vulture peak road wickenburg free camping

One of my favorite dependable winter haunts is along Vulture Peak Road in Wickenburg, AZ.

Pure desert, tons of sand, and most if it along a series of washes, with epic landscapes of desert shrubbery and the iconic Vulture Peak rising above.

Technically not *totally* free... the front area is actually State Trust Land, which requires a $20 permit for limited camping throughout the year at any State Trust Land site with permit displayed. But if you drive to about the 2 mi point, you'll cross through a fenced area and cattle guard marked by old tires. Beyond that point, you'll be on BLM land, which *is* totally free to camp on, and there are a few notable campsites back there -- which I'll "leave as an exercise to the reader" to locate.

Vulture Peak Rd is fairly convenient to town at the "usual average distance" of roughly 7.5 miles to downtown Wickenburg with it's small assortment of fun western shops, cafes, small movie theater, grocery, and fast food. There's also a Safeway within 4 miles on the way back to town at the corner of Vulture Mine Road.

The AT&T coverage isn't particularly good at camp... sporadic at best, and non-existent at worst. There is SOME type of tower overlooking camp however, so if it's yours, you might be in luck.

As noted above, the Vulture Peak camping area contains two different sections. The front section, from the intersection at Vulture Mine Rd to about the 2 mile point, is State Trust land. The road in passes through sandy desert wash - thankfully packed well enough that it shouldn't ever require 4WD - and you'll pass a small variety of camping areas on either side.

At around 1 mile in, you'll come to a huge wash area with lots of space to camp, if you have your State Trust camping pass. This is a popular place for horse-owners to day camp with their horses and hub out to different horse-trails. Most of the wash opens to the right, but you can also turn left and find some more isolated areas to camp.

Driving up the road a bit, you'll come to a small parking area before the road cuts sharply to the left and right again. There's a road to the right that is impassable to regular vehicles, but if you walk out that way, you'll find some awesome hiking areas beneath Vulture Peak.

Continuing to the left and through the cattle gate, the road will turn to gravel and hard-pack and reveal a few really nice and remote camping sites before swerving down to the left and continuing into more sandy 4x4 territory, and revealing a few more desert hiking areas.

Worth mentioning: One tip that always leads to me finding lots of great hiking areas I never would have discovered otherwise is to install the Geocaching.com app and seek out the geocaches in the area. The hike below Vulture Peak is quite beautiful and if you hike out far enough, you'll get some amazing views of Central Arizona wilderness from the peaks.

vulture peak wickenburg geocaches

Of course if you're interested in Totally Free Camping In Wickenburg, it does exist. In fact it's close to town on the north side, out Constellation Road. I'll have a separate post about this really interesting area -- with a chute canyon, geodes, and tons of trails and campsites -- in the future.

- Mobile Rik

A photo posted by Rik Radagast (@mobilerik) on

Camping in Wickenburg, AZ. #camping #campinglife #fulltimerv #az #desertcamping #truckcamper #diycamper #rvlife

A photo posted by Rik Radagast (@mobilerik) on

A photo posted by Rik Radagast (@mobilerik) on

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

 

free campsites

Question 1: How much are you paying to camp?

Question 2: Has it been worth it, or are you looking for a cheaper way?

Don't get me wrong... Paid campsites definitely offer some familiar conveniences to new or occasional campers or those who want their RV lifestyle to resemble a "rustic resort"...

But I'm guessing since you landed on this page that like many long-term or full-time campers, you're getting tired of the expense.

Considering that even if you're able to find an under-$25/day long-term campground, you're still looking at a monthly budget that resembles renting a room in the city. If you can afford it, that's one thing. But if you're trying to stretch a small fixed income, the monetary outlay -- not to mention other inconveniences of sharing an popular campground with city-folk -- must be starting to wear on your patience!

Did you know that it's completely possible to camp for free?

It's true! There are tons of free campsites, along with many under $12. Many of them are on public land, and they vary in the type and amount of "hookups" (approaching NONE)... but they're totally free to use.

Here's an example of a free campsite:

Chiriaco Summit - Chiriaco Summit, California
(1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5, rated)

A free dry camping area behind the General Patton Museum. No facilities at campsites. Fuel, gift shop, post office, mini-mart, and restaurant nearby. Check out the website for more services and facilities. Look for sign "Free Dry Camping" at east edge of museum parking lot directing you to camping area behind museum. Multiple camp sites areas along several east-west dirt roads. Dirt roads OK for cars/RVs. Some freeway noise, but site is out of sight of service road....

build-simple-truck-camper

Free campsite near Flagstaff, AZ

Here's a $6/night campsite:

Corn Springs Campground - Desert Center, California
(7 votes, average: 3.29 out of 5, rated)
Camping Fee: $6/night. Nine camp sites including one group site is available with tables, grills, potable water, and shade ramadas. Handicap accessible vaulted toilets are also available in this campground. The 10 miles of gravel road to the springs from I-10 is very rough: average speed about 12 MPH. The Corn Springs Campground is located deep in a canyon of the Chuckwalla Mountains, and is situated by a stand of more than 60 native California fan palms. This oasis supports abundant wildlife and is an important stopping place for migratory birds. Corn Springs was a major occupation site of prehistoric Native American Indian groups....

If you hadn't already gathered as much, these listings are reproduced from an online directory chock full of cheap and free camp grounds.

It's called: FreeCampsites.Net

boondocking - free dry camping - homemade truck camper - awesome sunset

Free campsite in Cottonwood, AZ

Most of the cheap and free sites are in the scenic wilderness of the Desert Southwest of California and Arizona, which respectively have 218 and 124 listings apiece. Most other states have between 10 and 40 $11/day and under sites listed. Many also accept the usual discounts.

So if the thought of giving your a shot at casual or long-term "boondocking" is sounding appealing, check out the directory, and see how much "rent money" you can begin saving every month, while seeing a bit more of the country you may have been missing all this time!


build-a-truck-bed-camper-cheap

Free campsite in Sedona, AZ


UPDATE: Over the past months full-timing in the Southwest USA, I've personally gotten A TON of great leads on FreeCampsites.net. But over time I've noticed that the sites listed tend towards the "standard" sites that anyone can find, if you just go to the local forest ranger's office. What you won't tend to find listed there are THE BEST Free Camping Sites in an area, simply because regulars aren't likely to advertise their favorite boondocking camps for the whole internet!





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