Many Arizonans have a sense of adventure that can only be satisfied by roughing it outside. Unfortunately, money is sometimes an obstacle to accessing campsite rentals. But if you’re willing to venture off the beaten paths, you can still indulge your passion for the outdoors.
We’ll help by telling you about the 20 best free camping spots in Arizona!
Best Free Camping in Northern Arizona
Kaibab National Forest
Established in 1909, the Kaibab National Forest spans 1.6 million gorgeous acres, but its biggest claim to fame is that it borders the Grand Canyon’s north and south rims. In fact, the Grand Canyon National Park was originally contained within the Kaibab National Forest’s borders. Some spots offer the best of both worlds, making them perfect for free camping in Arizona.
1. Forest Road 302
Although Forest Road 302 is only a few miles away from the Grand Canyon’s main entrance in the Tusayan Ranger District, campers value the location for its cleanliness and low noise level. The area is filled with trees and breathtaking views, but there’s still plenty of open space for multiple boondockers looking for free camping in Arizona. In fact, it’s a very popular site for dispersed camping, so be prepared to share with lots of people.
2. Forest Road 688
If you drive a little farther than Forest Road 302, you’ll find Forest Road 688, another Tusayan Ranger District favorite among campers visiting the Grand Canyon. Both trees and space are plentiful here as well, but the peace and quiet are especially pleasant. Just watch out for potholes, and if you’re pulling a large rig, be careful around trees that are growing close together.
3. Coconino Rim Road
Next on the list is another Tusayan Ranger District location. Most campers say that the Coconino Rim Road is tougher to access than the previous two sites because of severe bumps and potholes in the road. Also, it’s almost 30 miles away from the Grand Canyon’s entrance, so it’s not ideal for tourists.
Nevertheless, it’s still widely loved as a free camping site in Arizona, thanks to its beauty, quietness, and location. You’re even likely to spot deer and other local animals.
4. Bill Williams Loop Road
There’s an indisputable serenity in surrounding yourself with trees and golden prairies, and that’s what the Bill Williams Loop Road offers in the Williams Ranger District. You can go on long, scenic hikes, look for deer and elk, and watch the herds of sheep that pass through the area. As a bonus, many boondockers rave that the cell reception is great, most likely thanks to the nearby town of Williams.
5. Forest Road 108
Whether you’re new to boondocking or have done it for years, Forest Road 108 in the William Ranger Distrcit is renowned as a free camping site in Arizona. That’s because it feels like a refreshing retreat from civilization even though it’s not very far from the safety of the highway. You can’t even hear the traffic! There’s also a decent amount of shade and privacy that you can get from the trees, despite all the wide open space.
Coconino National Forest
If you’re near Flagstaff, you may have heard of the Coconino National Forest, which Theodore Roosevelt formed out of four other national forests in 1908. Not only does it cover more than 1.8 million acres, but it boasts Arizona’s highest elevation point–Humphrey’s Peak, measuring 12,633 feet above the ground. Naturally, this forest is home to some of the best free camping spots in Arizona!
6. Cinder Hills OHV
Arizona is known for its sweltering heat during the summer, so if that’s when you want to go boondocking, the Cinder Hills OHV could be perfect. It’s got lots of trees to provide shade in addition to spectacular scenery, featuring lava rocks, reddish-brown mountains, and even the Sunset Crater. The roads are easy to drive, too.
The main drawback is that it gets crowded and sometimes rowdy during holidays. You’ll get more solitude if you visit during slow times of the year.
7. Red Rock Ranger District
Many of the red and orange mesas, buttes, and mountains that make Arizona famous are found in the Red Rock Ranger District. There, you’ll find many of the most desirable free camping spots in Arizona, like the Greasy Spoon, which is extremely popular for its proximity to the beautiful desert city of Sedona.
8. Willard Springs Road
Are you looking for a great free camping spot in Arizona that also offers a variety of other activities? Thanks to its association with Munds Park, Willard Springs Road, you can enjoy magnificent forest scenery in addition to golfing, swimming, fishing, biking, and hiking at the park. Just avoid driving the road in gloomy weather, as it’s already rutted and gets worse with rain.
9. Beaverhead Flats Road
If you can’t get enough of mountain views, you’ll agree that Beaverhead Flats Road is one of the best free camping sites in Arizona. The flat landscape features fascinating native plants for miles, and you can still see buttes and plateaus in the distance. However, keep in mind that the area is most easily accessed by smaller rigs.
10. Shin Bone Trail
For fishing enthusiasts, the Shin Bone Trail is easily a favorite spot for free camping in Arizona. The lovely, spacious, and generously treed site offers ample shade, privacy, and a tranquil environment. However, its most attractive trait is the fact that the Blue Ridge Reservoir is only two or three miles away, and there’s a good chance that you’ll catch some great fish there.
