If you’ve been eagerly anticipating a big RV camping trip, chances are Arizona is already on your radar. After all, it’s home to the Grand Canyon, which is a pretty big deal as far as not-to-be-missed camping trip landmarks go.
But if you think the Copper State has nothing to offer but an overdone photo opp and a bunch of cacti, you’d better think again.
Arizona is a total hidden gem. Azure skies and stunning red rocks make road tripping through it almost otherworldly.
And its lush, Ponderosa-strewn northern reaches are miles away — literally — from the Saguaro-and-sand you might expect to cover the whole state. (But don’t worry, there’s plenty of that too.)
In this post, we’ll point out ten can’t-miss camping spots in Arizona and give you all the details to make your rental process simple and smooth as can be. That way, you can concentrate on getting out onto those desert roads!
RV Rental Rates Arizona
First things first: What will it cost you to rent an RV for this Arizona road trip?
RV rental prices vary depending on a variety of factors, including the size and type of vehicle you choose to rent as well as the overall pricing of your market. For a cheap RV rental in Arizona, you might look into hiring a compact vehicle, such as a pop-up trailer or campervan — although you’ll want to be sure you won’t get too hot during those desert days or chilled during the cool nights that follow.
You can also save some money by committing to a long term RV rental, keeping the vehicle for a full week or more. Many dealerships offer steep discounts on their per-day prices when lending by the week or month.
Yet another option is to look into a one way RV rental, which will save you money not only on mileage and gas, but might even land you a special deal if you find an agency that’s looking to relocate some of their fleet. Say, for instance, that a franchise wants to move 30 of its RVs from its Tucson branch back up to its location in Phoenix. Rather than paying their staff to drive the vehicles, they can offer rentals along that route for as little as $1 per day — simultaneously getting the work done and making their customer base happy.
RV Rentals in Arizona from Owners
When researching your potential RV rental outlets for your Arizona trip, don’t neglect the peer-to-peer, rent-by-owner market. RVshare is one example of these marketplaces, and is the largest of its type. Owners offer their RVs up for rent when they’d otherwise be sitting empty, collecting some extra cash for their next trip — while also offering renters like you the opportunity to take an affordable, well-taken-care-of vehicle out for a spin.
Plus, the fee schedules from private owners tend to be much more straightforward, and may include extras dealerships would charge for, such as unlimited driving miles or having the rig pre-stocked with linens and kitchenware.
Luxury RV Rental Arizona
If you want a luxurious RV rental to create an oasis in your desert vacation, look into a large Class A motorcoach or maybe a fifth wheel travel trailer. These large RVs are generously appointed and offer the most living space of any rig on the market.
Be forewarned, though: these hefty vehicles come with a hefty gas bill. And in the case of the fifth wheel, you’ll also need a capable, full-sized truck, with an appropriate in-bed tow hitch, to pull it.
Private Rental Units in Arizona RV Parks
Now that we’ve discussed some of the basics about finding the right RV rental for you, let’s get to the fun part: Where should you take it?
Here are some of our favorite spots to go camping in Arizona.
1. The Grand Canyon
OK, OK, so this one’s a dead giveaway.
But you absolutely must see the Grand Canyon before you die. Trust me — as a frequent traveler who thought she’d seen it all, I was skeptical. “It’s just a big crack in the ground,” I said to my boyfriend at the time. “What’s the big deal?”
But as soon as I rounded the corner into the park and the canyon came into full-bore view, I instantly started crying. It really does do that to people.
Long story short: Don’t miss it. And don’t worry, because there are tons of convenient grounds nearby for RV camping, whether you choose to stay inside the park proper (the South Rim’s Mather Campground is a popular option) or to set up in a nearby town like Flagstaff and shuttle or drive in for a day trip.
2. Lake Havasu State Park
Not only does Lake Havasu offer a perfect opportunity to escape the desert heat with a quick dip, but it’s also one of the premier freshwater fishing sites not only in the state of Arizona, but in the entire country. Plus, it hosts a cheerful annual holiday boat parade.
(Psst… love freshwater fishing? Here are seven other campgrounds not to miss on your next RVing adventure!)
3. Kaibab National Forest
Although this forest is home to the Grand Canyon, its 1.6 million acres have so much more to offer than that single landmark, as breathtaking and unmissable as it is.
From hiking, biking, and horseback riding on its over 300 miles of trails to discovering lesser-known canyons and crags, you can explore all that northern Arizona has to offer in the Kaibab National Forest Recreational Area.
Its elevations, flora, and fauna run a wide gamut, starting with low scrublands and climbing into aspen pine forests, making for a truly diverse and immersive experience of the state. And what’s more, boondocking is not only permitted — it’s totally free of charge.
4. Patagonia Lake State Park
Fishing in this 250-acre lake will yield a yummy dinner of bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. Its schools are also reinforced with artificially-stocked rainbow trout during the winter.
There are several campgrounds in Patagonia Lake State Park to choose from, offering many hookup sites for reasonable per-night rates.
5. Mogollon Rim Ranger District
Just an hour and a half northwest of Mesa, smack in the middle of the the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, this stunning cliff awaits adventurous campers seeking a less-crowded canyon view.
You can choose from several area campgrounds, a few of which have no-fee sites available.
6. Slide Rock State Park
This old homestead apple farm has transformed into a cool desert oasis drawing thousands of visitors each year, and for good reason. At Slide Rock State Park, you can still munch on fresh fruit while enjoying a dip in the picturesque Oak Creek. Camp in the nearby Cave Springs or Manzanita grounds.
7. Homolovi Ruins State Park
Step into an eerie, Dalían landscape where over 300 Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites are preserved. Only an hour or so east of Flagstaff, this otherworldly park’s name, Homolovi, comes from a Hopi word meaning “place of the little hills.” Hookup campsites are available for moderate prices.
8. Kartchner Caverns State Park
New Mexico’s caverns might be more famous, but that doesn’t mean Arizona’s aren’t just as incredible. In fact, USA Today’s readers voted Kartchner Caverns State Park Arizona’s “best attraction,” which is pretty high marks for a state that’s literally nicknamed after the Grand Canyon.
Aside from exploring the caverns themselves, you can also hike trails and spy exotic wildlife above ground. On-site camping can accommodate even the largest recreational vehicles, and full hookups will run you about $30 per night.
9. Picacho Peak State Park
Even if your normal hiking local is a lush wonderland of tall trees and waterfalls, you might be surprised at the stark beauty (and impressive size!) of the iconic Saguaro cacti in southern Arizona’s Picacho Peak State Park.
Just make sure to be extra generous with the sunscreen — shade is at a premium in the sandy part of the desert!
10. Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area
Fishing, swimming, boating, hiking — whatever your favorite outdoor adventure is, you can do it at the Fool Hollow Lake Recreational Area. The park also puts on a lively and informative interpretive program during day use hours, so you and your family can learn more about the unique wildlife around you.
Enjoy your desert getaway!