RVing in Arizona great! Why? It's a great state for beginner boondocker spots!
Arizona has LOADS of public lands from BLM to national forests to state trust lands.
It's also a haven for many campers during the wintertime. There's no snow (and warmer winter temps than most of the USA) in southern Arizona.
Kelly bought a landing pad in Arizona for just this reason. It's a great winter haven plus plenty of friends tend to be around to visit.
Let's get into it.
So What Makes A Newbie Boondocking Spot Great?
There are many things to take into consideration for newbies. There had to be very little to fear about driving an RV into these spots.
Here are the 10 requirements that these beginner boondocker spots had to pass:
- Ease of parking/arriving
- Large number/type of spaces available
- Things to do nearby
- Nearby RV (and other) amenities
- Some kind of cellular service available (Verizon or ATT)
- No problems with ground clearance/2 wheel drive friendly
- Accommodate any size RV
- Overall good/easy experience
- Quiet and peaceful (but this is never guaranteed)
- Mostly level sites
Believe it or not, all of these requirements are not easy to find all in one spot. But they do exist.
It's just easier when you are a beginner boondocker to NOT have to worry about much other than how well you did a practice run in a campground beforehand.
(We HIGHLY recommended you do this before venturing out 'into the wild'. Stay and completely disconnect at a campground for a few days... test your tank capacity, your ability to re-charge your batteries daily, etc.)
So let's get to the best beginner boondocker spots in Arizona!
1. Saddle Mountain- Phoenix
GPS: 33.464, -113.0366
Challenges: Sometimes flies
When To Visit: Any time but summer (too hot!)
Max Stay: 14 days
Saddle Mountain is a favorite Arizona RVing spot of just about everyone who has visited. With ONE big caveat.
If you just CANNOT STAND flies, you may want to skip this place. There is a chicken farm not too far away that somehow has a million flies. They seem drawn to Saddle Mountain.
Last time I was there I used fly strips in my RV. Fly strips! An RV first for me. (So did everyone else in my camp.)
It was that bad.
Some people have been there and flies weren't an issue. But when they are, they are pretty bad. Even with windows and doors shut, they seem to get in. It's puzzling.
It's a great beginner boondocker spot, but you have been warned.
OTHERWISE, it is a place west of the Phoenix metro area with a GORGEOUS backdrop (Saddle Mountain).
This could be listed as one of the best places to go RVing in Arizona just for it's proximity to Phoenix and the backdrop of Saddle Mountain.
It sits south of I-10. (Did you SEE the photo above??? It's so pretty there.)
It meets all of the beginner boondocker spot requirements on the list above.
The road going in is fairly rough in places. Take it slow and you'll be fine.
There are plenty of beginner boondocker spots to find (use your satellite view while navigating to help you get around).
You can hike on and around Saddle Mountain. It's beautiful- full of saguaros and other interesting cacti and plant life.
As for amenities, there's one option nearby. Saddle Vista Ranch. They sell fly traps (Last time I was there) and they offer water and dump for $15.
They are located about 4 miles up the road (on the way in and out).
Downtown Phoenix is only an hour and twenty away (There are grocery stores and other amenities closer than that).
There's a Dollar General 15 min away. The Walmart in Buckeye is about 40 min away. (Can you camp in Walmart parking lots?)
I don't feel the need to list much in the way of amenities 'cause Phoenix is not that far away and it has everything.
Plan your trips to town accordingly.
For proximity to a large metro city, great cell service, nearby hiking, easy navigation, and great beauty, Saddle Mountain won't disappoint!
If you're feeling adventurous, try to find this rock formation around Saddle Mountain!
And don't cheat using Google Satellite view! That's no fun.
2. Hi Jolly Road- Quartzsite
GPS: 33.7095, -114.2158
When To Visit: Any time but summer (too hot!)
Max Stay: 14 days
This beginner Arizona RVing boondocker spot is not far from Lake Havasu and it's right off of I-10.
The town, Quartzsite, or 'Q' as it's known, has just two main roads. One north-south and one east-west. This makes it very easy to get around town.
It is not known as any sort of 'amazing' vacation destination. No way!
It's more of a one-horse town and a 100,000 RV town. The place is sort of a rite of passage to go there as an RVer. It's a huge winter RVing in Arizona destination, especially with their LTVA spots.
Ok, so it's not the most desirable Arizona RVing destination. However, Quartzsite IS known for its large Sports, Vacation, and RV Show in January.
Also not my favorite thing to do (been there, done that), but again- it's something to see at least once.
It's also the largest gathering of RVs anywhere in the world at that time (and probably most other days).
So, if you ever need help, you're likely to find a kind helpful soul within eyeshot.
But what makes Q a such great start for any beginner boondocker spot? THE LAND.
There is SO much beginner boondocking BLM land around there.
Better yet, it's all (mostly) hard, flat open space with very little spots that can get one stuck or unable to turn around.
