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BULLETcamping guide page 2 >>
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Wildflowers by George Stocking
The Arizona Trail offers many camping spots along its 819-mile route, such as this one at Crabtree Wash on Apache Lake.

© Kerrick James

>> Click on image to view it larger in a separate window.

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Camping BookFor more campsites, pick up a copy of our book, Arizona's 144 Best Campgrounds. Now in its fifth printing, the book ($15.95) features the state's most beautiful campgrounds. To order a copy, call 800-543-5432 or click here.
Outta Site!
You've heard of rooms with a view? Well, we went looking for something a little different. And we found it. From the remote wilderness of the Grand Canyon to a place on the Colorado River that can only be reached by boat, we discovered 10 of the best campsites in Arizona. They're not exactly easy to get to, but talk about tents with a view.

Written and photographed by Kerrick James

>> Editor's Note: What follows are 10 of what we consider the most amazing campsites in Arizona. Although each one falls into the general category of "car-camping," they're remote and require more effort than just pulling into a KOA. You'll need to pack the basics: tent, sleeping bag, sunscreen, sunglasses, maps, matches, compass, flashlight, pocketknife, first-aid kit, food, water, clothing, etc. Because you're car-camping, pack plenty of extras and, if at all possible, travel with someone else. If that's not an option, let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return. Of course, while you're out enjoying the great outdoors, keep in mind that even when the skies are clear, flash floods are a reality in Arizona. Beware. Also, if you see lightning approaching, take cover in your vehicle or crouch down in a low, dry spot. If you plan to use a portable stove or build a campfire, check with the area's governing agency beforehand — fire restrictions may apply during periods of high fire danger. At campsites where fires are allowed, use only established fire pits, and put your fire out at least 30 minutes before you start to break camp. Let the fire die down, then pour water over the wood and ashes and cover them with soil. Mix the soil, water and ashes until the fire and any embers are completely out. Finally, use common sense and always obey the Leave No Trace Ethics.

