6 Arizona National Parks, Monuments, and Forests to Visit by RV

Jun 1, 2022 | Travel & Destinations

6 Arizona National Parks, Monuments, and Forests to Visit by RV

Plan your next RV road trip to these six locations in Arizona for hiking, grand views, desert sunsets, and more.

By Robert Annis

Arizona is a state that always draws visitors back, and it’s popular with RVers thanks to its abundance of public lands and mild winter weather. Even if you think you’ve experienced the best the Copper State has to offer, it can still surprise and delight time and time again. Here are the national parks, forests, and monuments you should come back to visit on an RV road trip through Arizona.

A sign that reads "Ooh Aah Point" overlooking the Grand Canyon
Ooh Aah Point in Grand Canyon National Park. | Photo: Robert Annis

Grand Canyon National Park

When I took in the Grand Canyon in all its glory for the first time, it was so beautiful that I fought back tears. I finally made it back this past fall, and I’m pleased to say it’s still as spectacular as ever.

Grand Canyon National Park is bisected by the canyon, making two distinct destinations: the North and South rims. The north unit is less developed and closes entirely during the winter. The more-popular South Rim is packed with crowds nearly year-round and requires plenty of advance planning during high season.

Highlights

At only a half-mile, the paved Bright Angel Point trail offers folks of all ability levels a chance to hike out to one of the prettiest views of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Come at sunset for spectacular photos. 

Ooh Aah Point may be the most aptly named viewpoint in the National Park Service (NPS) system. It’s about a 2-mile, mostly easy hike from the South Kaibab trailhead to get to the viewpoint and back, but it’s entirely straight down, then up. The hike down from the Bright Angel trailhead to the 1.5-mile and 3-mile rest houses is a bit steeper and can get exceedingly crowded depending on the time of day. Enjoy the views on the way down, but remember to keep an eye on the trail as well (both for ankle-turning rocks and mule droppings). 

If you want to hike 10 miles down to the bottom from the South Rim, it’s best to take 2 days, overnighting at Phantom Ranch. Be aware that you’ll likely need to enter a lottery to snag a permit. 

How to Get There By RV

State Route 64 takes you through the South Rim entrance, while State Route 67 takes you to the North Rim. The North Rim route winds its way through mostly undeveloped national forest areas, so be sure you fuel up beforehand.

Where to Stay

The North Rim Campground is an ideal camping spot, but only if you plan to visit from May 15 through October 31 when it’s open. Dry camping only; no hookups. 

Trailer Village on the South Rim has more than 80 sites with electric hookups, but they usually get reserved about a year in advance, especially in the high season. I stayed at the Mather Campground, where I was able to score a walk-up reservation for multiple nights with no problem. Between the bike trail and the shuttle stop next to the campground, I left my van parked for the majority of my stay. Make sure to keep an eye on the shower hours, as park staff closed the showers in the early afternoon.

Many campers rave about Long Jim Loop Dispersed Camping in the nearby Kaibab National Forest. It’s close to the South Rim entrance and surrounded by mature pine trees, with plenty of room for large RVs. 

Other Options


A desert landscape dotted with saguaro cactuses against a cloudy sky
Saguaro National Park. | Photo: Robert Annis

Saguaro National Park

When you think of the American West, this is likely the terrain you imagine in your mind. Known for the cactus that gives it its name—the prickly, multi-armed plant towering over the scrub brush and smaller cacti—Saguaro National Park is a desert wonderland, filled with unique flora and fauna. 

Highlights

Most visitors drive the 8-mile loop around the eastern half of the park, but with so many curves and undulations, a bike or e-bike is the most fun way to experience it. It’s also the most practical, as many of the trailheads along the road have limited parking spots.

The western half of the park has better hiking options. My favorite is the 5-mile (roundtrip) Sendero-Esperanza Trail, which ascends up multiple switchbacks to a ridge with gorgeous panoramic views of the valley below. 

Although not technically a part of the national park, the nearby Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must-visit, especially with kids. See mountain lions and Mexican wolves in their natural habitat, as well as lush botanical gardens filled with native plants. 

How to Get There By RV

Interstate 10 runs to the north of the western half of Saguaro National Park and to the south of the eastern half. The city of Tucson bisects the park, making it a convenient home base for a weekend trip.  

Where to Stay

There’s no RV camping inside the national park. It might lack most amenities, but the Old Ajo Highway dispersed camping area has great views of surrounding cacti and is located close to the park, fairly level, and—best of all—free. 

Located a bit further than 7 miles from the eastern half of the national park’s entrance, Cactus Country RV Resort is an ideal camping spot for those looking to bike into the park and explore the nearby roads on two wheels; the RV park is filled with high-end road and mountain bikes. The park is geared to RVers that are 55 years old and up, but as long as you’re not causing a ruckus, you likely won’t need to show your AARP membership card to spend a night or two. I managed to snag a spot for a mid-week stay in late November, but the park often fills up fast with snowbirds. 

Other Options


A rocky desert landscape featuring colorful cliffs
The landscape at Petrified Forest National Park. | Photo: Robert Annis

Petrified Forest National Park

Don’t let a rushed schedule keep you from visiting Petrified Forest National Park. You can see most of the park’s main attractions in a day or less, with the bulk of them located off of the 28-mile main road. Plan a secondary destination along the way to help pad out the day. Meteor Crater is about an hour west of the park and makes for an interesting side trip.

The NPS prohibits any petrified wood from being taken from the park, but I saw a couple of people surreptitiously slip pieces into their pockets. Please don’t do this. If you’re desperate to have a petrified souvenir, you can buy harvested pieces from surrounding private land at the various gift shops. 

