Hiking at our new boondocking site

Hiking at Buenos Aires NWR

A stunning and remote boondocking area in the natural grasslands of south-central Arizona

Location: Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Link to refuge HERE
Coordinates: Entry to Buenos Aires around 31.812813,-111.44365. The refuge extends south to Mexico and east to Arivaca, AZ. Link to map location HERE
Cost: FREE (14-day stay limit)
How We Found It: I originally heard about this spot from Ivan’s blog and subsequently found more information on the web.
Nearest Dump/Water: Not sure? Sanidumps lists this RV park ~19 miles form Arivaca. Household garbage can be dumped for free at the local Arivaca transfer station (west side of town).

  1. Access – 2.5/5
    Mixed access here, depending on where you go. The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is huge (~118,000 acres) and has miles & miles of dirt roads. There are 83 total campsites throughout the refuge which are designated and numbered (no dispersed camping allowed outside of designated sites). Some of the campsites are along very rutted and difficult roads and thus best accessed by more nimble or high-clearance vehicles, whereas other campsites are along better roads with easier access. Road conditions change depending on weather, so best option is to call or scout ahead to find the most accessible sites. Out of the total 83 campsites we reckoned only around 8-10 were “beast-accessible” whereas the rest were best left to smaller rigs.
  2. Nature – 5/5
    Outstanding nature here. This place is very remote and you’ll be completely surrounded by the natural grasslands with views sweeping all the way to the sacred Baboquivari mountains and the border of Mexico. Lots of lots of dirt roads to explore as well as some local hiking trails.
  3. Isolation – 4.5/5
    Very good isolation here, depending on time of year. This is a rarely-visited refuge so chances are good that you’ll be alone, but there are regular hunting parties & back-road enthusiasts who frequent the refuge. Plus the closeness to Mexico means you will see border patrol quite frequently in the area. While we were there a large hunting party was camped a few miles away, but the huge size of the refuge our separation allowed us good solitude. We saw only a handful of cars/day down our road and during the mid-week we saw very little at all.
  4. Pet Friendliness – 5/5
    Another excellent location for doggie. Lots of open space around camp plus plenty of dirt roads to walk/bike/explore. Surroundings are mostly grassland & dirt which are easy on the paws.

Overall Rating = 4.25
BONUS ALERT = Camp in the glorious grasslands of southern Arizona withing view of the sacred Baboquivari mountains!

Summary: I originally heard about this refuge from Ivan’s blog and have wanted to come here ever since. The place did not disappoint! Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge covers 118,000 acres of natural grasslands in south-central Arizona from the border of Mexico to the base of the Baboquivari mountains. It’s very remote, it’s gorgeous and it’s the perfect spot to get away from it all. Plus it’s also ~10 miles from sleepy Arivaca and local hiking. It’s an unusual refuge in that camping is only allowed in designated sites all of which are numbered and signed. There are a total of 83 campsites along dirt roads throughout the refuge. Most of the sites are actually very spacious but accessibility varies tremendously. Some of the roads are extremely narrow and rutted, whereas others are larger and less bumpy. The road conditions change depending on the year (and weather) so it’s good practice to call ahead or scout out your site before bringing in your rig. The majority of the sites are probably best suited for more nimble and/or high-clearance rigs, but there are probably around 8-10 which are relatively easy to access (= closer to the main road) and can handle “beast-size” (again, depending on road conditions). Hunters & back-road enthusiasts do frequent the refuge (we moved because of a large hunter group coming in the week-end we were there) plus the border patrol is very active, but the refuge is large enough that if you can find a site, you’ll most likely have a very relaxing time. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here and will most definitely be back!

Extra Info: Very varied 3G Verizon signal throughout the refuge. Some sites have no (zero) signal whereas other have 1-2 bars. NO facilities (no garbage, no dump, no water), however household garbage can be dumped for free at the local Arivaca transfer station (west side of town).

View of our first site at Buenos Aires

View of our first site at Buenos Aires

View of our second site at Buenos Aires

View of our second site at Buenos Aires

Typical site view. Each site is clearly numbered. This is #73

Typical site view. Each site is clearly signed and numbered. This is #73

Another typical site. Most sites are actually  very spacious...it's just the access roads that are the problem.

