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Tonto National Forest, ARIZONA
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Most Recent Tonto National Forest Camping Reviews
Fabulous. Perfect trails. Campground very nice and great people

Mikes of mountain biking trails which were spectacular. We’ve ridden lots of places and this is definitely one of my favorite. Trails are not difficult technically but a great workout and so pretty. Campground spots are spacious, bathrooms nice and clean. Sites fill up because it’s so great so you have to book ahead. We had to camp in overflow area one night which was still fine then was able to grab a canceled spot.

Really nice horse campground

This campground has really nice sites, that can accommodate large trailers. Each horse site has two large corrals, a fire pit, and picnic table.  There is water locations around the campground as well as bathrooms. Across the street is the main non horse campground, and there is pay showers if needed and an amphitheater there. The trails weren't my favorite, a bit rocky, but were not bad either. The campground is a great location near Payson.

Further off the path

Got a large group of friends to go jeeping up in the mountains not too far from here, couldn’t remember the exact spot. After going deep into a canyon nearby, we found an abandoned mine! Pretty cool but definitely away from society.

Diamond in the rough

My boyfriend and I spent a weekend at this spot which was a bit out of the way, but fairly easy to access. Exactly what we were looking for with much appreciated privacy and no one else around. Fires were allowed and there was a peaceful spring nearby. We didn’t find the waterhole we’d heard about but had a great time regardless! We even were lucky enough to fall asleep to a light rainstorm. Definitely a spot to revisit 💯

Great camping!

We brought our pop up camper and stayed at the lower burnt coral shoreline over the week days. I heard from other campers who were more regular that it gets busy on the weekends and tends to fill up, but we did not have that problem. We ended up having plenty of room and privacy.

There was plenty of shade and restrooms, although some of them were pretty nasty(that was our only complaint but hey it’s camping).

We were told by the ranger there that Tonto passes are valid, although sights are posted that state otherwise.

There were also spots with pads and water spigots. Benches at every site.

This instantly became a favorite spot with nearly every spot located right on the water.

Ranger Review: GrubStick at Houston Mesa

Campground Review

We LOVE Houston Mesa!  This is our second time staying here, and we had an even better time this time then last time  (and we had an amazing time last time, so that was hard to beat).

Located just 1.5 hours from Phoenix, this is a super easy getaway from The Valley.  Houston Mesa Campground is also right off the main highway of town, so if you forgot something (or just want McDonalds instead of hot dogs) you can find civilization about 2 minutes away.

This time we went up with friends and stayed at sites Black Bear 4 and 5.  These sites were PERFECT to book together, since they made one huge space when connected.  We had 3 families, each with large tents, and had plenty of space. We will stay at these same sites next time.  The bathroom is also right next to site 3, so it was easy to walk to.

Bathrooms are clean and have flush toilets.  There are showers available at a central shower building, but we did not use those.

Each site comes with a picnic table and a fire pit (complete with BBQ grill topper).  I also found the sites to be freshly racked on arrival, so that was nice.

There is also a great nature walk at the park that you can do with young kids.  Every few feet is a sign describing local animals and plants.

A short 15 minute drive away is the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park --  a must see in the area! Beautiful and easy hike to see a absolutely gorgeous natural wonder.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time - at Houston Mesa I was testing the GrubStick Deluxe Kit.  

Wow. Wow.  WOW. This set is a GAME CHANGER for campfire cooking.  We have been using dinky little forks forever and having to buy new ones every few trips because they get bent out of shape or burned up.  This kit will last you FOREVER. They are so well made!

This kit includes two grippy telescoping handles, and then a ton of accessories (2 fork toppers, a cage for whole S’mores, a cage for burgers, a small metal rod to make bacon cups, and a large metal rod to cook dough). There are also 4 other accessories, like hot pags and cage openers that are thoughtful additions.  AND they come in their own mini duffel bag!

My friends were seriously blown away when they saw our set and were asking so many questions about it.  My favorite part was the dough rod, because we made delicious campfire cinnamon-sugar crescent roll cylinders!!

