The beast relaxes happily at her free spot in Dome Rock

Ahhhh….boondocking in Arizona!!

For the past few days we’ve been camping in a fabulous new boondocking spot in Nevada next to some equally fabulous (and rather shiny) neighbors. I’ve got lots to report, but before I delve into our new experiences I wanted to finish one last post on Arizona that’s been in my draft folder for over a year. You see we’ve spent most of the past two winters in Arizona and the main reason for that (besides excellent weather) is that AZ has amazing opportunities for free camping. Depending on which reference you look at around 48-53% of Arizona’s land-mass is public land, and much of it is accessible for camping even for “beast-size” such as ourselves. It’s probably my absolute favorite state for boondocking and before I leave it behind I just had to share my secrets. Here’s a round-up of all my favorite resources:

1/ BLM Land

Arizona BLM land

Arizona BLM land

Anyone who’s boondocked any amount of time loves BLM (Bureau Of Land Management) land. These massive swarfs of land are common throughout the west and allow free 14-day camping just about anywhere. In Arizona BLM manages 12.2 million surface acres of public lands with endless opportunities for boondockers to find a cool spot to stay. We’ve stayed in many free BLM sites across the state in places such as Quartziste, Why and Tuscon. What’s extra-special about AZ is that they also allow longer-term stays in specific spots called Long-Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs) for those who want more time and some extra amenities (e.g. trash, dump station and water). For $180 you can buy a seasonal pass (Sept 15-Apr 15) or $40 a short-term pass (2 weeks) for the LVTAs which covers 8 locations across AZ & CA. Our very first boondocking trip (ever) was on LTVA land and I consider it a great “starter” boondocking experience for folks who’ve never been out boondocking, but always wanted to try. What a fabulous resource!

  • General Arizona BLM Land Map -> Clicky
  • Arizona BLM LTVA Map -> Clicky

2/ National Conservation Areas

Yup, this is why we do what we do allright

Boondocking at Las Cienegas last year

A lesser known gem of Arizona public land is the National Conservation Areas. These areas are actually managed by BLM so they should probably go into #1, but they deserve a special mention. There are three of these in Arizona and all of them allow some kind of camping. We stayed for free at Las Cienegas last year & have heard of other boondockers raving about Gila Box (there are dispersed areas or two developed campgrounds charging only $5/night). Some neat, hidden spots with lots of opportunity to explore!

  • National Conservation & Monuments Map -> Clicky

3/ National Wildlife Refuges & Wildlife Areas

Sandhill Cranes coming to roost at sunset

Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw

Arizona has a total of 9 Wildlife Refuges and 29 Wildlife Areas scattered throughout the state all managed by Arizona Fish & Game. Some of these areas are huge covering many hundreds of thousands of acres and offer a mix of activities from simple wildlife viewing to hiking, fishing & hunting. The most exciting thing is that many of them allow free dispersed camping in remote & gorgeous 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 spots for next year). Stay limits in Wildlife areas range from 3 days to 14 days so check the individual office before you go. There’s probably lots we haven’t discovered here, so it’ll be a resource for the future.

  • Arizona Wildlife Refuge Map -> Clicky
  • Arizona Wildlife Area Map -> Clicky

4/ National Forests

Arizona National Forest land

Arizona National Forest land

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 have been 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.

  • Arizona National Forest Map -> Clicky
  • Arizona MVUM Maps -> Clicky

5/ State Trust Land

You'll see State Trust signs all over Arizona

You’ll see State Trust signs all over Arizona

Arizona is rather unusual in that it has a lot of State Trust Land, round 9.28 million surface acres in all. This is not exactly public land, but is land managed by a Trust for the benefit of public entities (if that makes any sense). What makes it interesting for boondockers is that camping is permitted on these lands for 14-days per year as long as you have a pass and camp in an area that doesn’t interfere with whoever else is using the land. The permit is $20 for a year and it takes quite a bit of doing to find appropriate sites to bring your rig, but if you do you’re very, very likely to be all alone. Also since the land is so wide & lightly managed the sites are very poorly policed (…not that I’m implying anything ya know :)) We buy the pass every year and end up using it at least once to recreate (bike/ride) on state land even if we don’t camp there. For a mere $20 which goes to a good cause (public education & schools) we’re happy to spend the cash.

  • Arizona State Land Map -> Clicky
  • Arizona State Land Permit -> Clicky

6/ Extra Useful Map Links

I love, love, love our Benchmark maps!

I love, love, love our Benchmark maps!

In addition to the links I’ve mentioned above there are three special ones which I use extensively to plan our Arizona travels and which I consider “must have’s” for anything we do.

The first is our good old Arizona Benchmark Map, absolutely the best hard copy land-map we have. It has color-coded pages showing all of the public land boundaries and enough detail to show most of the dirt roads in the entire state. We use this map for dreaming & planning most of our travels, so much so that it’s become dog-eared with use. Can’t recommend it enough.

