The area near Woods Canyon Lake has multiple campgrounds and is a very popular summer getaway because of the cooler weather, lake access, beautiful views, and hiking trails. Because of this, the campgrounds are usually full on the weekends and I highly suggest reservations on recreation.gov. Aspen in particular has 148 campsites of which only 27 are first come first served. The closer sites in Aspen are about half a mile walk from the boat dock and store while the farthest are around a mile walk. There is parking at the lake but it is always packed so plan to walk or use the overflow parking lot, which is about a quarter mile away. The roads and the driveways are paved which makes parking, driving, and walking through the campground very easy.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that even with 148 sites most of them had a decent amount of space in between. We camped with friends and reserved two spaces hoping to have some space for the kids to play without disturbing the neighbors and we could have easily only reserved one. We found very little trash on the ground from the previous occupants and the sites seemed to have fairly level clearings for tents. Each site had a metal fire pit with a fold over adjustable grill grate. There was also a standalone BBQ and a picnic table. Most of the driveways were surrounded by large boulders so depending on the length of your RV or trailer you should pay attention to the length of the driveway when you make reservations as you may not have room to hang over the end or bring an extra vehicle.
There were bathroom buildings and water faucets throughout the facility and there was hardly ever a line. The bathrooms have both a men’s and women’s side and were always stocked with toilet paper and relatively clean. Aspen has a weird design and there is only one single lane to exit the campground. This is also where the dumpsters are located so on our way out on Sunday morning there was a line of cars parked in the road blocking traffic while they threw out their trash.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. On this trip, I tested the Matador Beast28 Packable Technical Backpack. Matador has put some nice features on the backpack but has left a few things to be improved on. I am going to start with some of the pros:
With all that being said here are some areas I think Matador could have improved the Beast28:
Overall, I am happy with the Beast28. It is working well as a more capable day pack than what I have been using and allows me to carry a full hydration bladder, lunch, snacks, and a few layers of clothing for the varying weather conditions. It is super light and compresses down so it’s easy to throw in my bag for longer trips but still capable of being used for more technical outings. I have highlighted a few things that I think Matador could improve on but none of them are notable enough to keep me away from using this as my primary day pack moving forward.
I remember camping at Hawley Lake all the time as a kid and it was one of my favorite places to be. After this trip back as an adult I noticed things have changed quite a bit. Do not get me wrong… it’s a beautiful lake with plenty of camping in a pine tree forest. However, there were some areas for improvement.
For starters, the roads are not marked very well. For example, you do not know how to get to the general store until you are almost to the general store. Generally, this does not bother me because I just turn on Google Maps and find whatever I need but there is intermittent cell service at best (with Verizon). Once in a while I’d catch a bar of 4G but most of the time was on “analog” or had no service at all. Along these lines, the campsites are not designated at all. Basically, you can just park and setup wherever you want. I felt like we were a bit encroached upon because of this.
There are bathroom buildings but all the ones I saw were closed. They then would have a few port-a-pottys sitting out in front of the building. The port-a-pottys weren’t well kept and were rarely stocked with toilet paper. There was trash everywhere! We walked to the ramadas by the lake and the fire pits were full of plastics and other garbage. There were constantly beer bottles left next to the port-a-pottys and randomly around camp and the lake. There was a bunch of stray garbage (including a very sharp sheared off tent pole) left in our campsite before we arrived.
The icing on the cake was the attitude of the fellow campers. There were generators running almost all night, loud music, and like I said earlier there was some weird lack of boundaries between sites.
So now that I have told you what I didn’t like about Hawley Lake let me tell you what I did like. The lake is very large and very beautiful. Most of the shoreline is easily accessible for fishing or lounging lakeside. Words for the wise you can not swim in this lake. There is a little boathouse that offers boat rentals if you would like to venture out into the water.
The weather is a wonderful escape from the valley. There is rain almost every day (varying between light afternoon showers and heavy storms). The camping fees are paid by the car and are very affordable ($9/night/car). If you plan to purchase your camping permits at the lake be sure to bring cash. The General Store does offer some essential items and has a small café with hotdog/hamburger type foods. There are cabins available for rent lakeside as well.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. On this trip, I tested The ICEMULE Pro X-Large. The ICEMULE Pro X-Large was bigger than I had expected. It makes total sense once you think about it because it holds 24 cans and ice but it still surprised me. When I was filling the cooler or trying to get those last few precious cans out of the bottom I have to stick my entire arm in all the way in up to my armpit.
The cooler is made of a very thick and durable flexible plastic type material (kind of like an above ground pool siding). It has been super rugged and did not get scratched or torn up when we have used it on a pool deck, thrown it in the truck bed (with the scratchy spray in liner), or when being toted around camp and to the lake. The cooler has an adjustable bungee cord on the front. At first, I was not sure what we were going to use that for and the more we take out the cooler I find the possibilities are endless. We have been using it to carry our silicone cups, extra sunscreen, a spare hat, etc.
