As soon as the Grand Canyon State cools down, it’s time to haul your tent out of storage, pack your hiking boots, and hit the great outdoors.
While summer is the ideal time to get outside in many states, we all know that Arizona summers are largely confined to the indoors, where AC is life. So when the days and nights become cooler, outdoor enthusiasts from across the state begin planning their adventures, while those from colder parts of the US make their way south to escape the doom and gloom.
Whichever camp you fall into, camping in Arizona should be on your winter bucket list. Whether you prefer a rustic, solitary experience or comfy and cozy yurts, there are a handful of great options to choose from.
Patagonia Lake State Park, Patagonia
Head to Patagonia Lake State Park if you want to camp in balmy weather by the water. The park’s official campground is right by the sandy beach and Lakeside Market, which is open year-round. There are 105 developed campsites in addition to 12 boat-in campsites for those who want a whole island to themselves and don’t mind forgoing amenities. Last but not least, there are seven two- or three-bedroom cabins for rent—each with stunning views of the southeastern portion of the lake.
All of the usual activities are available in the winter months, including fishing, boating, hiking, and more. It costs $15-$20 per vehicle to enter the park.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Why
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in the Sonoran Desert is one of 738 International Biosphere Reserves across the globe, which designates it as a place to learn about and enact sustainable development. Because it’s so far south (it borders Mexico), the National Park Service says winter and early spring are the best times to visit.
Organ Pipe offers two different camping experiences. While Twin Peaks Campground includes modern amenities and more than 200 sites, Alamo Canyon Campground has a rustic feel with only four dispersed sites. Backcountry camping is also permitted.
Wherever you end up in the park, you’ll be surrounded by various forms of stunning desert life. It costs $25 per vehicle to enter the park in addition to campsite fees.
Arizona Nordic Village, Flagstaff
If you want to indulge in the more typical winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and warming up by a fire with a steaming cup of hot cocoa, Arizona Nordic Village is the place to go. Believe it or not, the snow tally for the 2022 winter season reached 163 inches—exceeding 13 feet. There are campsites as well as backcountry yurts and cabins for you to stay in before and after hitting the trails. Equipment rentals are also available, so you’ll have more room in your luggage for cozy sweaters. If you want to add downhill skiing to your docket of activities, the Arizona Snowbowl is less than half an hour away.
Chiricahua National Monument, Willcox
Bonita Canyon Campground at Chiricahua National Monument is open year-round. Each nestled in a grove of trees with a picnic table and grill, the 25 sites are particularly peaceful in the winter time. You don’t have to pay an entrance fee and the campsites only cost around $12 per night, so it’s a very cost-effective option.
The monument, which is two hours east of Tucson, is known for its gigantic and awe-inducing rhyolite rock pinnacles (aka hoodoos). There are numerous hikes you can take that will give you spectacular views of these formations, so you’ll want to take plenty of photos.
Catalina State Park, Tucson
Catalina State Park near Tucson has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts in the winter time, including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching, and of course, camping. The campgrounds at Catalina State Park are open year-round for RVs and tents.
The park is a designated Important Birding Area, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars to catch glimpses of some of the state’s rarest and coolest birds, including those migrating through the area for the winter.
Picacho Peak State Park, Picacho
Picacho Peak State Park in southern Arizona (between Phoenix and Tucson) is a hiker’s paradise. One of the main draws is Hunter Trail. Though less than 3 miles long, the trail is considered difficult because it brings you straight up to the summit with a steep incline. In fact, as you near the top of the mountain, you’ll have to pull yourself up with steel cables, making for a strenuous but memorable adventure.
In addition to camping and hiking, the park also offers a variety of interesting programs and events throughout the winter, including a Star Party, guided hikes, bird walks, outdoor yoga, and more. Plus, every site now has Wi-Fi, so you’ll never be disconnected—for better or worse.
Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction
Arizona State Parks and Trails recommends Lost Dutchman State Park as the place to go to enjoy the winter sun in Arizona. Although it’s only located 40 miles east of Phoenix, you’ll feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of civilization.
Camp in one of the 134 campsites and you’ll wake up to the sun rising over the Superstition Mountains with the crisp Sonoran Desert air on your face. The park is a great option for RVs as half of the campsites include electric and water hookups.
Tucson Mountain Park, Tucson
Last but not least, there’s Tucson Mountain Park near Saguaro National Park. Like many places on this list, the park offers ample hiking and biking trails as well as stunning desert views. But what makes this place different is that it houses one of the best museums in all of the US: the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Spend the morning surrounded by the beauty of Arizona’s deserts in the winter and then head to the museum to catch a Raptor Free Flight, learn about conservation, touch a stingray, stroll the gardens, and more. Then finish out the day under the stars at Gilbert Ray Campground.
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