Camping options near Tuscon?

We’re heading to Tuscon in mid-March, and would like to spend about 5 nights camping in Southern Arizona. We’re 2 adults and 2 12 year old boys. We’re not RV’ing, we’ll be in 2 small tents, and are looking for something where we won’t have a 5th wheel with a generator nearby. We are very much used to roughing it, having done many overnights via hiking, canoeing etc.


At the moment I’m thinking of a few nights at some of the lower elevation Coronado National Forest sites… or maybe Catalina State Park?

We’re also thinking of perhaps a couple of nights at Organ Pipe Cactus Natn’l Monument - they are supposed to have tent camping rows separate from the RV’s

Any other suggestions?
Also, suggestions for things to do that are outdoorsy - day hikes, best places to see the desert, things not to miss.

How is Kartchner Caverns State Park? Worth the tour?

Kartchner Caverns is pretty cool so long as you don’t go out of your way to see it. If you’re gonna pass by anyway, I’d recommend it, but even if you’re interested in caves it’s not really interesting enough to go out of your way for.

The only place I remember camping around here (that was decent) is near Patagonia Lake, though I’m not sure exactly how far away that is.

I have no specific knowledge of that area, but I have a suggestion that may help. Find a camping directory that lists all (most?) of the campgrounds available. The ones I’ve seen have not only national and state parks along with commercial campgrounds (which are typically geared towards RV’s), but also county and city parks. The latter tend to be less attractive to RV’s, and while it’s not a guarantee that there won’t be any of them there, the odds tilt in favor of it.

AAA Campbooks seem to be quite thorough in their listings. You need to be a member to get them, but the cost is not prohibitive and there are several other benefits.

Years ago I found a nationwide camping directory. It was about 2" thick and had a lot of listings. If you google on camping directory you should be able to find such a thing, along with options like tent camping directories and Forest Service directories.

I’ve found that some state parks have backpacking sites. You can’t drive into the campsites, but it’s usually a short (1-3 mile) hike, and there are definitely no RV’s.

I’ve camped at Picacho Peak State Park a couple of times and it’s pretty nice. The hike up to the top of the Peak is challenging but worth the effort.

Kartchner Caverns is definitely worth a visit. A bit farther afield, but also worth the trip is Chiricahua National Monument.

Madera Canyon is a beautiful area about 25 miles south of Tucson. The high elevation keeps it much cooler than the surrounding desert.

If you’re into bird-watching, Madera Canyon is an excellent spot. You might even catch a glimpse of the Elegant Trogon. This part of Arizona is the only place in the US it can be viewed, and birders come from all over the country to try to see one.

Edit: Also, Saguaro National Park is worth a visit.

Alice might let you crash on her couch, as long as you leave the vibrator at home! :smiley:

Thanks for all the suggestions.

I might head to our local Auto Association to see what they have. Most camping guides I’ve seen are a bit heavy on the RV parks and light on the recreational sites/small state parks.

Probably will go see the caverns - the boys are big into caves.

Pichacho Park looks like a good one - will put that on the list!

Bog Springs campground in Madera Canyon is on our list - it looks like there are only 13 camping spots there though, so we’re a little worried that it might be full of birdwatchers…

And Saguaro National Park is certainly a must - do. We’re looking into which trails would be the best for day hikes (3 - 4 hours)

Keep any suggestions coming!

I’m sleeping on the couch, now!
As for the OP, first of all, it’s Tucson, not Tuscon. And I don’t really know of anyone that camps out around town- it’s too deserty. It’s too hot in the summer and cold in the winter. For all our camping needs, my friends and I go to the surrounding mountains (also too cold in the winter!)- Mt. Lemmon, Mt. Graham, Patagonia.

Ahhh, I always screw up the spelling of Too-son. Better get that fixed.

How about the Peppersauce campground, or Molino Basin, or General Hitchcock? Any of those good/bad? Should we expect them to be full/empty in mid-March?

The Molino Basin Campground doesn’t look too bad, as long as you don’t need showers- there’s no running water. It’s only open from November to the end of April. It looks like there’s only a group fire ring, so you’d be out of luck if you wanted your own personal fire.

Ooh, here’s a nice composite of the campgrounds within AZ.