7 Top-Rated Campgrounds in the Phoenix Area
If you want a break from the metropolitan area, you can find a good selection of campgrounds in the mountains on either side of Phoenix. Many of the best camping areas are found in regional parks operated by Maricopa County, which also generally offer a range of activities or are based around natural features. Hikers, mountain bikers, and even those looking for a place to go horseback riding will find campgrounds that offer areas for these sports nearby. If you simply want to enjoy some scenery and escape the city, you can set up camp on the shore of a lake or the base of a mountain. Camping on the east side of the city offers the easiest access to the major attractions of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa. Campgrounds on the west side of the city are quite a distance, both in terms of geography and traffic congestion, from the city sights, and do not make a good base if you are coming to the area with the intention of spending time in the city.
For all the Maricopa County Parks, visitors are welcome to stay for a maximum of 14 days and you can reserve sites up to six months in advance. Some campgrounds ask you to leave for a period of time, others may simply ask you to move sites. For more information and a comprehensive overview, see our list of the best campgrounds in Phoenix.
1 Usery Mountain County Park Campground
On the eastern edge of Mesa, you'll find Usery Mountain Regional Park, set against the stunning backdrop of a colorful mountainside. Most of the 73 campsites offer of a beautiful panorama. Sites are well spaced and surrounded by palo verde trees, cholla cactus, tall saguaros, and barrel cactus. The popular Wind Cave hike is just a short drive from the campground. Also available in the area is an archery range, and fitness buffs will find outdoor equipment located near the Merkle Trail. Sites have paved parking areas, water and electrical hookups, a picnic table, and a fire ring. Facilities include flush toilets but no showers.
2 Lost Dutchman State Park Campground
Although Lost Dutchman State Park is just east of Phoenix, it feels far from the city. Flat Iron Mountain provides the spectacular backdrop to this state park, and views from the campsites make you want to park yourself here for a few days. The hike up the mountain, Flat Iron Summit via Siphon Draw is one of the top hikes in the Phoenix area, and if you want to get an early start on this demanding trail, it's best to camp here. The 134-site campground at Lost Dutchman State Park offers a true desert setting, with individual sites plunked in around the vegetation. A few saguaros dot the landscape here and there, but most of the vegetation is low-level bushes. Only a few sites have ramadas, otherwise, you can expect to be camping in full sun.
This campground is well set up for RVs, with large sites and level parking pads, back-in and pull-through sites, and some have electric and water hookups. All sizes of RVs are accepted. You'll also find tent camping areas. Showers and flush toilets are available.
3 Cave Creek Regional Park Campground
Set at the base of low mountains, this is a beautiful area for camping, with multi-use trails running through the surrounding hills. The campground itself is quite small, with only 44 developed sites. Set well apart from each other, and surrounded by low bushes and saguaros, the sites offer plenty of privacy. This campground is a great option if you want to base yourself in this area north of Phoenix. Sites are flat and have paved parking pads, as well as water and electric hookups. Some campsites have areas for horses. Comfort stations have flush toilets and showers.
4 McDowell Mountain Regional Park Campground
With 50 miles of multi-use trails, this campground is popular with campers who also have an interest in hiking, horseback riding, and particularly mountain biking. In addition to the single-track trails, the park also has a competitive track. The park is located in the far northeast of Phoenix, 10 miles beyond Fountain Hills, and is quite a distance from any services. You should come prepared and be fully self-sufficient.
There are two campground areas, Ironwood and E.I. Rowland. Ironwood is two miles beyond E.I. Rowland and is reserved exclusively for tents, with a total of 13 sites. E.I. Rowland is open to both tents and RVs and can accommodate rigs up to 45 feet. Both campgrounds have paved parking areas, fire rings, and barbeques, and the sites are spaced a good distance from each other. In the E.I. Rowland campground, each site also has water and electricity. Both campgrounds have flush toilets and showers in the comfort stations. One unique feature of the E.I Rowland campground is the covered children's play area with several kinds of climbing structures. The surrounding countryside is a mix of small scrub bushes and the occasional saguaro. At night, you might be lucky to hear the coyotes howling.
