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Coconino National Forest Camping Guide

There are few places better for enjoying a camping trip than in one of the most diverse, visually breathtaking national forests in the United States. That’s what makes Arizona’s Coconino National Forest such a treasure…and why it deserves a place on every camper’s bucket list!

Before you kick off a Coconino National Forest camping trip, our guide will help you prepare! Learn about the best places for camping, the can’t-miss activities, the gear you need to bring, and so much more.

The Courthouse Butte rock formation located in Coconino National Forest.

What Is Coconino National Forest?

Located in the Flagstaff area of northern Arizona, Coconino National Forest is widely considered to be one of the country’s most diverse national forests. This stunning forest boasts breathtaking scenic mountains and deep canyons, sparkling water bodies in the form of lakes, streams, and creeks, numerous recreational opportunities, and so much more.

When is the Best Time to Visit Coconino National Forest?

With its vast acreage and diversity of terrain and wildlife, a visit to Coconino National Forest can be enjoyed just about any time! In the summertime, fishing, swimming, and other watersports often dominate the scene, as well as trail hiking and wildlife viewing throughout the park.

In the winter, a vast array of winter sports attract many campers from across the country. The skiing, snowmobiling, and other winter recreations are hard to pass up on! Coconino National Forest camping can also be enjoyed year round. Some campgrounds are available only during the summer season, but others are open for winter camping, too.

The good news is, no matter when you plan to have your Coconino National Forest camping trip, you are sure to find plenty of time for fun, and some great accommodations to make this feel like your home away from home!

Where to Stay at Coconino National Forest

Best Camping Spots

The numerous Coconino National Forest camping spots are spread out between three different ranger districts within the forest: Flagstaff, Mogollon Rim, and Red Rock Country. There are some options for year round camping as well as dispersed camping.

Oak Creek is a popular Coconino National Forest camping location.
Oak Creek in Coconino National Forest.

Flagstaff Ranger District

There are nine Coconino National Forest camping areas in the Flagstaff ranger district. These campgrounds open May 1 each year (barring any fire or weather risks). Some campsites are reservable and some are first come, first served. There is also a group camp with three group areas in this ranger district.

Mogollon Rim Ranger District

There are eight Coconino National Forest camping areas in the Mogollon Rim ranger district. This includes three group campgrounds, two of which are five acres each.The individual sites in Mogollon Rim are first come, first served, while the group campgrounds must be reserved ahead of time.

Red Rock Country Ranger District

There are five Coconino National Forest camping areas in the Red Rock Country ranger district. These include several group sites and numerous single use units. Most units are reservable in this ranger district, and the Cave Springs Campground in this district does accept credit card payment on site for campsites.

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed throughout much of Coconino National Forest, with a handful of exceptions (these include Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon; Stage Stop; Mormon Crossing/Springs; Fossil Creek Area; and the FR 237 and Kelly Pocket Areas).

There are also several designated areas for dispersed camping as well, in each ranger district as well as in the West Clear Creek area of the national forest.

Cabin Camping

For campers who would like a slightly more glamorous Coconino National Forest camping experience, there are cabins available in the Flagstaff and Rec Rock Country ranger districts. These can be reserved up to 180 days in advance and are often scattered between cabins and rustic yurts.

Booking, Fees, and What to Bring

Many of the campsites within the three Coconino National Forest camping districts are first come, first served. Some campsites can be reserved ahead of time. Some campgrounds do charge a fee, and some do not. However, campgrounds do not have credit card processing on site and can only be paid for by cash or check in person.

When it comes to planning your Coconino National Forest camping adventure, you want to ensure you have all of the right gear in the best condition to maximize your experience. Before you head out to the national forest, be sure to check all of your camping gear for any rips, tears, mildew, or other compromises.

Three tents set up as a desert campsite.

If you are planning to enjoy some water activity, you will want to make sure you have season appropriate swimwear, as well as safety gear for boating, waterskiing, windsurfing, and for swimmers of all ages. You will also want to bring your sunblock and insect repellent of choice, as there are many insect varieties in Coconino National Forest as well.

Hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers will also want to assure they have the appropriate gear and that it is in good condition, with safety accounted for. Wildlife viewers may want to include some wildlife repellant in their gear, just in case viewing becomes too close for comfort.

Season appropriate attire is also a must for your Coconino National Forest camping trip. Nights can get chilly in any season, but especially if you are winter camping. Days can also get quite hot! So be sure you have good, weather-ready clothing, sturdy boots for hiking, and a hat for traversing the forests. If you are hunting, wear a vest or other gear that will help identify you to other hunters.

Things to Do at Coconino National Forest


Hiking is one of the most popular recreational activities at Coconino National Forest. Between the three ranger districts and the wilderness areas, there are hundreds of miles of day hiking trails. These trails vary in terms of their elevation, length, and level of difficulty, so it’s important to make sure you choose a trail that’s the right fit for your endurance and stamina.

In addition to day hiking, there are also many, many miles of backpacking trails for extended hiking and even backpack camping.

View of the San Francisco Peaks in Coconino National Forest.
San Francisco Peaks.


With its numerous bodies of water, Coconino National Forest is a phenomenal place for all different kinds of fishing. There are so many opportunities for river, creek, and stream fishing, as well as lake and pond fishing.

There are all sorts of different fish who call the various water bodies within Coconino National Forest their home. Anglers will have the chance to catch 16 different varieties of fish during their fishing ventures, including chub, dace, suckers, and apache trout, and many other native fish species!


There are select hunting opportunities available in Coconino National Forest. Nine of the ten big game hunting species in the United States can be found on the lands of this national forest, including bighorn sheep, elk, turkey, mountain lion, mule and white-tailed deer, javelina, and black bear.

Closeup of a bighorn sheep.

Water Recreation

There are plenty of wonderful water recreations available in the rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, and ponds of Coconino National Forest! These include swimming, waterskiing, windsurfing, and boating–both motorized and non-motorized.

Swimming can be enjoyed in any of the bodies of water in Coconino National Forest. However, campers should be aware that the lakes and streams in the forest do not have lifeguards, nor are they surrounded by sandy beaches that would make them ideal swim spots. Besides Oak Creek, the water quality is also not monitored throughout Coconino National Forest.

Other Recreation

There are countless recreational opportunities to enjoy during your Coconino National Forest camping adventure. These include bicycling, rock climbing, horseback riding, OHV riding, picnicking, and nature viewing. Winter activities are also available, such as snowmobiling, sledding, tubing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Go Camping in the Coconino National Forest!

View of Bell Rock natural rock formation in Coconino National Forest.
View of Bell Rock.

All the fun of your Coconino National Forest camping excursion is just around the corner!

Before you get started on the adventure of a lifetime, be sure to check out our camping gear guide. This will help get you prepared for all of your camping needs while visiting this stunning national forest.