This is one of our FAVORITE Arizona free camping spots! It is totally cool, convenient, captivating and FREE … all with MILLION DOLLAR VIEWS!
I know, it sounds too good to be true but it is very, very real … see you camping on Arizona’s Mogollon Rim this summer! (Oh, in case you are wondering … yes, it really was 122°F in 1990, Phoenix’s all-time high).
VIDEO Mogollon Rim Camping In Arizona
Living in Phoenix has its advantages! In the summer when it hits 122 degrees, we head up the mountain to cool off in the pines!
We could not do a post about camping in AZ on the Mogollon Rim without showing you why we love this place soooo much!
Here’s a video because my still photos just don’t do this place justice!
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Free Mogollon Rim Camping In Arizona
With the population of Metro Phoenix hovering around 5 million people, you would expect Arizona’s high country to get packed with people throughout the summer months.
That IS the case in some locations BUT you can always find a little corner of the National Forest to call your own when you go camping on the Mogollon Rim.
Why? Because it is sooooooo BIG!
There are actually two National Forests that share the Mogollon Rim … if you camp on the western side of the Rim you will be in the jurisdiction of Coconino National Forest and if you are on the eastern side you will be in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
When we are camping on the Mogollon Rim, our first destination choice is Forest Road 300 but it stretches for many miles so I’ll show you specifically how to get to our favorite spots for absolutely stunning views of the canyon below.
You will be driving past the Baker Butte Lookout Tower when going to these camping spots that sit on the edge of the Mogollon Rim.
Many people consider Forest Road 300 one of the most scenic routes in Arizona … you may also hear it called Rim Road which is a totally fitting name because the Rim is the star of the show!
Make sure you visit the Baker Butte Lookout Tower when you are camping on the Mogollon Rim!
The views from the tower are stunning and you may even see some distant fires the Forest Service employees spot and monitor during the summer season.
Many of the fires are the result of lightening strikes that occur during the summer storms.
It is interesting to see how they use the equipment to identify the exact locations of fires in Arizona’s High Country.
This Arizona Road And Recreation Guide Atlas is one of my favorite tools when it comes to camping on the Mogollon Rim.
The National Forest boundaries and Forest Roads are clearly marked, so it is really easy to navigate the area.
The atlas also has other public lands designated, parks, monuments, natural wonders, campgrounds, RV parks, boating and fishing access, forest and wildlife areas and a hunting unit map with information resources.
Mogollon Rim Arizona Elevation And Weather
The average elevation of the Mogollon Rim is approximately 7,520 feet above sea level so it gets plenty of cold weather, ice and snow in the winter and the Forest Service offices will close the roads during that season.
Once the gates are open for the season, you’ll find the weather perfect for camping all summer long!
If you are camping along the Mogollon Rim between July and September, be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms which can bring a some lightening and a significant amount of rain … be ready to take cover and avoid camping by dead trees that might blow down during the storms.
The best time of year to go Mogollon Rim camping is in the summer when the Forest Roads are open and the temperatures are cool.
As far as I know, the closest weather reporting station is located in Happy Jack, AZ which is the location I have programmed into the weather app on my phone for the area.
Plus, it is easier to say “Happy Jack” than it is to say “Mogollon Rim” which is pronounced differently by everyone I meet!
Some say “muggy-own” … other say … “mo-go-yawn” … while others say … “muggy-on” … I say “The Rim” and keep on camping!
- JAN 45°F High / 16°F Low
- FEB 48°F High / 20°F Low
- MAR 54°F High / 23°F Low
- APR 61°F High / 29°F Low
- MAY 70°F High / 37°F Low
- JUN 79°F High / 45°F Low
- JUL 83°F High / 53°F Low
- AUG 80°F High / 52°F Low
- SEP 75°F High / 44°F Low
- OCT 65°F High / 32°F Low
- NOV 54°F High / 23°F Low
- DEC 45°F High / 15°F Low
If we are having a really dry season, the National Forest office may decide to place fire restrictions on activities within the forest.
Check out our post, How To Camp When Camping Fire Restrictions Are Activated, for necessary information.
If you need tips for Camping In National Forests and doing it legally, check out our post for some great information!
The Forest Service personnel who are assigned to the area, make Mogollon Rim Camping enjoyable.
They are helpful, informative and usually carry detailed maps to give to campers that include approved roads for Off Highway Vehicle/ATV operations.
Cellular Coverage While Mogollon Rim Camping
Verizon is our service provider and we have spotty coverage depending on the exact point we are camping along the Mogollon Rim.
