Otherworldly, landlocked Arizona has a seemingly endless array of geological eye candy, including the Grand Canyon, hoodoos (tall, thin rock spires), mesas (steep-sided, flat-topped hills), volcanic mountain ranges, deserts and more. All you need to bring to this Wild West canvas-ready corner of the US is an appetite for adventure and a tent. Here are the best places and sites for camping – bookable with Culture Trip.
Experience the best of Arizona’s high country en route from Williams – the Gateway to the Grand Canyon – to the mile-deep, Colorado River-carved chasm via a 65mi (105km) train journey that doubles as an immersion course into the state’s history and geography. Also, when in Williams, visit the drive-through Bearizona Wildlife Park in the outlying ponderosa pine forest to see bobcats, bison and beavers.
This off-grid campsite is part of Little Heaven Ranch, a non-profit youth camp. Basic amenities – no electricity, no septic, no running water – are offset by the views at 6,080ft (1,853m) and the fact that you’re camping less than 20mi (32km) from the Grand Canyon. Due to the altitude, campers must stay hydrated to avoid elevation sickness. The hosts conduct astronomy talks for a modest fee, with proceeds going to the running of the youth retreat.
This high-elevation (7,000ft/2,134m) backcountry campsite, where you bring your own tent and gear, is on the property of Half Rack Ranch in Parks. Hikers, road bikers and mountain bikers have access to the Coconino National Forest trail system adjacent to the campgrounds. Also, you’re only a 15-minute drive to historic Williams and laid-back, craft-beer-loving Flagstaff. If you’re keen to explore on horseback, book the guided horseback-riding tour.
The deli-dotted town of Fredonia – ideal for stocking up on supplies – lies near the Utah border and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s a good base to explore the canyon’s lesser-visited side (attracting only 10 percent of Grand Canyon visitors), as well as Kanab Creek Wilderness, the Tuweep region, Lake Powell, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Zion National Park in Utah.
This bare-bones campsite – bring a tent and gear – also caters to RVs. There are two sites with running water, a portable washroom and shower facilities. It will suit anyone who wants to stop overnight to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. The large sandstone cliffs and expansive sagebrush explain why so many Western movies were made here; you can explore numerous abandoned film sets in and around the nearby town of Kanab.
Bed down – with your own tent and gear – in Moonlight Ravine’s spacious plots of land. Alternatively, there are RV hookups on this 30-acre (12ha) site along Kanab Creek. There’s no shortage of diversions, with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary within reach. Guided horseback riding through the desert landscape is also available for a modest fee.
Location is everything at this no-frills campsite atop a small bluff where you can watch the sunsets on the red cliffs of Kanab. Daytime excursions include the lesser-known Peek-a-Boo Gulch, along with Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon national parks, among others. If you opt to rent a bike or kayak during your stay, don’t forget to look up. The surrounding area is home to coral-pink cliffs, sand dunes, mountains and volcanic craters.
The cactus and cowboys of Mohave County will give you a taste of the Wild West – and it’s close to Las Vegas. This county in northwestern Arizona contains parts of Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, as well as the Kaibab, Fort Mojave and Hualapai Indian Reservations.
Go backcountry camping in a place where real cowboys used to “rough it” while herding cattle. Around the site, you’ll find mountains in a tranquil desert setting perfect for hiking – stetsons, optional. If that’s not enough, you’re only a one-hour drive from the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge and 25mi (40km) from Alamo Lake State Park for swimming and fishing. Budding geologists, and those interested in mining, gravitate to this area for old mines, scenic rock formations and petroglyphs.
Seasoned campers will delight in the “stellar” components at this glamping site, including access to full bathroom facilities with electricity, hot water for showers and a flush toilet. History buffs should keep their eyes peeled for the stagecoach trails still visible along Alamo Road. In addition to hiking and wilderness viewing at the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, there’s plenty of off-roading on the nearby federal lands. Also, the area is ripe with long-abandoned mining sites.
It’s rustic, backcountry camping, but Camp Etowa does maintain some sites with running water, electricity and a composting toilet. You’re only a short drive from the former mining town of Bisbee, which offers plenty of tourist distractions, such as museums, restaurants, and music and art festivals. For those afternoons you really want to hop in the car to enjoy the air conditioning, consider the San Pedro River Conservancy or Chiricahua National Monument for your stress-free getaway.
The city of Benson, in Cochise County and about 45mi (72km) from Tucson, is widely known as the gateway to Kartchner Caverns State Park. While many people are drawn to the constantly growing icicle-like formations in the limestone caves, the spiritually minded prefer the nearby Holy Trinity Monastery for chirruping birdlife and divinely inspired hiking.
Camping options at this former yoga ashram (co-founded in the 1960s by Harvard professor and LSD advocate Timothy Leary) include pitching your own tent or paying more for a full RV hookup. The 120-acre (49ha) sanctuary still has some original ashram buildings, such as the pottery studio and prayer house. Amenities include outdoor showers, a game room, firepits, an Olympic-size pool, a hot tub and a barbecue area.
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