Boondocking, also known as dry camping, wild camping, or free camping, refers to the off-the-grid type of RV trip without hookups to water, electric, or sewer in the wilderness. Free-spirited and independent adventurers choose this route for its spaciousness without crowding and higher privacy. It also encourages a healthy, much-needed break from electronic devices and social media.
But why Arizona? Boondocking is legal in many national parks, including The Grand Canyon, and about 42% of Arizona’s total land mass is composed of public lands perfect for this type of budget-friendly camping. Contrary to popular belief, the state offers much more than just desert landscape to look at as well.
Here are some of our top picks for ideal boondocking spots to check out in Arizona (that do not include a Walmart parking lot).
Note: If you want to take the RV park route instead, read this list for plenty of highly recommended locations you must-see, or this itinerary for more underrated stops from southern to northern Arizona.
1. Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
Palm Canyon Road | Yuma, AZ
This wildlife refuge is a favorite of locals for boondocking due to its remote and vast feel. Spanning more than 665,000 acres, your morning view to wake up to will be the isolated Kofa Mountains and open desert. Located just about a 30-minute drive from Quartzsite, the dirt access roads to Palm Canyon Road are RV-friendly and maintained year-round. The more miles you go in from Highway 95, the more privacy you gain; however, it will become rougher the further you get toward the mountains.
Tip: If you are traveling with dogs, keep a careful eye on them getting too close to the copious amounts of cholla they can get into.
2. Coconino National Forest: Sedona
Forest Service Road 525 | Sedona, AZ
It’s no secret the magnificent red rocks are Sedona’s signature beauty offering. But boondocking in this cooler (than the Valley) climate is a whole other picturesque experience you have to see to believe. An advantage of doing so here is that you will avoid much of the tourist rustle and bustle, but still be close enough to shops and restaurants when you desire.
Tip: If you decide to visit during the winter season (December through February) to see the snow capped mountains, pack appropriately for its average low temperatures of high-20s to low-30s degrees.
3. Coronado National Forest: Pinery Canyon Campground
Forest Road 42 | San Simon, AZ
This hidden gem is nestled in southeast Arizona near Wilcox, just under a 2.5-hour drive from Tucson. During your dispersed camping adventure, if you do wish to venture out closer to Tucson, here are some top sights to see. At the Pinery Canyon Campground, all size rigs are allowed as the road is maintained until about seven miles inward. The main landmark to see here is the Chiricahua National Monument, which is appropriately referred to as a “Wonderland of Rocks” for its unique balanced rocks and vertical column formations.
Tip: There is inadequate cellular reception here, so remember to plan accordingly by letting someone know where you will be before you embark on this adventure.
4. Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest: Mogollon Rim
30 South Chiricahua Dr. | Springerville, AZ
At this dispersed camping site, you can feel like you’re on the edge of the world! Conveniently no reservations or site fees are required, but do note that “The Rim” is quite a popular destination. With its fire pits with grill tops and nearby Woods Canyon Lake that offers hiking trails and kayak rentals, it’s easy to see why.
Tip: This area is not recommended for young children or anyone that is uncomfortable with heights. It features campsites bordered by a 200-foot drop!
5. Craggy Wash
To add to the diverse scenery represented in this list, the “beach” and boating destination of Lake Havasu City must be mentioned. But to be far enough from the party scene, we recommend the quiet, safe and beautiful Craggy Wash. This site is level, well-marked, not too windy, and unique with hummingbirds and white-crowned sparrows you can watch. If you want to be active, this is the spot to ride ATVs and then relax and enjoy your hammocks at the end of the day with the family.
Tip: In addition to no hookups, there are also no trash cans so be sure to plan ahead. But, it is a close drive to get into town for all your necessities.
Anywhere on United States Forest Land or Bureau of Land Management (BLM)!
Rule of thumb: Always research the spot before you go to confirm it will be open, free, and accessible for your type of vehicle. Keep in mind the campsites on public land will likely require a four-wheel drive or high-clearance vehicle to navigate through the rougher dirt roads safely. Wherever you choose to go, please be respectful and Leave No Trace when you are finished, so that others may enjoy its preserved beauty for decades to come.
As mentioned, there are many prime opportunities for boondocking in Arizona for both beginners and avid dry campers alike due to its more moderate temperatures during what would be off-season in other states.
Remember: Most free camping areas will limit stays to 14 days; however, you can relocate to another spot for another two weeks afterwards as long as it’s over 25 miles away.
In between trips, be sure to store your RV in a secure, conveniently located spot such as the Ameripark Covered Storage in Tucson.
Call us at (520) 833-8016, or click here to reserve your spot for storage now!
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for recommendations or services provided by a licensed professional.