The other good resource is particular to Arizona. It’s their free on-line, interactive public lands map. Arizona is the only state I know that offers something like this and I find it incredibly useful. You can zoom into any spot, anywhere and see the public land boundaries. How cool is that???

Our last resource is freecampsites.net. I’ve mentioned this site a ton of times on the blog, but it always bears repeating. It’s the best online resource I know for nationwide boondocking spots and it keeps growing. I use it and I contribute to it.

Related Boondocking Links:

Phew! That turned out to be a longer post than I planned, but hopefully it’s something you can bookmark and use many times over. My next post will be about shiny rigs, new friends and new cocktails :)

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53 Responses to 6 Great Resources For Finding Boondocking Spots in Arizona

  1. Anna Williamson says:

    Wow, you are just full of useful and wonderful information, our very own “Wheelipedia” :) :) !!! I will make sure to earmark this page for future travel to Arizona. Thank you!

  2. Allen says:

    Thank you Nina. We are looking forward to accessing your blog archives next year as our guide when we finally make it out west. our “Beast” the GlorEB for boondocking this year, we go full time in June!

  3. Mary Ann says:

    THANKS! You are so generous with your knowledge, and we are planning to take full advantage of your tips in a few years! I always love your pictures.

  4. Gary says:

    Great boondocking information Paul and Nina. I am a “newbie” staying in Buckeye, AZ. I will be going to New Mexico in a few weeks, but I am saving this information for when I return to Arizona next year. I don’t have solar or a generator yet, however for this first year, I think I will purchase a small Honda 2000.
    I have heard that at Slab City,CA and at Quartzsite,AZ there are good, reasonably priced solar installations available. Also, I have seen some “portable” solar panels. Do you know or have any advice on these? Thanks

    • libertatemamo says:

      We installed solar on our roof and I have a bunch of links on our installation in our “solar power” tab (see the top of the blog). I’ve seen folks with both the installed version and portable version. Both are great. I don’t think you can go wrong with just about any decent solar panel out there -> much more important is getting the right 3-stage controller & wiring.

      Nina

  5. Rick says:

    An invaluable website that is full of free and helpful information that is also fun to read & beautiful to look at. Thanks, Nina!

  6. Oakman says:

    Thanks. We are currently heading east across northern Arizona and will put some of your resources to work. Boondocking in southern Arizona seems to be much easier. Not to mention – it still gets cold up here these days!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, northern Arizona has more forest service land, although you should be able to find some decent boondocking in the forests there (with some searching). Don’t get too far south…it’s heating up right now!

      Nina

  7. Dennis Hunt says:

    As an easterner, New Jersey, I thoroughly enjoy your travels, trials and tribulations that you share. This most recent one about boondocking sites and detailed information makes me want to pack up the MH and head out there. Great Job. Keep them coming.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I have to admit I’m a western girl, although I’ve never spent much time in the east so I don’t have much to compare it to. Definitely not as much boondocking out there though :)

      Nina

  8. Bruce Overbay says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share so much good information about boondocking. We are looking forward to doing the same next winter.

  9. Dave says:

    Great information Nina, I have bookmarked that posting for future reference. Safe travels. –Dave (GoingRvWay.com)

  10. Deas Nealy says:

    Nice post. Of course I will be in contact for those super top secret spots. Hope you guys are doing well. Heading out early April. Currently in FDR state park in Ga with Technomadia and RVaGoGo

    • libertatemamo says:

      I’ve been watching you guys get back on the road. So nice that you’re getting to hang w/ Technomadia & RVAGoGo!! Hope to see ya out west!

      Nina

  11. Bud Roberts says:

    GREAT post – thanks much. We just retired, have a 30′ Airstream and are planning a two or three month trip from the east to AZ and UT this coming late summer — fall.

    Thanks again

    Bud

    • libertatemamo says:

      You’ve got a sweet rig for boondocking. Should be lots of opportunity for you out there. Enjoy!

      Nina

  12. Smitty says:

    Thanks for the thought full sharing of Boondocking Options within AZ! We just finished a visit to some areas around the Yuma area, including a day trip to the Imperial Dam area. My wife and I have never seen the Q in action (We’ll do so in a year or two.) – so this was her first time to see several hundred Boondocker’s together. We spent time driving thru the Senators Wash area. She saw the amazing creativity on ‘custom’ rigs, set up to ‘live in and around’ while boondocking. Also was impressed with how clean the restrooms and showers were.

    As we were heading back down towards Yuma, the Blue Angels were practicing – so it was a fun way to spend the day!

    Appreciate how you share your resources, and tips learned…

    Best to both you, Paul – and the critters!
    Smitty

    • libertatemamo says:

      We haven’t actually been to Imperial Dam although I know many boondockers love it out there. Together with Q it’s one of the biggest boondocking spots in that part of AZ. Glad to hear the area looked nice.

      Nina

  13. Rowanova says:

    Wonderful resources that get right to heart of the matter. Well done and, Thanks!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Thanks. I originally thought the post would be shorter, but as I wrote it I realized there are alot of resources out there.

