Arizona

6 Best Camping Spots in the Prescott National Forest

by Bri Cossavella

prescott national forest camping

ReIn central Arizona, the ecosystem of Prescott National Forest is influenced by the Sonoran Desert to the south and the oak and pine woodlands of the north.

As you climb into the mountains, the landscape goes from creosote and scrub oak to piñon and ponderosa pine trees. Massive, granite boulders complement the vegetation. And the Verde River weaves through the region keeping the desert highlands quenched.

This region is also home to the world’s largest alligator juniper tree. The Granite Mountain Hotshots saved this 2,000-year-old tree from a wildfire in 2013 — it now serves as a memorial and natural monument.

Just outside of the forest’s border, is — you guessed it — the city of Prescott. It’s a town well-known for its historic downtown, Sharlot Hall Museum, and proximity to numerous campgrounds — from plush to primitive.

Whether you need a quick getaway from Phoenix or another stop on your tour of the western states, the Prescott area has a campground for everyone. Also be sure to check out our guide to the best cabin rentals in Prescott as well.

Hazlett Hollow Campground

Hazlett Hollow Campground
Photo: Prescott National Forest

Why You Should Camp Here: A primitive, yet fully-loaded campground in the Bradshaw Mountains that pays homage to the Civil Conservation Corps.

  • Reservations Accepted: No (first come, first serve)
  • Best Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall (May 1 – Oct. 31)
  • Campsite Type: Tents, RVs, car camping
  • RV Hookups: No

In the 1930s, the Civil Conservation Corps built stone shelters and walkways that you’ll find at the Hazlett Hollow Campground. In case there’s a random downpour — because Arizona weather likes to do that — these structures might come in handy.

Hazlett Hollow Campground is located in Horsethief Basin at the southern end of the Bradshaw Mountains. There are 15 campsites, equipped with picnic tables and fire rings for all of your cooking and ghost-storytelling needs. Drinking water is available during the open season. There are two vault toilets, one of which is accessible. You will want a high clearance vehicle to get to this site.

The Prescott National Forest boasts this campground to be “one of the most attractive and well-developed” in the Bradshaw Mountain region. You’ll fall asleep surrounded by ponderosa pine trees and plenty of visible starlight.

Additional Information: Prescott National Forest

Yavapai Campground

yavapai campground
Photo: Prescott National Forest

Why you should camp here: Situated in the Granite Basin Recreation Area, its a short jaunt to a lake and numerous hiking trails.

  • Reservations Accepted: Yes, and some sites are first-come, first-serve.
  • Best Seasons: Year-round
  • Campsite Type: Tents, car camping, RVs
  • RV Hookups: No

If you decide to spend a handful of your evenings at Yavapai Campground, you’ll have plenty of adventure options to spend your days. This campground is in the Granite Basin Recreation Area, which also includes Granite Basin Lake, 15 nearby hiking trails, including the Granite Mountain summit trail and eight day-use areas, some of which are nearby the lake.

Yavapai Campground includes 21 sites and convenient amenities, like picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, garbage service, and compostable toilets. The grounds are complemented by a mix of pinyon-juniper and ponderosa pine trees, as well as impressive granite boulders.

In case you choose to go to Yavapai Campground in the winter or spring, bear in mind that peregrine falcons nest in this region. The forest service will close off access to the certain cliff faces to ensure the nesting falcons aren’t disturbed. Notices will be posted, so just keep a lookout.

Reservations Available: Recreation.gov

Lynx Lake Campground

lynx lake camping prescott
Photo: Prescott National Forest

Why you should camp here: To camp next to a peaceful lake in the forest that is also nearby the city of Prescott, in case you need extra supplies.

  • Reservations Accepted: Yes
  • Best Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall (April 1 – Oct. 31)
  • Campsite Type: Tents, car camping, RVs, group
  • RV Hookups: No

Lynx Lake attracts nearly 90,000 people every year. It’s popularity probably has to do with its proximity to Prescott, in addition to it being an incredible and accessible naturescape. Despite crowds, it’s the perfect getaway if you need a convenient, quick trip.