On top of the topography, the small town is TOTALLY geared towards RVs (BONUS!).
On the main north/south drag is the RV Pit Stop for dumping, fill, and propane.
It can easily accommodate the largest of rigs. (And there are other campgrounds around where you can dump and fill as well.)
The Pit Stop also has campsites if you get scared of the boogeyman while boondocking. Heh.
(Read about my first night of boondocking ALONE just south of Q, where the 'boogeyman' sort of got to me.)
There are plenty of other campgrounds in Q so if you panic and want hook-ups, surely you will be able to find a spot.
Other Goodies To Know
I'd recommend browsing some of the outdoor booths in the area if you like antiques or just finding random stuff OR just taking in the area.
The pizza joint in town, Silly Al's is pretty decent. (You're not heading to Quartzsite for gourmet dining, by the way.)
The bookstore Reader's Oasis is something of a legend, though sadly we lost the 'naked' owner back in 2019.
Even without him singing and his piano playing skills, the bookstore is something to see for sure!
There are many other very easy camping areas in Quartzsite but Hi Jolly is a good one close to town with little to no 'issues' making it a great beginner boondocker spot.
The cell service is good. You have Parker to the north, which has more/bigger stores for anything you may need.
If you go in January, expect it to be quite crowded. Even so, you will easily find spots. Q NEVER fills up.
It's plain FULL of beginner boondocker spots. Filling up is pretty much impossible!
Campendium made a 360-degree video below where you can ride along and see what the road in looks like.
Be sure to scroll left and right to your heart's desire during the drive to see what you want to.
3. The Steps- Lake Havasu
GPS: 34.3336, -114.136
When To Visit: Any time but summer (too hot!)
Max Stay: 14 days. PAID PERMIT REQUIRED.
This is The Steps. Literally, when you look around you see 'steps'. (I wonder why they called it the Steps? Pfffffffff.)
You may also have a little bit of a water view if you go to the spots higher up. But those spots may require 4 wheel drive to get to (definitely not big rig friendly).
Since you are a newbie, it's recommended to stick to the lower beginner boondocker spots. You can hike up to a couple of upper vantage points for a nice water view.
It is Arizona State Trust land, meaning it's owned by the state.
That said, it does require an annual permit but it's only $15 for an individual and $20 for a family (see link above). Buy a permit here.
The road into the area off the highway is wide open. There should be plenty of places you can park, even if there are a lot of RVs there.
It's open camping... get as distanced as you can from others, but if you have to park near because nothing else is available, this is an acceptable area to do so.
It's wide open and pretty flat. There may be some RZR's that come through. There's always that chance in Arizona as they are so popular and trails abound.
Lake Havasu City is just to the north. There are grocery stores, gas stations, plenty to do and more in and around town.
Cell reception here is fine, and no 4 wheel drive needed to get in. It's not the QUIETEST of spots, especially down below. You are right beside a highway. Still, it's not terrible.
Lake Havasu is home of the London Bridge- yes, the one from the song. It's THERE, right in the heart of town!
You can drive over it or boat under it. So there's one thing to see.
There are 140+ restaurants in town, with some right round the bridge area. By the bridge, you can walk down by the river.
You can also rent a floating tiki bar on the river, stand up paddle board rentals, and probably boat rentals somewhere.
There are at least three breweries around as well.
There's a Walmart on the north side of town with plenty of grocery stores and gas stations around town.
The area is well-known for OHV and off-road vehicle fun.
Naaah, not really a bonus. Just trying to be a good and consistent writer, heh.
Simply put, The Steps offers easy to navigate, easy access to town while boondocking right outside of Lake Havasu City with good cell service.
Chill at the RV, or hit the town, or both!
4.Forest Road 688- Grand Canyon
GPS: 35.9262, -112.1245
When To Visit: Almost any time, but summer will get hot
Max Stay: 14 days
It's THE GRAND CANYON! And you can stay for free. It's like a miracle, if you ask me.
(What I am saying is I think ALL free camping is a miracle!)
Therefore, this destination has the obvious draw. That's part of what made it make this list.
There are a couple of things that could work against you about this one. For starters, there are a lot of trees.
Trees are great! Unless you're using solar to recharge your batteries.
If you are, it's best to have at least one portable solar panel for camping you can move around to 'chase' the sun, unless you find a wide-open spot. Which is doable.
Also, SOME spots/areas may not be covered by your cell provider. Check yours as you scout sites.
At times, the roads can be dusty. Park as far away from the road (without parking on virgin land) as you can in your site.
It's beautiful, you have shade, it's very close to Grand Canyon National Park, there are plenty of spots, there is more camping on other roads off of Hwy 64, you will see tons of Elk in the park, oh there's a lot of good here!
You can dump/fill at the KOA south of town or inside the park.
Getting into and out of this road/site will give you no issues. Always watch out for rain though. Try not to travel on or after rainy days.
This is an area that is not full of amenities.
