Sunset at our new site

Sunset at our boondocking site on FS360

A very scenic boondocking spot in the Prescott National Forest just SE of Cottonwood, AZ

Location: Prescott National Forest, just SE of Cottonwood, AZ
Coordinates: Camping area starts at intersection of AZ 260 and Thousand Trails Road(FS147)/Camino Real(FS360). Approx. 34.660993,-111.965153. Link to map location HERE
Cost: FREE (14-day limit)
How We Found It: We had heard about camping around Thousand Trails Road from other RVers and also found the listing on freecampsites.net. We settled on our final site by studying the Prescott Motor Vehicle Use Map for other permitted dispersed camping in the area.
Nearest Dump/Water: No facilities in forest. Free dump station at Giant Gas on corner of 89A and 260. Plenty of other nearby dump stations in Cottonwood & Camp Verde area.

  1. Access – 2.5/5
    Access can be very good to very poor depending on where you camp. The boondocking area we chose is on the intersection of 260 & Thousand Trails Road just SE of Cottonwood. There are two main areas to camp here on either side of 260:
    Thousand Trails Road -> Travelling north on Hwy 260, take a right at Thousand Trails Road (paved, clearly marked). Follow the paved road for 1/4 mile and then turn left onto Forest Rd 147A (wide dirt, firm). You will see flat, open areas and other rigs boondocked along the first 1/2 mile of this road. This is a popular area and easy to access for any-sized rig. Do not continue past top section (where road descends sharply to the water) since it becomes narrow with no turn-around.
    Forest Service Road 360 -> Travelling north on Hwy 260 take a left at Thousand Trails to the dirt road directly opposite. This road is  unmarked, fairly narrow and rapidly becomes very poor (very rutted, bumpy). According to the Prescott MVUM dispersed camping is allowed all along this road including adjacent FS361 and FS9460C. There are several camping areas fairly close to the entrance which can be relatively easily accessed, but sites further back require high clearance vehicles. Look for cleared-out sites that have been previously used (often there’s a small fire-ring). This is lightly used by campers, but much harder to access. Small high-clearance rigs will be able to find some very private (and still very scenic) sites here, but big rigs will be very limited.
  2. Nature – 5/5
    Lovely nature and views here. You are just south of Cottonwood in high desert forest with sweeping views of the valley (all the way to the red rocks of Sedona). Open land all around and lots of forest service roads to hike and explore.
  3. Isolation – 2.5/5
    You’re close to the largish town of Cottonwood so only medium isolation here. Thousand Trails is a fairly well-known boondocking site so you’ll undoubtedly be camping with others (for those familiar think “Quartzite-like” camping). The other side of 260 has very few campers, but does get OHVers and cars exploring the roads. Either way you’ll encounter some traffic unless your rig is small enough to get very far back in the forest, but the views and location are worth the trouble.
  4. Pet Friendliness – 5/5
    A great location for the paws. Nice, open (cactus-free) space all around for easy paws on the ground plus lots of forest service roads for hiking/exploring. You are also only ~2 miles from Verde River access for water-splashing.

Overall Rating =  3.75
BONUS ALERT = Sweeping views of Verde Valley and the distant Red Rocks of Sedona!

Summary: We chose this area based on good reviews from other RVers and, although it’s not as isolated as we typically like, we managed to find a fairly secluded spot and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Thousand Trails Road is just SE of Cottonwood and off Hwy 260. This makes it a popular (and well-used) spot, but also gives some excellent sweeping views including the Verde Valley and the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona in the far background. Access can be easy to poor depending which side of the road you chose to boondock on (see above), but you’re rewarded with a scenic site that’s a short drive to Cottonwood, Jerome, Verde River and the various excellent sights around the area. Don’t expect to be alone here, plus be prepared for some trash (sadly, typical of heavily-used forest), but enjoy a great location. We loved the area and would readily come back again.

NOTE/ The Prescott National Forest covers a huge area and this is but a teeny piece of the boondocking available. You can pick-up or download a copy of the Prescott Motor Vehicle Use Map which will show each and every road open for dispersed camping in the entire forest. It takes a little doing to match forest service roads to actual road names (plus not all are marked) but if you spend the time you can find some excellent and well-secluded spots.

Extra Info: Good 4G Verizon signal (4 bars) and decent 3G signal. Since this is a well-used area the 14-day limit is enforced. There was a camp host at the Thousand Trails site and a ranger came by to take our license plate number at the other site.

