Ron Niebrugge / Alamy

Whether you want to hike the Grand Canyon, boulder in Nevada or fly-fish in New Mexico, you'll find the perfect campground on our list of faves

Arizona camping

1. Cave Springs Campground, Sedona

Set in shaded Oak Creek Canyon, Cave Springs is surrounded by red sandstone walls and has its own creek. Hit the water holes at Slide Rock State Park ($10 per vehicle; azstateparks.com), about 5 miles down the road. $20; redrockcountry.org or 928/527-3600; book at recreation.gov

2. Manzanita Campground, Sedona

Sites 10 through 12 at Manzanita Campground sit closest to the water, which lights up with yellow and red oak leaves. The 6-mile out-and-back West Fork Trail is a portal between striped canyon walls and stream crossings. $22; open all year, book at recreation.gov

3. Blue Ridge Campground, Coconino National Forest, North of Clints Well

Blue Ridge Reservoir is just 9 miles from this cluster of 10 sites shaded by oaks and ponderosa pines. From the campground, hike the moderately difficult Arizona Trail to the recreation-packed reservoir. For solitude, skip the reservoir and hike a moderate 5 miles to trout-filled East Clear Creek (trailhead is about 6 miles from the campground). $8; no reservations; 928/477-2255.

4. Bonita Canyon Campground, Chiricahua National Monument, Southeast of Willcox

The pine-and-juniper campground is near the national monument’s visitor center. Drive 6 miles up the road to access hiking trails that cut through a forest of volcanic-ash rock spires and hoodoos. Come in September, when you’ll have the place to yourself. $12 (plus $5 entrance fee per person; no reservations), $3 per person at group site (plus entrance fee; reservations required); 520/824-3560 ext. 501 or 520/824-3560 ext. 501 (group reservations only).

5. Cottonwood Campground, near Canyon de Chelly National Monument, East of Chinle

Shaded by cottonwoods, this campground is near Ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs and pueblo sites. Hire a private guide at the visitor center, a few steps away, to tour the park’s backcountry (you can’t access it without one). Free; no reservations; 928/674-5500.

If you go into only one Mary Colter building at the South Rim, this is the one, thanks to its unique circular design, vintage Hopi murals, and some of the canyon’s finest views. About 24 miles east of Grand Canyon Village on State 64 at Desert View; nps.gov/grca.

 Thomas J. Story

6. Lynx Lake Recreation Area, Prescott National Forest, Prescott

At 5,200 feet, the campground is just above the 55-acre, trout-stocked Lynx Lake. Try to get a campsite with a lake view. Pan for gold in Lynx Creek, ½ mile north of the recreation area. $18; no reservations; 928/443-8000.

7. Crabtree Wash Recreation Site, Tonto National Forest, South of Roosevelt Dam

To park your tent or trailer right on Apache Lake’s gravel beach, drive 100 miles northeast from Phoenix to Crabtree Wash. Dispersed camping here gives you a front-row view of saguaro-covered volcanic cliffs that catch dawn’s first rays, and the shallow water is perfect for swimming or paddling. $6/vehicle/day; no reservations or potable water; fs.usda.gov/recmain/tonto/recreation

8. Locust Point, Kaibab National Forest, Near Grand Canyon National Park

A secret guarded by locals and National Park rangers: You don’t have to battle crowds to camp on the North Rim. The adjacent Kaibab National Forest contains a number of backcountry overlooks where dispersed camping is free and gloriously scenic—the trick is navigating the dirt roads (suitable for low-clearance cars). Pack plenty of food and water, buy a map at the Kaibab Visitor Center in the town of Jacob Lake, then drive an hour to Locust Point. It’s primitive (BYO water, no facilities), but you’ll have Grand Canyon magnificence all to yourself. Free; no reservations; fs.usda.gov/kaibab

9. Desert View, Grand Canyon National Park

Think South Rim scenery without (so many) crowds. Photographers thrill to Desert View, especially at dawn, when first light paints the canyon in soft pastels. Twenty-five miles east of Grand Canyon Village, it’s less well-known than Mather, the other South Rim campground. But you’ll still want to grab a spot by 10 or 11, when people are packing up. $12; $25/vehicle; mid-May–mid-Oct; no reservations; nps.gov/grca

10. North Rim Campground, Grand Canyon National Park

Just 2 miles from Bright Angel Point, the North Rim Campground is an easy walk to the difficult 14.2-mile trail that descends into the canyon. Reserve as soon as you have a date in mind, as it's one of the most popular Grand Canyon camping spots. From $18 (plus $20 park entrance fee per vehicle); 928/638-7888; book at recreation.gov

A 1959 Boles Aero trailer at the shady Dell. 
 David Fenton

11. The Shady Dell, Bisbee

The Shady Dell’s nine refubished vintage trailers are set on a quaint property that feels more like a tail-gate party with croquet on the artificial-turf patio. theshadydell.com

12. Lazy Days KOA, Tucson

This Tucson campground is the first KOA to install solar panel technology to power the grounds. New Southwest-style covered sites feature fireplaces and new two-bedroom deluxe cabins feature queen beds. koa.com

13. Point of Rocks RV Campground, Prescott

The Prescott park is just minutes from downtown and adjacent to picturesque lake.  Newly offered are Wi-Fi and 50-Amp sites throughout the upper loop of the park. pointofrocksrvcampground.com

Pitch your tent in this scenic park amid Aztec red sandstone formed by ancient dunes that date back to the dinosaurs. The campground’s namesake arch is one of the premier attractions, but you’ll also find petrified trees, narrow slot canyons and ancient petroglyphs, like the one at Valley of Fire’s second campground, which is better suited to RVs and trailers.

