10 Best Places to Camp in Arizona

Tent camping in Az

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When you think of Arizona, you may think of cacti, vast desert landscapes, and relentless heat. But Arizona is surprisingly diverse and has a wide array of climates, landscapes and wildlife. 

No matter what kind of camping trip you’re looking to plan—Arizona probably has the perfect place for you. 

Here are 10 of the best places for camping in Arizona:

1. Jacob Lake National Recreation Area 

Located in the North Kaibab National Forest and serving as a gateway to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim—Jacob Lake National Recreation Area is a haven for outdoor activities. 

The campground is nestled under the canopy of the ponderosa pine trees which provide a welcomed retreat from the hot sun. If you’re wanting to plan a trip to the Grand Canyon without wading through crowds, Jacobs Lake National Recreation Area may be the perfect solution for you and your family. Enjoy camping, hiking, kayaking, birding and mountain biking through this stunning terrain. 

Consider checking out some of these apps for camping and overlanding to help you find the best hiking and biking trails, places to camp in the forest, and download offline navigational maps.

Historic Jacob Lake Ranger Station - Grand Canyon North Rim via Flickr
Jacob Lake Inn Via Flickr

2. Patagonia Lake State Park

If hiking, fishing, watersports, and wildlife watching are how you prefer to spend your camping trips—Patagonia Lake State Park should be a must-see on your Arizona camping bucket list. 

This 265 acre man-made lake is located in southeastern Arizona and spans over 2.5 miles. The park has 105 full hookup sites that include a fire ring/pit, picnic table, and two additional spots without electricity. If you book ahead of time you may be able to land one of the coveted waterfront campsites, or even one with a ramada.

Lake Patagonia is one of the few places for waterfront camping in Southern Arizona, so it pays to book ahead of time for the best spots.

PATAGONIA_LAKE_STATE_PARK by ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Campsite (Patagonia Lake SP) by Brian Henderson via Flickr

3. Lake Havasu State Park 

Lake Havasu State Park is a favorite of camping and outdoor recreation lovers from all around. The park offers 54 campsites and 13 cabins you can rent for your stay. This park is incredibly popular, so advanced reservations are highly recommended.

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Water sports and hiking trails are the most popular activities Lake Havasu State Park offers, and there is no shortage of boat rentals in the area. If you are a fishing enthusiast—Lake Havasu is home to some of the best fishing in the Southwest.

Lake Havasu Arizona image via Canva
Lake Havasu City,Arizona by Ken Lund via Wikimedia Commons

4. Havasupai Falls

Havasupai falls is a stunning red rock oasis contrasted by crystal blue waters outside of the Grand Canyon National Park. All tourism is suspended for the remainder of the 2022 season, however it will resume in 2023. Getting a reservation is just as tedious as planning for this trip can be. Here is a complete overview of how to hike Havasupai falls.

This oasis is owned by the Havasupai Indian reservation, and they warn that the trek down to the falls is daunting, and hikers should ensure they are physically fit and adequately prepared for the journey. Tent camping in Arizona at Havasupai falls is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Reservations are incredibly limited and can be tough to get— however totally worth the effort. This will surely be a once in a lifetime opportunity if you can pull off getting a reservation and making the trek.

Here’s a packing list for Havasupai falls if you plan on going here.

Havasu-Falls
Havasu-Falls-bridge-at-camp

5. Monument Valley, The View Campground: Most Iconic Place to Camp In Arizona

This campground offers incredible views of the iconic Monument Valley viewpoint. The RV sites offer the best views, but there are wilderness sites and hotel rooms available which also provide stunning views. Truly one of the best AZ camping spots you’ll find.

The area was made popular during the 1930’s when it began to be featured in John Ford films. More recently it has been seen in Forrest Gump, Westworld, and Mission Impossible II. Monument Valley offers plenty of hiking, biking and sight seeing for all ages.

Monument Valley sunrise Arizona via Canva
Monument Valley Arizona via Canva

6. Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon

Sedona is home to some of the most popular camping spots in Arizona due to its spiritual associations and supposed energy vortexes. This is a popular destination for those who enjoy outdoor activities and interested in exploring the spiritual attributes Sedona offers.

