Are you planning to go camping in Arizona? Let us help you spend as little money as possible on camping accommodations!
Arizona is packed full of free campsites where you can enjoy free accommodation and the tons of fun activities that come with it. In this article, we will have you the trouble of finding the best free dispersed camping spots and serve you our top ten favorite spots on a platter.
Camping In Arizona
Transport? Check. Camping gear? Check. What about accommodation?
When it comes to camping trips, one of the most important aspects is to find suitable accommodation within the location you are interested in. Without proper accommodation, you will be left high and dry without a suitable place to rest your head at night and perform other essential activities.
Accommodation in camping trips can either be in designated campgrounds or dispersed areas where campers can legally boondock for several days. With designated campgrounds often requiring payment that can equal hundreds of dollars, it is easy to see why these pricey areas are often avoided by campers looking to enjoy nature on the cheaper side.
Not being able to find a suitable camping spot without money can be a bummer. Thankfully, if you find yourself in Arizona, you can never run out of free camping spots to set up your tents and enjoy your trip.
Sandwiched between California, Nevada, Utah, and Mexico, Arizona is a southwestern state with a population of about 7,303,398. With a population this size, Arizona is crowned the 14th most populous state.
Also fondly known as The Grand Canyon State, Arizona has more than the famous Grand Canyon chasm to offer. With its warm weather, natural beauty, and magnificent views, it is not surprising that Arizona is a popular place for tourists to visit.
In 2020, a whopping 32.1 million tourists visited Arizona to witness its natural wonders. Many of these people were undoubtedly campers who came to take advantage of the nice terrains to enjoy an exquisite camping experience.
Arizona has vast geography filled with unique flora and amazing fauna. From the deep canyons of the Grand Canyon to natural rock formations, volcanic mountain ranges, arid deserts, falls, rivers, and valleys, it is impossible to run out of places to visit when camping in Arizona.
Approximately 85 percent of Arizona’s land comprises national forests, national parks, recreation and wilderness areas, wildlife preserves and Indian reservations. The Federal Government manages and controls ownership of approximately 42.29 percent of Arizona's total land, totaling about 30,741,287 acres. Seeing that Arizona is the sixth largest state in the country, public lands are vast and almost endless.
This is good news for campers looking to enjoy Arizona’s scenery for free, as many of these reserves, parks, and forests on public land do not require payment to be used as camping spots. If you are looking to enjoy a budget-friendly camping trip, then Arizona is the right place to visit.
Where To Camp For Free In Arizona
Arizona is blessed with a vast amount of free land waiting to accommodate campers on weekend getaways or overland campers passing through the area on their overland expedition. From terrains ranging from arid deserts to lush rainforests, you will undoubtedly find a great place to set up camp and enjoy the ultimate camping experience for free.
Most free camping spots in Arizona are located on Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service land. This means not all public or federal land can be used for temporary accommodation.
Before you choose a spot to boondock in, we recommend you research to ensure it is legal to set up camp in that area. We also recommend getting the necessary permits to ensure you do not get in trouble for trespassing.
Many of these free dispersed camping spots see lots of traffic and are not as maintained as designated camping areas, making them moderately challenging to navigate. To enjoy the areas, we recommend using 4x4 high clearance vehicles.
Admittedly, this rule cannot be applied to all dispersed camping spots in Arizona, which is why you should investigate the state of the camping spot before visiting it. This will ensure you are not a victim of any unfortunate surprises that might leave you and your vehicle in a sticky situation.
Many free dispersed camping spots in Arizona have limited resources and facilities that are otherwise usually available at designated camping spots. When you choose to go dispersed camping in Arizona, it is essential to know that you won’t be privy to bathroom facilities, kitchen facilities, garbage disposal, and in most cases, outdoor toilets.
This requires you to navigate the essentials by creating makeshift solutions that will last the duration of your stay and clean up after you when you decide to leave.
To maintain the state of the camping spots and protect the natural scenery, many of the dispersed camping spots in Arizona are protected by the Leave No Trace principles. These principles are outdoor ethics that require campers who use the area to respect the areas they use while also helping them remain safe as they camp. These principles include:
- Plan & prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be considerate of others
Free dispersed camping spots in Arizona often have a stay limit for campers who use the area. The stay limit is usually 14 days within a 25-mile radius.
