In most places, trying to camp out in the winter is a frigid, wet, and miserable experience. Not in Arizona.
While you can find cold and snow in Arizona’s higher elevations, the majority of the state is low-elevation desert offering mild winter weather. Though an occasional storm may pass through, most winter days are sunny and warm with only chilly overnight temps.
With so much desert real estate at our disposal, there’s a plethora of winter camping options throughout the southern and western parts of the state. Here’s three of the best winter camping locations that’ll keep you warm and happy during the coldest months of the year.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is the only place in the US where the namesake cacti grow wild. The park is located on the Mexican border two hours to the south of Phoenix, and is diverse in its collection of wildlife and vegetation.
Located in the park is Quitobaquito Springs, a unique desert spring that’s a must see. December to March is the best time to visit the place, and makes for an optimal winter camping spot.
Twin Peaks Campground
Twin Peaks Campground is the nearest, and has 34 tent-only sites and 174 spots for accommodating RV’s. The tent setup is quite easy as most of the sites have been leveled out for convenience. The campgrounds also have picnic tables and BBQ tables setup.
Alamo Canyon Campground
Alamo Canyon Campground is a primitive sky campground, that has only 4 tent-only sites surrounded by a desert landscape, rather quiet. If you enjoy solitude and would like to spend some time in private, this could be the perfect choice for you.
Activities such as fishing, swimming, picnicking and wildlife viewing are popular. The skies out here are nice and dark too — stargazing also sounds fun, doesn’t it!
If you enjoy long drives, you could consider the Puerto Blanco Drive and the Ajo Mountain Drive, both close to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Nearby Hiking Trails
Arch Canyon Trail
Arch Canyon Trail spans 2.4 miles and climbs about 1,200 feet of elevation, making for a moderate to challenging hike. This scenic desert trail is popular for bird watching as and is accessible year round. Hit it in February or March during a wet winter and you’ll be treated to beautiful wildflowers on the trailside.
Trekking poles might be a good idea as it’s a steep climb toward the top, but the outstanding views from the top make it worth it.
Desert View Trail
The Desert View Trail spans 1.2 mile round-trip, and the hiking rewards you with breathtaking views of the Ajo range. This loop trail is scenic, easy, and great for families.
Patagonia Lake State Park
Patagonia Lake State Park is situated in the hills of southeastern Arizona, and is home to the Patagonia lake, one of the prettiest desert lakes in Arizona.
It’s open year round, and the specialty of the state park is in its lakefront campgrounds, picnic area, grills and tables for camping and marina.
Patagonia Lake Campground
The campground is set overlooking the Patagonia Lake, and it is popular for the plethora of activities that it offers. From camping to fishing, kayaking and boating, to horseback riding, the campground has activities galore.
There is a marina where you can rent paddle and fishing boats, and also a grocery store nearby.
It is also an ideal place for spotting wildlife such as coeus whitetail deer, blue herons, coatimundi and birds such as turkey vultures, tanagers, inca dove, hummingbirds and vermilion flycatcher among many others.
Nearby Hiking Trails
Sonoita Creek Trail
The Sonoita Creek Trail is a 2.9 mile hike is for the bird lovers, who get to spot a lot of birds in the early mornings, and offers a panoramic view of the Patagonia Lake from the top. It’s suitable for all difficulty levels.
Lost Dutchman State Park
Named after the mythical Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, on the footsteps of the Superstition Mountains.
Some of the wildlife native to the area are, the mule deer, coyote, jackrabbit and javelina. The state park is also a trailhead for trails leading to the Tonto National Forest and the rugged Superstitions.
Lost Dutchman Campground
The Lost Dutchman Campground has a total of 138 sites and gets thousands of visitors yearly. The camping sites are equipped with dining tables, fire pits and grill gates.
The campground is clean, well maintained and the stunning mountain and desert views from it make it a preferred camping destination.
Nearby Hiking Trails
Treasure Loop Trail
The Treasure Loop Trail is a great hike that you can start right from the campground. It is a 2.5 mile hike of moderate level difficulty because of the rocks and boulders that makes the trail.
Wildflowers may be in full bloom in late winter and early spring. Mountain biking is also allowed, although bikes are not permitted to cross in the Superstition Wilderness.
You can also take advantage of the Native Plant Trail, which is a great kid-friendly trail.
If you are looking at options for tents for caping, check out this list of some of the tents we have found to be the best in cold weather.
If want a little more challenging hike straight from camp, take the Siphon Draw Trail. To the end of trail in a sculptured bedrock grotto, it’s 4 miles round trip, or you can climb all the way to the top of the Flatiron above in 5 miles — but be warned, it’s super steep!
Gear Up for Winter
That rounds out the top three winter camping areas in Arizona. Check out our guide to the best family camping tents for bad weather at Outdoorily.com, or some of the gear guides here on Territory Supply, like the best camping stoves and the best camping cots.