Camping in the Southwest


We thought we’d share some of our favorite camping locations from our Southwest trip in February/March 2016. We didn’t get reservations for any of these places ahead of time. The trick is to show up early enough in the day (before noon is best). And, having a manageable length vehicle (22 foot Ford Transit van) is key to being able to fit in anywhere.

Most of our favorite places are ones where we’ve dry-camped, meaning we didn’t have electric or water hookups, just great views and a nearby vault toilet. Without exception, restrooms at state parks, national parks and BLM sites have been pretty darn great— plenty of toilet paper, clean, and odor free. Toilet technology has come a long way in recent years! The cleanest restrooms have been in the New Mexico state park system.

This listed is in the order in which we visited each site.

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park, California.$15.


Indian Bread Rocks, BLM, Bowie, Arizona. Free.


Roper Lake State Park, Safford, Arizona. $18. Cool Birds. Hot showers!


City of Rocks State Park, Bayard, New Mexico. $10. Hot showers!


Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico. $10. Scalding hot showers!


Valley of Fires Recreation Area, Carrizozo, New Mexico. $18. Hot showers!


Rockhound State Park, Deming, New Mexico. $10. Hot showers!


Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson Mountain Park, Arizona. $20.


Goosenecks State Park, Utah. $10.


Hovenweep National Monument, Utah. $10.


Ken’s Lake– BLM, Spanish Valley, south of Moab, Utah. $15.

Great spot in the overflow lot at Usery Pass, part of Maricopa County's park system east of Mesa.Since we’re not organized enough to reserve a spot ahead of time, we occasionally had to resort to a spot in the “overflow” lot. In the Phoenix area, both Maricopa County Parks: McDowell Mountain Regional Park and the Usery Mountain Regional Park overflow areas have been totally fine with hot showers, clean flush toilets and tons of space at only $20 a night. Catalina State Park just north of Tucson was an exception, and not in a good way. The overflow area, called the “Ringtail Loop” was way over-populated. However, Catalina’s $15 a night fee and hot showers helped a lot to mitigate its other shortcomings.

Privately-owned campgrounds like Prescott’s Point of Rocks RV Park and Bisbee’s Queen Mine RV Park had full hookups and hot showers but had really close quarters. However, both of these provided great access to Prescott and Bisbee respectively, and were really the only game in town.

Not all of our camping was as scenic and amenable as those featured above. Thus, the following are filed under the category “It’ll do in a pinch”:

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