5 Stars for GrubStick, can’t wait to try out new recipes!

Check out my video review here: https://youtu.be/JPNznJ7wApE

Shoreline camping

Portajohns available but no potable water. Leave no TRACE. Shoreline camping. Can get crowded and loud. Otherwise awesome.

Great place, close to civilization yet remote

I use the north entrance off Bush highway. I've camped here 5 or 6 times. No water or bathrooms. Leave no trace. You need a permit and gate code. Most ATVers but not loud during the week. Ive had wild horses walk by. Love it there.

Great place, near Phoenix but feels remote

Large campsites in main loop. Great for boondocking or not. Nice bathrooms, great trails, good location. Helpful staff, I love it there.

Showers!

So grateful for the showers. Love this campground.

Nice semi remote campground

This campground is found between the town's of Superior and Miami, Arizona, so if you are not am experienced camper, you could always drive to town in a pinch if you needed something or forgot something.

Some of the campground is along a wash, with a small pond on the west side. The official campground site is relatively small and has more established sites, but remote camping is found further down the road. Oak Flats Road provides a few miles of rougher trails (some might call them Jeep trails, but someone who knows what they are doing could get through most of it in a car) and would be great for a short overland type camping experience.

There are some great views with just a short hike and can make for a rewarding one day camp, or camp for a couple days.

There are is a bathroom within the small, more established campground, but no other facilities (including trash) so you must pack in and pack out whatever you are going to use.

Across the street from a metro station

I stayed 5 nights here, back in with FHU. The staff was very friendly and the proximity to downtown is great! I was all the way at the front near the bathroom/office, but also near the street. A lot of foot traffic throughout the night being in an urban setting. Next time, I'll request to be a little further back into the park itself.

Unexpectedly Awesome

I had family coming to visit & we planned to drive up to the Grand Canyon to camp when the road was closed due to snow. We searched for a different camping option but there was snow everywhere so we ended up here. It wasn't what was planned but it was amazing. My family had a great time & even climbed the Flat Iron. There were little kangaroo rats, bunnies, the sounds of coyotes, & stars were amazing. Definitely will go back for more.

Kayak Camp in this Gorgeous Desert Canyon

About 2 miles upriver from the Mormon Flat Dam, the Tonto National Forest maintains 4 official campsites, complete with a covered picnic table and fire pit at each, as well as composting toilets and a great boat dock for larger boats. 

The sites were in a bit of disrepair and the bathroom wasn’t stocked and smelled a bit, but the views and location of this site can’t be beat!  Just come prepared with what you need. And, there was an emergency call button by the bathrooms (something we have never seen in any place we’ve camped?). No drinking water available, so be sure to bring at least 1 gallon per person per day.

Warnings: We found that this site could either feel extremely remote, or a total party scene with music blaring from a boat moored at the dock, depending on who is there and how they got there. Also, the wind can blow strongly up/down this canyon, so check the weather before heading in. 

Keep on the lookout for lots of birds and Big Horned Sheep as you paddle/boat up river to the Horse Mesa Dam area. The dam is on lock down (you won’t actually see it), but the journey upriver is absolutely gorgeous with fascinating geology and beautiful Sonoran Desert cactus!

First-come, first-served, and…FREE!

Camping alongside the riverbank

This ‘campground’ is only open from October through March for overnight stays (Friday and Saturday nights only). Also why I only gave it 3 stars. Lots of sites to choose from, first come first serve. Public restroom/out houses (large tanks underground) dumpster in the parking lot for easy disposal on your way out. The best thing about this place is that I’ve seen the Salt River horses almost every visit. They come walking right up to the campsite, such beautiful animals.

An Oxymoron: Sonoran Desert Lakefront Camping

Just about 6.5 miles from Roosevelt Dam, along a seriously narrow, winding, and mountainous dirt road, lies a great camping oasis along Apache Lake in the middle of the Superstition Mts.  The road is well-maintained and well graded, but the short drive from the dam to the campground took us about 30 minutes with our little trailer and 4-wheel drive truck. Seriously, not for the faint of heart if you are pulling a trailer.  We saw lots of smaller cars manage it fine.

