Arizona is home to an impressive 35 state parks! There are some parks that are livelier and others that offer a chance for peaceful solitude. Between the mystical desert landscape, rugged mountains, and inviting calm lakes, Arizona is the perfect destination for the outdoor and nature-loving traveler and camper. Some of the main things that campers are after are:
- Horseback riding
- Bird watching
- Star gazing
- Cooking out
- Roasting marshmallows
Many of the campgrounds have space for both tent and RV camping, as well as cabin rentals. It is a smart idea to make a reservation before arriving at any of these state parks to ensure that you have a campsite. Whether you are camping solo, with your friends, family, significant other, or dog, there is definitely a camping spot in Arizona for you!
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Dead Horse Ranch State Park is conveniently and centrally located near several major hubs in Arizona, including Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Prescott. This gorgeous park is adjacent and across from the Verde River. It is the perfect home base for exploring some of northern Arizona’s best natural attractions. Some of these are Slide Rock State Park, Red Rock State Park, Oak Creek Canyon, Prescott National Forest, and Montezuma Castle. The popular towns of Sedona and Jerome are also near. There are over a hundred campsites throughout Dead Horse Ranch State Park for both tent and RV camping that are open to campers year-round.
You will find twenty-plus miles of non-motorized trails that are ideally suited for hiking, biking, and horseback riding here. On 2012, the Lime Kiln Trail was voted the Best Bike Ride in Arizona by Critic’s Choice Award! Most of the individual trails are less than a mile long, which makes this a great hiking destination for those who aren’t seeking anything too strenuous. If you happen to be camping here in the spring, make sure you keep your eyes open for the rare and elusive river otter!
Cattail Cove State Park
Cattail Cove State Park has 61 tent and RV sites and a boat camping area. This particular state park is often sought out by campers who want a quieter and more relaxed camping experience on Lake Havasu than the actual Lake Havasu State Park has to offer. This 2,000-acre state park is an amazing campground for those who want to spend time swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking. The park is open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year! There is also a dog-friendly beach in this state park.
Throughout the year, several annual events take place around here, such as the Festival of Lights, Rods Classic Car Show, London Bridge Days, and several regattas. Camping at Cattail Cove State Park makes it easy to access and enjoy some of the local happenings in the area.
Lake Havasu State Park
The most well-known state park in Arizona is definitely Lake Havasu State Park. This lively state park attracts all walks of life—from families to college students. The lake is a haven for water activity-loving campers! There are three boat ramps and 47 campsites here, as well as a special events area, a picnic area, and a white-sand beach area. If you need to dry out a bit, you can also set off on the 1.75-mile Mohave Sunset Trail, which winds through the lowland desert and along the shoreline. Keep your eyes open for desert cottontails, as they are common here!
Alamo Lake State Park
The Alamo Lake State Park’s claim to fame is its bass fishing. It is known to have the best bass fishing in all of Arizona. The lake is pristine and crystal clear, which only adds to the extraordinary beauty of the mountain and desert terrain that make up this park and campgrounds. Wild burros, mule deer, foxes, and coyotes also love it here. The closest city is about forty miles away so you can enjoy a night sky free of light pollution and full of stars. In fact, stargazing here is one of the major draws of this state park in Arizona.
You can opt to pitch a tent in one of six camping areas or rent an adorable cabin for just 65 USD a night.
Buckskin Mountain State Park
The Buckskin Mountain State Park is said to have the best views along the Parker Strip, which is an 18-mile stretch between the Parker Dam and Headgate Dam. This picturesque park is an ideal choice for campers looking for a lot of recreational options. If you camp here, you have access to mountain hiking trails, basketball and volleyball courts, beaches, a boat ramp, and a picnic area. There are 80 tent and RV sites available within the park.
While there are several trail options, the Lightning Bolt Trail is famed for its wildflowers in the spring and should not be missed if you are camping here during the season.
Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park is at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains and only a few minutes outside of Tucson. This park is famous for its birds, saguaros, and equestrian trails. There are more than 150 species of birds that call this southern region of Arizona home. Whether you want to hike, bike, or horseback ride, Catalina State Park is a beautiful place to wander around. Some of the trails also cross into the Coronado National Forest, which tops out at 3,000 feet above sea level.
Dogs are welcomed on the trails here as long as they are leashed.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
This unique state park in Arizona is renowned for its caverns. The caves in Kartchner Caverns State Park were voted as the best attraction in Arizona by USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards! There are two main caverns that you can take a tour of during your camping trip here. However, it should be noted that from April 15 to October 15, the Big Room cavern is closed. Every summer, around 1,500 common cave bats return to this park and the Big Room cavern to give birth and raise their pups, so the park closes this area to provide the bats with privacy and protection.
Aside from exploring the ancient caves, you can enjoy several hikes and a hummingbird garden walk. The Kartchner Caverns State Park is also home to mountain lions, Gila monsters, coyotes, gray foxes, ringtail cats, jackrabbits, cottontails, raccoons, and deers. This wild state park is a dreamy campground for the wildlife enthusiasts.
The Kartchner Caverns State Park is also a designed International Dark Sky Park, which is defined as “a public land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” So, get ready for some of the best star gazing opportunities in Arizona!
Lost Dutchman State Park
The Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the beautiful Sonoran Desert with trails that lead from the park into the Superstition Mountains and Tonto National Forest. There are 138 campgrounds within this park, and 68 of those sites have electric hook-ups. Throughout the year, there are full moon guided hikes, as well as guided desert scorpion hunting excursions. Pets are permitted, as long as they are well behaved, and you pick up after them. This is the best camping spot in Arizona if you want to explore the incredible Sonoran Desert.
Picacho Peak State Park
Reaching 1,500 feet into the sky, the Picacho Peak offers a challenging hike with a well-worth-it reward. From the peak, which requires using ropes and serious leg muscles, the views are truly otherworldly. If hardcore hiking isn’t your thing though, there are plenty of other scenic and milder hikes within the Picacho Peak State Park.
During the springtime, the landscape bursts into color from dense wildflower blooms, but any time of the year is a good time to visit this alluring state park in Arizona. Throughout the year, there is also a variety of guided hikes available and plenty of opportunities to observe fascinating wildlife.
Patagonia Lake State Park
Patagonia Lake State Park is a tucked-away gem in southeastern Arizona. There is plenty of space to camp. There are also boat ramps, a marina, a lakeside market, tables and grills, and a lakeside creek trail. Fishing is a very popular activity here as the lake is filled with crappie, bluegill, catfish, bass, and trout. This park is also an excellent site for birdwatching.
If tent camping doesn’t particularly appeal to you, there are lovely lake view cabins for rent here. There are also two bonus features of this campground; there are six wineries in Sonoita that are open to the public just half an hour away from the Patagonia Lake State Park. Also, the entrance to the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area is within the park.