You may have to walk or drive around to get a good signal. We have been in certain dispersed camping spots that have good enough coverage to stream video.
All in all … cell coverage is hit and miss depending on your specific Mogollon Rim camping location.
The good news about Mogollon Rim camping’s spotty cell phone coverage … the coverage is bad because you are in a remote area … and THAT means no reservations are required … and THAT means you can decide last minute camping is the perfect time to head for the mountains!
So, at that point, who really cares if the phones are out of range?
Road Conditions For Route Between Highway 87 and Dispersed Mogollon Rim Campsites
You will be on pavement until you exit Highway 87 and turn on to Forest Road 300.
I can honestly say these are some of the worst Forest Roads we have ever driven on … and they are especially bad after a rough winter.
Part of what makes the area so beautiful (the rock walls and mountains) also make the roads less than desirable.
We have pulled a lightweight hybrid trailer and a 30-foot travel trailer down these roads but there are times we are driving really slow because of the washed out dirt and sharp rocks.
We have seen 40-foot 5th Wheels and Class A Motorhomes there too. Just take your time and don’t be afraid of a few Arizona pinstripes (scratches in your vehicle’s paint).
Amenities When Mogollon Rim Camping
You will be truly off-the-grid without any electric, water or dump facilities when you are at the Mogollon Rim camping locations we like to visit.
If you need a quick bag of ice, gas or a permit from the Mogollon Rim Ranger District (like firewood permit) you just need to travel about 5 miles up the road.
Otherwise, you should be prepared to be fully self-contained when camping in the Mogollon Rim dispersed sites.
If you need tips on camping using portable solar panels, we’ve got them!
One caution for camping in the “edge” area of the Mogollon Rim … if you don’t like getting up early in the morning, you might want to wear earplugs!
The reason, Camp Geronimo sits in Payson at the bottom of this massive rock wall.
Can you guess what happens at Camp Geronimo in the summer? Scouts!!!
From the top of the Rim, you can hear Reveille played on a bugle in the morning to wake the kids up for another fun day at camp. Personally, we love it and we are early risers anyway.
Mogollon Rim Camping Cost
The locations where we camp on the Mogollon Rim are designated dispersed campsites that are FREE to use.
If you go to improved campsites in one of the campgrounds, you should expect to pay a fee.
If you want more tips on free camping, check out our blog post and get ready to hit the dirt road!
Wildlife In The Mogollon Rim Camping Areas
If you are lucky enough to see the elusive elk while you are camping on the Rim, you are in for a treat!
There is also an abundance of mule deer and beautiful birds.
If you are into bird watching, check out the Merlin Bird ID app.
It is one of the best camping apps because it helps you identify birds using a photo you took or 5 simple questions you answer … and it is FREE!
And, if you don’t know how to attract hummingbirds to your campsite, you need to learn because this place is AWESOME for watching hummers put on a daily show for visitors!
Directions To “OUR” Spots For Mogollon Rim Camping
I mentioned there are many spots to camp in the Mogollon Rim area so I’m giving you directions to the area of the dispersed camping spots we frequent. If one spot is filled, we just keep driving to the next one that is open, then pull in and set up camp. (We love camping without needing reservations!) To get to the camping spots located along the Mogollon Rim’s Forest Road 300, from the I-17 and Loop 101 in Phoenix, you should expect a drive of about 3 hours. You’ll take the I-17 northbound and transition on Highway 260 heading eastbound. You’ll go through the small town of Camp Verde which will be your last stop for groceries and gas if you need anything. You’ll come to a stop sign at which you will turn on to Highway 87 eastbound. You’ll stay on that for about 2.5 miles until you reach Forest Road 300 where you will turn right heading southeast. Follow the signs, Forest Road 300 takes a left turn and the signs are well marked. The road will curve around and you’ll see dispersed camping locations on both sides of the road. You will have beautiful forest views if you camp along the first part of the Mogollon Rim Road but if you want to get those distant views of the valley below, you need to follow the road around and PASS the Baker Butte Lookout Tower (there is a sign for it) and continue driving until you see the spots along the Rim. You’ll come up to an “intersection” where you can either go straight or turn right for some awesome spots to camp along the edge of the Mogollon Rim.
Here is a Google Map.
There is no doubt camping in Arizona is a year round activity!
When the Mogollon Rim camping option is off the table because the forest closes for the winter … don’t despair!
Check out other Arizona camping destinations and get our insider local secrets!
Make Some Yummy Meals At The Rim
Don’t forget to plan a great menu and pack all of your groceries when you’re camping on the Rim. There are not many options for nearby dining or grocery shopping.