Desert Trails: Best Camping Destinations in Southern Arizona

Camping in Southern Arizona

Arizona’s great state is known as one of the best to set up camp. Nowhere is this more true than in its southern portion. For instance, the south houses a desert filled with adventure and wonder dot, attracting campers and hikers far and wide. 

If you’re not bothered by the heat, you will find camping in the desert a refreshing and energizing experience. Here are several parks that we would recommend you camp out in Southern Arizona.

Camping in Southern Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Camping in Southern Arizona
Camping in Southern Arizona

Located in the southern tip of Arizona lies the Organ Pipe Cactus Monument. Don’t be alarmed by it being called a “monument”; you aren’t going to a museum or a statue. The location is called a monument because it houses the Organ Pipe Cactus plant. 

This cactus species spring up several meters into the air, towering over any human, and their unique shape gives you an impression of a church organ, a botanical wonder to see! 

The site hosts several trails into the desert. The trail goes through several canyons and valleys all over the Sonoran Desert. You’ll get to see the cactuses the site is named from, as well as other unique plants and wildlife. It can get pretty hot, so be sure to pack sunscreen and water.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is open to both tent camping and RV camping and has amenities like bathrooms and showers for both. I would recommend you go RV camping if you camped it out overnight. 

The desert gets very cold at night, and sometimes a tent and a bedroll just don’t protect as much as an insulated RV. But if you can stand the cold, camping out in a tent lets, you see the stars above, a fair trade-off for a chilly night!


Coronado National Forest

Camping in Southern Arizona
Camping in Southern Arizona

You’d be surprised to find a forest out in the desert, but Arizona has precisely just that. The Coronado National Forest, sometimes referred to as The Sky Island Forests, are a series of mountain ranges that houses several acres of forests.

The forest gives you the impression that you walked into a whole new world. You’ve driven through hot, dusty desert for hours, and when you enter a green paradise. The mountain forest really does feel like you’ve just climbed up a flying island forest.

Camping out in the National Forest is a pleasant experience. The campsites are cool, surrounded by tall desert conifers.

The campsites are equipped with the standard amenities like picnic grounds and bathrooms. Trails leading up the mountain are also close to the campsites, so you don’t have to walk far to get back on the trail. ad

The high mountain range is surprisingly cool and chilly, with desert conifers providing shade to travelers and campers. If you’re looking for the perfect place to mountain hike in Arizona, this place is for you.

The trails around the mountain provide a stunning view of the desert below, and their difficulties range from moderate to easy, depending on the terrain.

The forest houses many species of birds and wildlife, boasting a total of 8. Birdwatchers may encounter different species of owls, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and warblers. The National Forest is also an excellent place to hunt game and catch fish. 

Camping in Southern Arizona

Picacho Peak State Park

Camping in Southern Arizona
Camping in Southern Arizona

If you drive through the I-10 near Tucson, you’ll notice a large, pointy mountain off in the distance. The mountain and the surrounding environment houses the Picacho Peak State Park. T

he park takes its namesake from Picacho Peak, a mountain with sheer rocky cliffs that rise so tall in the sky that they can be seen for miles.

The state park is popular with hikers. Several trails in the park lead up the mountain, giving the hiker a pristine view of the surrounding desert.

Camping in Southern Arizona
Where is Jessica?
If you visit the park during February and April, the mountain paths will be surrounded by beds of beautiful wildflowers that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Be sure to bring your water and your trekking poles because you’ll be doing a lot of walking to the top. The mountain is almost 2,000 feet tall, with paths winding around rugged terrain.

But if you manage to reach the top, you’re given a breathtaking view over the great desert of Arizona and even Tucson. 

Camping in the park can be done with RVs and tents, showers, and bathrooms provided for by the park. Be sure to pack isolation bedding. In other words, be prepared for the mountain’s elevation and the cold desert night. They might cause the campsite to get really chilly!

Camping in Southern Arizona

Saguaro National Park

Known for housing tall Saguaro Cactuses, the Saguaro National Park lies both to the east and west of Tucson, split into two separate parks. While both parks are separated by Tucson, they are usually lumped together as one distinct park. 

Saguaro National Park is known for its hiking paths that trail around the deserts near Tucson.

The trails provide an opportunity to experience nature and learn about the history of the peoples who live in the area. You’ll find abandoned homesteads and ancient stone markings among the groves of tall Saguaro cacti.

The park is quite popular with children. Some of the trails are relatively short and simple enough for kids to experience the area’s nature and history. In other words, if you’re bringing your children with you, the park will not disappoint them.

There are hiking paths that bring you to tall cliffs that provide a stunning view of the desert. If you climb up the trail during sunset, you are greeted with one of the most breathtaking sights.

The sun’s view over the horizon as it casts a blanket of warm orange light over the desert plains will make the climb worth it. 

Unlike the previous parks, Saguaro National Park doesn’t accommodate RVs. You’re going to have to pack your tent and backpack with all your necessities.

There is a large variety in campsite’s surroundings. For instance, you can choose to either sleep out in the desert, forests, or even top of mountains. 

Camping in Southern Arizona

As a small parting to you before you go, remember that you and nature are not separate entities.

In other words, you exist within nature as it accommodates your presence. Remember to follow your camp’s rules and to stay hydrated when out in the desert.

The most important thing to consider as you trek the desert wilderness outside is that nature must be respected. Stay safe and happy camping!

Camping in Southern Arizona


Ralph M

Writing about camping for your pleasure. I can be reached at:

Camping in Southern Arizona