Arizona is full of natural wonders, from the Grand Canyon to Saguaro National Park, with ample outdoor fun ranging from mountain biking to horseback riding. Much of the state is occupied by the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts, but start exploring and you'll quickly discover that Arizona is more than just jackrabbits and cacti—there are lakes, rivers, mountains, forests, and miles of hiking trails. It's also a great place for sleeping under the stars, and while parts of Arizona can get a bit too hot for comfort in summer, those same places offer pleasant camping weather throughout much of the year.
While northern Arizona's best-known attraction is the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, there’s plenty more to see and do, from visiting Lake Powell on the Colorado River to backcountry tent camping among the ponderosa pines in the Coconino National Forest, Prescott National Forest, and Kaibab National Forest. Sedona, just south of Flagstaff, also makes a great base for hiking among Arizona's Red Rocks or swimming in Oak Creek Canyon’s Slide Rock State Park.
Dubbed Arizona's "West Coast," this part of the state offers all sorts of outdoor activities, much of which revolve around the Colorado River. The town of Yuma near the southern border is a popular spot, featuring an old Wild West prison and serving as a good base for visiting the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. Attractions further north include Lake Havasu State Park, where you can swim, camp, or even check out the 19th-century London Bridge. Further north, the massive Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers year-round camping and easy access to two lakes.
While it's easy to associate central Arizona with Phoenix sprawl, this region offers a lot for outdoorsy types, all within a short drive of the city. Popular spots for outdoors lovers include the Superstition Mountains in the Tonto National Forest, Lost Dutchman State Park, and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. If you're interested in archaeology, the Montezuma Castle National Monument is also worth a visit.
Southern Arizona is full of Wild West spirit, with a mix of historic ghost towns and scenic desert landscapes, plus plenty of forests, particularly in the Chiricahua Mountains. Must-visit parks include Saguaro National Park and Catalina State Park—both just outside Tucson. If it gets too hot, make like a local and head to Patagonia Lake State Park, a prime spot to swim and cool off from the Arizona heat.
Yes, you can camp along the Salt River in Arizona. There are several developed campgrounds and day-use sites managed by the Tonto National Forest. While Coon Bluff, Phon D Sutton, and Granite Reef recreation sites are popular day-use options, there are other campgrounds available for overnight stays. Additionally, you can find private campgrounds along the Salt River, such as the San Tan Valley Hipcamp. Keep in mind that some sites may require a fee, and it's important to follow any posted rules and regulations while camping in these areas.
Boondocking, or dispersed camping, is not illegal in Arizona as long as you follow the rules and regulations set by the managing agency of the land on which you're camping. Arizona has a variety of public lands, including National Forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, and state trust lands, where boondocking is allowed. However, it's essential to check the specific rules for each area, as some locations may have restrictions or require permits. Additionally, you can find boondocking sites on Hipcamp that are privately owned and managed, ensuring a legal and enjoyable boondocking experience in Arizona.
It is not accurate to say that camping is illegal anywhere in Arizona. However, there are specific rules and regulations regarding where you can camp. Camping is generally permitted in designated campgrounds, state parks, national forests, and on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, as well as some private lands. Always check local regulations and obtain necessary permits before camping to ensure you are following the law and respecting the environment.
Remember to follow Leave No Trace principles and check local regulations before setting up camp. Note that amenities are limited or nonexistent at these free campsites, so come prepared with your own water, waste disposal, and other necessities.
The best season to camp in Arizona is during the fall and spring months, specifically from October to April. During these months, temperatures are milder and more comfortable for outdoor activities and camping. In particular, the desert areas of Arizona, such as Phoenix and Tucson, offer pleasant daytime temperatures and cool nights. The summer months, from May to September, can be extremely hot and are not recommended for camping, especially in the desert regions.