Nope, but the town to the north (Tusayan) has enough to make you comfortable. Gas stations are available.
The Canyon Village Market has exchangeable propane tanks available.
There's a general store with food items...but if you have special needs it's best to make sure you stock up before you go.
As for visiting the Grand Canyon, best to get an annual parks pass. It's $80 for one year and it covers yourself and anyone in your car with you.
(Or, you can pay a single day vehicle day fee of $35.)
You can enter the park as many times as you want to with the annual pass. Buy yours ahead of time or buy at the entrance to the park.
If you go during the height of summer, it will be hot AND crowded. I was there mid-May (late spring to early summer) and just look...
The sites are all quite level. You can go bone hunting, too. There are a TON of elk bones in the area.
I'm a bit perplexed by this. Never seen so many bones in one area.
You might even find a leg or spine hanging in a tree. People are weird.
Hey, it's the Grand Canyon! It's the second most-visited National Park. Forest Road 688 offers free and easy parking for even the largest of rigs.
You can't go wrong, well, unless you're impossible to please.
Just don't get too close to the edge while you're there.
5. Darby Well Road- Ajo
GPS: 32.3393, -112.8495
Challenges: Possibly cell service. Booster may help
When To Visit: Summer would be miserable. Winter preferable.
Max Stay: 14 days
This one almost didn't make the list due to its spotty cell service.
But the beauty of the area (organ pipe cactus, saguaro's, ocotillo, mountains, and so much more!) pushed it ahead of others.
It's a well-loved spot among my full-time friends. Marshall has spend more time than I have here.
I was there twice and only stayed one night. Not because I didn't like the area.
But having a landing pad now in the Tucson area, I can't wait to go back and stay longer for some hikes!
This area is good for solar and beauty. The one potential issue is cellular. There are spots where you will have it ok, and others where it might struggle.
If you don't need it and feel safe without it RIGHT at your site, you'll be fine.
It seems to 'move' here. One day you can stream, the next day not so much.
And this one could be considered good or bad- Border Patrol will be driving by frequently.
Being so close to the border, it's par for the course around southern Arizona. It should make you feel safe though. It's simply a part of Southern Arizona living.
Even if you DID see someone who had crossed, likely they'll just avoid you or they may ask for water if they are in dire straits (though Border Patrol tells you not to give them any).
Marshall and I had mutual friends who encountered an illegal walker. Zero issues with the person. Just, quite a story!
Even with Border Patrol driving by periodically, it's a very peaceful and quiet place to camp.
You MAY have ATVs. You MAY have some Border Patrol vehicles speeding by. There are lots of great 4x4 trails in the area.
But I have never had any friends (or heard stories through friends) that had issues here with illegal immigrants.
There are plenty of spots and everything is pretty level with little to no fear of getting stuck on any roads.
This location is not far from lots of great hiking opportunities.
Darby Wells is a great place to get out into nature. Nearby amenities aren't super plentiful, but they do exist.
The little town of Ajo has some cute places to visit. It's a verrrry small town though, this is another place that won't have an enormous food selection.
I mean, there's one grocery store. Olsens Markeplace IGA. That's it besides a Family Dollar.
Bring whatever food and special things you might want or need before you arrive.
Darby Well is home to a giant mine. It is no longer in service, so noise is not a factor. However, you may be looking at the mine depending on where you are parked.
The rest of the surrounding views can be a STELLAR desert mountain backdrop full of interesting shapes and forms.
Be aware that Verizon signal is better 'deeper' into the road, close to where the sign warning about illegal immigrant activity.
Then it gets weaker as you go further in. Watch for broken glass around if you have dogs, there is a good amount in the area.
Sunsets here are STELLAR! (Well, in most of Arizona, they are usually stellar!) Don't hang out inside your RV at sunset. You might miss a spectacular show.
Don't miss Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument while you're there. It's full of stunning desert views and tons of large organ pipe cactus.
One more option to camp would be to go camp at Twin Peaks Campground down in Organ Pipe.
They have a dry camping section. You could also practice dry camping there. But you're still in a campground. It's just not the same as true boondocking.
Also you can fill with water and dump at the Twin Peaks dump station if needed.
Fast fact: Marshall has spent more time here than myself. And that is all. Me funny.
That's my 5 best nervous newbie boondocking spots for Arizona RVing. I've (or Marshall has, or both of us have) been there, tested that, beginner boondocker spot approved!
It's nice to start your boondocking experience in a place that makes it as easy as possible to arrive, setup, and stay.
These spots met all of the requirements mentioned at the beginning of this article. And they offer more than just hanging out in your RV all day!
Now get out there and try it. What's the saying? Looking back on your life, you usually don't regret what you DO do, you regret the things you didn't do.
So go do it!
Author: Kelly Beasley
As a seasoned and passionate RVing expert, I have dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 5.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road. Join me on this journey and let's make some unforgettable memories.