10 Best Places to Camp in the Arizona Desert-Stay and Play Year Round

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I recall one time being asked why anyone would want to camp in the desert. I didn’t have a good answer because I couldn’t think of one reason why someone would NOT want to camp in the desert.   Reflecting on it later, I suppose these folks don’t know what they are missing.  Some may think of the desert as being a dry and ugly place with thorny cacti ridden with rattlesnakes and scorpions. However, if you can make candy from the fruit of a cacti, and birds can nest in a Cholla, then how bad could it possibly be?

Yes- it’s very different from camping in the forest, but the desert has its own majestic qualities.

If you don’t like camping in the snow, then desert camping is ideal.  This type of environment makes it pretty comfortable to camp during the winter months (with the exception of one place- may need an RV).  You will see that I listed the temp highs and lows for each campground.

To provide variety and encourage you to explore,  I included two desert year round campgrounds from each region in AZ.

River Country

The River Country is primarily centered around the Colorado River which is the defining feature in this Northwestern desert and mountainous area.  The dams created from the Colorado formed Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Lake Havasu, and Imperial Reservoir.  National wildlife refuges along the river provide excellent opportunities for bird watching, fishing and wildlife viewing.

The majority of campgrounds in this area are along the river and the lakes as well as in the desert.  In general, between BLM and the state parks system, there are numerous campgrounds- and the vastness of the public lands means you can enjoy dispersed camping in complete solitude.  For the purpose of this article, I focused solely on the desert type campgrounds that are open year round.

Davis County Park

Here you get the best of both worlds – desert and the water.  This Desert campground is on the Colorado River just below Davis Dam where you can fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in December-45 degrees, hottest is 107 in July
  • Cost: $20 per night/vehicle
  • Accommodates: Tent vs RV.  Can also rent jet skis if you’d rather play on the water.
  • Sites: 175 tent and RV- full hook ups
  • Stay Limit: 14 Days
  • Location/Drive: Bullhead City, on the Colorado River
  • Management: Mohave County Park, (928) 757-0916

Temple Bar

This is a great campground for those who prefer more convenience.  At 1400 feet elevation, Temple bar is located located on Lake Mead in the Mohave Desert.  If you enjoy fishing, then you’ll really enjoy camping here. The lake includes largemouth bass, striped bass, rainbow trout, channel catfish, crappie and bluegill.  Water sports are available as well including-boating, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing.  A full service marina and boat rentals are located at Temple Bar.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in Jan/Dec-37 degrees, hottest is 109 in July (Average rain of 15 days per year).
  • Cost: $10 per night/vehicle
  • Sites: 153 Tent and RV- no Hook ups
  • Amenities: Tables, grills, fire rings, full service restaurant and store
  • Stay Limit: 30 days
  • Location/Drive: About 80 miles North of Kingman- on Lake Mead
  • Management: Lake Mead National Recreation Area (702) 293-8907

Valley of the Sun

Phoenix and the surrounding cities have more than 2 million people- more than half the State’s population. With so many urban areas, it’s hard to believe there would be camping that is easily accessible and in some instances, remote.  The desert valley is surrounded by 2.9 million acres of the Tonto National Forest- which is one of the largest in the country.  There are numerous campgrounds throughout the  Regional County Parks & State Parks in the Phoenix area to go hiking, mountain biking and wildlife viewing.

There are 13 official campgrounds in the Phoenix Valley that are open year round.  The two that I chose to write about are the ones where I’ve camped and gone mountain biking.

Lost Dutchman State Park

This park is located in the Sonoran Desert at the base of the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction, AZ.  If you like to hike, then I highly suggest this campground. It has numerous hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty and beautiful panoramic views from the top.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in Dec- 44 degrees, hottest is 106 in July (Average rain of  18 days per year).
  • Cost: $25-$35
  • Sites: 134 Campsites- Tent and RV- (50/30/20 amp service)
  • Amenities: picnic table, fire pit, and grill grate
  • Stay Limit: 14 days
  • Location/Drive: From Apache Junction, go North for 5 miles on Highway 88
  • Management: Lost Dutchman State Park, (480) 982-4455

Related Article>>>10 Best Places to Hike and Camp in Arizona

White Tanks Mountain Regional Park

Located in the Sonoran Desert, the 30,000 acres in the White Tanks makes up the largest regional park in Maricopa County.   The majority of the park is made up of the rugged White Tank Mountains.  There are 29 miles of trails to explore through hiking, mountain biking or on Horse back.

Average temp:  Lowest temp is in Dec- 35 degrees, hottest is 101 in July (Average rain of  15 days per year).

  • Cost: $22 -$32 per night
  • Sites: 40 Tent, 37 RV
  • Amenities: Picnic table, fire ring, grills, restrooms and RV Dump Station
  • Stay Limit: 14 days
  • Location/Drive: 33 Miles west of Phoenix, in the foothills of the White Tank Mountains.
  • Management: Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department (623) 935-2505

Indian Country

This area is vast and colorful, part of the Colorado Plateau, -Lake Powell on side and the San Juan River on the other.  This land is home  of the Najavo Nation- the largest Native American Reservation in the US. Many Navajos today still herd sheep, goats, cattle and horses. Most live in more modern homes, but there are some that live in traditional mud and wood hogans

