Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping

Megan Smith
 min read

The following list includes some well-known parks and nature reserves in Arizona, USA.

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping

These are places where wilderness camping and hiking are allowed.

Let us inspire you for your next exciting camping trip!

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping

Tonto National Forest

This vast national forest in the middle of arid Arizona has a varied and exquisite landscape.

It is blessed with craggy peaks, very steep canyons, buttes and mesas, painted cliffs and bluffs.

There are impressive rock formations and incredible pinnacles.

Camping in the Tonto National Forest

Camping in the Tonto National Forest is permitted throughout, except where clearly prohibited.

Campfires can be lit for cooking, but the use of a stove is recommended.

No permits are required, except for outfitting and guiding services.

Rule and guideline for campers in the Tonto National Forest:

In the wilderness, you must camp minimum 300 feet away from water sources and trails.

The summer heat is sometimes extreme, so spring and fall are the best times to camp here.

Activities in the Tonto National Forest

Hiking and backpacking are possible on over 800 miles of trails, including:

  • Highline National Recreation Trail (more than 50 miles)
  • The Mazatzal Divide Trail (29 miles)
  • Verde River Trail (almost 30 miles)

The trail difficulty varies from easy to hard.

Cross-country skiing is possible here but only at higher altitudes during the snow season.

Limited rafting and kayaking are available on the Verde and Salt Rivers.

Fishing is another option and hunting is allowed in season.

Nature

There are several desert mountains in the Tonto National Forest.

The beautiful vegetation varies from saguaro cactus and manzanita to pinyon-juniper and spruce-pine forests.

Deer, bears and mountain lions are among the wild animals who live here.

Tonto has eight designated wilderness areas:

  1. Sierra Ancha Wilderness Area
  2. Pine Mountain Wilderness Area
  3. Four Peaks Wilderness Area
  4. Salt River Canyon Wilderness Area
  5. Superstition Wilderness
  6. Salome Wilderness Area
  7. Mazatzal Wilderness
  8. Hellsgate Wilderness Area

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping

Grand Canyon National Park

This spectacular national park is located in northern Arizona.

It protects the magnificent Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

This world-renowned canyon is one mile deep and 200 miles long.

This beautiful and huge multicolored desert canyon is probably the most famous natural site in the United States of America.

It is an area of exciting beauty, with incomparable views.

Activities in the Grand Canyon National Park

A great network of trails for hiking and backpacking is available in this National Park.

Some of the trails are quite steep and difficult.

Due to its enormous popularity, some trails are very sought after.

Horses are allowed on some trails.

Mountain bikes are only allowed on park trails and not in the canyon itself.

The Colorado River flows in the Grand Canyon National Park.

It is famous for rafting and many outfitters offer unforgettable trips.

Capacity is limited and demand is extremely high.

For rafting on your own, you must make reservations several years in advance.

Camping in the Grand Canyon National Park

Camping is limited to certain parts of the canyon that have designated sites.

In other areas, you may choose your own location, which should be at least 100 feet from water sources.

Campfires are not allowed, so you must use a stove to cook.

Pets are not allowed.

Those camping in the canyon should not underestimate it.

You should be aware that the climb back to the rim is very long and strenuous, with little water and shade along the way.

The best times to visit the Grand Canyon National Park are the spring and fall!

Summer is not recommended due to the often-intense heat in the canyon.

Related: How to sleep comfortably while camping

Nature in the Grand Canyon National Park

Elevation in the Grand Canyon National Park ranges from about 2,400 feet to 7,000 feet and higher.

The lower elevation is along the river while the highest elevations are the southern and northern edges.

The vegetation in this national park varies greatly from bottom to top.

Examples are desert flora, pinyon and juniper and impressive forests of ponderosa pine, lovely spruce, and fir at the edges.

Wildlife in the great Grand Canyon National Park includes coyotes, mule deer, beautiful bobcats and smart foxes.

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

This national recreation area is located in northwestern Arizona.

It’s just west of Grand Canyon National Park, and also in the southeast corner of Nevada.

Within this fantastic region are Lake Mead (more than 100 miles long) and the almost 70-mile-long Lake Mohave.

Both were formed by the Colorado River dam.

Camping in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

A large number of permanent campsites are available on the shores of the lakes.

Backcountry camping and campfires are permitted here and elsewhere, but you should check where first.

No permit is required.

As the summers here are very hot, the best time to visit is from October to May.

Nature Lake Mead National Recreation Area

In this desert area there are impressive canyons, mountains, plateaus, and unique sandstone formations.

With several sandy beaches along the shoreline, the lake attracts many tourists.

It is used for water activities and boat trips.

Vegetation includes Joshua trees and cacti.

Coyotes, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions are found among the local wildlife.

Activities

Hiking, backpacking and horseback riding are possible in the National Recreation Are.

Most travel must be inland, as there are few established trails.

Fishing is possible at the lakes.

Hunting is allowed in some parts of the area.

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping

Maricopa County Parks

Four beautiful large county parks surround the city of Phoenix:

  • Pleasant Lake Regional Park
  • Estrella Mountain Regional Park
  • McDowell Mountain Regional Park
  • White Tank Mountain Regional Park

The scenery here includes several mountains up to 4,000 feet.

Also, magnificent canyons, the desert, and the 3,500-acre Lake Pleasant.

Camping in Maricopa County Parks

Camping is permitted in the backcountry areas of all four parks with a permit.

You can only light a campfire in designated areas.

Few people camp in the backcountry areas of these parks.

Activities

Hiking and backpacking are possible on over 50 miles of trails in McDowell Mountain Park.

There are over 33 miles of trails in Estrella Mountain Park.

Many paths are open for horseback riding. Hunting and fishing are allowed in season.

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

This National Monument is located in southwestern Arizona along the Mexican border.

It protects an area of the Sonoran Desert.

Besides a desert, this region is also blessed with several low mountains and great canyons.

You can find organ pipe cactus, saguaro cactus, cholla, and other desert vegetation.

Wildlife includes deer, desert bighorn sheep, and coyotes.

Activities

Hiking and backpacking are possible, as well as horseback riding.

Hunting is prohibited.

Camping in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

In order to camp in the backcountry, you will need a free permit, available at the Visitor Center.

There is a campground in the backcountry, and camping is also permitted elsewhere.

Pets are not allowed.

Campsites must be located at least one-half mile from a road, historic site or water source.

Campfires are not allowed, so you must use a stove to cook.

The months of October to May are the best times to camp here.

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping: Conclusion

If you’re looking for adventure, then you need look no further.

Parks and nature reserves in Arizona open for wilderness camping abound.

Make sure that you check beforehand, to make sure what trip you want to make.

Planning and knowing the terrain will also allow you to choose what gear you can bring.

If you can reach your planned campsite fairly easily without too long of a hike and little elevation, you can consider bringing camping chairs and camping beds to improve your comfort.

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About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded PlusSizeZeal.com to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More