ARIZONA BAY
The first thing that inspired me to tackle the 24 miles of rutted dirt road leading to this isolated fishhook-shaped bay was its very name. I thought Arizona Bay sounded cool and promising, not to mention a little out of the ordinary in a state known mostly for sandstone and saguaros. Turns out, it's an excellent place to camp at water's edge and photograph the clouds or the stars reflecting off the usually still waters of the pooling Colorado River. It's also a prime spot to shoot kayaking reflections or silhouettes at sunrise or sunset. Perhaps best of all — at least in the middle of summer — the 60-degree water offers a wonderful respite from the sun.
Directions: From Kingman, take U.S. Route 93 north for 28 miles to Cottonwood Road. Turn left (west) onto Cottonwood Road and drive 29 miles, veering right on Road 36 to Arizona Bay.
FYI: The camping at Arizona Bay is free; however, there are no restrooms or amenities and no potable water. Filter any water you drink from the river.
More Information: Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 702-293-8990 or www.nps.gov/lake
BARFOOT PARK
Hidden high up in the Chiricahua Mountains, one of Southeastern Arizona's spectacular sky islands, is Barfoot Park. That's not a typo, by the way, but if you're so inclined, you can walk barefoot in the surrounding meadow, which is ringed by the mountains' sheer volcanic ramparts to the west. By camping at Barfoot, you'll miss the summer crowds in the better-known Rustler Park area, about 2 miles to the south. And, if you do see another camper, it'll probably be a birder — this area offers some of the best bird-watching in the world (see related story, page 34). Whether you're alone or not, you'll want to wait for the morning sun to arc high enough in the sky before crawling out of your tent. When you do emerge, look up and enjoy the views of Barfoot Lookout on the summit of Buena Vista Peak.
Directions: From Tucson, drive 81 miles east on Interstate 10 to Willcox and State Route 186. Turn south onto SR 186 and continue for 23 miles. Turn left (east) onto State Route 181 and, following signs for Chiricahua National Monument, drive 3 miles, turning right (south) onto Forest Road 42 (Pinery Canyon Road). Continue to the undeveloped campsite.
FYI: The camping at Barfoot Park is free; however, it's primitive, which means there are no amenities and no potable water. As in all forest areas, be extremely careful with your fire. At this site in particular, the majestic pines under which you'll be camping leave a deep carpet of dry flammable needles.
More Information: Douglas Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, 520-364-3468 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado
BUCK FARM OVERLOOK, GRAND CANYON
I went looking for this rarely visited vantage point of the Grand Canyon after seeing it described as one of the most isolated camping spots in Arizona. If you crave solitude, this is the campsite for you. Driving in, I was actually grateful for the 23 miles of washboard dirt road that separates the rim from the pavement of State Route 89A — it's what keeps the casually curious at bay. Naturally, a place so isolated and so incredible requires a major commitment of time and endurance along some rugged back roads. It's worth it, though. The views of Marble Canyon and the sliver of the Colorado River that you'll glimpse while hiking along the rim are nothing short of breathtaking.
Directions: From Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon, drive west on U.S. Route 89A approximately 20 miles to Forest Road 8910. Turn left onto FR 8910 and drive 23 miles to the fork. Take the left fork and drive 2 miles to Forest Road 445H. Turn left onto FR 445H and drive 3 miles to the end.
FYI: The camping at the overlook is free; however, it's primitive, which means there are no amenities and no potable water. Beware, this is remote backcountry, so be prepared and check your spare tire before leaving the house (see Editor's Note, page 16). A high-clearance vehicle is strongly recommended.
More Information: Backcountry Information Office, Grand Canyon National Park, 928-638-7875 or www.nps.gov/grca
COCHISE STRONGHOLD CAMPGROUND
Cochise Stronghold Campground, in an area that formerly served as the home base of the famed Apache chief, is tucked in a canyon of the Dragoon Mountains. This campground has just 11 sites, but your chances of nabbing one are pretty good. In addition to the obvious scenic beauty of the area, I love the way the warm morning light reflects into the campground off the light-colored walls of granite. And, of course, at an elevation of 5,000 feet, it's a cool place to get a great night's sleep.
Directions: From Tucson, travel east on Interstate 10 for 72 miles to U.S. Route 191 and turn right. Continue on U.S. 191 for 12 miles to Ironwood Road and turn right. Follow Ironwood Road (Forest Road 84) for about 8 miles to the campground.
FYI: The camping fee is $10 per night, and there's a $5 user fee in this section of the Coronado National Forest. Open September through May. Grills and picnic tables are available.
More Information: Douglas Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, 520-364-3468 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado
CRABTREE WASH, APACHE LAKE
Not far from Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the United States, several gorgeous lakes offer a quick getaway and a chance to escape the gridlock. Apache Lake is among them, and Crabtree Wash Recreation Site, tucked in a lovely shallow cove, is one of my favorite spots on the lake. In the cove, you can pitch your tent on gravelly sand that's surrounded by vistas of saguaros, volcanic cliffs and refreshing water — ideal for swimming, fishing and (figuratively) drinking in. In the morning, the day's first light will illuminate the cliff walls to the west. It's beautiful. Also, on the beach, there's room to play Frisbee, have a barbecue, watch for shooting stars, and forget you're just a quick hop from the freeways and the rush of people.
Directions: From Mesa, drive north on State Route 87, the Beeline Highway, for 60 miles. Turn right onto State Route 188 and continue 33 miles. Turn right onto State Route 88 and drive 12 miles. Turn right onto Forest Road 79 and continue 1 mile to the site. Another option is to take State Route 88 from Apache Junction.
FYI: A $6 per day fee applies. At an elevation of 1,900 feet, this site is better suited for late summer and early fall; however, nighttime temperatures will often drop into the 60s, even in the summer. State Route 88 (the Apache Trail) is a narrow, winding mountain road. Filter any water you drink from the lake.
More Information: Tonto Basin Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 928-467-3200 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto

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