This medium-sized sized campground offers lovely sites along the water and along the hill in the trees.  For $12 per night, it offers many amenities: nice waterfront sites with picnic table, fire ring, boat ramp, drinking water, plenty of pit toilets (clean given the number of people at the campground that week), and group sites.  There are some easy pull-thru sites for RV's.

Hiking, paddling, boating and cycling opportunities are available right from the campground. We paddled up the Salt River to the dam and back for a fun afternoon adventure.  Bird life abounds in both the lake and river!

Closest town is Globe, about 40 miles away, has grocery stores, Walmart, gas stations, etc. So come prepared with what you need!

First-come, first-served, no reservations.

Note: The campground didn’t have any mobile service available with Verizon.

Nice NFS well kept

All paved driving and campsite parking except equestrian area no hookups they have places to fill water and to dump. Restrooms and showers nice a clean.

Nice place but tight!

Nice fairly quiet well kept. Only complaint spaces are tight if you have slide outs on both sides and the only trash disposal is at the office.

Ranger Review of Primus Micron Trail Stove at Apache Lake in AZ

When traveling to new places, I want new things to look at and unique experiences when I camp. I couldn't have asked for a more unique first day in AZ when I made my way to Apache Lake Campground (at the Marina) in AZ. It was late when I arrived, and I was starved, so it was the perfect time to try my new Micron Trail Stove with Piezo by Primus!

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:

It says that it takes over an hour to go less than 30 miles to the campground, and I assumed this was one of those GPS errors…until I saw the road to get there. Mostly washboard dirt, a little asphalt and a lot of twists and turns. Upper speed limits of 20 mph made it very clear that the GPS knew what it was yapping about. At one point, I thought I was on a movie set and seriously didn't know how any car coming the opposite direction would pass, if it came to that. But all that aside, it was a beautiful, peaceful drive! Just don't do it in the dark. It's called the Apache Trail and it's Arizona's oldest highway, originally built in 1905. Serious history here! Absolutely worth the drive, if you don't have a fear of heights and have extra time to kill. It passes through a little town called Tortilla Flat and there is apparently an ice cream shop there with prickly pear gelato!

About the campground. It's deep in a valley, on Apache Lake. What a view!! Down a steep road that's about a mile off the main highway (Route 88), you can see the camp before you even get there. Once there, it's a little confusing to find what you need because signage isn't terribly apparent and it's a kind of "lazy-kicked-back" sort of atmosphere. Nothing up scale about it, at all. But that's part of it's charm. I guess I was there at the tail end of the "off" season, so it wasn't terribly busy. It's not fancy, by a long shot, but what you need is at your fingertips. You have to check in at the main building, which isn't very clear, especially upon arrival in the dark, but in the office, they will take your money, show you a map, and point you in the right direction.

There's a section for RVs with hookups (and they do have a dump station). There are restrooms in a few spots, and while not fancy, they let you "do the job" you came to do. Also some showers, and again, not the Ritz, but there is water to rinse with. I'd suggest shower shoes. The camping is kind of cool, though. It's dispersed. I mean, there are many little spots nested in the trees, around the lake, on the sand, where you can just pick a spot and stay. It was only $10 to pop a squat (I think it says $5 online, but that is incorrect). Some are far better than others (on little jetties or in the trees) but they all have sweet lake views and fire rings! You are allowed to collect dead wood to use, so that makes it easier to fire up at evenings end, but they sell firewood bundles too.

I had a little spot right off the lake, and it was quiet. A few night sounds, but nothing more than fish and birds. The only thing that bothered me were some bright lights, almost like on a jet plane, that were at the other end of the marina. I just positioned my tent so that I didn't get the runway lights right through my screen. In the morning, I took advantage of the big huge bathtub outside my tent (most people call that a lake) and took a very quick dip, since it was like ice water. Boy was it refreshing!!! Perfect little site for my first night in the desert. Not dessert. Big difference.

GEAR REVIEW:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I occasionally get the awesome opportunity to review incredibly gear in exchange for an honest review. This time, I was able to have a hot meal on Apache Lake thanks to the rockin' Micron Trail Stove with piezo by Primus.