Entry road to Thousand Trails site

Entry road to Thousand Trails site

View of Thousand Trails boondocking rigs from FS147A. It's a popular spot!

View of Thousand Trails boondocking rigs from FS147A. It’s a popular spot!

View down one of lanes in Thousand Trails site

View down one of lanes in Thousand Trails site

Another View down Thousand Trails site

Another View down Thousand Trails site

Yet another view of rigs at Thousand Trails

Yet another view of rigs at Thousand Trails

View of our site down FS360

Another view of our site on FS360

Another view of our site on FS360

View of another camper further down FS360

View of another camper further down FS360. You can see how rutted the road is in the front.

One of the many sites around FS360

One of the many sites around FS360

General map of the 2 boondocking areas. Download the Prescott MVUM for more details.

General map of the 2 boondocking areas. Download the Prescott MVUM for more details.

9 Responses to Boondocking Site Review – Thousand Trails Road, Prescott NFS, Cottonwood, AZ

  1. Fun to follow you guys! Here (Mt. Shasta) it’s sun-rain-snow-sun-rain-snow, etc. I was wondering if you’d care to discourse on how you eat well boondocking–you must have to refrigerate and store food, etc. How do you create variety & do you have to preplan every meal? We eat an awful lot of beans and tortillas, stir fry, nuts, avacados, frozen salmon patties, etc. but I don’t know yet how to plan for a few weeks’ worth in our bags compactly. Any suggestions welcome!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sorry for the late reply Kathi.

      Your question actually deserves a whole blog-post!!

      The short answer is that I try and keep a selection of perishable and less-perishable items on-hand. We eat a lot of whole foods (veggies, eggs, meat, fruits, nuts etc.) and we’re gluten intolerant so no grains. I’ll usually purchase perishable goods for the 1st week (salads, greens etc.) and keep longer-lasting items for the 2nd week (squash, brussel sprouts, beets, carrots, cheeses etc). Squashes are great because you don’t even need to refrigerate them! I’ll also keep some frozen veggies on-hand and we stock meat in the freezer whenever we can. We have a “few” canned goods (tuna), but mostly we eat fresh or frozen. Breakfast is mostly eggs and lunch is either a large salad, or cheeses/nuts/fruit while dinner is a meat or fish & veggies. If we get low on veggies we’ll make stews which last even longer.

      Hope that helps a bit! Maybe one day I’ll get around to doing a whole blog-post on this.

      Nina

  2. Ray Burr says:

    We have the Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass and used it to camp at the Verde Valley one down the hill from there, nice location along the Verde River with lots of cottonwood trees. That boondocking local is so busy because most peoples TT memberships are 2-3 weeks in the TT Park and then you have to leave for 1 week so many just dry camp up there and head back down in a week.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Aha…that makes a lot of sense now that you mention it! Good to know. I was surprised to see the Forest Service had installed a camp host at the Thousand Trails boondocking site. First time I’ve seen that except for Quartzsite, but given it’s popularity I guess it makes sense.
      Nina

  3. geogypsy2u says:

    Great post. The views seem worth it for a short term.

    • libertatemamo says:

      That’s what we thought too. It’s a little busier than our usual boondocking sites, but the view and location made up for it.
      Nina

  4. […] National Forest Lands are great resources for boondockers all across the US. We’ve stayed in National Forests all over the country from SC to CA. Most of our stays were were in low-cost developed (paid) campgrounds, but these same forests often also offer “dispersed camping” (typically free for 14-days) if you can fit & find where to go. In Arizona there are 6 forest agencies covering land mostly along the middle and north of the state. The Coconino, Prescott & Kaibab Forests all publish free Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM’s) which show you exactly which roads are open to boondocking. Many of these sites are along narrow roads better suited to smaller rigs, but every now and then you’ll find something “beast-size”. We used one of these maps to find our boondocking site near Cottonwood last year. […]

  5. Judie Ashford says:

    We’ve stayed in this area and were happy to find that a local propane company that, when we called, would happily tell us when they would be delivering propane to the area. There is also propane at the Thousand Trails Preserve, and I’ve heard that they will sell you some, and will entertain allowing you to dump and take on water, presumably for a fee. We have a membership there, so just trundle back in after a week out front in the boondocking area. But some friends were able to use the TTN facilities as noted above, as non-members.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

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