Another typical site. Most sites are actually very spacious…it’s just the access roads that are the problem.

View of one of smaller sites

View of one of smaller sites

Road entrance to one of the many dirt roads

Road entrance to one of the many dirt roads

Polly poses in one of the more narrow dirt roads

Polly poses in one of the more narrow dirt roads

Map of refuge with numbered sites clearly shown

Map of refuge with numbered sites clearly shown

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You pay the same, we get a few dimes…

28 Responses to Boondocking Site Review – Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Sasabe, AZ

  1. Ralph says:

    Nina,
    Looks like you guys found another “Gem”. I’m adding it to my “wish list”. Have the “ocotillo” started blooming yet? The only thing blooming up here in SW Washington..are more rain clouds. You guys sure live “the good life”. I’m so jealous… I feel like drinking 2 or 3 margaritas..and pretend I’m somewhere sunny and warm!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, the ocotillos just started blooming here. In fact we have a group of blooms right outside our doorstep right now! Hope you see some sun up there in WA soon!
      Nina

  2. Pam Hollinde says:

    Hello! I subscribed to your blog about a month ago and love it! Thanks for publishing it. I will retire in June and begin my journeys with my dog Maya.Your blog has helped me begin to prepare for this adventure. I will probably stay in national and state parks in the beginning but am intrigued by the idea of boondocking since I do have a fixed income. Do you see any single lady adventurers boondocking? Is it pretty safe? Have you encountered any problems? Just wondering, I’d love to try it. Pam

  3. RVSue says:

    Fantastic resource, Nina! I’m sure to try this place one day. Thanks a bunch. Sue

  4. Randy says:

    Prior to 2014 your site review criteria were always: 1. Site Quality. 2. Facilities. 3. Location. 4. Pet Friendliness.

    2014 Criteria are: 1. Access. 2. Nature. 3. Isolation. 4. Pet friendliness.

    Guess if you need to save money by boon-docking and your tolerance for other people has declined that would explain the change.

    It’s hard compare prior reviews (ie. Pagosa Springs CO = 4.0 or Cape Blanco OR = 4.5) with Buenos Aries = 4.25. Seems the standards have shifted toward desolation.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well actually I have three completely different review systems -> one for boondocking, one for public parks and one for private parks…and they’ve always been the same. The reason I have 3 different sets is that the qualities you look for in each are different. So for example amenities (which is a standard part of my private park reviews) really have no meaning for boondocking (you are never going to have pools or WiFi while boondocking, but they are worth reviewing in private parks). And isolation, which is a key part of boondocking never features in my public or private park reviews.

      So, three different sets for three different purposes. This year (2104) we’ve only boondocked so you’ve only seen the boondocking set of criteria. When we go back to staying in public parks you’ll see the other set again.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Nina

  5. Michael says:

    Hi Nina,

    You guys are on a roll. I’ve loved your last three spots. We’ll be heading out to Borrego Springs in a few weeks for our first boondocking adventure. Thank you for all the info and enthusiasm for this type of camping. I have no doubt it will be the first of many.

    Thank you also for doing the reviews of each of those spots. I thing it’s great that you have different criteria for the different types of camping. Safe travels.

    Michael-

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well enjoy Borrego! With all this early heat, I wonder if the flowers are blooming there already? We are starting to see blooms here, so could be an early event this year.

      Nina

  6. David says:

    Nina, About a mile away from your campsite is a place called “Round Hill Tank”. Wondering what a “Tank” refers to in that type of setting? Have you traveled the “Antelope Loop” with your vehicle and how was it (scenery, safety, etc.)? Thanks again for keeping everyone aware and informed as to what “Boondocking” really is. No sense making the same mistake twice. David

    • libertatemamo says:

      The “tanks” on the map are big old water tanks. They’re dotted all around the refuge. No camping there since they’re not a designated (numbered) campsite. We drove part of the Antelope loop and it was fine (for our toad). We also did a few other dirt roads in our CRV, but couldn’t make them all (some of them were too rutted even for that car). Scenery is good all around.