This little think only weights about 3.2 oz, and folds up like a little contortionist to fit in a stuff sack that's actually got room enough to throw in a lighter. Some stoves have skin tight bags for storage, but this one is great! It has a built in piezo lighter and is easy to screw on a canister for use.

First impression: I love the size, the weight, it's solid construction, the stuff sack is the perfect size.

What I don't like: The piezo fizzled the third time I used it. Ugh.

It's super easy to use, even without reading directions. Just make sure it's screwed on the canister tightly. You don't want to strip the threads and have it launching into space, but if you don't twist it on hard enough, your flame will fail you and you'll sit there thinking you're going to have to eat your oatmeal cold. If that latter happens, try twisting just a little harder, and you'll get a better gas flow that'll give you the flame you need! We don't want hangry campers at bedtime.

While the piezo on mine didn't actually work by the time I got it to my camping trip, I found that I much preferred lighting it with a lighter, anyhow. I thought that the location and way that the piezo worked was a little delicate. Like I might break the whole stove by flicking it. Turns out that they make the same stove without the igniter for about $5 cheaper, and it saves you 14g of weight by not having it. So you have a choice!

Bottom line, I still love the stove. I'm normally an alcohol stove gal, so this was a great chance to explore the idea of a canister version to cook with. I can absolutely see this little Primus Micron making it's way into my cooler weather arsenal so that I can get more hot water, faster, for things like coffee, water bottles for my sleeping bag, and cocoa!

The perfect retreat

This campsite is perfection up in the mountains. Dispersed spots give some seclusion, while other sites are clumped nicely for those like a little more “neighborly” camping. No cell phone reception offers a true retreat from every day life. Drive up to the top of the mountain and I promise the views won’t let you down. Careful for wildlife, bears are common and I saw a few elk on the drive. The winding mountain round to get there is gorgeous.

Large sites, great view of the Superstition Mountains

Camped here for two nights and enjoyed it very much. Sites are large and well maintained. We opted for a site with electrical and water ($30 vs $20) so there were mostly RVs. Large pull through with fire pit and bbq grill and metal picnic table. Many have views of the Superstition Mountains. We reserved ahead of time which is good as the campground was full when we arrived. There is overflow camping if no sites available. Bathrooms were clean and one had showers and filtered water, a nice bonus. I only saw two bathrooms (there might have been another in the newer loop but we didn’t explore that) so they were not real close to our site. Several hiking trails directly accessible from the park. A variety of ranger led programs but unfortunately none during our stay. You do have to put up with the annoying train whistle from about 10-6 from nearby Goldsfield “Ghost town” but otherwise it is probably the quietest campground I’ve ever stayed at. Only issue we had was with over-eager volunteers who yelled at us and told us we couldn’t park outside the showers. (We had moved from our site to use the showers after our hike and before leaving).

Dessert camping

This site was nice and provided a lot of amenities, however desert camping proved not to be my style. Tons or cholla cactus create threat to pets or even people when trying to maneuver in the dark. Easy place for beginners to get acquainted with camping and lots of activities available.

Earth day perfection

Spent earth day here in 2018 - it was perfect. We actually pitched our tent in what is known as Workman Creek - just a little further up the road. Definitely recommend a higher clearances vehicle, although I made it okay in my standard Ford Escape. Workman Creek is a great dispersed camping location and the views from the top of the mountain are unmatched. Careful of fire restrictions in dry season.

Truly Unexpected!

For the price of $12 per night, this National Forest campground in the Superstition Mountains can’t be beat.  Sites are medium-sized with no privacy in between, but each site has a water hookup and a sewer dump. There are a couple of bathrooms with running water as well.  Just hook up your solar panel and you have everything you need for your RV. The views in the area are jaw dropping, from just about every angle. The road is close by, but you don’t hear much of anything after dark.  

