Arizona is a very special place to go camping and explore the outdoors. Arizona is home to some of the most diverse landscapes in the U.S., from red rock canyons to stunning mountain peaks to beautiful desert views.
There are also various activities, such as hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Arizona also has several free dispersed camping spots, allowing campers to experience the outdoors without spending much money.
People enjoy dispersed camping because it allows them to explore and experience the outdoors in a more primitive and secluded setting. Dispersed camping also allows campers to enjoy nature away from developed campground crowds and practice "Leave No Trace" principles.
Dispersed camping also allows campers to experience nature more intimately, allowing them to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors more fully.
Many campers enjoy dispersed camping in Flagstaff because it is a great way to experience the area's natural beauty without the crowds and the hustle and bustle of a traditional camping experience.
Is Flagstaff on your travel bucket list? This article focuses on dispersed camping destinations in Flagstaff. We will also discuss essential tips to help you get the most out of your camping experience in Flagstaff. Pitch your tent here. Let’s hit it.
Dispersed Camping in Flagstaff, Arizona
Here are the best spots near Flagstaff, Arizona, where dispersed camping is allowed. After this list, there is a complete guide you must follow to enjoy and unwind during a memorable camping experience in Flagstaff.
1. Wing Mountain
Motorable road networks, beautiful landscapes, sufficient space for trailers and trucks, and much more make Wing Mountain a popular camp spot. Wing Mountain is a vast landscape for campers.
Wing Mountain is an excellent spot for dispersed camping because it provides the perfect balance of privacy and convenience. While there are no designated camping areas, bedrooms, or toilets, there is enough space to enjoy the view.
The area is far enough off the beaten path to enjoy nature's peace, but it's still close enough to amenities like stores and restaurants if you need them. Plus, the views from the top are stunning and make for a great backdrop while camping.
Wing Mountain in Northern Arizona is an excellent spot for dispersed camping, offering spectacular views and access to various trails and recreation opportunities. Campers can choose from multiple terrains and scenery, including ponderosa pine forests and wide open spaces suitable for tents, trailers, and recreational vehicles. These spaces include Forest Service Roads 222, 171, and 151.
Dispersed camping is allowed in the area, and there are no fees. However, campers must follow state forest rules and regulations, such as burying human waste and only collecting dead wood for campfires. Wing Mountain camping is a wild out and unrestricted experience in the woods.
2. Freidlein Prairie
Freidlein Prairie in Northern Arizona is a great spot for dispersed camping. This beautiful area is situated at the base of the Mogollon Rim and provides stunning views of the mountain peaks and the vast desert landscape.
There are also a variety of trails and recreation opportunities nearby, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ATV trails.
Freidlein Prairie is a great spot for wildlife viewing, as the area is home to many species of birds and other animals. Dispersed camping is allowed in the area, and there are no fees. However, campers must follow state forest rules and regulations, such as burying human waste and only collecting dead wood for campfires.
Freidlein Prairie in Arizona is an excellent spot for dispersed camping because of its stunning views and easy access to outdoor activities. Various trails and recreation opportunities are nearby, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ATV trails.
3. Cinder Hills Off-Highway Vehicle Area
Best for ATV rides and exciting activities. It spans to the Cinder Hills area northeast and is easily one of the busiest camping areas in Flagstaff. This is because off-roaders enjoy riding in the terrain. If you enjoy meeting new people and watching riders have fun, you can join in the fun at the Cinder Hills OHV area.
You won't find water or restrooms at this site. However, it is about 15 miles from Flagstaff, so you can go into the city to do your business.
Cinder Hills Off-Highway Vehicle Area is an excellent location for dispersed camping. It offers great opportunities for Off-Road riding, camping, and exploring the terrain. It's also great for stargazing, as the sky is incredibly clear and dark here.
There are plenty of open areas to camp, and the terrain varies from rocky cinder hills to sand dunes. Be sure to bring plenty of water, as there are no water sources onsite.
There are also plenty of hiking, biking, and OHV riding trails, so bring your gear and spend the day exploring the area. Cinder Hills Off-Highway Vehicle Area is an excellent location for dispersed camping and a relaxing way to spend time outdoors.
4. Marshall Lake Area
The fourth on our list is a large camping area. Marshall Lake is frequently crowded with coots and other waterfowl flapping, splashing, and cooing. It is a critical wildlife habitat that Ducks Unlimited and the Arizona Game and Fish Department jointly manage.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department can stock the lake with trout during wet cycles because there is enough water. However, it might momentarily vanish in dry years. This region still provides fantastic opportunities for outdoor recreation, even when the lake is dry.
The vicinity is good to visit if you want to see some of the region's abundant elk or rare wintering bald eagles. You can see ospreys and waterfowl there.
The Marshall Lake Area in Arizona is an excellent choice for dispersed camping. It is in a picturesque area surrounded by lush forests and mountain views. The lake is relatively small, but it is a great spot to enjoy the area's beauty.
The nearby trails offer a chance to explore the site and get some exercise. The location is perfect for those looking to get away from it all and enjoy peace.
