The Absolute Best Camping Near Tucson

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: January 23, 2023
© Dirk van der Made / Creative Commons / Original
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If you are planning a camping trip near Tucson, AZ, you might want to consider how close you want to be to the downtown area so you can enjoy the sites and attractions of the city while also enjoying a camping experience. There are campgrounds with resort-like amenities like swimming pools and hot tubs and there are primitive backcountry tent camping (and everything in between). Here is where you can find the absolute best camping near Tucson.

1) Catalina State Park

Just northeast of downtown Tucson is the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. If you want to experience some of the best mountain camping then Catalina State Park is one of the absolute best places to camp near Tucson. The park has miles of hiking trails with some shorter hikes like the Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail (.75 mile loop) and the “Nature Trail” (one-mile loop), where you can look for mule deer, javelina, coatimundi and maybe even a peregrine falcon circling high above the Saguaros. Besides the hiking trails there are some trails that are for horseback riding and there is even a horse campground with 25 sites (first come first serve).

The main campground has 120 sites with electric and water for RV’s and tent camping. Can you imagine cooking up some pancakes at your campsite with the view of the mountains as your backdrop? An amazing place to camp with some of the best hiking in Tucson right at your footsteps!

LocationNE of downtown
Distance from downtown Tucson25 min (15 miles)
RV/Tent sites120 sites, electric and water
Picnic Tables at each siteYes
BBQ grill at each siteYes
AmenitiesRestrooms, hot showers
Pet FriendlyYes
What makes it one of the bestSome of the best mountain view camping near Tucson!
If you’re lucky, you may spot a javelina while walking the nature trail at Catalina State Park.

©Dennis W Donohue/

2) Mount Lemmon: Spencer Canyon Campground

Due east of Catalina State Park is the majestic Mount Lemmon which stands 9,159 feet making it the tallest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains. While Catalina State Park has some of the best mountain views, the Spencer Canyon Campground will put you right in the middle of the Coronado National Forest. Only an hour from downtown Tucson, the campground has 66 sites with restrooms and drinking water nearby.

There are several hiking and backpacking trails in the area including the Aspen Drew Trail which starts at the Ski Valley and winds up to the top of Mount Lemmon! This worthwhile hike is 1.7 miles and will reward you with amazing views of the surrounding forest and mountain range. See if you can spot some of the bighorn sheep that are protected in this area of the park. Definitely one of the absolute best places to camp near Tucson!

LocationEast of downtown Tucson
Distance from downtown1 hour (38 miles)
RV/Tent sites66 sites, trailers must be less than 22’
Picnic Tables at each siteYes
Fire Pit at each siteYes
AmenitiesRestrooms, drinking water
Pet FriendlyYes, but no dogs at the Pusch Ridge Wilderness
ReservationsNo, first come first serve
What makes it one of the bestCamping in the midst of the thick forests!
Bighorn Sheep isolated on white background
Bighorn Sheep are a protected species on Mount Lemmon.


3) Tucson Lazydays KOA

If you want to stay right in Tucson you can make yourself at home at the Tucson Lazydays KOA just north of the airport. The campground has all the amenities you need plus more! There is a swimming pool and hot tub right on the grounds as well as mini golf, dog park and a snack bar. Spend the day exploring the museums downtown, shops and restaurants or an afternoon at the Reid Park Zoo. While you won’t have to worry about bears wandering into your campsite at the KOA, you can visit real grizzly bears at the Reid Park Zoo. Did you know Grizzly Bears can get to be 3 ½ feet tall at the shoulder and weigh more than 700 pounds! Good thing the zoo is the only place you will find them in Tucson.

LocationSouthern Tucson, just north of the airport
Distance from downtown Tucson10 min (10 miles)
RV sitesYes, full hookups, pull-thru and back-in
Tent sitesYes, with water and electric
CabinsYes, with private bath and kitchnette
Picnic Tables at each siteYes, some RV sites have paved patios as well
Fire Pit at each siteYes
AmenitiesRestrooms, showers, laundry, swimming pool, hot tub, mini golf, snack bar
Pet FriendlyYes, Kamp K9
What makes it one of the bestRight in Tucson with some of the best amenities.
Grizzly Bear (Ursus Arctos Horriblis)
There are no grizzlies at the Tucson Lazydays KOA, but you can visit them at the Reid Park Zoo.


4) Tucson Mountain Park: Gilbert Ray Campground

West of downtown Tucson, on the west side of the Tucson Mountains is the Gilbert Ray Campground. The 20,000 acre Tucson Mountain Park has hiking trails, mountain bike trails, a shooting range and wildlife viewing areas. The mountain bike trails are some of the best in Tucson. Gates Pass overlook is a popular destination where you might see some of the native animals. The NRPR teamed up with the University of Arizona to study whether mountain lions lived in the area as an indicator of the well being of the ecosystem. It is not likely you will see one in the park (they keep to themselves), but the researchers did discover a population living in the park.

The campground has 130 campsites with 5 designated as tent only. All of the sites have electric hookups with water centrally located. The campground is spread out in several loops for privacy and spacing. The sites are nestled amongst the desert brush and provide nice views of the mountains. Another one of the absolute best places to camp near Tucson.

LocationWest of downtown
Distance from downtown25 min (13 miles)
RV/Tent Sites130 sites, 5 are tent only, with electric
Picnic Tables at each siteYes
Fire Pit at each siteNo, woodfires are not allowed
AmenitiesRestrooms, water
Pet FriendlyYes at the campground, but not in Tucson Mountain Park
What makes it one of the bestSome of the best mountain bike trails in the Tucson area.
Mountain Lion (Felis Concolor) - standing against white background
You probably won’t spot any while camping, but there are mountain lions in Tucson Mountain Park.


5) Bog Springs Campground

South of downtown near Mount Wrightson in the Santa Rita Mountain is the Bog Springs Campground. This is not a cactus covered desert but lush green oak and juniper trees and grasslands that surround the mountains. You can hike through the Old Baldy Trail, through the Madera Canyon and depending on the amount of rainfall hike to a secret waterfall! The 25 foot waterfall is flowing after snow melt or heavy rains in the canyon so you might get lucky to find it flowing on your hike. Keep an eye out for mule deer, coati, ringtails and a variety of owls (like the tiny elf owl).

The campground itself has basic tent camping available with each site having a picnic table. Restrooms and drinking water are nearby with access to the trails right from the campground. Remember to pack plenty of water for your backpacking excursions and stay on the trails. After a day of hiking settle in at your campsite for a campfire overlooking the mountains.

LocationSouth of downtown
Distance from downtown50 min (42 miles)
RV sitesNo, tent only, no RV hookups
Tent sitesYes, 13 sites, picnic tables, water nearby
Picnic Tables at each siteYes
Fire Pit at each siteNo
AmenitiesRestrooms, drinking water
Pet FriendlyYes
ReservationsNo, first come first serve
What makes it one of the bestHike to a secret waterfall!
Elf Owl
Keep your eyes open and you may spot an elf owl while hiking Old Baldy Trail through Madera Canyon.


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© Dirk van der Made / Creative Commons / Original

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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