Homovoli State Park

The name Homolovi” is Hopi for “Place of the Little Hills” and is the traditional name for Winslow, Arizona.  Homovoli  State Park is famous for it’s incredible beauty. The Painted Desert, just like it sounds is full of vibrant colors, with gently rolling plateau country.  The shale and sandstone rocks are pastel colors which change subtly depending on the light.  Other nearby places of interest include Meteor Crater (best preserved impact crater on earth) and the Petrified Forest National Park.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in Dec- 48  degrees, hottest is 94 degrees in July (Average 24 days of rain per year).
  • Cost: $18-$30 per night, $7 Entrance Fee
  • Sites: 53 Tent & RV, Electric & Water Hookups
  • Amenities: Picnic area, tables, showers, restrooms, water, pets are allowed, and recreational trails
  • Stay Limit: 14 Days
  • Location/Drive: Located 6 miles east of Winslow in the Painted
  • Management: Homolovi Ruins State Park, (928) 289-4106


This campground is the perfect spot for exploring Canyon de Chelly National Monument- which is one of the most visited monuments in the US.  Archeologists believe that humans settled in this canyon dating back to more than 5,000 years ago.  This land is owned by the Najavo Tribe, covers 83, 84 acres, and has vibrant red cliffs that rise up to 1,000 ft.

“Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia cactaceae) and pinyon are also found throughout Canyon de Chelly, the latter of which provided an important source of food for indigenous peoples in autumn and winter”

From this campground you can take a trail leading to the famous White House Ruins and other longer more intense hiking is led by Navajo guides.  If you want to make your camping easier, the Thunderbird Lodge is within walking distance.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in Dec- 17  degrees, hottest is 91  in July (Average rain of  33 days per year).
  • Cost: $14-$50 per night
  • Sites: 90 Individual campsites, 2 Group Sites, RV’s- no more than 40 feet
  • Amenities: Picnic table, grills, restrooms w/sinks and toilets (no showers), dumpstation
  • Stay Limit: 14 days
  • Location/Drive: Near Chinle, at Canyon de Chelly Monument
  • Management: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, (928) 674-5510

Old West Country

This country includes the grassy valleys and the high mountains of southeast Arizona. ….this land are numerous campgrounds both in the mountains and the desert.  This diversity lends itself to an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and just exploring.

Coyote Howls Park

Coyote Howles is a fee based dispersed campground in the Sonoran Desert and makes a great base for exploring  Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  There are a large number of campsites, so this place gets very busy during the winter months.  Aside from visiting the National Monument there are other activities including rock climbing, bird watching, hiking and mountain biking.

Learn why this town is named Why.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in Dec- 45 degrees, hottest is 103 in July (Average rain of  16 days per year).
  • Cost: $10 daily rate, $42 Weekly Rate
  • Sites: 600 Tent & RV, Full hook ups
  • Amenities: showers, laundry facility,
  • Stay Limit: From daily to Yearly.
  • Location/Drive: Near the town of Why, AZ
  • Management: Town of Why (520) 387-9973

Gilbert Ray

This is a great place to begin your adventures in the Saguaro National Park (which SNP does not have campgrounds-only backcountry camping).  During the spring the desert becomes alive with colorful wildflowers.  Tucson is home to the largest cacti in the Nation which are protected by the Saguaro National Park.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in Dec- 42 degrees, hottest is 100 in July (Average rain of  28 days per year).
  • Cost: Tents- $10 per night, RV-$20
  • Sites: 130 RV Sites, 5 Tent -electrical hookups
  • Amenities: water, picnic tables, restrooms, rv dump station (no showers)
  • Stay Limit: 7 days
  • Location/Drive: 10 miles west of Tucson in the Tucson Mountains.
  • Management: Tucson Mountain Park, (520) 877-6006,

High Country

This section of Arizona is considered paradise for the outdoor recreation enthusiast. The name can be misleading since it includes almost two vertical miles of elevation ranging from 2,000 feet in the Sonoran Desert to Mt. Baldy in the White Mountains at 11,000 feet. The two National Forests that comprise this area include Tonto and Apache Sitgreaves. Between the mountain lakes and the Salt River Canyon, you can enjoy fishing, boating, paddling and other water sports.

Burnt Corral

This low elevation desert campground is located on the shore of Apache Lake.  This would be a great choice if you have a boat ….

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is 41 in Jan-  degrees, hottest is  105 in July (Average rain of   19 days per year).
  • Cost: $20 per night for single unit, $40 per night for double
  • Sites: 82 camp units, (not recommended for trailers over 22 ft) & No electric hookups
  • Amenities: picnic tables, toilets, water hydrant
  • Stay Limit: 14 days
  • Location/Drive: 38 miles northwest of Globe, on Apache Lake
  • Management: Tonto National Forest, (928) 467-3200


This is another desert campground- this time on the Eastern shore of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. This is a year round campground but will close occasionally if the water drops below 2,110 feet. The  boat launch and access point to the Salt River makes it easy to go fishing and boating. Or you can go hiking along the shore line.

  • Average temp: Lowest temp is in Jan-57 degrees, hottest is 97 in July (Average rain of  37 days per year).
  • Cost: $20 per night for single unit, $40 per night for double
  • Sites: 40 camp units
  • Amenities: toilets, fire rings with grills, picnic tables, potable water hydrants, amphitheater
  • Stay Limit: 14 days
  • Location/Drive: About 20 miles west of Globe, east end of Roosevelt Lake
  • Management: Tonto National Forest, (928) 467-3200

 10 Best Desert Campgrounds in AZ

As you can see, there are many desert campgrounds in Arizona where you can stay and play all year round.  Use this as  a resource to narrow your options-  reduce the analysis paralysis and jumpstart your Arizona Adventures!!

Have other Arizona desert campgrounds that you absolutely love? Please leave your comments below.

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