This area of Mt Lemmon camping is located at the head of a shallow, forested canyon a short distance off the Catalina Highway. Spencer Canyon faces the city of Tucson and the Santa Cruz Valley, both of which are visible as a distant panorama through openings in the forest canopy. Spencer Canyon Campground has 66 sites. Each site has a concrete table, firepit, B-B-Q and bear box for food storage. A beautiful night view of Tucson can be seen from several sites. Spencer is rugged, rustic in layout and close to the hamlet of Summerhaven. Each camping area has clean, stocked vault toilets. Campground hosts live on site. Firewood may be purchased from the hosts. The Catalina Highway is paved, but it can be snow covered in winter when chains and/or 4-wheel drive may be required.
Spencer Canyon Campground is a first-come, first-serve 60+ site camp located 21.5 up Mt. Lemon. Spent a long weekend, beginning on Thursday. Benefitted from getting there early, because I got my choice from most of the sites and come Friday all of the sites became occupied. By Sunday afternoon (check-out time of 1:00 p.m. is “strictly” enforced), nearly all of the sites were empty again.
The pine forest was a sight first thing in the morning, and the wind breezing through the pines created an extremely relaxing environment. Saw several deer. For the most part, the campground is reasonably quiet, and there is enough space between the sites to allow some privacy.
There is a bathroom and water available. Garbage is managed daily.
Overall, very positive experience.
Spencer Canyon Campground is a nice campground approx. 20 miles from Tucson up the General Hitchcock Highway(often called the Catalina Highway or Mt. Lemmon Highway). It is located approximately 3 miles past the Palisades Visitor Center and the entrance is marked well by a big brown sign as you approach. Phill and Denise, the friendly campsite managers will give you advice and suggestions about campsites that suite your needs. The photos attached to this review are from campsite#6, which is close to the Phill& Denise’s camper location and the highway- yes, we did hear road noise. Most campers chose locations deeper in the campground, but we were there on a busy weekend so most of those“deeper” campsites were occupied. All sites have a large bear box, concrete picnic table, charcoal grill and an iron fire pit. The picnic area of the site is level but the whole campsite is NOT so pick your location carefully if you want to pitch your tent on a flat, level plot. We did find some firewood left over from prior campers but recommend bringing your own, dry wood if you have room in your rig. In my observation, there is a rather nice, vessel toilet house strategically located to serve 6- 7 campsites. There is also a water faucet to be shared by 6- 7 campsites. Campsite#6 has its own faucet so others might also. There are 60+ campsites throughout Spencer Canyon and I would suggest that those“deeper” in the campground are more desirable. It should be noted that most of the campsites are close together, that is, about 50-75 feet apart, hence, my“… if you don’t mind company” comment. It should also be noted that Phill& Denise are really nice and helpful, the campsites are well maintained and clean, it is only 22 miles from Tucson and less than 6 miles from the mountaintop hamlet of Summerhaven, and is situated at approximately 7,900 fee of elevation. Thus, Spencer Canyon Campground is a great getaway from the Arizona heat and close enough to Tucson for a 1- 2 night weekend.
The campground hosts were awesome and hospitable. I have a thing about clean bathrooms and these were VERY clean! It was just an overnight stay, but we will definitely be back!
This place was really pretty and a lot of critters running around to watch. Also a great spot for birdwatchers. The campground itself was well kept. I did not care for how close together most of the sites were and lack of parking. Be sure to get here early because sites fill up quick!
If you camp for the pure love of nature, this place is for you. The drive alone is inspiring! There is a fee for camping which you should plan to leave in the box (yes, they do come around to check eventually). This campground fee is in addition to the fee you pay on the way up so carry cash. With so many views, trails, and photo ops, you couldn't ask for more. But if you do anyway, be sure to travel to the top of the mountain for some fudge in the gift shop and DO NOT miss the view of the creek. You may have to find a spot to park and walk about a half mile but it's just beautiful and it'd be sad for you to miss it since you're already up there. There is a lake within driving distance; you'll pass it on the way up. DO NOT feed the bears, please; for their safety (Seriously; they'll get euthanized).
very nice, well maintained, and friendly hosts. It is a nice cool area. Definitely going back!
This campground is walk up only with over 60 sites to choose from. Several sites are double or group size. This is the highest National Forest campground on Mount Lemmon and your best bet for cooler temps during the summer. Parking can be limited with only a few of the sites having adequate parking for trailers up to 22 feet. Your best bet for a good site for the weekend is to get there on Thursday or early Friday.
Beautiful campground nested in the trees on Mount Lemmon. Great escape from Phoenix. The breeze was amazing and the trees gave alot of shade. We hiked and spend about 3 nights here. We were 15 people and had a could of sites right next to eachother. Sites are a good size for a paid campground, not small like most others.
I’ve camped here several times. The camp hosts are friendly helpful and knowledgeable. I prefer to go all the way to the very bottom of the campground. There is a lot of open area for my boys to run around and build a fort while I read a book next to the stream. Also it doesn’t seem to fill up as fast as the top sites. Bathrooms are clean, bear boxes are provided, and If you want a break from camp food you can jet up to summerhaven it’s not that far and grab lunch. There isn’t any grocery stores or gas stations on Mt. Lemmon so fill up before venturing up the mountain. If you are a hiker there are many trails to choose from not to far from your camp (read up on hiking in high elevations though before you venture out). Mt. Lemmon is also dog friendly and so is this campground just make sure to pick up after your pooch. The drive up Mt. Lemmon highway is 35 MPH the cops hiding around the corners writing tickets would be glad to remind you or you can take my word for it. This road is also very popular for cyclists so make sure you keep your eyes on the road, they come out of nowhere. The views are spectacular even if you are just coming for the day. You go from desert to full forest in the matter of 45min it is nothing I’ve ever seen before. This is a must see if visiting Tucson, AZ.
Love Spencer Canyon! Great place for a chill camping weekend. Lots of space, not too close to other sites, and the bathroom reading on bees is superb.