Wildlife sightings are something to take advantage of. Many creatures call this area home. In the summertime, you might catch sight of an osprey or javelina. And in the winter, bald eagles, deer, and great blue herons come out and play.

During the open season, Lynx Lake Store and Marina can provide you with camping and fishing supplies, a canoe for a morning on the lake, firewood, or a meal if you’re not in the mood for cooking a camp dinner.

Lynx Lake Campground has 35 sites, all with tables, fire rings, and grills. There are four vault toilets, including two flush toilets (fancy). There is also garbage service and drinking water. Hiking trails, including a trail around the lake, are there for your leisure.

Reservations Available: Recreation.gov

Mingus Mountain Campground

mingus mountain campground
Photo: Prescott National Forest

Why you should camp here: Experience the best star gazing the Prescott area has to offer.

  • Reservations Accepted: First come, first serve
  • Best Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall (May 1 – Oct. 31)
  • Campsite Type: Tents, car camping, RVs
  • RV Hookups: Typically yes, but electricity is currently not working. Check the Prescott National Forest website for updates.

Mingus Mountain Campground brings you closer to clouds for your evenings and days spent here.

Not only will you still be surrounded by pine trees, but you’ll have expansive views of Sedona’s red rocks, the Mogollon Rim, the San Francisco Peaks, and the Verde Valley. Not to mention, the higher elevation makes starlight that much brighter.

This campground takes you far enough away from civilization to not be affected by noise pollution, but not too far so you can’t take a day trip to Prescott. Not to mention, the drive is a scenic adventure. If you choose to stay put, you’ll have plenty of adventure options from swimming in Mingus Lake and hiking the Mingus Rim.

This 30-site campground (19 trailer/RV and 11 tent) offers picnic tables, fire rings, five vault toilets, garbage service, and drinking water.

Additional Information: Prescott National Forest

Prescott Basin Designated Dispersed Camping

Why you should camp here: Free camping in the depths of the Prescott National Forest at no extra cost to you.

  • Reservations Accepted: First come, first serve
  • Best Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite Type: Tents, car camping, RVs
  • RV Hookups: No

If you are more into dispersed camping, the Prescott Basin will be your safe haven. The Prescott Basin takes up nearly 4 percent of the Prescott National Forest, and it’s filled dispersed camping sites.

This area is unique because the sites are also designated. For the folks who prefer this kind of camping, the National Forest did you a favor by designating an area and giving you the pleasure of some more rural camping without having to do all the work of finding it.

These sites don’t come at a cost, and for that reason, they also won’t come with those luxurious amenities like garbage service and drinking water.

Also, you cannot have a campfire unless the site has a fire ring provided. If you do make a fire, make sure you are following protocol (i.e. using dead and down wood, and never throwing cans, plastic or aluminum foil in your fire). Make sure it is dead out, too. Forests around the world have suffered enough from man-made fires gone wrong.

Additional Information: Prescott National Forest

Apache Creek Trail #9905

Why You Should Camp Here: For the full experience of frugal, primitive camping next to calm, running water in the Apache Creek Wilderness Area.

  • Reservations Accepted: First come, first serve
  • Best Season: Spring
  • Campsite Type: Tents
  • RV Hookups: No

All along the Apache Creek Trail are a series of primitive camping sites. These sites are for the folks that like packing their supplies on their backs and setting up camp deep in the forest. This area does not come with the bells and whistles like picnic tables and grills, but rather rugged terrain, alligator junipers, and gray foxes.

This 5,000-acre wilderness area keeps riparian areas, an abundant amount of wildlife, and an array of desert plants and trees undisturbed from commercial development. The area and this trail are accessible and easy, but know that when you enter this zone, no one is going to pick up after you or provide luxuries.

Keep no trace policies at the forefront of your mind, as well your eyes wide open for any sort of wildlife encounter. It wouldn’t be a surprise if a bobcat, mountain lion, or black bear made an appearance.

There are a series of trails in this wilderness area, including a loop trail. You can design your trip as you see fit, and hopefully, find peace in the fact that you may not be sharing the trail or your campsite with anyone. This area doesn’t get much foot traffic, and for some, that’s music to their ears.

Additional Information: Prescott National Forest

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