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Oak Creek Canyon is a stunning red rock canyon filled with towering oak trees. This spot is perfect for those who’d like to cliff jump, swim, hike, and fish. Although there are plenty of nearby campgrounds— it is recommended that you make your reservations well in advance to ensure you can snag a spot.

Oak Creek Campground Sedona Az
camping at Oak Creek Campground Sedona Az

7. Bonito Campground, Flagstaff

Bonito campground is named from the Bonito Lava flow 900 years ago. The flow left behind stunning lava caves, petrified rock and lava squeeze-ups. You can even ascend Mount Humphrey to bask in the majesty of this dormant volcano, or visit Sunset crater. Sunset crater erupted in 1085 A.D and now is covered in oxidized, red spatter that shines beautifully at sunset.  

Also, Flagstaff (and the Coconino National Forest) offers a vastly different terrain than almost any other landscape in and around Arizona. Instead of the traditional desert landscape, Flagstaff is green and sits at a higher and cooler elevation than other camping sites in Arizona.

San Francisco Peaks (north of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA) by James St. John via Flickr
Bonito Campground, Flagstaff Arizona via Canva

8. Rose Canyon Campground (Best Camping in Southern Arizona)

Take a drive along the Catalina Highway Scenic Drive and be sure to stop at Rose Canyon Campground on Mt. Lemmon. Tucson is known for its extreme heat in the summer months and heading to Rose Canyon is a wonderful way to cool off. 

If you’re looking for some of the best camping in southern Arizona, you will not be disappointed with this site. There is plenty to do including stunning hiking trails, abundant wildlife to watch, and great fishing. 

There are 73 total camping sites in Arizona available for reservation and two group sites. Be sure to book your stay early as these sites are incredibly popular and fill up fast. They all come with picnic tables and some RV camping options.

Rose Canyon Lake Sign - Coronado National Forest via Flickr
Rose Canyon Lake view toward Dam - Coronado National Forest via Flickr

9. Lost Dutchman State Park 

This state park is located in the Superstition Mountains. Legend has it that there is a mine filled with the lost Dutchman’s gold worth over 40 million dollars— if you can find it. Looking for gold is just a small fraction of the activities this stunning desert oasis offers.

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Just 40 minutes outside of Phoenix, you can find plenty of hiking, biking, wildlife watching and stargazing. There are no shortages of activities and sites to see in the park.

Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona via Canva

10. Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak is impossible to miss while driving between Phoenix and Tucson. It towers 1,500 feet above the valley floor and has been used as a landmark for centuries. 

This peak is made of eroded volcanic flow. Catch it at the right time in the spring and you may be presented with a stunning array of wildflowers, including the Mexican poppy.

Between its rich history, diverse wildlife, and challenging hiking trails, Picacho Peak State Park is a fun and convenient stop while traveling along the I-10. This park also has one of the largest Arizona state campgrounds and offers 85 electric campsites suitable for RVs and tent camping. WiFi is available for an additional fee at all campsites. 

Camping in southern Arizona can be incredibly hot in the summer months though—so it may be best to avoid visiting June to August. If you do go when it’s hot, be sure to pack plenty of water as there is no water along the trails.

Picacho Peak State Park Arizona via Canva

Final Thoughts on The Best Places to Camp In Arizona

Arizona is home to stunning rock formations, spiritual meccas, Indian reservations, and a uniquely diverse landscape. There is no shortage of places to see and things to do year round making it an ideal destination for families, adventure enthusiasts, and wildlife lovers.

We love camping in Arizona. Its low desert is great to stay warm in the winter, and the higher elevation sites are perfect to escape the heat in the summer. It’s also a great place to go overlanding, if you prefer vehicle-based travel.

About the Author– Bill is an adventure lover and overlanding enthusiast. He’s been all over the USA and Mexico in his Toyota Tacoma overlanding truck. Learn more about overlanding and adventure travel at his website Adventures On The Rock.

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Tent on Arizona plains image
Sunrise with cactus
Peak in Arizona with Agave plant in the foreground

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2 Responses

  1. What a great post! Having grown up in Arizona, I’ve had the opportunity to hike and camp in all of these areas. So glad to see the “locals only” Lake Patagonia make the list! Another great site nearby is Parker Canyon Lake, south of Sonoita in the southeastern part of the Coronado National Forest. You’ve definitely made me homesick with this post!

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