There are no facilities here, so you must bring your gear and supplies. Bring plenty of water and food, and be prepared to pack out your trash. You'll also want to check the area's fire restrictions before starting a campfire.
The Marshall Lake Area is a beautiful spot for dispersed camping and will provide a unique and memorable experience.
5. Willard Springs Road
Willow Springs Road dispersed camping is an easy and convenient spot south of Flagstaff off Highway 17. For those looking for an easy and quick campsite to access, it is just 2.5 miles from the freeway exit.
For those seeking more peace and quiet, several good sites are tucked into the trees just a bit further back along the Forest Service Road. No restrooms or water are available at the campsite.
The road is not so good. At least, it is a dispersed camping site. You should prepare to go with a truck that can traverse muddy and rough terrain. Nonetheless, there is enough space on the site for any size tent or rig you have. It is a beautiful spot.
6. Walnut Canyon
If you want to camp east of Flagstaff and explore the National Monument, this is a great place for overlanding. This is a great option for vehicles that can't handle some of the rougher roads because the road leading here is also in good condition.
Walnut Canyon is a national monument located in Arizona, about 15 miles southeast of Flagstaff. It is known for its cliff dwellings, which the Sinagua people constructed over 700 years ago. The canyon walls contain over 90 cliff dwellings, most tucked away in alcoves or along the canyon walls.
It is an incredible example of how the ancient Sinagua people were able to construct such dwellings and make use of the landscape. Campers can take a self-guided tour of the canyon by walking along the Rim Trail, which overlooks the canyon and its dwellings. Walnut Canyon is also home to various wildlife, including mule deer, coyotes, and birds.
A trip to Walnut Canyon is worth it because the magnificent canyon walls and historic cliff dwellings are breathtaking.
Guide To A Memorable Dispersed Camping Trip in Flagstaff, Arizona
Let us give you all the essential details you need to organize a dispersed camping trip close to Flagstaff, Arizona. This section highlights tips on the best time to camp, what to bring, and details on recent closures of popular camping areas.
Best Time To Camp in Flagstaff
Flagstaff is a unique destination. Because it is located at the base of Arizona's tallest mountain, Humphreys Peak, the weather can be extreme. It has an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. Thus, camping here is best between April and October. The camping season may be shorter at higher elevations in the San Francisco peaks, but it may be extended by a month or two at lower elevations. Those who camp in RVs or campers can also enjoy a longer season.
What To Bring to Dispersed Camping in Flagstaff
When camping in the wilderness around Flagstaff, it is important to come well-prepared. This is due to the unique geographical location of the area, where the desert and mountains meet. This is especially true for dispersed camping, as a developed campground offers no amenities. It is essential to come prepared for the conditions.
Below is some stuff you need for a memorable dispersed camping experience in Flagstaff:
- Map: While you may think you have Google Maps, it’s a pity that Google needs an internet connection. That might be a luxury in the woods. You need a correct map to ensure that you are on public land. We recommend this National Geographic map. It gives a comprehensive overview of Flagstaff and Sedona.
- Camping Stove: When camping in a dispersed camping area, you need a camping stove because there are no cooking areas or campfire rings. You need a camping stove to cook meals, boil water, and keep warm in cold weather. It is also important to remember that open fires are not allowed in some dispersed camping areas in Flagstaff. A camping stove is the only way to cook food and boil water.
- Portable water container: There is no access to clean water in the woods. Mainly in the Flagstaff dispersed camping areas listed in this article. You need a portable water container.
- Cooler: If you come with food and drinks, you want to keep them cool. Flagstaff’s climate can be harsh.
- Mats: This is a no-brainer, but it is worth mentioning. There are no bedrooms in these dispersed camping spots. You need a camp mat.
Do You Need to Get Any Permits?
Flagstaff has several dispersed camping spots. In general, no fees or permits are required for dispersed camping on public land, but you should always confirm with the local ranger station.
It is advisable to reach out to the Flagstaff Ranger District for the latest information about camping in the area. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information about camping regulations and conditions.
Recently closed areas for dispersed camping in Flagstaff, Arizona:
Some popular dispersed camping areas in Flagstaff have been closed to the public at the time of writing this article. You can see closed areas in the Forest Service Order 03-04-20-5-F document. Here are the two most popular closed spots:
- Schultz Pass Road
- Fort Valley Dispersed Camping
It is advisable to steer clear of these areas until there is a notice that they are reopened.
What You Must Know About Open Fires
Can you start an open fire in a dispersed camp in Flagstaff? Knowing and obeying any seasonal fire restrictions in the wilderness areas around Flagstaff is essential. Flagstaff authorities have banned fires in many areas because of several recent destructive wildfires ravaging the city. It is crucial that campers only have campfires when they are allowed. Here is where to check for restrictions on fire wherever you are headed.
Taking the necessary precautions to prevent wildfires can help protect the surrounding environment and keep it safe for future campers.
This is the complete guide to free dispersed camping in Flagstaff, Arizona. How about more adventures? Check out this guide to the best dispersed camping spots in Michigan.