11. Forest Road 171
With drivable dirt roads, plenty of green grass, a remarkable amount of trees, and proximity to stores, gas pumps, and laundry facilities, both beginner and veteran boondockers agree that Forest Road 171 is excellent for free camping in Arizona. Due to its popularity and accessibility, however, many campers report that dust frequently gets kicked up. The area also attracts lots of wandering free-range cows!
12. Freidlein Prairie
Most boondockers love free camping in Arizona because of the lack of structure, but for those who prefer some degree of order, the Freidlein Prairie is a delightful option. Located near Flagstaff, it’s divided into 14 dispersed campsites, each equipped with its own fire ring, tent pad, and vehicle pad. The only drawback is that none of the sites are big enough to fit RVs.
13. Edge of the World
The Grand Canyon isn’t the only canyon in Arizona. At the Edge of the World–also known as East Pocket or the End of the World–you’ll find exquisite views of forested canyons and jenga-like rocks. Camping there truly puts the world in perspective. There’s ample space for multiple campers, but if you’re going on the weekend, head over early to get one of the most desirable spots.
14. Saddle Mountain Overlook
If you want to have your breath taken away, the Saddle Mountain Overlook is the place to go. It offers magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. There’s enough space to camp there so that you can soak in the beauty around you for days. You just have to be okay with sharing the site with other like-minded campers who are willing to brave the rough drive as well.
Best Free Camping in Southern Arizona
Tonto National Forest
If you’re near Phoenix–you’ll find that the most worthwhile free camping sites in Arizona are in the Tonto National Forest. To maintain and care for its watersheds and other natural resources, the forest was established in 1905. Since then, campers throughout the state have flocked to its land, especially the following sites.
15. Larson Ridge Camping Area
At the Larson Ridge camping area, you’ll get to keep modern conveniences like picnic tables, fire pits, and vault toilets while still getting away from the world. The area is teeming with wildlife, so you may very well see elk, deer, coyotes, horses, and other animals. That’s not even counting the fish you can catch! The power lines, ATV drivers, and nearby highway are the only things making noise.
16. Peralta Road
The most interesting free camping sites in Arizona have lots of scenic variety, as Peralta Road proves. Located within the Superstition Wilderness, protected by the Tonto National Forest, the road gives you generous space for a private campsite and hiking trails that let you admire both mountain peaks and canyons. You could also befriend wandering cattle!
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
Close to Yuma and Quartzite, you’ll find the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, protecting bighorn sheep and other animals that live on its 665,400 acres since 1939. Over the years, it’s also become home to some of the most notable free camping sites in Arizona. Check out our examples!
17. Palm Canyon
WIth the rough but manageable terrain and majestic mountains, Palm Canyon is the dream for any hikers and bikers looking for free camping in Arizona. With the reddish soil and rock under a wide open sky, the sunsets here are especially dazzling. If you’re passionate about gemstones and minerals, this is also a lovely place to camp when you want to attend swap meets in Quartzite.
18. Plomosa Road
Close enough to Quartzite to help you resupply or address emergencies, yet far enough to give you a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Plomosa Road is one of the few free camping sites in Arizona that balances convenience with adventure. It tends to get packed during holidays and weekends, so go outside those time frames for more privacy.
Coronado National Forest
Covering over 1.78 million acres in the Tucson area, the Coronado National Forest promises multiple opportunities to find impeccable free camping in Arizona. Since its establishment in 1908, nature lovers have been able to go horseback riding, backpacking, hiking, biking, or birdwatching in addition to boondocking. Here’s where we would recommend setting up!
19. Forest Road 687
Though only 25 miles long, the Dragoon Mountains are appealing to campers who love geocaching and mountain climbing. Others are fans of the historic town of Tombstone. If you go to Forest Road 687, you’ll be close enough to both to explore them whenever you’d like. Plus, the campsite itself provides sublime mountain views, though the road driving in is rough.
20. Harshaw Road
Do you have a flair for the spooky? If you’re near Patagonia, you might consider Harshaw Road one of the most amazing free camping sites in Arizona. Not only is it close to the San Rafael Canyon, Patagonia Mountains, and Lake Patagonia, but you can explore the mining town of Harshaw itself. Abandoned in the 1960s, you could rightfully call it a ghost town and a fascinating piece of Arizona history.
Have Your Next Adventure at a Free Camping Site in Arizona!
When you have a great sense of curiosity and open-mindedness, any campsite could offer an opportunity for adventure. However, for those looking for free camping in Arizona, we’re confident that you’ll love these sites the most.
If you’d also like to explore other parts of the country, allow us to tell you where to find all the best camping state by state!
- About the Author
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With a bachelor’s degree in history and several years of professional writing experience, Ashley Morales believes there’s a story in everything. It’s her passion to tell each one that she can.
She has been camping and nurturing a love for nature since childhood. Sharing her knowledge is just one of the many ways that she likes to encourage others to enjoy the outdoors. Waterfronts are always her favorite places to camp or relax, no matter the time of year!