5 of Best Places to Go Dispersed Camping Near Flagstaff, Arizona

Best Places to Go Dispersed Camping Near Flagstaff

Are you looking to enjoy the scenic beauty of Flagstaff in the most authentic, organic way? Dispersed camping may be the solution.

There’s a reason why Flagstaff is such a popular site amongst travelers. This city in Arizona is known as the world’s first “International Dark Sky City.” With its low light pollution and specific outdoor light restrictions conducive to star-gazing, this city offers the ideal place for travelers to star-gaze, look for planets, satellites, and even constellations. 

The best part is, you can drive up to any of these sites and set up your camping equipment without a worry in the world. So, are you wondering what the best spots are for dispersed camping near Flagstaff? 

Read on to find out the best spots to set up camp.

Marshall Lake Dispersed Camping (Beautiful Lakeside Site)

Marshall Lake Dispersed Camping in Flagstaff

Although the name suggests that you will find a lake at this site, this is not always the case, especially during certain scorching summer months. That said, Marshall Lake offers abundant scenic beauty and wilderness, along with a sense of peace and serenity. These qualities make it a popular dispersed camping site.

Why You’ll Love It

If you are a hiker searching for an exhaustive but beautiful trail, you will love the Marshall Lake trail. This trail stretches on for three miles, and you are guaranteed to come across natural wonders that will make you stop and stare. Be sure to carry a camera so you can capture the birds and other wildlife you are sure to come across. 

The scenic view of the mountains and the marshy pond is breathtaking, especially during the nighttime.

  • 10-15 miles from downtown
  • The colorful quiet of the sunset was magnificent.
  • Beautiful Ponderosa Pines and meadows
  • Lot of birds
  • Easy access

The Downsides

As we mentioned, the “lake” can come across as a disappointment to those who go there expecting a large, bubbling water body. Unfortunately, the Marshall Lake is known to dry up during summers, and what you will be left with is a marshy pond – however, it’s definitely not a deal-breaker, as the ambiance makes up for it.

  • Lots of large groups, RV’s, vans

Pumphouse Wash (FR 237) Dispersed Camping Area (Great Place for Hammocks)

Pumphouse Wash Designated Dispersed Camping near Flagstaff

Midway along the path of Flagstaff and Sedona, you will find a beautiful dispersed camping zone in the ponderosa pine forest. This area, called the Pumphouse Wash Dispersed Camping Area, is the ideal location for solo campers and families to set up camp.

Why You’ll Love It

The first thing to know about this area is that you will find anywhere between 11 and 26 signed, numbered camping sites within the four campsite loops. The massive ponderosa pine trees offer natural shade during the day and create a scenic atmosphere during the night. Moreover, the sites are typically flat, making it easier for campers to set up their tents or park their RVs. 

There are plenty of designated sites available here, so you don’t need to worry about fighting for space. 

  • 9.1 miles to downtown
  • Plenty of trees, perfect for hammock camping
  • Not too far off the road
  • Good place to go stargazing

The Downsides

Although it is accepted with dispersed camping, you won’t find any restroom facilities or trash service on-site. Ensure that you clean up before you leave, and if possible, have access to portable toilets.

  • No bathrooms, no water, and no trash service
  • Rough road with lots of sharp rocks
 This is a great location, just please pack out your trash.

Walnut Canyon Dispersed Camping (Great Place for an Overnighter)

Photo: Elisabeth Q

If you’re traveling through Arizona and are looking to camp under the stars without spending a penny, Walnut Canyon may be an ideal option. The open spaces punctuated by trees and stars make even the most experienced campers gaze in amazement. Furthermore, you will have easy access to several popular trails in Flagstaff here.

Why You’ll Love It

Do you love camping but hate losing a stable phone connection for emergencies? Well, you don’t need to worry about that here. Although patchy, you will find adequate cell coverage for emergencies. 

Moreover, the roads are very safe, smooth, and easy to navigate, even for first-timers. Don’t miss the famous Walnut Canyon National Monument during your hike.

  • 10 miles from downtown
  • Beautiful spot, mountain views
  • Clean and safe camp site
  • Wide open spaces
  • The maximum RV length is unlimited
  • Amazing cellular signal

The Downsides

Although there are some private areas, most of the spots here are public – and reasonably popular. Make sure you arrive early; otherwise, you might not get the kind of privacy you hoped for.

  • The road in is dirt

Freidlein Prairie Dispersed Camping (Great Place for Mountain Biking)

Freidlein Prairie Dispersed Camping in flagstaff

This spot is located fairly close to the central part of Flagstaff – directly off Snowbowl Road. There are 14 beautiful campsites here, all of which have been cleared and maintained for campers to set up their tents without hassle. However, campers beware – this spot is particularly popular, so you may likely come across several other campers fighting for your spot.

Why You’ll Love It

This breathtaking campsite is completely free – just waiting for you to explore with your friends or family. The cleared campsites are extremely accessible and convenient to approach and set up all your necessities. Furthermore, the exquisite sights and ambiance are something stunning and not worth missing out on.

  • 15 min drive from Flagstaff
  • Lots of space to explore
  • Quiet and far enough from others
  • Easy to access to trails, include the Arizona Trail

The Downsides

There is just one downside to this camping spot – its extreme popularity makes it overcrowded at times. If you’re craving seclusion and serenity, this may not be the ideal dispersed camping spot for you.

  • The rocky road is not good for small cars
  • Lots of traffic due to proximity to Flagstaff

A1 Mountain Road Dispersed Camping (Great Running Trails)

A1 Mountain Road Dispersed Camping in Arizona

You will find plenty of dispersed camping spots alongside the A1 Mountain Road. In fact, you may be surprised to find out that the A1 Mountain Road dispersed camping sites are more popular than others – like Walnut Canyon or Marshall Lake. 

The 21-mile long trail is exquisite as you reach higher altitudes every few miles. Most campers choose to break the trail into three smaller ones, making the hike easier.

Why You’ll Love It

There are 30 or more campsites set up and ready for campers along the way. Let’s not forget, the natural beauty and wilderness of this area make it an extremely popular spot. If you are looking to camp under the stars while falling asleep to the sounds of nature, this is the perfect spot.

  • 10 miles from flagstaff
  • The main road is well established for a dirt road
  • The maximum RV length is unlimited
  • Hugh campsites with plenty of shade
  • Plenty of Elk and wildlife around
  • Great place for hammocks

The Downsides

Don’t expect much cell coverage here – smack in the middle of the wilderness. The same goes for restroom facilities, parking spots, and other amenities. Also, there are quite a few private spots here, so make sure you don’t wander into them. 

  • Pretty crowded on the weekends

Conclusion

Dispersed camping brings with it an unmatchable set of pleasures. 

The adventure and thrill of living for a couple of days (or weeks) without the basic luxuries of life can be exhilarating. That said, we recommend carrying some necessities, like adequate food, water, medicines, and toilet paper of course!

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Matt Scofield
Matt Scofield

Hi! I’m Matt, an adventure freak who lives and breathes the great outdoors. Spending time under the open sky always appealed to me, even as a kid. Perhaps that’s why I liked camping with my dad so much. The days spent hiking and the nights around the campfire are times I’ll cherish forever.

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