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Western Arizona RV Trip

For the month of November, we explored Arizona and had several amazing trips!  This week I am going to share our Western Arizona Route and great places to boondock or camp that are affordable and fun! 

One question we get is living in a van how do you manage all your toys of all the different seasons?  We purchased a 6×12 cargo trailer that we leave in Tucson, AZ (Greg’s parents live in Tucson so we can visit them while we drop off or pick-up items).  The name of the RV Park that we store it at is Diamond J’s, its very affordable and located next to some great hiking and mountain biking at the Tucson Mountain Park.  We store all of our gear so we can transition from Summer and Fall activities to Winter and Spring.

For our Western Arizona trip, we wanted to paddleboard, bike, hike and run as we adventured to different areas.  November was a very pleasant temperature, with lows in the 50s and highs in the 80s.  We like to travel about 100-175 miles a day or every few days.  Here is our last trip- the good and bad of each location and if we would go back.  

  1. Picacho Peak Campground ($30- no water)
  2. Lost Horse Tank BLM Sonoran Desert National Monument (free 14 days)
  3. Painted Rocks Petroglyphs BLM Campground ($8/$4 w/Access Pass)
  4. Dome Rock Mountain, Quartzsite (free 14 days) recommend Cholla Road instead
  5. Buckskin Mountain Campground ($35 electrical)
  6. Craggy Wash Lake Havasu (free 14 days)
  7. Katherine Landing ($20/$10)
  8. Temple Bar ($20/$10)
  9. Cerbat Foothillls Recreational Area (free 14 days)
  10. Burro Creek Campground ($14/$7)
  11. Chandler Cracker Barrel (free)
  12. Gilbert Ray Campground Tucson Mountain Park, Tucson, AZ ($20)

Picacho Peak State Park is about 49 miles west of Tucson.  Be aware there is no water in the park even though there is electrical spots and water for showers.  You need to bring your water or fill your 5-gallon water jug with a 64 oz water bottle in the ‘wash your dishes sink’ and do gravity fill.  For $30 a night, we feel it’s a little over priced and suggest just do a day trip to do Sunset Vista and Hunter Trails.  I really enjoyed the hikes make sure you bring walking sticks, gloves and wear hiking shoes as it gets rocky and steep and you will use a steel cable to climb up a rocky steep area.  There is an RV dump here, no potable water.  We were under whelmed and won’t be coming back for the price.

Our next stop off old Highway 84, about 60 miles from Picacho, is Lost Horse Tank BLM area (GPS 32.8411, -112.3244) that is in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. There is decent Verizon cell coverage between 2 to 3 bars. You need to be careful where you camp if you go too far South you are in the drug and human trafficking route.  Don’t stay right at the entrance of the area as several people came there to shoot guns, we recommend going down the road and to the right.  We found a great spot away from the freeway and away from the trafficking route with no nearby neighbors.  You can stay here for free for 14 days, were stayed here two days and did a few bike rides and runs through the desert.

From here, you have 51 miles to Painted Rock Petroglyphs (GPS 33.02437, -113.04543).  Since I have an Access pass this is an awesome stop for $4.  They have fire rings, picnic tables, trash cans and ancient petroglyphs.   There are good trails for mountain biking and trail running.  No water, no hook-ups, no RV dump but it’s a great spot.  We love this spot, so few people its like having a campground to yourself.  We have returned to this spot 4 times now.

Next, we headed about 158 miles to the famous Quartzsite.   You need to check in with the Dome Rock Campground host at the entrance to get your 14-day free permit on Dome Rock Road, then head to Cholla Road GPS: 33.6493, -114.28, there are a lot less people staying off Cholla Road.  You head around the bend and you will see dirt road to the right.  I suggest staying away from the wash area so you don’t get stuck.  It was great in November, there were very few people the camp host said they get busy in January. We did several mountain bike rides, and trail runs, there are so many trails everywhere.  There is Verizon 3 bars on Dome Rock but the cell coverage is pretty limited on Cholla Road.  For us it was worth it to get away from people and generators and we just biked or ran to more cell coverage couple times during the day.  If you want to stay longer than 14 days you can head over to RoadRunner and stay there for a few days then head back to Dome Mountain (we haven’t stayed here but drove by it.  It didn’t look bad and we would consider staying there.  We stayed here for 3 days.  We will be back in off-season.

