free campsites prescott az - thumb butte

If you’re looking to camp for free around Arizona, Prescott, offers one of the largest selections of no-fee dispersed camping areas you’ll find anywhere.

Managed by the Prescott National Forest Service, the Prescott Basin area features no less than 11 distinct camping areas averaging a dozen inpidually marked campsites each, with a 7-day stay limit. What I particularly enjoy about camping in Prescott is that a few of the camping areas are relatively close to town, allowing me to “commute” to Wifi at any of three Starbucks (or my new favorite - Wildflower Cafe, block from Whiskey Row).

The free campsite in the video below is located near the peak of the Thumb Butte Loop on the west side of Prescott — a large area featuring over 20 numbered primitive mountainside campsites, the first of which is only a few miles from downtown. Getting there involves only driving westwardly out from Gurley Street at the center of town, winding through some neighborhoods, towards the iconic Thumb Butte. (Which is a nice hike, with some great views!) Soon after you pass Thumb Butte, the road will become a dirt-packed forest road curving up into the mountains.


Watch The Video

How would I “review” the free campgrounds?

For the ability to get quickly out of town into nature, the Thumb Butte campsites are hard to beat. In terms of camping experience… they really vary. While there are a few prime campsites behind Thumb Butte — I’m thinking especially of Campsite #7, #10 where the video was shot, and those in the #15-20 range — for me most of the rest of the 20+ sites are best for convenience only, to get a night’s sleep before heading back to town. What I don’t find appealing enough to “rate” higher are that 1) many are built on a slight incline, 2) many don’t have good AT&T data reception (I’m one of those iPhone early adopters who’s stuck with AT&T for the unlimited data), and 3) most are right by the main road, which gets a lot of camping traffic. But really I think it’s a matter of taste — Besides the other commuting campers like myself, the Thumb Butte campsites especially seem to attract locals in their “big trucks” who like to have camping parties on the weekends, so if that’s appealing to you, you might really enjoy this set of sites!

Click On The Image To Download The Prescott Basin Dispersed Camping Map

map of prescott free campsites

Prescott Basin Campsites (Click Image To Download Full Map From USFS Site)

As alternatives, though… Another set of close-to-town sites is down White Spar Road/Ponderosa Road. Again nothing much as far as camping experience goes, but I prefer it for the flat parking and 5-bar AT&T signal, though there are fewer sites available. You’ll also see on the map a set of sites up Copper Basin Road at the bottom of the  Thumb Butte Loop, but my experience of those sites was lots of trash and guys who drive there late at night to drink and blast music.

If you want a fuller camping experience in the Prescott Basin, you’ll need to get further out of town. There are two different roads to approach from. Nearest to town, you can turn south on Walker Road from Costco (on 89 east towards Prescott Valley) past Lynx Lake — which is a great place to spend a day! — and check out the Enchanted Forest Trail and Bannie Mine Road. Both of these involve driving DOWN steeply from the main road into a ravine. Between the two, I thought Enchanted Forest Trail has some pretty sites, but I overall preferred camping on Bannie Mine Road, which has some nice variety and large sites with some good separation, along with a walkable creek.

There are also numerous sites down Senator Highway, which is kind of an adventure in itself as it winds around between the mountains. I think my favorite sites may have been the ones down Trittle Mountain RoadWolf Creek Road has a stretch of campsites which aren’t much more than turnoffs from the switchbacking mountain road, but still attractive, especially if you plan to hike around the area. There are also a few sites on the map I couldn’t even locate!

In any case, there’s a lot of dispersed camping to explore in Prescott. Remember the seven-day limit, and please help keep it clean! Great places to visit in the daytime are Thumb Butte, Watson Lake (particularly the nearby Granite Dells), and Lynx Lake.

If you're interested in a list of personal Top Free Campsites in AZ, NM, TX, UT, CA, and NV -- including favorite destinations like the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Sedona -- you'll want to check out this collection of Free Campsite guides from Frugal Shunpikers:

books - free campsites sedona zion grand canyon


build a truck camper cheap

Why spend thousands on an RV, when you can learn to Build Your Own Truck Bed Camper!

If you have some basic construction and carpentry skills, you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn just how easy and totally inexpensive it can be to slap together your own simple pickup truck camper from hardly more than a small bundle of 2x4s, some plywood, a bucket of screws, and some paint. Bolt it all onto your truck bed, and depending on your design choices, you could conceivably have an actual working "RV" for less than $200.

build a truck camper welcome

Seriously, it doesn't have to be difficult!

It naturally seems like there must be something special about building an RV, but if you really think about it, a "mobile home" is really nothing more than a very tiny house -- And in this case, it happens to be sitting in the bed of your truck. Constructing one is actually a lot like making a shed.

Depending on your design decisions, it may be even easier, or a lot more complicated -- And that's entirely your choice!

You'll probably want your little "truck bed shed" to be light-weight, and it should be built to withstand high winds and mild earthquakes... both depending on how you prefer your driving experience. 🙂 The best thing is.. It's entirely up to you.

