Arizona

The 12 Best Camping Spots Near Flagstaff, Arizona

by Jake Case

best camping flagstaff az
Photo: Deborah Lee Soltesz, Coconino National Forest

Tucked up the Arizona high country, Flagstaff is prime camping territory for both local Flagstaffians and out-of-towners.

In fact, during the summer months, the forest surrounding Flagstaff is one of the top camping destinations for folks escaping Phoenix and its blistering desert heat. Flagstaff is also a hub for regional travel, serving as a jumping off point for visiting the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and much more.

Whether your traveling from across the country (or the world), heading up the hill from somewhere hot, or just a local trying to explore more, here’s the low down on the camping spots at your disposal around Flagstaff.

Flagstaff’s Best Campgrounds

Campgrounds are your best bet if you want amenities like on-site water, pit toilets, etc. If you’re looking for campgrounds where you can reserve in advance, jump down to the Pinegrove Campground and Fort Tuthill County Park Campground — they’re the only two on the list allowing reservations.

If you want to use RV hookups, Fort Tuthill is your only option. Of course, the local KOA offers reservations and RV hookups too, but I can’t bear to include it.

If you’re not into campgrounds and want to know about dispersed camping options near Flagstaff, scroll down to the next section.

Bonito Campground

bonito campground flagstaff
Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Chill among Ponderosa Pines and ancient lava flows, with easy access to Sunset Crater & Wuptaki.

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

While the Bonito Campground is run by the Coconino National Forest, it’s located literally right outside of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. A well-kept, paved-access campground, Bonito is tucked under a canopy of old-growth Ponderosa Pine, keeping the campsites mostly shaded from the summer sun.

The surrounding landscape is dramatically defined by the nearby cinder-cone volcanoes and night-black lava flows. This place is so out-of-this-world that astronauts used to practice for moonwalks out here.

For those that like to move about on foot, the 1.7 mile-long Lava’s Edge Trail connects the campground to the monument’s main hikes: Lenox Crater Trail and Lava Flow Trail.

Otherwise, the park is easily accessible by car, although parking can be a nightmare on busy summer weekends. The adjoining Wuptaki National Monument and its ancient ruins is a mere half-hour drive away, while its just over an hour to reach Desert View at the Grand Canyon South Rim.

While, reservations aren’t accepted at the Bonito Campground, the adjacent O’Leary Group Site can be booked in advance.

Canyon Vista Campground

canyon vista campground flagstaff
Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Pleasant mountain views with direct access to hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Of the campgrounds located off Lake Mary Road south of Flag, the Canyon Vista Campground is the closest to town. It’s a great spot if you want to keep your options open between exploring Lake Mary and Ashurst Lake while staying within a half-hour of Oak Creek Canyon’s upper reaches. 

Hikers and mountain bikers will enjoy access to the nearby Sandy’s Canyon Trail, which connects to the Arizona Trail and ultimately leads to the beautiful Fisher Point. For rock climbers, the nearby Vista Loop Trail accesses a climbing area known as Le Petit Verdon aka the Pit.

Fisherman will have to drive to get to water, but it’s a mere 10 minute drive to reach Upper Lake Mary.

The campground itself is well-developed, sits among the cool Ponderosas, and offers nice but distant views of the iconic San Francisco Peaks.

Lockett Meadow Campground

lockett meadow camping
Photo: Jake Case

Why you should camp here: Stay high up on the San Francisco Peaks with spectacular views and access to superb hiking.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, Small RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Locket Meadow is one of the most spectacular settings for a campground in all of Arizona. Perched in an alpine basin at 8,500 feet above sea level, you’ll camp among Quaking aspens and mixed conifers with up-close views of the four highest peaks in Arizona.

While the Locket Meadow Campground itself is incredible, so is the hiking. The nearby Inner Basin Trail weaves through the most spectacular aspen grove and climbs higher up into even more mountain majesty.

Most good things come with a price, and for Lockett Meadow, it’s the drive in. The narrow dirt road hugs a steep mountain slope with no guard-rails. It’s not for the faint of heart, and high-clearance vehicles are recommended.

