10 Best Places to Camp and Bird Watch in Arizona

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Whether you live in AZ and are planning a weekend getaway or you are visiting from out of State, you will be pleasantly surprised by the amazing places you can go birding in AZ! If you are the type that prefers to camp during your birding adventures, this resource is for you.

In this guide, the 10 Best Places to Camp and Bird Watch, you will learn the most popular places to go and the closest campgrounds to those locations. This article is to mainly provide awareness & inspiration on birding & camping in AZ. For planning, etc., more research will be required.

Amado Territory Ranch

The Amado Territory Ranch sits on 17 acres of riparian habitat, backed up to the Santa Rita Mountains. A year round birding destination- the environment is alive with Vermilion Flycatcher, Broad-Billed Rufous Hummingbird, Lesser Nighthawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Cardinal and Rednaped Sapsucker.

Aside from the birding, visitors are also welcome to enjoy the inn, restaurant, artists studio, and more. Enjoy an exquisite, yet affordable lunch or dinner at the Firefly Restaurant in the town of Amado.

One of the closest campgrounds is Bog Springs located in the Coronado National Forest that has 13 campsites. You will love that from your site you’ll be surrounded by lush grasslands, thick oak, and conifer trees.

To camp it is $20 per vehicle and day picnicking is $8 a day as well. There are no RV hook ups and you must bring your own firewood. Drinking water, tables and toilets are available.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Boyce Thompson Arboretum is truly a gem in the town of Superior- a world class place to experience the AZ landscape and to go bird watching. There are 392 acres and 3 miles of trails of which to see over 3,900 different species of plants. Over 270 species of birds have been spotted here including the Gila Woodpecker, American Coot, Anna’s Hummingbird, thrashers and warblers. Founded in the 1920’s by William Boyce Thompson, this botanical garden is the oldest of it’s kind in AZ.

There is always something going on this Arboretum- join any of the guided tours and events that are taking place on a weekly basis. These include Bird walks, photography, Plants of the Bible Lands and even live music.

An additional place you may want to go while you’re in Superior is the World’s Smallest Museum which also boasts the largest Apache Tear.

The nearest camping near Boyce Thompson is right in Superior. The Box 8 Ranch Campground is comprised of 25 acres providing access to four-wheeling, hiking, biking, and horse trails. This campground can accommodate dry, overnight or extended camping-both tent and RV. Box 8 Ranch has horse corrals, a swimming pool, restrooms, RV Sewage Dump Station, and even bicycle shuttle services to local trails.

If you are the more adventurous type and enjoy dispersed camping then you may be able to camp at Legends of Superior Trails.

***Please note pricing is not on their website. To schedule, call 602-625-6567***

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Established in 1985, the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in the Coronado National Forest is comprised of 117,464-acres where distinct groups of plants and depend on each other in a biotic community.

Visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery consisting of semi-desert rolling hills of grasslands, wetlands, mesquite & sycamore-lined streams. An interesting fact is that this refuge is 1 of 565 that make up the National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of public lands and waters set aside for the benefit of wildlife and your enjoyment!

Also located in this refuge is Brown Canyon where 200 million year-old volcanic rocks provide a home to a distinct variety of plants and animals which have evolved within this sky island ecosystem.

For birding, you’ll want to visit the areas along Arivaca Creek and Arivaca Cienega. Arivaca Cienega is a 1.25 mile loop just east of Arivaca and the creek meanders one mile beneath cottonwoods two miles west of Arivaca. In this ecosystem, you’ll find a mix of marshland, cottonwoods, hackberry and mesquite groves. These wetlands are home to more than 325 birds including: Masked Bobwhite Quail, southwestern willow flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher. , oriole, gray hawk, black-bellied whistling ducks, kingbirds, and even green kingfisher.

If you with friends or family that are not birders, there is still plenty to keep them entertained. Other activities include wildlife watching , wildlife photography, hunting, fishing, and special wildlife-related events.

The refuge has free camping (and no reservations required) at any of their 83 primitive campsites. Each one is marked with symbol and number.  You can stay for 14 days within a 30-day period.

Another option for camping is to take a primitive road 26 miles on FR 39 will take you to Arivaca Lake– a dispersed free campground that has a toilet and boat ramp. This 90 acre lake was built by the AZ Game and Fish- home to bass, catfish, and blue gill. This area also makes a great place for birdwatching and relaxing in the quiet of the rolling grasslands and distant mountains. If you have an RV and don’t want to drive on dirt, the LA Siesta Campground is located right in Arivaca.