You cannot set up camp for more than 14 days, and when you do pack up camp when your stay is over, you need to move to another camping spot more than 25 miles away from the area you are leaving.
All in all, the free dispersed camping spots in Arizona are a welcome solution for campers who are looking to enjoy the joys of nature for free. As long as you do your research beforehand and familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the area you choose, you should have no problem camping in Arizona for free.
Ten Best Free Dispersed Camping Spots In Arizona
Our favorite thing about dispersed camping in Arizona is you have many options to choose from. Free dispersed camping spots are spread out in several locations across several terrains.
All you need to do is find the spot that best suits your needs.Some of the best free dispersed camping spots in Arizona include:
1. Edge Of The World
The Edge Of The World dispersed campground might not take its name quite literally, but it still offers a sweeping view of Sedona around and below. Edge Of The World, also fondly called End Of The World or East Pocket, is located in the Coconino National Forest, just outside Flagstaff.
It is undoubtedly one of the most popular dispersed camping spots in Arizona as it is often frequented by campers who are looking to enjoy a majestic view from the top and other activities the area has to offer.
If you crave the ultimate ‘out in the jungle’ experience, Edge Of The World is the perfect fit for you. To reach the campground, you will drive through mildly challenging dirt roads, right into what looks like an area with thick clusters of trees.
The campground is a large clearing with plenty of shade that operates on a first come, first serve principle, so be sure to be there early (especially on the weekend) if you plan to get the best spot.
2. Saddle Mountain Overlook
Saddle Mountain Overlook is a BLM-owned land that offers a breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon. It is located off W. Courthouse Road through a series of challenging terrains that are preferably traveled with a high clearance vehicle.
Even with a high clearance vehicle, the drive can be notably difficult and rocky, so we recommend going slow, especially if you choose to come in through the dirt roads in the east. To be safe, we advise you to always move with a vehicle recovery kit, just in case.
If you manage to beat the challenging drive to the campground, you will be privy to a secluded campground that offers an excellent view of the area. The area can get considerably busy, so if you want to enjoy more privacy and less noise, you should drive further up the road and find a spot to settle in.
All in all, Saddle Mountain Dispersed Campground is easily one of the best dispersed camping spots in Arizona.
3. Coconino Rim Road
Coconino Rim Road is an equally popular and amazing dispersed camping spot in Kaibab National Forest. Since Coconino Rim Road can only be accessed through the Grand Canyon National Park, it is the perfect final stop for campers who find themselves in the area.
All roads leading to the Coconino Rim Road are considerably easy to navigate with 2WD and big 4WD rigs. The camping area is large enough, so you don't have to worry about running out of spots to set up camp in unless it is summer camp season, of course).
Additionally, when you camp on Coconino Rim Road, you will be close to tourist hot spots like the Grandview Lookout Tower and Trail. While this is great, the campground is as primitive as it gets and offers no essential amenities. The closest vault toilet in the area is located at the Grandview Lookout Tower.
4. Freidlein Prairie Dispersed Camping
The USDA Forest Service manages the Freidlein Prairie Dispersed camping spot. It includes 14 dispersed campsites spread along the Freidlein Prairie road. It is impossible to miss the spot, especially if you are heading towards Flagstaff, as the campsites are located on the south side of the road.
Each spot in Freidlein Prairie Dispersed Camping is marked with a brown post bearing the number of the site and a decal showing the campers that the spot is a designated free campsite.
Additionally, each site has vehicle pads, a fire ring, and a tent pad. However, none of the campsites are large enough to fit RVs or have other amenities like water hookups or trash disposal services.
5. Plomosa Road
Plomosa Road Dispersed Campsite is north of Quartzsite, the closest town to the camping spot. It is an impressive desert area located on BLM land. Plomosa Road is open year round. It is open for use free of charge, however, campers will need a permit to boondock on the land.
Plomosa is a vast land that operates on a first come, first served basis, so it is essential to arrive early to secure your spot in peak camping season. Campers can stay on Plomosa Road for 14 consecutive days. There are no amenities in the area, so you will have to make do with what you have.