Within walking distance is the hamlet of Tortilla Flat, a funny little tourist trap of a place with a general store (don’t go seeking groceries though), a restaurant, live music, a post office, and the ubiquitous ice cream and fudge shop.  The road up to this campground is full of crazy twists and turns and very narrow, so would only recommend it for the experienced cyclists not for kids/families. There are beautiful off the beaten track trails and backroads to hike or mountain bike.  And, bring your kayaks for a phenomenal day on Canyon Lake and a paddle up the Salt River -- very easy (with the exception of wind) and beautiful!

The closest town with a grocery store and gas station is Apache Junction, about 17 miles from the campground.

Great View, Great Trails

This is one of many outstanding Arizona State Parks. Sites are clean and most level with mix of electric and non electric. Suggest you make reservations well ahead for busy winter months!

Awesome place for the whole family

We have been here twice and will continue to come back. Our family is a dispersed camping kinda family and this place was perfect. The first time we came in June 2018 we were definitely surprised at how close you can camp to the water, which was perfect as we bring kayaks, paddle boards, and a canoe in tow with such a big family. Even on a crowded holiday weekend it was still fun. I mean you do get the loud music that can get a little on the repetitive side after a while, but all in all people were polite. Even as first timers with the water level so low it made maneuvering our van easy and freed up a lot of space to camp.

Our second trip, the weekend of 3/30/19 was amazing and completely different from our first which made for a great experience. The water levels are very high and that made shore camping challenging. But with some patience, scouting, and luck we happened across a polite couple that were about to leave and we moved right in. My kids love this place and we have tons of great memories to keep and share. Can’t wait to get back out here next weekend.

Ugh

No real access to water from campgrounds. Unkempt and not the outdoorsy camping we were looking for. Lots of double camps that were decent looking but nothing cool enough for us to stay. Definitely take the time to go to Lower Burnt Corral campground for a scenic drive and better camping.

Great campground

Nice area. Didn't catch any fish and lots of trees and rocks near water by camps. Didn't notice a dock till we were leaving. Enough room between neighbors, clean bathrooms. No phone service but it was nice to be off the grid. We will definitely camp here again!

Primitive campground with vault toilets

Just south of highway 60, West of Superior, AZ (about 4 miles). Paved road to the turnoff for the campsite and then dirt but not too rough. My Prius made it just fine. Though there are definitely some roads farther on that are extremely uneven granite dells.

Two pit toilets are the only amenities, but there is plenty of hiking. You can hear road noise from highway 60. There’s a nearby mine and I occasionally heard muffled explosions but I did not feel them. On two of the days I was there I saw or at least heard low flying fighter jets (but within FAA regs) go by and a couple of multi-rotor helicopters. Had the skies not been overcast I’d have seen all of them. They were very loud but it was maybe five minutes total out of my week-long stay.

There’s no WiFi, even if you have a yaggi antenna. There’s enough cell service for text and phone calls (maybe/iffy) on the Verizon network.

Great winter camping

Campsite 36

Spent the night close to home as my dog had never been camping and I wanted to see if he liked it (he does!).

Booked online about two weeks prior for a Monday night stay and most of the campground was available. When I arrived about 75-80% was full, so good idea to book ahead.

Some of the sites are super close together, especially on the newer loops (sites 75-104 and 106-134). They'd be ok with a trailer, but I'd feel cramped in with my tent. The main part of the campground where I was is a bit more spread out, with vegetation between most of the sites.

My site had a big pad for the tent that was raked, a picnic table, a fire ring/grill, easy access to the hiking trails, and a great view of the mountains.

Beware during the winter as the wind can come up during the night and morning hours, so stake your tent down well. It got up to maybe 15 mph, so not super strong, but typical for the edges of the valley.

Staff was friendly, and the bathroom was clean. I didn't use the shower.

One specific note about my site 36: don't book it if you'll be taking a 5th wheel or really any trailer. The access road is narrow and the parking spot is at a 90° angle so it'd be very difficult to back into. Better to pick one of the pull thru spots. If you have a campervan or are tent camping then it's a great spot.

I'm glad I came here. Can't wait to come back! This would be an epic place during a full moon, or really anytime it's clear to see the stars. Too bad it was cloudy my entire stay.