The Best Free Camping Near Saguaro National Park
Down near the U.S.-Mexico border, you’ll find a national park that’s home to one of America’s most distinctive plant species – the Saguaro Cactus. The city of Tucson, Arizona, divides Saguaro National Park into two parts – East and West.
This desert wonderland is home to one-of-a-kind views, great hiking, and a ton of other outdoor fun. The best part? There’s great free camping near Saguaro National Park!
What to Know About Free Camping
Free camping will generally require you to dry camp or “boondock.” In other words, you’ll rely on your RV’s self-contained systems to camp where there are few, if any, amenities.
The price of free camping is no electric hookups, water, or sewer. Some campsites may have trash receptacles or limited toilet services, but don’t expect much else.
Prepare to pack out everything you bring in, from trash to wastewater. Do your best to camp where others have camped before to minimize the impact on the natural environment.
In exchange for minimal services, you’ll generally be treated to quiet and scenery that few RV parks can match. Plus, who doesn’t love a place to stay for no cost at all?
Our #1 Tip: Invest in an RV or vehicle cell booster. It’ll provide you additional safety (and entertainment).
Things to See in Saguaro National Park
As mentioned above, Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections located on opposite sides of Tucson. These included the Tucson Mountain District to the west and the Rincon Mountain District to the east. The Tucson Mountain District is the more popular of the two and boasts more of the park’s famous cacti. The more rugged Rincon Mountain District offers mountain views and miles of remote trail.
Depending on the time of year, the park’s most popular activities include scenic drives and hikes. Among the most popular trails are the Valley View Overlook (0.8 miles round trip) and Desert Discovery Nature Trail. The latter educates you on the park’s desert ecosystem.
If it’s too hot or you’re not much of a hiker, there are options. You can still admire the park’s unique scenery on the 6-mile Bajada Loop Drive or the 8-mile Cactus Forest Loop.
Don’t forget to check out some of Saguaro’s cultural heritage at the Signal Hill Petroglyph Area. The site features 2,000 Native American rock drawings, some of which are more than 1500 years old!
Know Before You Go: Rains in or outside of the area can cause flash floods in the park. Check the alerts and conditions before you head out for your drive!
The Best Free Campsites Near Saguaro National Park
If you’re looking for free camping near Saguaro National Park, you have a few options that will work for most RVers.
#1 – Snyder Hill BLM
GPS: 32.1567, -111.1157
This convenient Bureau of Land Management site is located just off Arizona State Route 86 west of Tucson. So it’s just a short drive from the city and Saguaro National Park’s western Tucson Mountain District.
There are mixed reviews about access conditions. Some campers complain of large ruts in the road that make access difficult for low-clearance vehicles. In contrast, others reported no problems getting to sites.
There are no amenities whatsoever here, so plan on completely self-reliant camping. Overall, there’s not much scenery to speak of beyond some surrounding desert and small hills.
Reported Cell Service: Most campers report they have 4G/LTE service from all major carriers here – with 5 bars for T-Mobile, 4 bars on Verizon, 3 on AT&T and Sprint.
Saguaro National Park Boondocking Vibes: 7/10 – No amenities, and it may not be the most scenic campsite. But this may be a good choice for you if you’re looking for a spot close to Saguaro, especially if you value good cell service while boondocking. It’s worth noting that some reviews have noted potentially shady characters who camp in the area long-term (beyond the 14-day BLM limit). So, as always, be aware of your surroundings.
#2 – Redington Pass Dispersed Camping
GPS: 32.2555, -110.6622
About the Campsite: This site is located on the east side of Tucson, just outside Saguaro’s Rincon Mountain District. It’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for incredible views of the desert landscapes. But be prepared for a potentially bumpy ride. Reviewers all praised the site’s scenic beauty, which one described as a “cactus forest” with views overlooking the city and surrounding area. And what better place to stay while visiting a park dedicated to cacti?
However, many also note that access to the site can be difficult for certain vehicles, though not impossible, even if driving a Class A RV. Once again, this is true boondocking, with no amenities whatsoever. So be prepared to pack in and pack out everything you need.
Reported Cell Service: Reviewers say you’ll have 4G/LTE service from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint – with 4 bars for AT&T, 3 bars for Verizon, and 2 for Sprint. There’s no reported information on T-Mobile service in the area.
Saguaro National Park Boondocking Vibes: 8/10 – If you can manage to get there, the views and scenery are breathtaking. Some campers noted that the site is a popular day-use area for locals, so keep this in mind if looking for a spot on the weekends or holidays.
#3 – Old Ajo Highway
GPS: 32.1614, -111.1038
About the Campsite: Reviewers have praised the broad, flat side as a great choice for larger RVs and trailers. In addition, this may be the closest possible spot to Tucson for boondocking. This isn’t the free camping spot you’d pick if you were looking for scenery, and some campers have noted mild highway noise. This is another site with no amenities, so plan on using your RV’s systems and packing out your trash and waste.
Reported Cell Service: Previous campers report, you’ll have 4G/LTE service from Verizon and T-Mobile – with 4 bars for T-Mobile and 3 bars for Verizon. There’s no reported information on AT&T or Sprint service.
Saguaro National Park Boondocking Vibes: 6/10 – Reviewers almost universally praised this site as an accessible and safe pit stop. But it’s located near some bustling roads and doesn’t offer anything in the way of scenery.
Tips for Free Camping Near Saguaro National Park
As with all boondocking, be prepared to supply your own power, water, sewage, and trash holding. These are public lands, and part of the bargain for staying there for free is keeping them clean for future campers.
Some campsite reviews note varying ease of access for certain spots. Therefore, it’s best to check conditions if possible. We suggest you have a backup camping spot in mind if you can’t get to your first choice.
Don’t forget that Saguaro National Park is located in southern Arizona, where temperatures routinely soar to the 90s and above during the area’s long summers.
If you’re camping during warmer weather, ensure your air conditioning and water systems are functioning correctly. Temperatures can also plunge in the desert at night, so be prepared for chilly evenings.
Pro Tip: Arizona is also home to various potentially dangerous wildlife. So be aware of your natural neighbors and stay safe!
Saguaro National Park Camping
Saguaro National Park is a fantastic example of the American southwest’s unique landscapes that continue to draw millions of visitors to the region every year.
This is truly a must-see for fans of the desert or National Park lovers. Keep this information in mind, and you’ll be relaxing at your free camping near Saguaro before you know it.
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