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We stayed here in January 2021 during our visit to Saguaro National Park due to previous good reviews. Classic BLM-style camping, meaning no amenities, dispersed, and pack out all waste.
This campground’s name is quite apt; it is indeed a cactus forest, and a beautiful one at that. However, watch where you step AND where you drive!!!! Some places are hairier than others, but we were very careful for our own safety and for the livelihood of the Saguaros, as young ones are quite tiny and need to be protected. We were traveling with our cat, and we usually let him walk around campsites with us, but decided it was not worth the risk at this campground. I would avise against dogs roaming here as well.
This is a great campground if you are just looking to get away for the weekend or want a quaint, quiet campground amongst incredible Saguaros. However, I personally prefer the BLM Pipeline campground to this one, as it’s more spread out, has less opportunity for cactus stepping, and has a much better proximity to Saguaro NP (especially the East park/Tucson Mountain Park).
Date of Stay: 1/20/21 Vehicle: Subaru Crosstrek w/ tow-behind popup
I was a bit wary of this campground due to lack of reviews, but after an unsuccessful attempt to camp at another campground close to Saguaro NP East, we decided to give this site a go - and I’m SO glad we did. This is the perfect BLM campground - very dispersed, quiet, and FREE!
We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon with only about two other groups there. Directions from the Dyrt are perfectly accurate, but the turn is a bit tricky to see, as it is a narrow dirt road surrounded by brush. You can actually turn left or right when prompted by directions, but we went right and drove about ¾ of a mile down (you’ll see a sign addressed to campers so you’ll know you’re in the right place). Road is mostly very flat but does have the occasional bump/washout, and there is no shortage of rocks. Had no problem in my vehicle w/ trailer.
I honestly don’t know how many “campsites” are here, as they seem to be scattered pretty randomly around. There are little side roads that branch off the main road as well, we went down one of those and found a quaint little spot with camper-made fire pit that isn’t visible to the main road. Because of this, I would highly recommend arriving to this spot during the day, as we would have never found our great spot had it been dark.
As for the spot itself, it isn’t the prettiest because it’s mostly desert brush and dirt, but the Saguaros most definitely make up for it. Our specific campsite is marked by a towering, twenty-foot high Saguaro that I love waking up to every morning. There is little to no shade, but during the winter, the sun is very welcome. As for wildlife, we’ve seen several coyotes and roadrunners but not much else, at least during the day.
Location of this site is optimal - about five minutes from a local mart with all essentials, and ten from a Speedway and Dollar General. About 35 minutes from Saguaro West/Mountain Park and the same into central Tucson. Overall, I highly recommend this site for any avid BLM camper who is accustomed to no amenities. This may be my favorite BLM site I’ve ever camped.
I thought the sites were all decent sized. Almost the entire campground is set up for RV's but most of the sites don't have anyone behind them and are spacious, so tents would be fine in those spots if you don't mind an RV a site over. The couple tent spots they have are okay. All 5 of them are right off of the road so they have more noise traffic. I think our spot in B2 was the most private and away from the road. The restrooms are clean. There's also a nice dishwashing sink. The location is ideal for exploring the west side (Tucson Mountain District) of Saguaro National Park. The stars here were great and I love the sound of the coyotes in the night.
Relatively easy access from main road for most any vehicle, just take it slow and watch for ruts, especially after a rain.
There are many cool places to pull off and camp, but stay on established open spaces, we saw little baby things trying to grow all over the place so don’t squash them. We arrived on a Wednesday, and it was peaceful and quiet and serene until that Friday, when a group of guffawing dude-bros took up camp across the road from us. Voices carry here, especially this type of voice. The ranger drove down Pipeline Rd in a truck to check on things several times, something I always appreciate.
You can hear road noise the closer you are to the main road (W Avra Valley Rd), especially trucks driving to and from the quarry, which can sound like thunder. Beautiful landscape, saguaros everywhere, beautiful sunrise and sunset, very peaceful despite the truck noise. If we had a rig that could make it in further we would have camped further away from the road to minimize the noise. Pretty regular traffic going in and out on Pipeline Rd, campers and ATVers.
Free range cattle also in the area.
Good verizon and AT&T service.
I camped in H loop (first come, first serve) over the new year for several days. The Campground’s three loops were crowded and not much space between sites. H loop offered the best chance to snag a site with shrubbery for screening and I took #6 after two nights in #25 which had roadway on three sides so was noisy😕. There are flush toilets but no showers. Extensive hiking trails traverse the Tucson Mountains and into the Saguaro National Park for spectacular scenery. It’s all about the cactus. Just Incredible, amazing and awesome all at once.
My only advice here is that it’s not fun for dogs. (And maybe not fun for young kids either?) It’s incredibly prickly everywhere. Imagine that, prickly in the cactus forest? You’ll want to avoid wearing sandals too. (I found myself with a piece of a cactus stuck to my foot and then when trying to remove it I got my hand stuck to the cactus that was stuck to my foot. Tools were required. Pain, lots of pain.) Seriously, NO SANDALS. But! PROS: the saguaro cactus are huge and impressive. We really enjoyed driving through this area at sunset and seeing all the iconic cactus. But then our overnight of camping on this random BLM land was just hours of dodging prickles. It’s quite an interesting place, but fair warning, is prickly. Act accordingly.
We did not end up camping here. Beautiful location. Road is super rough and narrow in spots going up Mt Graham. Drove up end of June 2020 and there were so many cars parked that you could not drive the camp ground loop to check out the sites. It did not appear to be monitored by a ranger so people were parked everywhere. Like 4 and 5 cars to a site. Lots of dispersed camping in the way up the mountain. Worth the drive in my opinion to check it out but overall disappointed.
This was an amazing place in every way . . . except one which is very important to us personally. We stayed for a couple of nights in December 2020, when COVID rates were skyrocketing everywhere & especially Arizona. We had just come from a KOA in New Mexico which had 100% mask compliance throughout the campground. Here, despite the infection rates there was zero mask compliance amongst campers anywhere in the campground. The staff wore masks and we watched them diligently clean campsite furniture after campers checked out. But, nothing was done to encourage compliance from campers. In NM there were signs everywhere. Here, however, they were actively encouraging campers to gather at group (super spreader) activities. Seriously? Over 300,000 dead and they go on to host a full slate of weekly KOA sponsored activities and pancake breakfast like nothing is happening? The pool area was full of unmasked people. No one wore a mask in the restroom or laundry. There were constant, yelling unmasked kids running through our site. Four adult males gathered on one site openly heckled my wife for wearing a mask while she walked our dog. It was callous, very disappointed.
Justin's Diamond J doesn't allow credit card payment and doesn't have online reservations. It's adult only and had a bunch of restrictions. No use of washers/dryers in RVs, no streaming/skyping, no electric heaters. Breed restrictions on pets. See photo for brochure. There are pickleball/tennis courts, a dog area, horse shoes and bocce ball. Sites are full hookup. Premium sites offer better views and have more privacy.