 Getty Images

Nevada camping

14. Arch Rock Campground, Valley of Fire State Park, West of Overton

One of only two campgrounds in the aptly named Valley of Fire, Arch Rock has an upper loop where sandstone rocks create more privacy. Hike the 4.5-mile Pinnacle Trail loop to a “forest” of red rock pinnacles. A flat, bed-size rock at campsite 18 makes for perfect stargazing. $14; no reservations; 702/397-2088.

15. Hilltop Campground, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Northwest of Las Vegas

At 8,437 feet, this campground overlooks the Mojave Desert and accesses the North Loop Trail, which takes you a rigorous 10.3 miles to the peak of Mt. Charleston. If you aren’t up for Mt. Charleston, stop 3 miles in at a bristlecone pine known as Raintree, thought to be Nevada’s oldest living thing. $17; 702/872-5486; book at recreation.gov

16. Cathedral Gorge Camp, Cathedral Gorge State Park

A desert photographer’s dream, the Cathedral Gorge State Park has a campground with 24 tent sites and newly installed electrical hookup for RVs. Park personnel have recently installed a steel-frame stairway down to Miller Point, which gives visitors a new view of the canyon a 1-mile trail below. parks.nv.gov

17. Boulder Beach Campground, Boulder City

You’ll find more than 100 palm-studded campsites just ½ mile from Lake Mead’s shores. Go in October―the water’s still warm and the days are still long enough to hike. $10 (plus $5 park entrance fee per vehicle); no reservations except for large groups; 702/293-8990.

18. Silver Springs Beach, Lahontan State Recreation Area

Two day-use picnic areas are located across from Lahontan Dam and Silver Springs Beach. The Lahontan State Recreation Area facilities include modern restrooms, showers, tables, and grills—and all facilities are newly ADA accessible. parks.nv.gov

NEW MEXICO

19. City of Rocks State Park, Northwest of Deming

House-size volcanic ash boulders create a mini-city maze; ancient paths weave through the boulders. Campsites have little shade, so go in spring or fall. From $10; 575/536-2800; reservation line 877/664-7787.

20. Rio Chama Campground, Abiquiu

Tucked into a stand of juniper along the Rio Chama Wild and Scenic River, this campsite is in the heart of sandstone cliffs and Georgia O’Keeffe country. Snag the fourth site on the left―the only site with its own boat (non-motorized) put-in. Free; no reservations; 575/638-5526.

21. Jemez Falls Campground, Santa Fe National Forest, East of La Cueva

Nestled in a ponderosa forest at 7,880 feet―next to the Jemez River―this site is a fly-fishing dream. From the campground, hike 0.25 miles to 40-foot Jemez Falls, then continue 2 miles to McCauley Warm Springs. $10; no reservations; 575/829-3535.

22. La Junta Campground, Wild Rivers Recreation Area, West of Questa

Set on a mesa above Wild Rivers’ 760-foot gorge, the campground overlooks the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Red River. Hike down for a waterside picnic when it gets hot. $7 (plus $3 day-use fee); no reservations; 575/586-1150.

23. Sleepy Grass Campground, Lincoln National Forest, Cloudcroft

The grass-and-pine meadow feels totally secluded at 8,800 feet, but it’s just 1 mile from Cloudcroft’s shop- and restaurant-dotted Burro Avenue. Hike or bike Trail 5661 for views across White Sands National Monument and out to Las Cruces. $13; no reservations; 575/682-2551.

24. Twining Campground, Carson National Forest, Northeast of Arroyo Seco

Set in Taos Ski Valley at 9,400 feet, the campground gives you access to New Mexico’s highest peak―13,161-foot Mt. Wheeler―and the easier 6-mile Long Canyon/Gold Hill loop. Invite friends and camp at the uppermost site, the largest of four. Free; no reservations; 575/586-0520.

New Mexico's Morphy Lake State Park Campground
 Campsitephotos.com

25. Morphy Lake State Park Campground, Mora

Campers once needed a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach this campground, about 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe. Although a paved access road now smooths the journey, mornings here are still serene. Ponderosa pines surround the 30-acre lake, tucked into the eastern edge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Most of the 24 sites sit waterside, allowing paddlers to launch right from camp. And sites on the lake’s east side enjoy blown-open views of 10,000-foot peaks, which get spotlit by the rising sun. From $10; no reservations or potable water; nmparks.com

26. Aguirre Spring Campground, Las Cruces

This high-country campground in Las Cruces overlooking White Sands National Monument and the Tularosa Basin has direct access to two national recreation trails. lascrucescvb.org

27. Iron Gate Campground, Pecos

Aspens and pines shade the 14 campsites nestled 9,400 feet up at the edge of the Pecos Wilderness. Go in spring when the wildflowers are at their peak. $8; no reservations; 877/276-9404.

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