5 Lake Pleasant Regional Park Campground
Camping next to a large lake in Arizona is a rare and unusual experience. Campsites that are spread along the shoreline range from developed to primitive. At over 1,600 feet, the slightly higher elevation and large lake provide a bit of relief from the heat of Phoenix. Depending on the campground you choose, you will be right by the water or up above, with views out over the lake and surrounding countryside. The park has 148 sites, some of which have electrical and some of which do not, but all sites generally come with a ramada for shade, fire pit, picnic table, and barbecue. The comfort stations all have flush toilets and showers.
The park has two main campgrounds, Desert Tortoise, with a mix of developed and semi-developed sites, and Roadrunner, with all developed sites. Primitive sites have no facilities at all. Desert Tortoise has three loops, one of which, the Bajada Loop, is out on a peninsula and provides great views. Roadrunner has three loops as well and is set back from the water, but the campground is more modern, less dusty, and a bit more organized.
6 White Tank Mountain Regional Park Campground
White Tank Mountain Regional park is spread out over nearly 30,000 acres on the eastern fringes of Phoenix. The camping consists of 40 sites of varying sizes, each with water and electrical service, a picnic table, and barbecue fire ring. Tents and RVs use the same sites, and the maximum RV length accepted is 45 feet. Hiking, biking, and equestrian trails are located throughout the park, along with a competitive track. White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a long way from the city, and services like grocery stores are scarce, so make sure you are well equipped. Showers, flush toilets, and a dump station are available. Note that jet aircraft noise can be an issue here, as Luke Airforce Base is located nearby. One unusual feature of the park is the public library set just outside the gates, which is combined with the White Tank Mountain Regional Park Nature Center.
7 Estrella Mountain Regional Park Campground
The Estrella Mountain Regional Park is a large park located in the far southwest side of the Phoenix area. The camping options are limited to seven RV sites located near the arena grounds. Sites are large but offer little more than a paved pad with hookups facing out over a gravel parking lot. The sites have water and electricity and a picnic table and barbecue. Flush toilets are nearby. The park is popular for its hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, as well as for the Tres Rios Golf Course.
Where to Stay near Parks and Natural Areas around Phoenix
If you can't find a place to camp, or the weather isn't what you were expecting when you left home, here are some quality, moderately priced, interesting, and fun hotel options near popular outdoor areas:
- Luxury Resorts: For a complete look at the top luxury resorts around the city, see our list of Top-Rated Resorts in the Phoenix Area.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A 10-minute drive from Usery Mountain Regional Park is Westgate Painted Mountain Golf Resort, complete with an outdoor pool. This hotel gives you far more comfort than camping, reasonable rates, and convenient access to the great outdoors. Right out of another era, the Arizona Golf Resort is a quaint property with lovely pool areas. It was originally built in the 1960s and has preserved much of its character. It also offers easy access to the Superstition Mountains and natural attractions on the east side of the city.
- Budget Hotels: You can usually find good-value at the Econo Lodge Airport. This property offers basic but comfortable rooms and is about a 30- to 40-minute drive to places like Estrella, White Tank, and Usery Mountain Regional Parks. The Baymont Inn & Suites, with a pool, is located in Mesa and will put you a bit closer to the parks on the east side of the city.
More to Explore around Phoenix and Other Areas of Arizona
- Hiking: If you are interested in camping, chances are, you are interested in hiking and walking trails. Discover where to go hiking with our guide to the best trails in the Phoenix area or set your sites a bit higher and have a look at the best hikes in Arizona. For more details on hiking around urban areas, which tend to include shorter walks and nature trails, see our articles on the top hikes around Tucson and Prescott.
- Camping: Just a couple of hours away, you'll find more outstanding campgrounds around Tucson. In summer, and especially during hot spells, head to the hills and find a cool retreat in the campgrounds around Payson and Prescott. These destinations much higher and offer cooler temps and campsites among tall pine trees. And, if you really want to experience some great camping, see our article on the best places to camp in Arizona.