Arizona is a painted landscape teeming with magnificent camping sites. Since the state is over 40% public land, you can pitch your tent overnight for free in many places.
From the mountainous Northern pine forests to the arid Southern desert, here are the top spots for dispersed camping in Arizona.
At the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and Arizona’s most famous attraction. Next time you visit, save money on accommodations and wake up to incredible views with the following free camping opportunities.
1. Saddle Mountain Overlook
North Rim, Grand Canyon, AZ
Saddle Mountain Overlook is the Grand Canyon’s best-kept camping secret. Most tourists visit the South Rim since it’s easy to access. The rugged North Rim sits nestled in the lush forest of the Kaibab Plateau, and the views are worth the trip.
Gear up for a 14-mile drive down scenic 610, a dirt and gravel road that winds through wilderness off of 67. Settle into camp when you arrive and marvel at the breathtaking vista overlooking the Grand Canyon
This spot offers primitive dispersed camping with no amenities save for a few fire pits. Bring plenty of water and pack essential camping gear for a comfortable stay.
2. Long Jim Loop Camping
Grand Canyon Village, AZ
The South Rim is a bustling tourist destination featuring restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, and a nearby town. This park gets packed during the summer, and accommodations can sell out quickly.
You can get the full experience for free at the Long Jim Loop camping area. This dispersed campsite is a short walk from the town of Tusayan and two miles away from the South Entrance Station of the Grand Canyon.
Long Jim Loop makes an ideal base camp for exploring the Grand Canyon. Arrive early to secure the best spot and plan to stay for a few days. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, including elk and mustang herds that roam this forested expanse.
3. Kaibab National Forest
Grand Canyon Village, AZ
You can car camp freely up to 30 feet from the sides of open roads or venture further on foot for more remote spots. Dispersed camping restrictions include sites within one mile of developed campgrounds or a quarter-mile from wildlife watering holes.
Coconino National Forest
Northern Arizona’s Colorado Plateau features extensive ponderosa pine forests, gorgeous mountains, and curious geological formations. A significant part of this area belongs to indigenous American Indian nations, including the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. The Coconino National Forest is a 1.8-million-acre wilderness recreation area offering numerous dispersed camping locations.
4. Edge of the World
The Edge of the World is a scenic point overlooking Sedona, Arizona. Few campgrounds can compare to this stunning vista of Secret Canyon bristling with craggy stone spires.
This dispersed camping site is deep in the wilderness off Forest Road 231. While any car can handle this drive in ideal weather conditions, consider renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle with high clearance for the most comfortable journey.
5. Marshall Lake
Marshall Lake is a large shallow body of water southeast of Flagstaff. It is easy to find dispersed camping here, although it can get relatively busy during the weekend.
The remote location, low light pollution, and high elevation make this an incredible place for stargazing. The nearby Lowell Observatory is open to visitors daily from noon until late at night, offering you a chance to peer deep into the cosmos with advanced telescopes.
6. Schnebly Hill Vista Overlook
Schnebly Hill is an idyllic off-highway vehicle recreation area. Tackle challenging rocky roads to discover dispersed camping sites with marvelous views.
You will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to traverse the OHV route from Sedona. Alternatively, take Schnebly Hill Road from Interstate 17 for a smoother ride suitable for almost any car.
The Mojave Desert and Colorado River Basin dominate much of Western Arizona. This area is a notable tourist destination during spring break due to its proximity to Las Vegas, Nevada, and Lake Havasu, Arizona. Dispersed camping is available throughout the extensive swaths of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
7. Kingman Wash Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead, AZ
Are you looking for free dispersed camping in Arizona for spring break? If so, Kingman Wash National Recreation Area is the place for you.
This scenic ravine on the shore of Lake Mead is the ultimate vacation destination for outdoor adventurers. The warm water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming, kayaking, and fishing.
Kingman Wash is less than ten miles from the Hoover Dam and about an hour from Las Vegas, Nevada. Kingman Wash Access Road is rough, so rent a high-clearance off-road vehicle if you doubt your car’s capabilities.
8. Craggy Wash BLM Land Camping
Lake Havasu City, AZ
Lake Havasu is a picturesque desert oasis spanning the border of Arizona and California. This reservoir is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors and partygoers from spring through summer. Lake Havasu City gets crowded and expensive during peak season, so venture into the surrounding BLM land for free dispersed camping.
