping in a serene Northern Arizona setting.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

White Horse Lake Campground is a personal favorite spot of ours – it’s quiet, tucked away in the Kaibab National Forest and close to great hiking near Sycamore Canyon.

None of the campground’s 90-plus sites have RV hookups, though there is a dump station on site. Campsites are spread nicely on the north and west sides of the lake and you can check the campground’s map for sites nearest the water.

You can fish and boat on the lake, but swimming’s not allowed. The campground’s open from May 6 to September 30 and about half the sites are available to reserve ahead of time.

The only downside to setting up at White Horse Lake is getting there – if you don’t have a vehicle that can handle the washboard forest roads, it can be a long ride in and out (but worth it).

Alternates: Dogtown Lake Campground and Kaibab Lake Campground are closer to Williams and easier to get to. Both have similar vibes but Dogtown Lake’s sites aren’t as close to the water, and Kaibab Lake’s located just a few miles north of downtown Williams, so it doesn’t feel as removed as White Horse Lake.

5. Christopher Creek Campground

christopher creek campground arizona
Christopher Creek Campground // Photo: Julie Rose / Julie de Vivre

Why you should camp here: Slower paced alternative to the busier Rim campgrounds to the north.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

The Rim Lakes get most of the Mogollon Rim camping love, but Christopher Creek Campground proves life below the rim is just as scenic.  

Many of the campground’s 43 sites are creekside, and those that aren’t still have good views and plenty of space to unwind. It’s a family-friendly campground that books up fast in the summer, though some first-come, first-serve sites are available.

The campground’s season runs from April to October and swimming holes along the creek make it a peak summer favorite for locals and visitors alike.

“We have camped at Christopher Creek since 1978,” writes Dorriss C. “Our favorite place.”

6. Aspen Campground

woods canyon lake
Sunset at Woods Canyon Lake // Photo: Jake Case

Why you should camp here: The quintessential Mogollon Rim camping experience.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Speaking of Rim Lakes, Aspen Campground is the largest of the Mogollon Rim’s campgrounds, with nearly 150 campsites. That type of camping isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to brave the crowd, you’ll dig how close it is to Woods Canyon Lake.

Despite its size, Aspen Campground is well-spread through four loops and offers a variety of scenery, with some sites more open to the elements and others surrounded by dense pine forest. Not surprisingly, Aspen is one of the most popular camping spots in Arizona and stays full throughout the season.

“Beautiful,” says Larry Quick. “I recommend going during the week, gets busy on the weekend. Was great waking up to elk just outside the trailer window.”

Fortunately, there’s a mix of sites of bookable and walk-up sites, so you can either plan your trip far in advance or take your chances on a walk-up site during the week. Few campgrounds in Arizona are this bustling and family-friendly, so it’s a great place to get young’uns used to sleeping outdoors.

Alternates: There’s no such thing as a slow weekend at Aspen, so if you’re looking for secluded camping, check out some of the lakes further north on the Rim, like Knoll Lake or Bear Canyon Lake.

For backup options near Woods Canyon Lake, consider Spillway Campground or Mogollon Campground.

7. Pine Flat Campground

pine flat campground
Pine Flat Campground // Photo: Jake Case

Why you should camp here: Creekside camping in one of Arizona’s most scenic canyons.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

We’ve camped at Pine Flat Campground more times than we can count, and for good reason. It’s Oak Creek Canyon’s northernmost campground and the perfect basecamp to explore the area.

Head south for hikes in Sedona before returning back to cooler canyon weather, or take 89A north to some of the best hiking in Flagstaff. If you’re staying around camp, Cookstove Trail is a great way to warm up in the mornings.

The best of Pine Flat’s 56 campsites are creekside, and about a third of the sites can be reserved in advance. If you’re banking on a walk-up site, get there on a weekday if possible. The campground’s season is April to October, and while you’re there, stock up on fresh spring water at the north end of the campground.

Alternates: Cave Springs Campground just south of Pine Flat is bigger and offers more amenities, like coin-operated showers. Manzanita Campground offers tent-only camping closer to Sedona, but there’s not as much room to stretch here.

8. Mather Campground

mather campground
Mather Campground // Photo: Grand Canyon National Park

Why you should camp here: Pitch your tent at the only campground in Grand Canyon Village.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Mather Campground’s 327 sites sit just a mile from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The campground is designed to handle the millions of tourists visiting every year, but it’s not as cramped and boisterous as you might expect.

“Everyone was quiet during quiet hours and very respectful,” says Leah H. “We had a short walk to the restroom, which was such a perk! We had plenty of space and privacy.”

For most campers, dealing with late-night arrivals and steady crowds are small prices to pay for camping so close to the Rim. Mather’s location in the Village affords easy access to nearby overlooks and trails, or you can take the shuttle’s Village Route to points of interest like Bright Angel Trail and El Tovar.

