When you think of Arizona’s wild places, your mind likely goes straight to the Grand Canyon. While Grand Canyon National Park is a bucket list item for anyone, whether you live in the U.S. or across the world, Arizona has so much more to offer. With three national parks, 13 national monuments and seven other sites managed by the National Park Service, you could spend months exploring all Arizona has to offer. We’ve picked five of our favorite sites in the state and created a road trip to showcase the geology, history, ecology and culture of Arizona.
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Explore Arizona’s national parks in your RV. We’ve complied a list of our favorite sites in Arizona to showcase the state’s geology, history, ecology, and culture!
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Start your Arizona road trip at the unique Canyon de Chelly National Monument. This national park site is co-managed by the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation. The canyons that you’ll visit have been inhabited for the last 5,000 years. The Navajo still live and work on the land today. Comprised of three stunning canyons and countless archaeological sites, this monument is a must-see.
Because the monument comprises Navajo land, not all areas of the park are open to the public. You can explore the Welcome Center, the two paved scenic drives that offer views into the canyon and the White House Overlook Trail, which descends to a ruin in the canyon, on your own. To explore more of the park, hire a Navajo guide by calling 928-674-2106, or find a list of companies that offer guiding at the entrance of the Cottonwood Campground.
The first-come, first-served Cottonwood Campground offers year-round camping one quarter of a mile from the Welcome Center. There are no hookups at this campground. Along the South Rim Drive, you’ll find the privately owned Spider Rock Campground. There are no hookups, but there is a dump station and water. Call 928-781-2016 for information.
Petrified Forest National Park
South of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, you’ll find Petrified Forest National Park. This national park is known for its high concentration of petrified wood, thanks to ancient logs that washed into a river and were buried, but there is so much more to this less-visited park. Here, you’ll encounter fossils, petroglyphs, ruins, badlands, wildlife, stunning views, the Painted Desert and more.
Take a scenic drive through the park to see its stunning viewpoints or get up-close and personal via short or long hikes. The park has a number of designated trails, but also encourages backcountry hiking in some areas of the park. Ask for a guide at the visitor centers. Be sure to stop by the Painted Desert Inn, an almost hundred-year-old building that now houses a museum.
The only camping offered at the national park is backcountry camping. With your RV, head to the nearby Sun Valley RV Resort, which is newly remodeled and offers full hookups, or the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA, which offers full hookups, a seasonal pool and a snack bar.
Saguaro National Park
Southwest of Petrified Forest, Saguaro National Park is home to a shocking number of the United States’ largest cacti. The giant saguaros are a sight to behold and will immediately make you feel like you’re in a Western movie. Saguaro National Park has two districts: Rincon Mountain and Tucson Mountain, which sit on either side of the city of Tucson.
The park offers scenic drives, hiking opportunities, petroglyphs and more. If your RV with trailer is longer than 35 feet, you may want to park your rig and explore the park in your car. The Cactus Forest Drive in the Rincon Mountain District and the Scenic Bajada Loop Drive in the Tucson Mountain District don’t allow trailers longer than 35 feet and the Bajada Loop doesn’t allow vehicles over 8 feet in width. There is nowhere to park a large vehicle along the Cactus Forest Drive.
Saguaro National Park only offers backcountry campsites. However your options in the Tucson area for camping with an RV are plentiful. Catalina State Park, 15 miles north of Tucson is a destination in and of itself. Hookups and a dump station are available at its campground. Tucson Mountain Park, operated by the county, is just three miles south of the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro. Its campground offers hookups and a dump station. Tucson also offers a variety of RV resorts including the Tucson/Lazydays KOA.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
If you didn’t get your fill of cacti in Saguaro National Park, head south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This monument sits along the Mexico border and is an International Biosphere Reserve. This is a United Nations designation that helps protect examples of the world’s ecosystems – the monument being an example of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. At this national park site, you’ll find 31 species of cactus, including the monument’s namesake organ pipe cactus.
If you have a personal vehicle with you, the park offers many stunning scenic drives. In your RV, you may want to stick to hiking since the scenic drive options are more limited. Ajo Mountain Drive is only accessible to RVs under 24 feet in length. Puerto Blanco Drive is another popular scenic route but be sure to check on closures due to construction near the border. There are stunning hikes for all levels at Organ Pipe, so be sure to explore by foot.
Organ Pipe has one campground that can accommodate RVs. The Twin Peaks campgrounds does not have hookups, but it does have a dump station and potable water available. A few spots can accommodate large RVs up to 45 feet in length. During peak season (January – March) make reservations at recreation.gov. In off season, sites are first-come, first-served.
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for – Grand Canyon National Park in all its glory. The Grand Canyon has three distinct areas: the North Rim, the South Rim and Grand Canyon West. The first two are operated by the park service and the latter is operated by the Hualapai Tribe – your parks pass won’t work there. If you’re coming from southern Arizona, the South Rim is the most convenient area of the park to explore – it’s also the most popular. It’s ideal for those exploring in an RV because parking can be tough at this popular park. Opt to park in Tusayan and take the complimentary shuttle into the park. Or, leave your RV parked at your campground and take the free park shuttle to all the stops along the South Rim.
Once at the South Rim, there’s endless opportunities for exploration. Take in the views from the canyon rim via shuttle, foot or rented bicycle. Explore the many historic buildings and museums along the rim for a taste of the park’s past, or venture down below the rim on a hiking trail to explore the inner canyon.
If you need full hookups, camping at Trailer Village is your best bet. This park concessionaire-run campground can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet in length. This campground can be reserved in advance, so it’s a good option for those traveling during the summer as camping fills up early in peak season. The other reservable campground on the South Rim is the Mather Campground, open year-round. In the winter, it’s first-come, first-served. There are no hookups at Mather.
If you didn’t get a reservation at Trailer Village or Mather, head to Desert View Campground for first-come, first-served sites. This campground can accommodate trailers up to 30 feet in length and does not have any hookups.