Craggy Wash is about twenty minutes outside of downtown Lake Havasu City. The area can be crowded for the first few miles but tends to mellow out the further north you drive. Be prepared for rough terrain past the third-mile marker, which you should only attempt with an off-road vehicle.
9. Lone Tree BLM Land Camping
Lake Havasu City, AZ
Lone Tree is another remote BLM camping area near Lake Havasu. This dispersed campsite is further north on 95 past Craggy Wash.
This BLM campsite is ideal for RVers who want a free camping spot for a weekend getaway at the lake. The road here is even and wide enough to accommodate class-A vehicles.
Near Phoenix, AZ
Although Arizona’s capital is a bustling city with a vibrant nightlife scene, Phoenix in the Valley of the Sun is a gorgeous oasis surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges. You don’t need to venture far outside this metropolis to find incredible dispersed camping sites.
10. Prescott Basin Dispersed Campsite
Prescott National Forest provides visitors with designated dispersed campgrounds among the mighty ponderosa pines in Prescott Basin. The most idyllic spots along the Hassayampa River offer unparalleled serenity whenever you need to get away.
Prescott Basin is a protected area with stricter regulations than the rest of Prescott National Forest. Limit your camping to one week and only light campfires in the designated fire rings.
11. Tonto National Forest
Tonto National Forest is a beautiful place to explore any time of year. Enjoy a cool respite from scorching Phoenix temperatures in the summer, or venture through snow-packed peaks during winter.
There are countless dispersed camping opportunities from the Sonoran Desert to the Mogollon Rim. Check out our detailed Tonto National Forest camping guide to learn more.
The vast, hot Sonoran Desert comprises the lower portion of Arizona extending into Mexico. You’ll find plenty of sites throughout this region ideal for dispersed camping in the winter. Explore the Coronado National Forest outside of Tucson for stunning overnight stays.
12. Redington Pass Dispersed Camping
Coronado National Forest, Vail, AZ
Redington Pass is a popular off-roading destination just outside of Tucson. You need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get here since the roads are steep and rocky.
This pass provides visitors with plenty of secluded dispersed camping areas. Be aware that this location gets especially busy on the weekends. Plan a mid-week trip to avoid noisy ATVs, dirt bikes, and gunshots.
13. Pinery Canyon Campground
Coronado National Forest, San Simon, AZ
Pinery Canyon Campground is a quiet, dispersed camping area near the impressive Chiricahua National Monument. The majestic sky island peaks of the Dos Cabezas, Swisshelms, and Dragoons surround this canyon with stunning views in all directions.
The roads leading in are well-maintained and traversable in most cars, but an SUV or truck is best for comfort. You can camp here all year round, granted you pack for snow and sub-freezing temperatures in winter.
14. Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area
Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area is a pastoral dispersed camping spot on BLM land. This place is an ideal location for free RV camping in southern Arizona.
Indian Bread Rocks is a fantastic place for scrambling and bouldering in the Dos Cabezas Mountains Wilderness. Plus, history buffs will enjoy the petroglyphs left behind by ancient American Indian tribes.
Guide to Dispersed Camping in Arizona
Most dispersed camping sites in Arizona permit staying up to two weeks in any 30 days. This rule is standard throughout BLM land and National Forests across America. Still, some locations have tighter restrictions, so conduct due diligence before pitching camp.
The southwestern United States is teaming with wildlife, and Arizona is no exception. Bring your camera and binoculars to snap photos of birds, jackrabbits, scorpions, snakes, elk, horses, burros, and more.
Exercise caution in the Arizona wilderness and never approach or feed wildlife. Be mindful of large predators like black bears and mountain lions, and utilize bear boxes whenever possible to prevent unwanted encounters.
The Arizona climate can be hostile during extreme weather. Desert temperatures can exceed 120 degrees in the summer, leaving you vulnerable to dehydration and overheating. Equip yourself with essential survival knowledge by reading our in-depth Guide to Camping in the Desert.
A quick drive into the mountains entails a significant drop in temperature. This plummet can be problematic in the winter when high elevations fall below freezing at night.
Another weather phenomenon you should look out for is the North American Monsoon season. These storms occur in late summer, bringing heavy rain and treacherous lightning that could threaten backcountry campers.
The Best Spots for Dispersed Camping In Arizona
Arizona dispersed camping is some of the best in the nation. Rest your head under the expansive night sky and wake up to the most breathtaking natural vistas on Earth.
Are you ready to set off and explore the Grand Canyon State? If so, check out even more of the Best Places to Go Camping in Arizona.