Highlights

None of the main hikes are more than 1 to 2 miles long, with several being a short stroll from the parking lot. Most are paved, making them easy to traverse. The half-mile Giant Logs and 1.6-mile Long Logs loops at the southern entrance to the park are great introductions to the park. The petrified wood is remnant of when the harsh landscape was a lush rainforest millions of years ago.

The 1-mile Blue Mesa trail has a similar landscape to the Dakota Badlands, surrounded by multicolored sandstone. There’s a somewhat steep section heading down to the loop trail, but most walkers should be able to manage it with no issues. 

Newspaper Rock is covered in hundreds of petroglyphs, some believed to be more than 2,000 years old. The Puerco Pueblo Trail takes visitors around the remnants of homes ancient Puebloans built and occupied from 1250 to 1380. 

How to Get There By RV

State Route 180 runs along the southern entrance of the park, while U.S. Route 40 passes by the north entrance. The park is perfect for large RVs, with no tight areas or tunnels. 

Where to Stay

Petrified National Park is, for the most part, for day-use only, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There’s no RV camping in the park, but you can find plenty of options within a short drive. The closest is the Crystal Forest Gift Shop and Campground, which offers free dry camping—you can also get an electric hookup for a small fee. Each site has a picnic table, and several have ramadas. 

If you need full hookups, the Holbrook Petrified Forest KOA will likely be your best bet. Expect the standard amenities in this clean, albeit dated, campground.

Other Options


A landscape with trees and brush in the foreground and mountains and a blue sky in the background
Organ Pipe National Monument. | Photo: Robert Annis

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Named for its signature cactus—arms rising up from its squat base, resembling the pipes of a church organ—Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument attracts hikers and birdwatchers from around the Southwest. 

Highlights

The 3-mile Estes Canyon hike leads visitors through a desert valley across several washes. Combine it with the slightly more strenuous Bull Pasture offshoot that rises hundreds of feet up several switchbacks and offers great views of Mexico. If you’re looking for an easier stroll, the aptly named Desert View Trail is an easy 1.2 miles and offers vistas that are perfect at both sunrise and sunset. 

How to Get There By RV

State Route 85 takes you to the northern entrance of the national monument. Expect a heavy U.S. Border Control presence. Some roads leading into or out of Mexico may be closed; consult the park’s website before visiting.

Where to Stay

The Twin Peaks Campground offers nearly 200 RV-only, well-spaced sites. No hookups, but the restrooms have running water and solar showers. 

Located about 30 minutes away from the national monument, Gunsight Wash Dispersed Camping offers great views in a quiet, convenient location.

Other Options


A red rock landscape at golden hour
Red rocks in Sedona. | Photo: Robert Annis

Coconino National Forest

If you’re the type of RVer who loves to expend all their energy on the trails and recharge with a gourmet dinner and bottle of wine, Sedona, Arizona, is for you. If you prefer to avoid the city and enjoy incredible mountain biking and hiking, then stick to the nearby Coconino National Forest.

Highlights

Sedona has some of the best mountain bike trails in the world, but it’s sometimes difficult to concentrate on the singletrack when the scenery is so incredible. The Templeton Trail in the national forest offers a mix of technical climbs and fun flow, while the Easy Breezy Trail has riders zigzagging a rocky creek bed underneath a pine forest.

If you need to get away from the crowds, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located about 90 minutes south and offers fun hikes—one that’s more of a rock scramble and requires you to search for trail markers, but the views of the arch at the end of the trail are worth the effort. 

How to Get There By RV

Interstate 17 runs to the east of Sedona. Larger RVs should be able to get around the city and surrounding national forest with no issues, although parking is limited in the main areas of Sedona.

Where to Stay

The further you drive along Forest Road 525, the better the scenery gets. You won’t see iconic Sedona landmarks like Cathedral Rock, but you can camp underneath beautiful, less known red-rock foothills that most tourists never experience. You might luck out finding an established campsite with a fire pit, but don’t expect any other amenities. 

If you want to stay in an established campground with hookups, be prepared to pay a premium. Rancho Sedona RV Park is quiet, well maintained, and close to shops and restaurants.

Other Options


A sign that reads "Prescott National Forest Trailhead, Lynx Creek Ruin" with a van parked in the background
A camper at Prescott National Forest. | Photo: Robert Annis

Prescott National Forest

Although Prescott National Forest doesn’t get as much publicity as other parks and monuments in the Copper State, it offers just as many opportunities for outdoor adventure. 

Highlights

Several locals recommended Watson Lake, and I’m so glad I visited. You can rent kayaks from a local outfitter and spend several hours paddling around the rocky, otherworldly landscape. If you want to hike, mountain bike, or just float on the eponymous body of water, Lynx Lake Recreation Area is a terrific option. 

How to Get There By RV

Both State Route 69 and State Route 89 run through Prescott. It should be fairly easy getting around in most RVs. 

Where to Stay

With miles of hiking and biking trails starting from the campground, you can spend multiple days at White Spar Campground without ever having to move your rig. No hookups, but the location offers basic amenities.

The Watson Lake Campground is basic, but the location can’t be beat. It’s a great spot if you want to grab dinner at a local brewery, then hit the lake first thing in the morning. 

Other Options


If traveling to Arizona during wildfire season, prepare accordingly. Togo RV’s Safety Center provides resources for travel during extreme weather events, natural disasters, and other troubling times. 

ArizonaCampingNational ForestNational ParksRoad TripsRV Travel

Robert Annis

After spending nearly a decade as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, Robert Annis became an award-winning outdoor-travel journalist. Over the years, Robert's byline has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, Men's Journal, Lonely Planet, and more. If you’re looking for Robert, chances are you'll find him either pedaling the backroads and trails of the Midwest on his bicycle or hunched over his laptop in an airport bar, frantically trying to make his next deadline.

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