The scenery of Arizona is legendary all around the world, and it brings hundreds of thousands of tourists and adventurers every year. Try these places for camping:
Havasu Falls is one of the undeniable crowning jewels of any Arizona adventure. Not only is it heavily restricted (yes, you have to get a permit, and they run out fast), not only is it hard to get to (an eight mile hike to the closest village and a further five miles to the farthest falls), not only is it beautiful beyond your wildest dreams (an azure blue waterfall in the middle of the harshest desert) but it is…SACRED.
That’s right- this waterfall and its surrounding rivers have been worshipped by the Havasu people for almost 1,000 years, and the indigenous peoples of the area believe that the water flows into their very souls. It’s a sight that many have seen, but very few get to feel the true weight of. A truly, undeniably, wondrous sight.
At 1,500 feet, Picacho Peak is a force to be reckoned with. It was first noted as a landmark in the 1700’s and continued being a guiding sight for travellers until present times. The largest Civil War battle that took place in Arizona took place on the Picacho Pass.
Every spring, Picacho peak is known to bloom with thousands of Mexican Gold Poppies. This sight brings thousands of travellers annually. Whether you choose to see the spring bloom or you visit Picacho in the off season, you are guaranteed to feel humbled not only by its immense size, but the bristling history around you.
Coconino National Forest
Cocino National Forest is over 1.8 million acres, one of the largest national forests in the country, and for good reason. It encompasses Pine forests, Tundra, Desert, Flatlands, Mesas and even volcanic ridges and hot springs. It’s noted as one of the most diverse examples of topographical beauty in the natural catalog, and it’s fully open for camping and hiking. No hunting though!
The Cocino is strictly for observation and recreational enjoyment, and anyone caught poaching is guilty of a federal offense. Beware, though- the national forest is so vast that it simple can’t be monitored as closely as some privately owned property and they will not be held responsible for any animal presence.
Sedona, Arizona is an unbelievable sight when you chance upon it traveling through the Arizona desert. Seemingly endless miles of brown dirt and cactus in a never-ending plane spreading as far as the eye can see is suddenly interrupted by beautiful geological structures: flathead stone risers and deep red mesas appear in a massive cluster known famously as the Sedona Red Rock Cliffs, surrounded by swift rivers and dotted with bristlecone pines.
The local culture is based around selling turquoise jewellery and knock off dreamcatchers, trying to harness the magic of the people that once lived and worshipped in this area. It might be a little overwhelming to see commerce in a place this beautiful, but if you get off the main strip you can find several places to camp and explore.
Sedona and the surrounding areas are also home to some of the most famous national parks and nature preserves in the United States.
While visiting or passing through Sedona, you should take a moment to visit the Tlaquepaque shopping district, and find your way to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church built into the red rock buttes of Sedona, recognized as some of the most unusual and interesting Catholic architecture in the Americas.
You can also enjoy a world class hike along the Airport Mesa, a hiking trail with renowned sweeping views on an isolated jutting butte.
Well. What can we say about the most iconic American scenery? From countless wild western legends to countless wild western films, the majestic stone obelisks and artfully carved structures of Monument Valley are burned into our collective psyche.
The natives that lived here worshipped them long before the first stagecoach ever paused in awe at seeing their ethereal beauty. The site of the most famous monuments is protected, and while you can drive by them or view them from a near point, the surrounding desert for thousands of miles is strewn with similar shapes and humbling objects that you can see, touch and camp under. You’re never going to beat a campfire next to a sandstone butte, are you?
The Grand Canyon
- North Rimousa.
- Grand Canyon national park.
- Jacob Lake.
The options for camping, climbing, hiking, kayaking and horseback riding on the nations most prized natural wonder are endless. We can’t possibly cover them all here, but even a cursory search of the 277-mile-long, 18-mile-wide canyon will show you an unbelievable opportunity to explore and bask in this Wonder of the Natural World. It’s a destination sought by many, and achieved by hundreds of thousands annually. The infrastructure of Arizona is built specifically around the Canyon, so you won’t have any trouble reaching this most inestimable of natural treasures.
Wahweap and Wahweap bay boast some of the best fishing and boating on the famous Lake Powell. Lake Powell and the surrounding rivers and tributaries are home to Horseshoe Bend and the Glen Canyon Dam, two aquatic wonders well worth your time.
The surrounding area includes the mesmerizing Antelope Canyon, a twisting multi-coloured maze of water worn rock that you will never forget. Take caution, though! In the rainy seasons, Antelope Canyon is prone to flash floods. It would be terribly embarrassing to drown in a sandstone canyon in the desert.
The name says it all about this hidden retreat in the White Mountains. At an elevation of 9000 feet and an area of 450 acres, Big Lake lives up to it’s name and then some. It boasts some of the best fishing in Arizona, as well as some of the most accessible camping! Big lake is surrounded by well-maintained camp sites with amenities, while not skimping on the natural beauty.
This massive woodland is festooned with massive granite domes and sheer rock cliffs. It was the last camp of the Apache leader Cochise and his famous rebels.
