The Grand Canyon State provides a spectacular backdrop for some of the most scenic campgrounds in the country, from the cool forests of the Mongollon Rim and the White Mountains to the verdant crowns of southern Arizona’s sky islands. But do you know which campgrounds offer the most privacy? Which are the best for first-time campers? Kirstin Olmon Phillips and Kelly Phillips have traversed the entire state and compiled the most up-to-date research to steer you to the perfect spot!
Best Tent Camping: Arizona presents 50 national park, state park, and recreation site campgrounds, organized into five distinct regions. Selections are based on location, topography, size, and overall appeal, and every site is rated for beauty, privacy, spaciousness, safety and security, and cleanlinessso you’ll always know what to expect. The new full-color edition of this proven guidebook provides everything you need to know, with detailed maps of each campground and key information such as fees, restrictions, dates of operation, and facilities, as well as driving directions and GPS coordinates.
Whether you seek a quiet campground near a fish-filled stream or a family campground with all the amenities, grab Best Tent Camping: Arizona. It’s an escape for all who wish to find those special locales that recharge the mind, body, and spirit. This guide is a keeper.
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Beauty 4 Privacy 2 Spaciousness 3 Quiet 3 Security 4 Cleanliness 5
Perennial Oak Creek has carved this narrow, verdant passage that provides a beautiful setting for fishing, swimming, hiking, or just relaxing.
- Contact: 928-203-7500, tinyurl.com/manzanitacampground; reservations: 877-444-6777, recreation.gov
- Open: Year-round
- Sites: 18
- Each site has: Picnic table, fire ring
- Assignment: First-come, first-served; reservations available for sites 9, 10, and 12–19 at least 2 days in advance
- Registration: With camp host, on-site, or online
- Amenities: Vault toilets, water spigots, campground host, firewood
- Parking: At campsites
- Fee: $22/night; $10 online-reservation fee
- Elevation: 4,800'
- Pets: On leash only
- Fires: In fire rings only
- Alcohol: Permitted
- Vehicles: RVs or trailers prohibited; ATVs prohibited
- Quiet hours: 10 p.m.–6 a.m.
- Other: 7-day stay limit; firearms prohibited; radio prohibited; 8-person limit/site; loud generators prohibited; 1 vehicle/site; checkout 1 p.m.
Sedona has sometimes been called the most beautiful place in the United States. The distinctive red-rock mountains create whimsical shapes that have been named whatever the imagination sees in themCoffeepot, Snoopy, Cathedral, and Bell. Many believe that these mountains contain vortexes of ethereal energy, and both artists and new agers flock here. You can stroll through the many art galleries, get your tarot cards read, have a past-life regression, or join a vortex hiking tour. Upscale boutiques rub shoulders with shops selling everything from Harley gear to healing crystals.
The stunning scenery makes for a variety of great outdoor experiences. Hike in the serene Secret Mountain Wilderness, bounce around on a guided Pink Jeep tour, or watch the sunset from your resort balcony. One of Sedona’s major draws is Oak Creek Canyon. The perennial creek has carved this narrow, verdant passage that provides a beautiful setting for fishing, swimming, hiking, or just relaxing. Just one caveatthis is an extraordinarily popular area, and you’ll have the best experience if you come prepared to be patient with your fellow humans.
Of the four campgrounds along Oak Creek Canyon, Manzanita is the closest to the water. Because of its popularity, try to make a reservation ahead of time online or by phone. That way, you’re not only guaranteed a spot, it’ll be one of the best sites in the campground; only sites 9–19 are reservable, and these lie right along the creekbed. Site 11 is the exception, since it’s actually in the flood plain and can only be used when the creek is expected to behave itself.
