Arizona is a unique state in that it contains mountains, high deserts, and a portion of the Sonoran desert. Hardcore tent campers can find remote desert areas in the southern portion of the state to see nothing but stars at night. In the northern half of the state you can find wooded mountains in several state and national parks. Arizona is also home to one of the most visited and famous natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon.
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The Grand Canyon
Undoubtedly the most popular natural attraction in Arizona is the Grand Canyon. Although millions of visitors see the Canyon every year, there are very few camping sites in the park. On the South Rim in Arizona, campers have three options. There are the South Rim Mather and Desert View campsites. Those looking for a more rugged overnight camp out can get a back country permit from the Backcountry Permit Center, which will allow you to camp outside the designated campgrounds. Check with the National Park service for rates and seasonal availability of campgrounds and back country permits.
According to "Outside Magazine," one of the best places to pitch your tent in the American Southwest is among the stunning rock formations within the Chiricahua National Monument. Located in the copper mining country near Bisbee, Arizona, at the border with Mexico, Chirachaua is a two- to three-hour drive from Tucson, Arizona. The Sonoran desert provides warm temperatures all winter long. The organized campsite within the park accommodates 18 tents.
Coconino National Forest
Almost 2 million acres of mountain forest wait for you just outside Flagstaff in northern Arizona. The forest has been protected since the 19th century and includes numerous protected wilderness areas and the San Francisco Peaks. For an unforgettable view, editors at the adventure site "Great Outdoors" recommend putting up your tent at the Lockett Meadow in the San Francisco Peaks in October when the aspen trees change colors.
One of the most remote and beautiful areas of Arizona is the northeastern part of the state, where you can find the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. These areas are rife with both Native American history and important geological and archaeological digs. From petrified trees to multi-colored rocks, you will see natural formations and minerals in this area you won’t see anywhere else. Tent camping is allowed in the painted desert area of the Petrified Forest National Park. You will need to get a permit from the visitor’s center to remain in the park overnight. Make sure to catch the sun rise across the painted desert to see just how it got its name.
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
For some of the most remote tent camping you can find in Arizona, try the 1,000 square miles of Sonoran desert along the border with Mexico. There are no formal camping grounds in the wildlife refuge, but you can pitch a tent here as long as it is farther than a quarter mile from any water source since these are preserved for the wildlife. To enter the National Wildlife Refuge, you will need to get a permit and sign a waiver since portions of the refuge contain unexploded military ordinance.