You can reserve campsites online from March to November, and every campsite’s available on a first-come, first-serve basis from December to February.

Alternative: Desert View Campground 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village offers walk-up sites that book up fast. You’ll get fewer amenities here, but avoiding the park’s main crowds has its perks.

9. North Rim Campground

north rim campground
North Rim Campground // Photo: Grand Canyon National Park

Why you should camp here: Ditch the South Rim crowds for camping on the quieter side of the Grand Canyon.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Grand Canyon National Park’s lone campground on the North Rim offers spectacular camping and excellent day hiking from May to October. This side of the Canyon’s about 1,000 feet higher in elevation, sees fewer crowds and offers its share of outstanding views along the Rim.

The campground has 90 campsites and a quick glance at the campground map shows which sites have prime views and real estate. There are no RV hookups here, but there is a dump station, as well as laundry and shower facilities.

Note: The North Rim is currently open for day use only because of a waterline project. Reservations for the North Rim Campground resume September 1, 2020.

You won’t need to go far for classic Grand Canyon hiking and viewpoints: take the Transept Trail down to the historic Grand Canyon Lodge, then head out to Bright Angel Point for sweeping Canyon views. You can also take the Bridle Path over to North Kaibab Trailhead, where you can follow the North Kaibab Trail into the Canyon.

To see more of the area, take a scenic drive to Point Imperial, the North Rim’s highest point, then down to Cape Royal, an excellent place to be for sunset.

Alternates: DeMotte Campground seven miles north of the Park entrance is a spacious, well-maintained backup option. Jacob Lake Campground is further north and a good alternative for those exploring other attractions in the region.

10. Lockett Meadow Campground

lockett meadow arizona
Lockett Meadow // Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Awe-inspiring views and hiking at one of the best high-elevation campgrounds in Arizona.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

No campground gets you closer to the San Francisco Peaks than the one at Lockett Meadow. It’s a small, primitive campground with only 17 sites, but you won’t need much to enjoy the scenery here.

“In summer, the aspens blaze a brilliant green with new leaves,” writes Arizona Highways Senior Editor Kelly Vaughn. “In fall, that foliage goes from green to gorgeous gold.”

She recommends sites 7 and 8, but there’s not a bad view on this side of the peaks. Each site comes with a picnic and fire ring, though you’ll have to check Coconino National Forest’s fire restrictions before lighting up.

After you’ve set up camp, hit the Inner Basin Trail at the southwest end of the campground. It’ll take you through more than three miles of impressive pine and aspen forest – some of Arizona’s best fall foliage.

There’s no water here, and no amenities save for a vault toilet, so plan and pack accordingly. The road in is rough, narrow and steep, and although you can haul a trailer in, it’s not recommended.

11. Patagonia Lake State Park

Patagonia Lake State Park
Patagonia Lake State Park

Why you should camp here: Idyllic lakeside camping in Southern Arizona.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, camping cabins
  • RV hookups: Yes

Patagonia Lake State Park offers peaceful camping, fishing and wildlife viewing about 72 miles south of Tucson. The 265-acre lake in the Sonoita Creek watershed includes a beach, campground and plenty of facilities for a comfortable stay over the weekend or longer.

Nearly all of the park’s 107 campsites have RV hookups, and a handful sport ramadas for extra shade. The main campground is divided into two areas – the western half is larger, but both sides have a good selection of sites with lake views.

Seven cabins with air conditioning, mini-fridges and microwaves offer a comfortable camping alternative near the eastern campground.

There are also 12 boat-in campsites spread throughout the lake with basic amenities and the occasional portable toilet. Visitors can swim in any part of the lake aside from the boat ramp, including Boulder Beach, located between the two campground areas.

There’s not much in the way of designated trails here, but you can take the short Sonoita Creek Trail over to Sonoita Creek State Natural Area, where you’ll find some 20 miles of hiking trails. Birding and wildlife viewing in both state parks are excellent, especially in cooler spring months before the summer crowds hit.

12. Twin Peaks Campground

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument // Photo: Flickr

Why you should camp here: Tranquil winter camping in unspoiled Sonoran Desert.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, fall, winter
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Twin Peaks Campground is the larger of two designated camping areas in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a park on the U.S.-Mexico border preserving a 500-square-mile swath of the Sonoran Desert.

And the desert is the real MVP here: the plants, animals and human history of the area are carefully protected and on display, from the park’s namesake cactus to evidence of human habitation dating back thousands of years.

“What a gorgeous, breathtaking desert setting,” says Gail M. “Organ Pipe, Saguaros, Chollas, wildflowers, stargazing nights, hikes from the campground, what a treat!”

The campground has more than 200 sites laid out like an RV neighborhood, with the last few rows of sites reserved for tents only. You’ll need reservations during the park’s busy season from January to March. There are no RV hookups, but the campground does have solar showers (how warm they get depends on the season).