6. Gardner Canyon Road Dispersed Camping
The Gardner Canyon Road Dispersed Camping is located in the Coronado National Forest. It is located in the southern part of Arizona and can be easily accessed from Tucson.
Gardner Canyon Road Dispersed Camping is a mixture of a breathtaking view of the mountains, interesting and diverse flora, and rocky roads. The roads leading to the campground are rocky and washboard. However, driving a vehicle with high clearance, you should find it easy to navigate the area.
If you own an RV, you can also attempt to visit this camping spot as long as you take the drive slow. Due to the elevation, the camping spot can get chilly at night, so remember to pack an extra layer of clothing. The Gardner Canyon Road Dispersed Campsites are a convenient and beautiful option for campers who don't mind dry camping without amenities.
7. Loy Butte Road Dispersed Camping
Loy Butte Road Dispersed Camping is located in the Coconino National Forest. This pretty red desert spotted with green scrubs offers a majestic view of the mountains in the distance and a picture-worthy sunset every day.
One great thing about the Loy Butte Road Dispersed Camping is its proximity to town. It is only about 30 minutes from Sedona, depending on what part of the camping spot you are leaving.
There are several roads leading to the Loy Butte Road Dispersed Camping, with many of these roads being gravelly and mildly challenging to navigate due to washboards. However, as long as you are driving a 4WD vehicle, you should find it easy to maneuver your vehicle. If you are driving a 2WD with low clearance, it is important to stick to the main road to avoid getting stranded.
Loy Butte Road Dispersed Camping is wide, with lots of space for campers who visit the area. Although the road can get busy, this campsite is considerably peaceful. There are no amenities or potable water in the area, so remember to come with as much water as you might need.
8. Indian Bread Rocks
Indian Bread Rocks is located on BLM land south of Happy Camp Canyon. It consists of steep slopes, mountain ranges, and diverse flora and fauna to provide one of the best camping experiences in Arizona.
Indian Bread Rocks is an open, wide, and beautiful expanse of land that is accessible by any type of vehicle. It is not only the perfect place to go boondocking but also enjoy numerous activities like hiking and family picnics.
Indian Bread Rocks is an underdeveloped area and lacks amenities other than a toilet and, if you are lucky enough, fire pits left by previous campers. It can also get busy in this camping spot, but the area is big enough that you do not have to worry about not getting a space to camp.
9. Harshaw Road
Located near Patagonia, Harshaw Road is a great camping spot for campers who find themselves exploring southern Arizona. It is a beautiful desert filled with rolling hills and thickets that are dense in some areas and clustered in some. Essentially, Harshaw Road is a scenic area not too far from Tucson.
Patagonia is a historic mining district, so adventurous campers have a lot of sightseeing and exploring of the areas to do. The area also offers other interesting activities for campers looking to indulge in them.
Harshaw is a great place for tent and RV campers. It is a wide area with spots scattered along the location with roads that can be easily maneuvered. The area can get busy with other campers and border patrol vehicles. However, it is relatively peaceful. If the noise borders you, you can try to find a spot farther away from the road.
10. Badger Creek Overlook
Campsites at Badger Creek Overlook offer an impressive panoramic view of the Vermillion Cliffs in the distance and overlook the Colorado River. It is located near Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and about 15 minutes south of Marble Canyon.
One great thing about Badger Creek Overlook is it seems to be mostly undiscovered by many other campers that ply the area. This makes it relatively peaceful and free of the high traffic of visitors that visit the other dispersed campsites on our list.
Badger Creek Overlook has campsites that can fit tent and RV campers. Although all the campers are exposed without shades, it is nothing awnings cannot fix.
An Unforgettable Arizona Camping Experience
It is no secret that Arizona offers what is perhaps a camping experience that gives other states in the country a run for their money. Why not take advantage of that and enjoy free camping in the land filled with dramatically scenic views?
The ten free dispersed camping spots in our list might be our favorites, but they are just a few out of the numerous dispersed camping spots in Arizona. More spots are waiting to be discovered on your next camping trip.
Are you looking to widen your Horizon? Check out our 20 best free dispersed camping spots in Washington.