Free Camping in Arizona – Camping and Boondocking Guide

Free Camping in Arizona

Arizona is undoubtedly one of the most popular winter RVing destinations and for good reason. There is so much free camping in Arizona and it’s such a pleasure to bask in the warmth of the sun knowing back at home it’s cold and wet or even snowy. Over the years I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Arizona. The map below shows where I’ve camped during my visits. I’ll provide links to those places in this post. Free camping in Arizona is one of my absolute favorites and I think you’ll love it too.

free camping in arizona

Elevation and Location

A lot of Arizona is very high in elevation which means cold temperatures and winter weather during the busy snowbird season. However, these high elevation areas are perfect for spring and fall when it’s too hot in the lower elevations.

The most popular areas for free camping in Arizona for enjoying the sunshine and mild temperatures during the winter are the areas shown in green and very light tan on the map above. Even those areas can drop well below freezing during winter nights. This area includes Gila Bend, Quartzsite, Tucson, Yuma, Phoenix, Mesa, Lake Havasu City, Surprise, Gilbert, and Peoria.

You can winter in a place as busy or as remote as you like. The Phoenix/Mesa area is densely populated but also has everything you might want in the way of shopping and restaurants, medical care, and nightlife. The RV parks in these areas tend to be gigantic with hundreds of sites. Of course, there are exceptions. Keep in mind, that there is much less public land for free camping in Arizona, due to the population.

In comparison, the southwest corner of the state is vast and many parts are sparsely populated. As with any popular destination, there are a lot of RV parks in the areas surrounding towns. There is also an enormous amount of public land offering free camping in Arizona.

Southern Arizona

Of course, the warmest, and one of the most popular places to spend the winter is the southwest corner of Arizona. With its proximity to Mexico, many snowbirds take advantage of inexpensive vision and dental care opportunities across the border. The difference in the prices we pay here in the US and the prices paid south of the border is staggering. It’s no reason people take advantage of that opportunity. This area also offers a tremendous amount of BLM land offering free camping in Arizona.

The cities and towns are limited but Yuma, Quartzsite, Gila Bend, Why, are all tucked into the southwest corner. Southcentral Arizona is home to Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Peoria. Just to name a few. It’s a manageable day trip from the Quartzsite area to Phoenix and surrounding areas.

The southeast part of the state is home to Tucson, Sierra Vista, Tombstone, Saint David, Benson, and Bisby. Elevations in this area are higher, between 1,500 and 4,500 feet above sea level. Higher elevations mean lower temperatures. I spent part of February and March in the Tucson area and routinely had overnight temperatures in the teens and twenties. Daytime temps were usually in the 60s or 70s.

Southern Arizona Long-Term Visitor Areas (LTVA)

Arizona and California have Long-Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) on BLM land. In designated LTVAs you can camp for as long as 7 months for one fee. The dates covered by the permit are September 15th to April 15 the following year. You can also move from one LTVA location to another at no additional cost. Some have water and/or a dump station but all have trash service. Some also have restrooms. Other than those amenities, this is primitive camping. The map below shows the LTVA locations in Arizona and California.

Short Term Camping on BLM Land In Southern Arizona

There are so many short-term camping options on BLM land in Arizona. Short term means 14-days or less unless otherwise posted. There may be areas where the limit is fewer than 14-days so always check. The rule is after you have reached the limit you must move outside a 25-mile radius of your current site. With so much BLM land at your disposal, that’s easy to do.

Campers who wish to stay in the desert outside of an LTVA
may camp in one location on undeveloped public lands for
up to 14 days in any 28-day period at no charge unless
otherwise posted. After 14 days, short-term campers must
move to a new site outside of a 25-mile radius of their
original campsite. Short-term camping in the Quartzite area
is limited, but there are five designated camping areas.

From the BLM LTVA Brochure

Things to do in Southern Arizona

Whether you choose to camp in a full-service campground, LTVA, or on short-term BLM land, the choices are plentiful. Here are some of the places where I have camped in Southern Arizona.

Central and North Arizona

The terrain in Arizona changes dramatically as you approach central and north Arizona. This is called the Colorado Plateau with elevations ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 feet. The Colorado Plateau is also called Red Rock Country and the views are stunning.

Things to Do In Central and North Arizona

With so much free camping in Arizona combined with the weather, no wonder it’s a mecca for snowbirds every winter.

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5 thoughts on “Free Camping in Arizona – Camping and Boondocking Guide”

  1. Greetings!
    I’m a huge fan of traveling outdoors and learning wilderness survival skills. I’m a freelance writer and editor seeking to expand my clientele base and I thought we’d be a good fit. I self-published my first novel three years ago, and I’ve received high grades in grammar since junior high. I’d be glad to show you some writing samples as well.

    If you’d like to talk more, don’t hesitate to write me back. Your success is my success!
    Best wishes,
    Elizabeth Johnson

    1. juley.torkomian

      Karen, Thanks for stopping by again. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Utah is next but it won’t be nearly as long.

  2. Wow. This is wonderful. What a lot of hard work to put this together! I have found I like the desert of Arizona just as much as the mountains of Colorado. I will use this post often. Thank you Juley.

    1. juley.torkomian

      Thank you Glenda! I’m really trying to put up content that is useful since I’m stationary right now.
      I feel the same about about all the different places. There is almost always something to love about a place if you look for it.

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