This campground is “dry”, so be sure to bring plenty of water for drinking, cleaning, and putting out your campfire. The forest directly south and east of the meadow were torched by the 2010 Schultz Fire, started by a improperly extinguished campfire, a terse reminder to put yours dead out.

Come ready with a plan B, especially on summer weekends as this small campground fills up fast.

Lakeview Campground

lakeview campground flagstaff
Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Walkable to Upper Lake Mary and a short drive to other lakes too.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, small RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Located just across the highway from Upper Lake Mary, the Lakeview Campground is the closest you can camp near Flagstaff’s largest reservoir. And if you don’t want fuss with getting back in the car, access to Lake Mary is walkable via the half-mile long Wood Memorial Trail.

If you’d like to check out the lakes further out, its only a 20 minute drive to Ashurst Lake and a 50 minute drive to Kinnikinick Lake.

The campground itself is well-developed, car-friendly, and has water on site. This is the perfect Flag-area camping spot if you’re looking for convenient lake access not too far from town.

Ashurst Lake

ashurst lake camping arizona
Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Choose from two lakeside campgrounds with mountain views away from the bustle of the city.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Ashurst Lake offerings a pair of campgrounds (Ashurst Lake Campground and Forked Pine Campground) in the woodlands of Anderson Mesa.

The climate is a little drier out here, so the forest here is dominated by the shorter Pinyon pines and juniper tree, allowing for great views of the San Francisco Peaks in the distance. 

Dirt road access means that fewer folks venture this way, so it’s quieter out here, especially since power boaters aren’t allowed on this lake.

It tends to be breezy out this way, making wind-surfing a viable activity most of the time. Otherwise, Ashurst is just great spot for fishing and kicking back to enjoy the scenery,.

The roads are generally okay for sedans so its still accessible to nearly everyone. 

Pinegrove Campground

pinegrove campground arizona

Why you should camp here: Beautiful camping in the pines just a short drive from the lakes.

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

Situated in a gorgeous grove of old growth pines, this is arguably the prettiest campground south of Flagstaff. It’s also the one only one that takes advance reservations, so it’s your best bet if you want to make firm plans ahead of time, especially on busy weekends.

While the Pinegrove Campground doesn’t have direct lake access, its only a 10 minute drive to Lake Mary and a 20 minute drive to Ashurst.

With easy, paved access adjacent to Lake Mary Road, and large, spaced out campsites, this is a great option if you’re not concerned with having walkable access to the water.

Reserve Now

Fort Tuthill County Park Campground

fort tuthill camping flagstaff
Photo: Coconino County Parks & Recreation Department

Why you should camp here: Forested digs close to town, convenient if you’re going to a concert at Pepsi Amphitheater.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes (8 sites)

The longtime home of the Coconino County Fairgrounds, Fort Tuthill evolved overtime into much more than that. In recent decades the park has added trails, the campground, and the Pepsi Amphitheatre concert venue.

This is the largest campground in the Flagstaff area, offering over 100 sites among towering Ponderosa pines. However, the sites are spaced very close together, especially compared to the Forest Service campgrounds listed above.

Hikers and mountain bikers will enjoy the convenience of the local trail network. Out-of-town concert goers coming in for multi-day festivals will love staying on site too, especially since camping for a couple days is way cheaper than even a single night in a hotel room on a summer weekend.

Fort Tuthill is located on the southern edge of town, making it the closest in of anything besides the local KOA, great if you’re planning a lot of activities in Flagstaff itself or trying to make a day trip to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to the south.

Dispersed Camping Near Flagstaff

If you really want to get out of the city and experience what the forests have to offer, dispersed camping is the way to go. In fact, there’s an incredible amount of dispersed camping possibilities if you’re willing to explore the dirt roads outside of Flag.

I’m not willing to give up specific details on my favorite dispersed sites at large, but here’s info on a few areas specifically setup by the Coconino National Forest for dispersed camping. These areas generally have designated sites with an established fire ring, but no on-site water, camp hosts, or any other amenities.