Alternate: Alamo Canyon Campground offers primitive, tent-only camping on the eastern edge of the park. There are only four sites here, so it can fill quickly in cooler months.

13. Catalina State Park

catalina state park
Catalina State Park // Photo: Max Richard

Why you should camp here: Easy camping getaway at the base of Tucson’s iconic Catalinas.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, fall, winter
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Catalina State Park at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains is one of the quickest ways to escape Tucson for stunning desert camping.

The campground’s 120 sites – all with RV hookups – are organized into three loops. Loops A and B are closest to the park entrance and more clustered together; the Ringtail/Overflow area is smaller (30 sites) and closer to the foothills, though all three loops offer solid views of the Catalinas.

Note: Day use and overnight camping is currently not permitted at Catalina State Park due to the Bighorn Fire. Check Pima County for updates on the fire’s status.

There are eight hiking trails in the park, several of which wind into the Coronado National Forest. Romero Canyon Trail, one of our favorite Tucson hiking trails, and the Sutherland Trail, both connect to Mt. Lemmon Trail for an extra challenge.

Catalina State Park is also home to more than 150 bird species and part of the Tucson Sky Islands Important Birding Area, one of 47 such sites in Arizona.

14. Rose Canyon Campground

rose canyon lake
Rose Canyon Lake // Photo: Kristen Marie

Why you should camp here: Picturesque camping in the Catalinas less than 90 minutes from Tucson.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Before reaching Mt. Lemmon, the Catalina Highway winds through quickly-changing desert and forest scenery home to a number of campgrounds, including Rose Canyon. Spacious campsites and its proximity to Rose Canyon Lake make this campground a favorite among locals and out-of-town campers.

About half of Rose Canyon’s 73 can be reserved during the campground’s season from April to October, and in the off-season the area’s open for day-use hiking and fishing. Sites on the south end of the campground are closest to the water, and there’s a one-mile trail around the lake for more exploring.

There’s no swimming or boating at Rose Canyon Lake, but it’s stocked with trout and the nearby campground store slings fishing supplies from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Alternates: Spencer Canyon Campground is higher up in the mountains, though it doesn’t take reservations. There’s also General Hitchcock Campground south of Rose Canyon, but it’s small (11 sites) and only recommended for tent camping.

15. Bonita Canyon Campground

bonita canyon campground
Bonita Canyon Campground site #11 // Photo: Flickr

Why you should camp here: Exceptional camping and hiking in one of Arizona’s famed sky islands.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Bonita Canyon Campground lies in the heart of Chiricahua National Monument, a sky island mountain range known for its distinct hoodoos, hiking and wildlife.

The campground is relatively small and caters to tents and RVs under 29 feet. This is considered bear and mountain lion country, so campers are required to use the provided food storage boxes and exercise caution in the area.

Ground fires are not allowed at Bonita Canyon, but you can bring a fire pit that sits at least six inches off the ground (the group site here comes with a fire pit). The campground provides flush toilets, drinking water and other amenities that make for an otherwise comfortable stay.

The park includes more than 17 miles of hiking trails, from leisurely strolls on the Bonita Creek Trail to “The Big Loop,” a 9.5-mile route that hits many of the park’s main natural attractions. Visitors can take a free shuttle from the campground to the trailhead of their choice in the mornings.

The monument’s open year round and because of the elevation (5,400 feet at the visitor center), summers are relatively mild. Monsoon season brings cool afternoon thunderstorms that peak in July and August

Alternates: there aren’t any other campgrounds in the park, but you’ll find more camping in the Coronado National Forest to the south, including Sycamore Campground, Rustler Park Campground and Herb Martyr Campground.

16. River Island State Park

river island state park campground
River Island State Park Campground // Photo: JillianCampsArizona

Why you should camp here: Family-friendly camping and easy beach access on the Colorado River.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

The best of River Island’s campsites are #30 through #37, eight spots on a grassy area overlooking the Colorado River. The remaining sites are still nice – and cater to larger RVs – but the waterfront sites are where it’s at.

Just beyond those spots is a small sandy beach and three-lane boat ramp, making River Island State Park a popular swimming and boating destination throughout the year. There’s a short trail up to Wedge Hill for stellar views of the river, and nearby Buckskin Mountain State Park offers more hiking.

The campground’s cove is perfect for kayaking, or you can venture out in the river for more open views. It gets scorching hot during the summer, but that also makes it a great time to hit the water. 

Alternates: Buckskin Mountain, Cattail Cove State Park, and Lake Havasu State Park all offer camping on the river, but few of their sites beat the waterfront views at River Island.

Find Your Next Arizona Adventure

These are just some of the many camping spots in Arizona. For more ideas, check out Recreation.gov, Arizona State Parks & Trails, or Hipcamp, which lists public and private campgrounds around the state.

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