      Nina

      • Rowanova says:

        You’re welcome, Nina. Do you find these resources to be fairly similar from state to state? Or have you found a lot of differences in the way states handle public lands?

        • libertatemamo says:

          The big federally-managed resources such as BLM and National Forest are very similar cross country, but several of the other resources differ quite a bit. For example National Wildlife Refuges are very different state to state in how welcoming they are to campers. In AZ a large portion of them have camping facilities, but in states such as TX or FL they do not allow camping. Also the State Trust land is particular to AZ…haven’t seen anything like this in the other states.

          Nina

  14. Gaelyn says:

    AZ is definitely a hot spot for free camping in natures beauty. Great post.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It sure is. Wish I’d made it up to your area of Yarnell, but we just ran out of time this time around. It’ll be in the books for the next trip!

      Nina

  15. Michael says:

    Nina, you should put a big “Information” sign at the top of your blog. So grateful you seem to enjoy it and do it so well. We haven’t made it out to AZ very much, but will definitely want to check out your recommendations when we do. I’ve heard that there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright school in AZ, do you know anything about it?
    Thanks again for being the sharing kind and safe travels.

    Michael-

  16. Dianne & Tom Wartman says:

    (please forgive me if this comment appeared six or so times… wouldn’t post… trying from the laptop now)
    Hi there! As always, we so appreciate being in touch and taking advantage of your great info! Look forward to learning about your “great new boondocking spot” since we are on your trail. Still some unknowns as to when we leave Benson… should know Monday, but probably by the end of March. Our new MCD shades are great! Tire monitoring system up and running! Be well, and we’ll stay connected. D & T

    • libertatemamo says:

      We’ll probably be well into NV by the time you get here, but hopefully you’ll get to benefit from some of my camping info. Happy to hear the shades and TPMS are working out. We’ll be testing ours on this next drive.

      Nina

  17. Doug says:

    That AZ public land interactive website is the greatest thing ever! Much more up-to-date than any printed maps, since public land is constantly being sold or traded. I actually bought a state land permit last October, when I thought the fed govt shutdown might close the LTVAs. With this nifty tool you just revealed to us, it looks like I’ll be putting my permit to good use this summer. Thanks for being so open and helpful with your knowledge!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I totally agree. I was astonished when I found that online map…one of the best state resources I’ve ever seen, especially for boondockers. Glad you’re finally going to make use of that state trust permit!

      Nina

  18. LuAnn says:

    Thanks so much Nina. Once we head back out west, we plan to do much more boondocking. I will definitely bookmark this post. :)

  19. Yes it was a good time to finish this project! Thanks a bunch Nina. Err do you think you could whip our Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico right quick???? Well it dont hurt to ask! LOL I love the info on this blog, Sadie n Bill

  20. G says:

    Love the detailed information you post on campgrounds and your research process. Keep up the great work!

  21. Lois says:

    Thank you! Great post and awesome info… very timely!

  22. Gary & Joanne Doty says:

    Just wanted to thank you guys for helping to get us into boondocking. When we bought the 5er, I put 600 watts of solar on the roof and 600 ah in bats in the basement with a pure sine inverter just so we could do this. We’re on a site just south of Carlsbad on Dark Canyon Rd. for the first time with no one else around but us. Never did this before so we were a little nervous at first; getting stuck on dirt roads, worried about someone ripping us off while we were away from the RV, etc. But we’re looking forward to visiting some of the sites you’ve shown us in your blog to get more use to it. We’re headed to Las Cruces, Tucson, Phoenix & Santa Fe over the next month or so and I’ll be reviewing your posts for places to stay. Looks like it might be getting a little late in the winter for S AZ boondocking but we’ll see. Keep up the great work and thanks for putting these sites and info in your blog.

    • Bruce Overbay says:

      Do you have a blog that will share your experiences. If you do, can we sign up? We are just starting out and our primary goal is to start boondocking out west, hopefully as early as next winter. We would love to read about your experiences. Thank you.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well congrats on getting “out there”! The first couple of times you boondock it’s definitely a little scary. After a while you’ll learn to be more relaxed especially as you get more comfortable in the boonies & with your rig. It’s definitely getting hot in the lower AZ elevations right now, but it’ll still be nice & cool in the higher northern mountains. I know there’s forest service boondocking up there, so you may want to check that out.

      Nina

  23. Love this post! But, I’m confused about the interactive public lands website….am I missing something, or does it not allow you to click on names of places to be taken to another website? I mean, do you just use it to see the names of places, and then you google them to get more info? If I can figure out this one piece, I will be set!

    Thanks!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, that’s the way it works. You use the map mainly to orient and see the public land boundaries. For detailed info on places you need to Google them outside the map.

      Nina

  24. Great tip on that interactive map; I’ve never seen it before! You can bet your booties I snapped it up and put it in my boondocking page. Thanks!

  25. […] 6 Great Resources For Finding Boondocking Spots in Arizona […]

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