If you’re in Arizona, then dispersed or free camping is the way to find freedom, both in nature and in your pocket.
Due to the presence of federal and public land all across the state, Arizona offers hundreds of free camping sites. You can drive into any of these sites and set up camp whenever you want. But it’s best to do some research before settling on a spot.
To help you do just that, today, we’re here with a list of the best spots for dispersed camping in Arizona.
Coconino National Forest
Coconino National Forest has become synonymous with dispersed camping. Peppered with a multitude of free campsites, Coconino National Forest promises the outdoor adventures of a lifetime. And since Coconino County is the second-largest in the nation, you can imagine the amount of outdoor space you’ll be getting access to.
Best Coconino National Forest Dispersed Camping Spots:
- Edge of the World (East Pocket) (Open in Google Maps)
- Loy Butte Road (Open in Google Maps)
- The Main Drag 525 Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Cinder Hills OHV Area (Open in Google Maps)
- Pumphouse Wash (FR 237) Dispersed Camping Area (Open in Google Maps)
- Marshall Lake Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Childs Dispersed Camping Area (Open in Google Maps)
- Walnut Canyon Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Forest Road 171 Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Forest Road 552 (Open in Google Maps)
- Forest Road 525C Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Angel Valley Road Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
Why You’ll Love It
One of the ideal places for boondocking in all of Arizona, Coconino National Forest offers diverse settings and campgrounds.
One of the best things about camping in Coconino National Forest is the weather. It’s usually much more relaxed than the rest of the county here (mainly due to the presence of trees). This makes the spot ideal for summer camping. You may get lucky and find a spot that will fit larger rigs, but they’re in high demand so your chances are slim.
The drive is brutal, especially in winter. The gate opens from October to April so make sure you know what’s going on with the weather before making any plans!
- Close enough to explore Sedona during the day
- Easily accessible by car
- Easy to buy firewood and ice from the camp hosts at a reasonable prices!
There are no specific downsides to camping in Coconino National Forest area, apart from what you might have to face in general during dispersed camping. Since you’re out there in the wild, there are no amenities to speak of. Also, cell service can get patchy at times.
Prescott National Forest: Great Place For Hammock Camping
Situated squarely in central Arizona, Prescott National Forest is our next best pick for dispersed camping in Arizona. Especially if you’re looking for an excellent location for hammock camping, this is our top pick due to its dense tree cover.
Best Dispersed Camping Spots in or near Prescott National Forest:
- Prescott Basin Designated Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Bannie Mine Road (Open in Google Maps)
- Senator Highway (Open in Google Maps)
- Lynx Lake Campground (Open in Google Maps)
- Wolf Creek Road Designated Dispersed Campsites (Open in Google Maps)
Apart from the above, you can find many smaller roads leading to lesser-known campsites.
Why You’ll Love It
Without a doubt, the weather is the number one reason why you can choose to be at Prescott. The temperatures here are a mixture of Phoenix, Sedona, and Flagstaff, as is the local topography. This makes the spot ideal for camping in the fall or the beginning of winter.
- Lots of wildlife
- Dog friendly.
- Beautiful, clean and safe place for any outdoor activities.
Despite all the positives, you’ll find that some of the forest roads are rather bumpy. So, you’ll need to drive carefully to avoid vehicle damage. Also, cellular service is pretty weak here as well, so emergency communication can become problematic.
Tonto National Forest
Tonto National Forest is located close to the Valley of the Sun and Phoenix and is an extremely popular free-camping site for those looking to escape the humdrum city life. And seeing as it’s one of the largest national forests in the country, there’s plenty of space for all.
Best Dispersed Camping Spots in or near Tonto National Forest:
- Forest Road 405A Dispersed Camping(Open in Google Maps)
- Oak Flat Campground (Open in Google Maps)
- Apache Trail Boondock (Open in Google Maps)
- Little Green Valley (Open in Google Maps)
- Tortilla Flat Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
Why You’ll Love It
The wide-open spaces, ample dispersed camping sites, and warm temperatures at night are enough to attract any desert camper to Tonto National Forest. The forest itself has an abundance of pine-shaded mountains and deserts dotted with Saguaro cacti. With such a vast array of natural landscapes, you’ll be sure to find something you love.
Tonto has several paid campgrounds, but dispersed camping is what you need for an authentic outdoor experience. Whether you’re looking to camp near a lake, spend the night by a river or wake up to a mountainous sunrise, Tonto has it all.
If you’re visiting the park on a weekend, get ready to deal with heavy crowds. Unless you’re one of those who like to mingle with others even while camping, this can be a damper that might keep you away.
Kaibab National Forest
This national forest is situated in northern Arizona and has splendid camping spots that you can access for free. Especially for hikers, Kaibab offers more than 300 miles of scenic trails that you can traverse while boondocking along.
The Best Dispersed Camping Spots in or near Kaibab National Forest:
- Coconino Rim Road Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Garland Prairie Road Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Long Jim Loop Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Old State Route 64 (Open in Google Maps)
- Dogtown Road Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Welch Road Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Forest Road 302 Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Forest Road 305 Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Forest Road 306 Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
- Forest Road 688 Dispersed Camping (Open in Google Maps)
Why You’ll Love It
The best aspect of camping at or near Kaibab national forest is that it offers opportunities for all kinds of camping. Whether you’re an RV camping fanatic or a tent camping puritan, this location has something to offer you.
Some of the popular boondocking sites around this forest are Coconino Rim Road, Saddle Mountain Overlook, and Long John Loop. All of these sites are located on the rim of the Grand Canyon, so you can expect incredible scenic beauty all around.
Again, we have to complain about the weak cell signal in these regions. Also, weekends and holidays will usually find the spots crowded and noisy with loads of campers and their cars. Solitude is hard to come by here unless you’re traveling in an off-season time.
One of the most famous dispersed camping sites in Quartzsite, Plomosa Road’s entrance can be found right after the 114-mile marker towards north on highway 95. This is an entirely free site and very easily accessible.
Why You’ll Love It
Simply put: the site is just breathtaking. With lots of natural beauty, mountain views, and gorgeous washes, this is a location you’ll be loath to leave. And if you camp at a spot away from the main road, then roadside noise won’t be able to reach you.
The location is also pet-friendly and is best suited for dogs. There’s no cholla and sparse cacti, which means your furry friends will have a great time running around. And the icing on the cake is that the cell signal is pretty good here.
No onsite facilities, so you’ll have to make arrangements for gathering trash and other necessities. Also, since it’s a well-known spot, expect a lot of people who are vying for the same location.
Dispersed camping in Arizona is an experience you can’t afford to miss. With so many options to choose from, this is one of the most pocket-friendly ways to spend some time with nature.
Just make sure you’re ready with all the bare necessities. Get a good lay of the land before you start, keep the GPS handy, and you’ll be good to go.