      Nina

  7. Doug says:

    I would worry about the personal safety that close to the border and that isolated.

    • libertatemamo says:

      There are the normal warnings about potential illegal activity in this area. I say “normal” because you’ll pretty much find those warning signs everywhere in Southern Arizona. It’s certainly always a concern close to the border. We’ve never been bothered or seen anything to worry us, plus the border patrol has a pretty heavy presence down here, but if it’s something that worries you this may indeed not be a good spot to stay.

      Nina

  8. Randy says:

    “three different sets for three different purposes”.
    Ahh, makes sense now. I was confused since the Boon-docking reviews were included in the “RV Park Ratings” header tab. Good info Thanks.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, I guess I should change the title of that tab to “camping reviews” or something of that nature. It includes all our reviews from private parks to boondocking and I’ve had the same title for 4 years, but I can see how it can be confusing to new folks on the blog. When we started RVing I had no idea that boondocking even existed so that tab, and associated review system had to evolve over time.

      Nina

  9. Stephen Agnor says:

    What are the numbers of the 8 to 10 sites that you consider to be “beast” accessible?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Ah sorry…didn’t write them down. However most of them are the ones closers to the main road. You’ll just have to do some boondocking exploring, which is all part of the adventure :)

      Nina

  10. Well Nina I like the nature and pet friendly rating. Also I got new used tires so now riding on 10 ply heavy duty shoes and remoreness doesnt make me worry as much. Glad you posted this one!

  11. Sherry says:

    Another really wonderful review of a fabulous looking spot Nina. Thank you so much for these. Now if I could just get out there to try them out. SIGH……….. I need some of that isolation. I guess because of the really outrageous winter in the East, WAY more people have decided they need to be on the gulf beaches of Florida.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I’ve been following a few of my RV friends out in FL and they’ve all mentioned the same thing. I gather it’s also bern quite a cold and rainy winter out there..although still much better than the icy storms up north.

      Nina

  12. Caryl Marie says:

    Hi Nina… Once again terrific write up… Can hardly wait to be on the road but need to concentrate on the here and now and the miracles that continue on adailybasis.

    My husband and I are coming into some substantial $$’s and thought we would check out Paul’s blog, however, don’t see any recent posts. Has he retired the blog? Is he accepting clients? Didn’t think to see if there was a link to actually ask him, so, if you would rather pass this on … It would be greatly appreciated.

    Keep up the GR8 work! Wonderfully pics, writing and humor, suspence and information.

    Thank in advance… I know how busy this keeps you when there might be other things you might prefer ;))

    • libertatemamo says:

      Congrats on the $$ and the upcoming travels! Paul has decided to stop blogging and just concentrate on our own finances. So sadly, no clients. I’ll certainly announce it if he ever changes his mind.

      Nina

  13. […] locations. We discovered Whitewater Draw last year, spent 10 days in the fabulous grasslands of Buenos Aires NWR this year and have scouted out interesting spots to camp at KOFA NWR and Mittry Lake (possible […]

  14. Rich Muller says:

    Great post. I’m considering spending a day at Buenos Aires next weekend on a long loop home to Tucson from Bisbee.

    Where did the map of campsites come from? It looks like a photo of a paper handout — maybe from the seldom-open visitor center?

    I signed up to get future blog entries by email. Good stuff!

    Thanks, Rich

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup it’s a photo from the visitor center. Enjoy your stay there. It’s a pretty neat spot!
      Nina

  15. Reed Cundiff says:

    Another site we loved. The folks at the HQ were extremely helpful and told us what sites were accessible to a travel trailer. We went off toe Arivica to bird walk and a Canadian couple were there when we got back and asked if they could share the site. The site was huge and we were delighted to share with them. We ran into them again at Shanty Pond in Florida at an SKP’s Boondocking venture and dug out our kayaks and paddled down some interesting narrow streams. A year later we ran into them again at a another SKP Boondocking venture in western AZ. We were headed to Baja and they had some great ideas. One keeps running into the same delightful folks when you boondock

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