Pioneer is a large site composed of dispersed campgrounds located in the Globe Ranger District of Tonto National Forest. Set in the cool Pinal Mountains South of Pioneer Pass is the Squaw Springs Trail that leads to Pinal Peak along with the East Mountain Trail. These trails are fun for nature viewing, day hikes, and family outings.
Camping: 23 camp units with tables and fire pit grills
Picnicking: tables and fire pit grills available
Quiet off the beaten path place. Switchbacks most of the way up to the area. Wouldn’t advise a “big” rig. But once there and settled in loved it!
This campground is Free. There are 17-21 sites dispersed & in groups that include cement picnic tables, metal ring fire pits, and some sites also have Bear Boxes. There are 3-4 outhouses, no running water or amenities. To get there from Globe it’s 7 miles of dirt one lane switchbacks on the side of the mountain. I have seen campers before but it is not very easy to get up there with them. There are bears and other wildlife. Even have seen a tarantula (pictured). Like many state land out here they have cattle loose and they do travel the road up the mountain so keep that in mind.
This place is a little easier to get to than upper pinal, which is just on the other side of Pinal Mountains. This campground was set up kinda weird, but worked out good. I would definitely recommend trying this one out, and I will definitely go back. Bathrooms were clean and sites were pretty roomy for our teardrop.. Only 1 bar of cell service for At&t. But overall a great time here.
I love that there is a free campground in the pines less than 2 hours from the valley. However, I don’t love the way this campground is laid out. All of the campsites are accessed from a one lane dirt road with a lot of blind corners. The forestry service states that there are 23 sites available in this campground. After being there and looking through the campgrounds I’d say this is more like half a dozen to ten areas that can accommodate 2-6 “sites” each. At least 3 of the sites are immediately off the main road and one of the fire pits is less than 10 feet from the road. About half of the sites are walk-in access only.
We stayed in site 22 which could be driven in to with a small trailer and while looking for firewood realized that site 23 was actually 50 feet uphill directly behind us with no access other than walking directly through our site. Site 22 had a concrete picnic table that showed a lot of deterioration around the edges (so much so that some of the rebar support in the center was clearly visible) and a grill that had been bent and torn off of the metal fire ring. All of the sites are no more than a quarter of a mile from a bathroom building. The bathrooms were stocked with toilet paper but weren’t the cleanest bathrooms I’ve ever seen. There are a lot of downed trees on the sides of the roads and near the campsites. If you foraged for sticks you’d likely find enough already cut to size to last during your trip. If you have a chainsaw or hand saw you could easily have more than enough wood.
Roughly sites 15 through 21 were located near a small parking lot and all walk in sites. They all shared a large open area in the center. If you tried to setup a trailer in the parking lot the closest fire pit would be 40 or so feet away. I didn’t take specific notes on all of the clustered units but every place we pulled in to seemed to have one access point and multiple tent spaces with fire pits and picnic tables very huddled together. I wouldn’t want to be in such close proximity to a complete stranger but they would be really great for groups.
The only other thing I’d touch on is the road to get to the campground. I wouldn’t suggest trying to travel up without decent ground clearance. There was a bit of wash boarding and obvious ruts in the road from where the road was traveled when muddy. We have gone through that area in snow/slosh and I wouldn’t even want to travel that road without 4 wheel drive in that situation. Know your vehicle and your driving skills!
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – on this trip I tested the Midland LXT500VP3 (Up to 24 Mile Two-Way Radios). The radio itself is a good size and sits comfortably in the hand. The antenna sits about 2 inches taller than the unit and is hard plastic. There are removable belt clips for each handheld unit. The top of the belt clips stick out from the back of the unit about half an inch as if they were hinged but they are in fact not hinged and therefor just push into whatever it is clipped to. The main button you use to transmit is textured and made of an easily gripped rubber so it made talking very easy. The LCD screen is not backlit and when turned on displays only the channel being used (until the battery is low then it has a low battery indicator). The handheld units were easy to control with clearly marked buttons on the front.
The set comes with a rechargeable battery for each handheld unit and a desktop charger. The desktop charging unit is small and light with red indicator lights to show when the units are charging. The desktop charger will charge both radios at once or you can use the power cord to charge one unit independently. The radios are supposed to be charged 12 hours for a complete charge. If you will not have access to an AC plug you can purchase the additional cable to allow these to charge via the cigarette lighter in a vehicle.
Channels 8 through 14 are low power channels. We tried these radios in town, on the highway, and in camp using these channels and at best only had a mile of range. However, when we did have enough signal to make contact the voices were very clear and easily heard. We were able to use the low power channels to drive through the campground with a lead car looking for a campsite while the truck/trailer were parked near the entrance to avoid getting stuck somewhere that we could not turnaround. We also used them on the low power channels around camp when going for walks or to the bathrooms.
Channels 1-7 and 15-22 are high power channels. We tried these in town (suburban area, no extremely tall buildings or geographical features… just houses) and easily got another half mile of range above the low power channels (somewhere around a mile and a half total). The voices normally came through very clear unless we were near overhead power lines in which case they had static interference. We also noticed that if I was near the end of the range of the radios and in a car I was able to receive transmissions but unable to send them.
Overall, these radios seem to be pretty tough and easy to use with a decent amount of range. For the price they could be great for kids getting into radios, for use around a larger property/park area, between vehicles in a caravan, or around camp.