For myself, the pop-up slide-in camper I'm aiming to build for my 2003 short-bed Tacoma Prerunner, is going to be doing a lot of off-roading to fossil digs and rockhounding sites. I'd like it to stay light on the tires, but $1000+ in aluminum framing is completely out of the question. Fortunately, since I don't intend to fill it with much in terms of built-in furniture and a humongous water tank, I can afford to use some heavier-than-typical construction. Hence, I'll be making mine from cheap and super-sturdy 2x4s. Like I said -- It's a truck bed shed!


Listen To My "Radio Show" Episode:
How To Build A Truck Camper For Dirt Cheap

Looking To Make Your Own Truck Camper?

Get a 50-Page Preview of my book "How To Build Your Own DIY Truck Camper And Get Off The Grid For Dirt Cheap" ! (FREE)

Find out how I built my own truck camper for my Tacoma Prerunner in just 2 days for under $250. (Click below to open the link in a new tab.)
Mobile Rik's DIY Truck Camper Plans.

diy camper electricity

Doing your own electrical systems for your homemade camper isn't as difficult as it might sound -- especially if you commit to keeping it extremely simple!

You can think of an RV or camper electrical system as made up of just three components:

  1. The Battery (a.k.a. the "House Battery", as distinguished from your "starting battery"
  2. The DC Circuits (direct current)
  3. The AC Circuits (alternating current)

Keeping things simple...

I'm sure you know what a lead-acid car battery is, right? OK! You'll need one of those. (There are matters of the best battery type for a camper, but that can wait...)

The DC circuits are those wired to run 12V devices that can run off a car battery, i.e. from your car's cigarette lighter. These circuits are connected directly to the battery, just as your cigarette lighter is wired directly to the battery.

inverterThe AC circuits are those wired to run standard household plug-in devices. If it has a standard plug, then it is an AC device, and it requires an "Inverter" to be placed between it and the battery. The inverter turns standard "flat" direct current into the special"rippling" AC current that household appliances require.

Camper electricity revolves around Battery Powered DC Wiring. While it's in many ways easier for a beginner to implement, it's different enough from standard household wiring that it can be very confusing at first, even for electrical engineers! To help wrap your head around it, a crucial point to "get" is that...

An Inverter Is A DC Device!

(That is used to run AC Devices)

It might be easiest to think of camper wiring as implemented in layers:

First you have DC layer, which at it's simplest is a lot like wiring your speaker system together, or more accurately, like wiring a high-end car audio system. 

  • You first connect a set of cables from the battery to a hub, i.e. set of "distribution blocks." 
  • From there you branch off wires to DC devices like DC fans, LED lights, cigarette lighter outlets for plugging in your phone, AND... an Inverter.

Once you have an inverter connected (to a branch of the DC circuit), you can then plug your AC household appliances (portable fan, clock, heater, coffee maker, mini-refrigerator, etc.) into the inverter. Simple right?

That's really as complicated as it gets, ie. not very complicated at all! 

build a truck camper

It might seem difficult to believe that I was literally able to build a truck camper and get off the grid in JUST 3 DAYS, but that's exactly what I did! 

  • Of course it took some planning to get there. (About a week to draw up the plans.)
  • And it took quite a bit of research to decide which approach would best suit my needs. (About a month of web surfing.)
  • But that's all! It didn't take six months. It didn't take a year. It didn't take a decade. It took just one month.

The precise reason I was able to do it so quickly is because I decided early on that the most important thing I could do is Keep It Stupidly Simple.

The excerpt below explains how I did it. 

Please enjoy this excerpt from my book
"How To Build Your Own DIY Truck Camper And Get Off The Grid For Dirt Cheap", on sale September 4, 2014.

To get the special launch price, make sure you join my mailing list.

Keep it stupidly simple - Excerpt from Mobile Rik's book - How To Build Your Own DIY Truck Camper And Get Off The Grid For Dirt Cheap
bigfoot is off the grid

If you're anything at all like me, then "getting off the grid" has been an ambition of yours for a very long time!

And chances are, your idea what what it means to get off the grid is very personal to you. Maybe your dream is to live in a cob house with a windmill. Or an Earthship with a huge array of solar panels. Or a Tiny House in the forest with a wood stove and lots of animal friends. Or maybe you don't even care... You're just wanting to untether yourself from all those "unnecessary" monthly utility bills!

The fact that there are so many visions in people's heads of what it really means to be "off the grid" can lead to some interesting disagreements. But that phrase does in fact have a particular definition. And the real question, as I see it, is "how far off the grid do you really want to be?"

Please enjoy another excerpt from my book "How To Build Your Own DIY Truck Camper And Get Off The Grid For Dirt Cheap", released September 4, 2014.

To get the special launch price, make sure you join my mailing list.

How off the grid do you really want to be? Mobile Rik book excerpt.
How off the grid do you really want to be? Mobile Rik book excerpt.