Las Luganas de Anza

Located in Nogales, AZ, Las Lagunas is deemed as the last remaining wetland on the upper Santa Cruz River. This beautiful lush and green park like setting has stands of trees, a little garden area for the kids, a boardwalk, floating dock, a pond, park benches and picnic tables for a great day out with the family.

The majority of the birds you’ll see here pass through when migrating north in the summer months and south in the winter. These wetlands are an inviting place amidst the dry Sonora desert. Las Luganas is home to over 200 species of birds. Some of these include: Albert’s Towhee, Barn Swallow, Belted Kingfisher, Black Haw, Gray Hawk, Willow Flycatcher, Green Kingfisher, and the Ringed Turtle Dove.

A sad story turned out with a happy ending is that this place used to be the dumping grounds for a drive-in theatre and warehouse. A man by the name of Cabot Sedgwick bought the land with the vision of restoration. Thankfully, by 2009, Tony Sedgwick (Cabot’s son) worked to fulfill his fathers dream. There are also many volunteers who have helped with the park to make it what it is today.

The wetlands are open from dawn to dusk, pretty much every day. Visit the The Las Lagunas de Anza Wetlands to check out events they have throughout the year.

The closest camping is the White Rock Campground; a campsite located along Pena Blanca Creek and is very popular during the summer months.

There are thirteen campsites in the Upper White Rock that can be accessed from Forest Road 39. Two others are in the Lower White Rock and can be accessed from the road that leads to the lake.

Open year round, the camping/picnicking is presently $15.00/day. You can bring your RV, but it must be less than 22 feet. There are no RV Hook ups, or water and picnic tables and toilets are available. You can bring your dog but must be kept on a leash. There is a paved boat launch ramp-only electric trolling motors are allowed.

Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon is one of the most famous places in the US for bird watching. Located in the Coronado National Forest, this habitat is a riparian environment with forests of mesquite, pine and juniper oak. Over 250 species of birds live here; some of which include hummingbirds, Elegant Trogon, Elf Own, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and the Painted Redstart.

A great place to bird watch here is along the trail starting from the Madera Canyon Picnic area. You can buy a day pass for $5, or you can purchase a weekly pass for $10. For more information and details on the locations and birds in those areas, visit, the Friends of Madera Canyon. (Friends of Madera Canyon website)

You are not able to camp at the Madera Canyon Picnic area, however Bogs Spring Campground is not too far away and again, is a convenient place to camp.

Camping is $20 per vehicle and day picnicking is $8 a day as well. There are no RV hook ups and you must bring your own firewood. Drinking water, tables and toilets are available. For more information, you can contact the Nogales Ranger District @ 520-281-2296

Patagonia Lake State Park

Patagonia Lake State Park is a 265 Acre Lake between City of Nogales and the town of Patagonia. Birds spotted at this park include Great Blue Herons, water fowl, turkey vultures and Tanagers. For the most recent sightings, you can download this list of birds.

Adjacent to the park is the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area- where more than 275 resident and migratory bird species have been sighted.

Bird walks are free with park admission: Mondays & Fridays at 9am, November through mid-April. Pontoon boat tours are also available.

Also in this vicinity is the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve- a nature conservancy that has over 300 species of birds. As you walk along the perennial streams, you have a chance of seeing the Canyon Towhee, Inca Dove, Vermillion Flycatcher, Black Vulture, and several types of Hummingbirds. The best months to see birds in this area are March through September.

If you bird watch at Patagonia Lake State Park, then it makes sense for you to camp here too. This is a beautiful State Park with a lot to do for your entire family. Play in the water, learn about the desert plans and wildlife or go for a hike.

There are 105 developed campsites which include a picnic table, fire ring/grill, parking for two vehicles. Select sites have ramadas. There are sites that have up to 50 am voltage. The campsites lengths are varied, but can also accommodate any size RV. If you really want exclusion and privacy there are 12 boat in only campsites which have a picnic table, fire ring, and a few that have portable restrooms. If you do not have a boat, you can rent one from the Patagonia Marina and Boat Rental.

Campsite reservations are available online or by calling our camping specialists at the Arizona State Parks Reservations Desk at (877) MY-PARKS

Ramsey Canyon Preserve

The 380-acre Ramsey Canyon Preserve– is considered the “Hummingbird capital of the United States”. The Sierra Madre of Mexico, Rocky Mountains and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts overlap leading to a very biological diversity that is rare in AZ.

The Huachucas Mountains and the surrounding grasslands form what is called a “sky island” which provides a tremendous diverse habitat for birds and wildlife. Along Ramsey Creek, lush woodlands of sycamores, maples, and columbines grow and then within a few feet away you’ll see cacti, yucca, and agave. Grow

The environment ranges from semi-desert grassland to pine-fir forests. The high canyon walls also provide a cool enough environment for black bears and the threatened Chiricahua leopard frog.