Both the north and south entrances from AZ 89A lead down to the self-service pay station and the campground host. If you have a reservation, you may continue to your site. If you’re hoping for a first-come, first-served site, come early and check with the hostshe may not even have time to remove the campground full sign before it’s true again. Sites 1–3 are level, but close together in the middle of the campground loop, and sites 6 and 7 are also quite open and close to the camp road. Raised above the campground on a leveled shelf, site 5 is a nice, compact site with its back to the highway. Site 4, at the end of the loop, sits a little apart from its neighbors, but for privacy and spaciousness, take 19. You’ll need to be able to parallel park for sites 11–15, but the sites are reasonably spaced and right along the creek. If you have a group, sites 9 and 10, past the host in site 8, share parking and almost have a stretch of the creek to themselves (these are also the most accessible sites). The tight loop road discourages trailers and RVs, and the rule is one vehicle per site. You can take a shower five miles north at the much-larger Cave Spring Campground; just let the staff at the entry station know you’re camped at Manzanita, and they’ll sell you a token.
AZ 89A snakes up the narrow canyon, making traffic noise unavoidable. It will fade into the background, allowing the burble of the creek to come through clearly, and the campground itself is very quiet. The creek flow depends on rainfall and snowmelt, and on rare occasions has risen over the stone retaining walls and swirled around the picnic tables. The campground is in a stand of ponderosa pines, box elders, Gambel oak, and Arizona ash that, along with the high red cliffs, provide ample shade. South of the campground, past sites 9 and 10, the creek opens up to form a large swimming hole, and a trail up the creek passes the foundations of an old homestead with feral apple trees in the front garden.
Just 0.75 mile north of the campground is Slide Rock State Park, where the smooth, slick rock of the creek bottom has created a natural slide popular with families. Thrill seekers also enjoy jumping from the surrounding boulders into the creek’s cool pools. An orchard from the park’s former life as a farmstead still bears fruit today, and apple picking is one of the park’s seasonal activities.
A little farther north is perpetually busy Call of the Canyon Picnic Site, named after the Zane Grey novel set here, and the trailhead for the West Fork Trailthe most popular trail in the Coconino National Forest. This scenic path crosses the stream several times and is rich in wildlife and beautifully weathered rock. The first 3 miles are very heavily used, but if you enjoy bouldering and the occasional swim, you can escape down 14 miles of rugged canyon beyond the developed trail. If the crowd is too much for you, there are many other spectacular hikes in the Sedona area, so pick up a guide, get out on the red rocks, and go!
You’ll need to have a national Interagency Pass or purchase a Red Rock Pass to use any of the national forest land in the Sedona area, including hiking trails, picnic areas, and the many ruins and heritage sites; note that the most popular sites, including Grasshopper Point swimming area, Crescent Moon day-use, and Call of the Canyon/West Fork Trailhead, are special fee areas.
From Sedona, take AZ 89A north 6 miles. Turn right into the campground.
GPS Coordinates N34° 56.145' W111° 44.689'
Table of ContentsArizona Campground Locator Map
- Canyon View Campground
- Desert View Campground
- Forked Pine Campground
- Freidlein Prairie Dispersed Camping
- Lockett Meadow Campground
- Manzanita Campground
- North Rim Campground
- Tuweep/Toroweap Campground
- The View Campground
- White Horse Lake Campground
- Wild Cow Springs Recreation Site Campground
- Windy Point Recreation Site Campground
- Burnt Corral Recreation Site Campground
- Cholla Campground
- Desert Tortoise Campground
- Hazlett Hollow Campground
- Ironwood Campground
- Lawrence Crossing Campground
- Lost Dutchman State Park Campground
- Lower Wolf Creek Campground
- Mingus Mountain Campground
- The Point Campground
- Powell Springs Campground
- Upper Pinal Campground
- Yavapai Campground
- Chevelon Crossing Campground
- Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area Campground
- FR 9350 Dispersed Camping Area
- Haigler Canyon Campground
- Knoll Lake Campground
- Rose Creek Campground
- Blue Crossing Campground
- Brookchar Campground
- East Fork Recreation Area Campgrounds
- Honeymoon Campground
- KP Cienega Campground
- Los Burros Campground
- Lower Juan Miller Campground
- Lyman Lake State Park Campground
- Pacheta Lake Campground
- Alamo Canyon Primitive Campground
- Bog Springs Campground
- Fourmile Canyon Campground
- Hospital Flat Campground
- Lakeview Campground
- Reef Townsite Campground
- Riverview Campground
- Spencer Canyon Campground
- Stockton Pass Campground
- Sunny Flat Campground
Appendix A: Camping Equipment Checklist
Appendix B: Sources of Information
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