From Quartszite, we headed fifty miles to Lake Havasu and stopped at Buckskin Mountain Campground to fill up with water and to dump.  There is free WiFi and good cell coverage here.   It’s a beautiful location and great stop for paddle boarding and great hikes and trail runs right from the campground. There are 68 campsites, 30 with electric, all with picnic tables and fire pit/grills and you must reserve online ahead of time. We really liked this spot and will come back, it is spendy at $35 but coming from Quartzsite you need to dump and refill water and it is a good middle point before Lake Havasu and less people than the state park in Lake Havasu.  You will also find since there is a drought there are no free water fill areas in Lake Havasu, many of the grocery stores have the water fill stations you pay for potable filtered water but will need to fill 5–6-gallon containers and do gravity fill. We stayed here one night and would be willing to come back here.  Since we prefer non-campgrounds that is why we only stayed 1 night. 

Next, we traveled 36 miles to Craggy Wash (GPS: 34.5863, -114.364586) in Lake Havasu.  There are several areas you can boondock for 14 days.  Craggy Wash used to be one of our favorite free spots but it has become over run with homeless and people pretty down and out.  Depending on the time of year there is great trail running and mountain biking but in November it is pretty deep sand making mountain biking difficult.  Also, with a lot of the homeless, mentally ill, not the most-friendly dogs off leash and folks sporting side arms on their hips as a woman I did not feel too comfortable running by myself.  We used to love this spot but I don’t think we will be back, we only stayed 2 days. 

We were excited to explore the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, our first stop was Katherine Landing which is about 66 miles from Craggy Wash.  There is WiFi and cell coverage and with an Access Pass it was only $10 a night.  There is first come first serve spots and only two of the loops are open during COVIOD19 and winter.  Each spot has a picnic table and firepit.  There is water and a RV dump no electrical. There are several hikes and you can head down to the marina to paddleboard or rent water equipment like kayaks, paddleboards fishing boats, etc.  When we were there it was way too windy, we just did a few hikes.  We spent 2 days here and will come back. 

(temple bar pictures)Surprisingly, there are very few people at Temple Bar which is 97 miles from Katherine Landing.  The park ranger said since its off the main highway not many people head this way.  We really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of this spot (and lack of wind!).  There were nice views of the Lake and other than the camp host there was only one other camper at this 71 campground site.  There is Wi-Fi and great cell coverage and a nice walk down to the marina and beaches.  We liked this spot better than Katherine Landing.  I paddle boarded and did several runs.  Similar to Katherine Landing it is $20/$10 a night with picnic tables and firepits and some sites also had grills, water and RV dump station.  We stayed here two nights and we’ll be back. 

From Temple Bar we headed back to Tucson as we had an appointment at La Mesa RV to get some items fixed.  We had planned to take the old Route 66 near Kingman but we ran out of time.  Kingman is a great spot to get gas, groceries and get your Starbucks. On freecampsites.net you can get several free spots to stay on Route 66 and if you are a Harvest Host Member there are two spots on Route 66.  For us, we headed down the hwy 93 to the Cerbat Foothills Recreational Area about 76 miles from Temple Bar. Its convenient, right off the freeway so we only stayed one night.  It’s a true boondocking spot with nothing but just a gravel parking lot but there are lots of cool mountain biking and hiking/running trails.  The landscape was beautiful you have a mixture of one-night campers and a few long-term homeless campers.

A nice quiet spot that is right off the freeway is Burro Creek Campground that is 75 miles South.  (Top 4 pictures below) For only $7 a night it is great to get water and have an RV dump.  Its right on the river and a few nice spots with views.  We stayed here only one night there was a little too much generators for peace and quiet.  I had a nice run in the area but there are a lot of cattle and the trails are over grown.  There is BLM booondocking spot above before you get to the campground that we would most likely stay next time.  We left super early so we could get through Phoenix before rush hour traffic.

(We needed to stock up on groceries and there is inexpensive Costco Gas in Chandler, so we drove 139 miles to the Cracker Barrel in Chandler for the night.  There are three RV spots and its pretty calm place.  Early the next morning we headed out to bypass any traffic and headed to Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountain Park which is about 98 miles.  We really enjoy all the trails you can mountain bike and hike.  For Arizona $20 a night is the most inexpensive campground you will find outside the forest service and there is an RV dump, water, picnic tables and firepits.  Its quiet and there is a first come first serve loop.  We will be back! 

We hope you enjoy these spots as much as we did!  Enjoy!

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