Just remember to camp in already established campsites, clean up after yourselves, and put your campfires dead out. Also note: during times when Coconino National Forest is under Stage 1 or Stage 2 fire restrictions, campfires are prohibited at dispersed campsites.

Freidlein Prairie

Quaking aspen in fall along the Kachina Trail // Photo: Jake Case

Why you should camp here: Rugged camping on the southern slopes of the San Francisco Peaks near the iconic Kachina Trail.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, Small RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Freidelin Prairie Road’s rugged dirt track is the access point for the Kachina Trail’s lower trailhead. One of the most beautiful hikes on the peaks, the lure of the Kachina Trail has attracted campers to this area for many years.

If you’re not looking to hit the trail, there are easier and more accessible places for dispersed camping. But if you’re looking to explore the aspen groves and mountain views of the Kachina, this is a great place to create your home base.

Pumphouse Wash

pumphouse wash camping
Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Camp in Ponderosa pine forest just above the Oak Creek Canyon switchbacks.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, Small RVs
  • RV hookups: No

If you’d like to stay as close to Oak Creek Canyon as possible without camping in one the campgrounds down there, Pumphouse Wash is your best bet. 

This forested set of campsites is broken into fours areas, each of which loops off from the dirt road (FR237). So its basically set up like a campground, but with no amenities besides fire rings.

While this area makes for a convenient drive to access Oak Creek Canyon to the south, don’t sleep on the nearby off-trail hiking in Pumphouse Wash and Kelly Canyon — but it’s not for the experienced so bring your wilderness navigation skills if you venture out.

Marshall Lake

marshall lake arizona
Photo: Jake Case

Why you should camp here: Scenic camping with mountain views near a marshy pond.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, Small RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Marshall Lake is a small, marshy “lake” atop Anderson Mesa. When it has water in it (most of the time), it’s stocked with trout and makes for a nice mellow fishing hole.

The views of the San Francisco Peaks are underrated here, and it’s a little more under-the-radar than the nearby Canyon Vista and Lakeview Campgrounds. As such, it can be a great backup option if you don’t score a first-come first-served site at one of the big campgrounds.

The Arizona Trail passes right next to the dispersed sites, so Marshall also makes a convenient home base for day hiking.

Cinder Hills OHV Area

cinder hills ohv camping
Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Enjoy OHV shenanigans in the strange volcanic landscape south of Sunset Crater.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, Small RVs
  • RV hookups: No

If you’re into four-wheeling, the Cinder Hills is THE spot in the Flagstaff area. For the uninitiated, it’s in the same realm as riding dune buggies on sand dunes, but here we have hills of volcanic cinders. A fairly large 13,500 acre area here has been designed for off-highway vehicle use.

Dispersed camping is allowed throughout the Cinder Hills OHV Area. Just be sure to stay on designated routes, and respect OHV closures in the nearby Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Strawberry Crater Wilderness. Get a free copy of Coconino National Forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Map and stay legal.

Wing Mountain

wing mountain dispersed camping
Photo: Coconino National Forest

Why you should camp here: Copious dispersed camping options near the Lava River Cave, Kendrick Mountain, and the western slope of the San Francisco Peaks.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, Small RVs
  • RV hookups: No

This is your best bet if you want to easy to access camping near the popular Lava River Cave, the Kendrick Mountain Trailhead, or the Humphreys Peak Trailhead.

Coconino National Forest describes this as a series of “camping corridors” where there are no signed sites, but large open sites by the roadsides near Wing Mountain. This map illustrates these corridors outlined in red along FR222, FR171, and FR222A.

Explore Arizona

Sign up for our free email to join thousands of readers getting epic travel, hiking, camping and gear ideas every week.


Seen in: Arizona, Camping, Southwest

Build your bucket list

Join 80,000+ adventurers getting epic travel, camping and hiking ideas every week.

Related posts

12 Best Hikes in Arches National Park

Boasting the largest concentration of natural stone arches in the world, Arches National Park delivers a breathtaking desert landscape with spectacularly unique rock formations.

Utah