From April -September you can enjoy the spring and fall migration as well as the nesting season and is considered the best months for birding here. In addition, during May- July, you are likely to see the Arizona Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Whiskered Screech Owl, Bridled Titmouse, Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl, and Hebatic Tanager to just name a few.

One of the nearest campgrounds is Lakeview Campground in the Sierra Vista Recreation Area. This area comprises several mountain ranges which are divided by rolling hills and grasslands. You will find an extensive network of trails which provide direct access to the Huachuca Mountains and the Miller Peak Wilderness. This campsite overlooks Parker Canyon Lake and the sites are spread out among oaks and junipers. There is a five mile trail that goes around the lake with benches and interpretive signs.

You may spot Bald Eagles and Osprey as well as Coues white-tailed deer or Coatimundi. These campgrounds are open year round and is $10 a day. The max length for a camper is 36’ and there are no utility hookups. There is drinking water and toilets available. For more information, call the Sierra Vista Ranger District- (520)-378-0311.

Slaughter Ranch

The Slaughter Ranch is a National Historic Landmark in Douglas, AZ. Now a museum dedicated to “Texas John” Slaughter who was once Sheriff of Cochise County.

Stop in to see an old adobe ranch house, ice house, wash house, granary, commissary and car shed. Shade trees overlooking a house pond stocked with endangered Yaqui topminnow, Yaqui chub and Yaqui catfish is also a great place for a picnic. Park benches and picnic tables. I encourage you to read the story about John Slaughter– which has truly earned his legendary status.

Now for the birding in Cochise – is just as much fun! The high mountains and cooler temperatures attract birds to this area all year round. Keep your eyes open for Sandhill Cranes, Falcons, Elegant Trogons, and Hummingbirds.

Based on my research, the nearest dispersed type of camping is Rustler Park Campground. Have peace and relaxation among the Douglas-fir, Ponderosa and seasonal wildflowers. The campsites are scattered to keep from damaging fragile plants. In 2011, there was a fire so the campground needed to be rebuilt. A nice addition are canopies which provide a nice shady spot. This is also considered a great spot for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. Black bears are spotted frequently so follow all the rules to keep the bears away.

The campsite opens around the 1st of April every year and closes October 31st. Camping is $10 and day use is $10. Picnic tables and toilets are available and you can bring your RV if it’s less than 22 feet. You must bring your own drinking water.

For more information, call the Douglas Ranger District- (520) 364-3468.

Tucson Audubon Center for Hummingbirds

Located in Patagonia, the Paton Center started when Marion and Wally Paton began feeding birds with feeders and plants in the 1970’s. When bird watchers starting turning their binoculars at their feeders from the road, the Patons welcomed them into their yard for a closer look. Years later, their “Backyard” has become a world-famous destination to find rare birds of Southeast Arizona. More than 210 species of birds have been seen from this birdwatching paradise including Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, Gray Hawks, Varied Buntings, Thick-billed Kingbirds and many more! The entry is free and the gates are open from dawn to dusk. Donations are accepted to the “Sugar Fund” which helps them to maintain the grounds, feed the birds, and improve habitat.

Since the Audubon Society’s Center is located in Patagonia, the closest campground is Patagonia State Park (See above for additional details). If you would rather not pay, then check out the Kentucky Camping Dispersed Area.

Whitewater Draw

If you like Sandhill Cranes, then this place is for you! Visit Whitewater Draw located in Southeastern Arizona (30 miles from Tombstone) to experience the sights and sounds of more than 20,000 Sandhill Cranes. The Cranes stand in the Whitewater Draw’s waters overnight to stay away from predators and then fly out each morning to eat. In the afternoon and evening they return to Whitewater Draw. In addition, different types of Ducks, Geese, Herons, Egrets and other shore birds are attracted to this area.

Fortunately, you can also camp for free at Whitewater Draw in designated areas. RV’s are allowed, but there are no hook ups. There are vault toilets, picnic tables, and trash bins. You can stay 3 nights consecutively which gives others a chance to camp in the small campground. For more information, visit the AZ Game & Fish Department website.

Summary- 10 Best Places to Camp & Bird Watch

Whether you live in Arizona or are visiting, there is a one of a kind birding adventure just for you!

We provided the 10 Best Places to Camp and Bird Watch, to inspire travel and adventure in this great State of Arizona. With so many beautiful birds & places to discover, you could spend months exploring! Have you been to any of these areas? Would love to hear your experience. Please leave comments below!

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