The verdant natural beauty is held in stark contrast with the grim history of the area, and legends still speak of the sounds of Cochise last battle echoing through the canyons at night. A beautiful setting for a ghostly tale that should entice only the bravest of travellers.
Arizona is amazing
Known the world over for its breathtaking vistas and awe-inspiring natural wonders, as well as it’s exciting and romantic past, Arizona has always had a magnetic attraction for those seeking adventure. From the highest peaks of the snow-capped mountains to the north, to the bottom of the deepest canyons and rivers along the southern border, Arizona is home to some of America’s most legendary sights.
You don’t have to set out on an epic quest to enjoy them, however. There are plenty of beautiful sights and pristine environments that can be reached quite easily. One of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World is found here, and it has a welcome centre.
That’s not to say all of these attractions can be easily attained- if you seek true adventure, there are more primitive campsites and hidden wonders than you could see in a lifetime. With some effort, you might even be able to see something sacred.
Whether you prefer relaxing by a fire, fishing, skiing, or hiking, Arizona has everything you could hope for and more. We ventured out to find the most impressive campsites and jaw dropping sights, and what you’ll need to get to them.
A word of caution before you set out
When travelling to Arizona, it’s very important to remember that a vast portion of the state is dedicated to both well maintained public land and untouched wild preserves. Both are protected by some of the most stringent laws in the country, and for good reason: In a state that reaches over 120 degrees in the summer, the difference between a memorable vacation and a deadly accident can be as simple as staying on the path.
Combine that with some of the deadliest creatures on Earth and it might be in your best interest to follow safe procedure.
The most important areas to consider before you set off are:
Registering with the forest service- is it really necessary?
Fortunately for the casual weekend getaway or day on the lake it’s not necessary to register with the National Forest Service. If you’re planning on camping at a privately owned site or a state park, as long as you pay the camping permit fee, you’re good to go. If you’re planning on doing any fishing or hunting as an out of state visitor you can buy a combined license for around $170, and that will also restrict you to privately maintained areas.
However, if you’re planning on going off the beaten path for activities like rock climbing, spelunking, off trail skiing or boating on designated “Wild and Scenic rivers”, you have to obtain a specific recreation permit. It’s for your own good though obtaining a permit also registers your route and the timetable for your adventure, so if you get lost or injured the Forest Service will send someone to help you when you don’t check in.
Arizona park guidelines
State Parks are a tremendous resource for camping in Arizona, and a large portion of your options will fall into their jurisdiction. Arizona has notoriously stringent laws for camping at the parks, and the rangers will have no qualms kicking you out of the park or, yes, arresting you. They can do that. It really won’t come to that, though, unless your activity falls into one of these categories:
- Vandalizing the park.
- Using the park for your own financial gain (like selling T-shirts with the name of the park on it, etcetera.).
- Being destructive or disorderly.
- Committing crimes. Yes, it’s still illegal in the woods.
For a complete list of what you can and can not do in the State Parks, go to azstateparks.com. Believe me, it’s worth a look if you’re planning on visiting one and you definitely want to visit one. Or ten.
Camping in the Dark – Come Prepared
It’s a no brainer that when you travel to Arizona, you should bring sunscreen. Slightly less well known, though, is what you should bring for when the sun goes down. As beautiful as nature is, the Arizona climate is particularly harsh and, as a result, so are the flora and fauna that live there. In the northern region of the state you don’t have to worry as much, though there is still the possibility of running into the odd mountain lion or bear. In the southern desert, however, not only could walking off the trail in the dark land you in a cactus patch (which, I promise, isn’t nearly as funny as in the movies) you could come face to face with rattlesnakes, gila monsters, tarantulas, coyote, javelina and jaguar. Yes: Jaguar.
So, when camping, especially someplace isolated, take these measures.
- A powerful flashlight.
- Bear spray.
- Bug spray.
- An emergency radio with a loud alarm (this can scare away larger predators and allow you to call for assistance if you’re bitten by a venomous animal).
If you start a campfire, make sure that you have enough fuel to keep it burning through the night and if you’re carrying food always store it somewhere far from your tent when you go to sleep. It sounds scary, yes, but it’s a very unlikely scenario that anything will bother you. It’s always good to be prepared.
Arizona alcohol restrictions
If you’re not a dedicated naturalist, and you just want to enjoy a couple days and nights hanging out with friends enjoying the scenery, alcohol is a fairly unregulated item in Arizona. As long as you’re 21 or older, you’re free to imbibe. Some regulations that you should pay attention to, however, are the very strict rules against glass containers near any beaches or waterways. Also, state-wide, it should be noted that drinking alcohol between 2 and 6 AM is strictly illegal. So, don’t drink too late around the campfire, and certainly don’t do so near any park rangers.
Make Arizona Your Next Adventure!
Arizona is an unbelievable slice of natural wonder, and it’s readily accessible to anyone that tries. Not taking a stab at experiencing the rich world of the Grand Canyon State would be a mistake you’ll always regret, while traveling to this enigmatic and beautiful world would be an adventure you’ll never forget!