The cooler has a fold top design with a buckle. I do not have any other bags that close this way so it was a bit odd to get used to and is a bit harder to do when it was full. When properly closed the cooler will float. I was shocked to find that even full of cold beverages and ice the cooler floated when I pushed it into the lake. This is a great feature if you want to use it for boating, kayaking, or tubing.
We have been using the cooler quite a bit and in a few varied conditions. One of the examples I will share is that we used it for a poolside BBQ in Arizona. We filled it with 30 cans and bottles and about a bag of ice (which is far more stuff and less ice than suggested). Our beverages stayed perfectly chilled in 100+ degree weather even though we were in and out of it constantly and after 8 hours, there was still ice in the bottom.
We have also used it without ice. We put in 12 cold drinks to start with and even without ice they were cool 3-4 hours later.
The last example I will share is that we put 3 bags of ice and 6 cans in to it. After 48 hours there was about 75% of the ice still left in the cooler!
If you do use it to its full capacity, I suggest that you fill it on an elevated surface. With 24 cans and 3 bags of ice, you will be looking at around 40 lbs of weight and when I tried to pick ours up from the ground it threw me off balance a little. After that, I would fill it on a picnic table or counter top and it was so much easier to just turn around and pick it up from carrying height. The straps on the bag are very padded and very comfortable even when it is full. There is a chest strap but no hip strap. If I could offer a suggestion to ICEMULE for improvement, it would be to add a hip strap to help carry the weight.
Pine Flat is a beautiful little campground right off the highway between Sedona and Flagstaff. When I say right off the highway I’m not exaggerating. A few of the sites were within 20 feet of the asphalt. Thankfully, it is only a 2 lane road and most of the traffic seems to be day use so you really don’t notice it much at night. There are sites on the East side of the highway near the canyon wall and sites on the West side of the highway near the creek. The creek is mostly just a small amount of water running through some rocks (no fish bigger than 4 inches that we saw) but there were a few pools that were about 2 feet deep and perfect for cooling off in the mid-day sun. The campground had multiple bathroom buildings and over the weekend there wasn’t very often I had to wait to use one. The bathrooms were not immaculate but they were clean enough.
There are drinking water spigots in multiple places around camp. We were told this is unfiltered and directly from the creek so in my opinion use at your own risk… we didn’t try it. Due to the proximity to the creek you are not allowed to dump grey water on the ground so if you plan to wash your hands, dishes, or even brush your teeth bring a grey water collection bucket. This can be dumped into the toilet before you leave (per the camp host) so you do not have to travel with it. There are also signs right next to the spigots that say “No Washing” and I saw a million people doing it and a million people get called out by other campers and the host for doing it so don’t be that person. Pine Flat does not have showers but you can travel a few miles down the road to Cave Springs to use coin operated showers there.
The sites themselves varied a lot as far as what to expect. They all had a tent pad and most were very level and cleared out to accommodate a tent. Some were super shaded all day long and others (like site 11) didn’t have a single tree over the tent pad so you were relying on the canyon walls for shade which meant you caught the mid-day sun. Not all of the sites had driveways long enough to fit a trailer or multiple vehicles. Thankfully, our second car was tiny so we were able to squeeze it in the very front (which you will see in some of the pictures). The road through camp is a one-way single lane road and pretty narrow with boulders on the sides. A lot of the back in driveways had fairly sharp turning angles. It took us a bit of finagling to get the pop up in our space without hitting a boulder or a tree.
The campground was full by noon on Friday and we went during Stage II fire restrictions which often deters people from coming out. Their website suggests making reservations or coming earlier in the week then staying through the weekend to guarantee a spot. Part of the reason this campground is so busy is because it is beautiful and so close to Slide Rock State Park as well as Sedona. Slide Rock State Park does have limited parking and fills up quickly so you will often see lots of cars waiting on the highway to enter or parked on the side of the highway throughout the day. The park features an 80 foot long natural water slide formed by algae covered sandstone rocks and a large swimming area. If Slide Rock sounds a little too exciting for your type of camping trip you can visit Sedona which offers beautiful red rock landscape, plenty of places to hike, local artist galleries, unique restaurants, and spiritual vortexes.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – on this trip I tested Silipint. Silipint has non-toxic silicone products that are heat-safe (up to 450 degrees F but not over direct flame), cold-safe (yes, they can go in the freezer), insulating, dishwasher safe (which is a total make or break feature in my house), and microwave safe! They call them toddler safe as well and after they have been tossed around, knocked over, and squeezed repeatedly by my entire group in showing them off… I would completely agree. I think they really are indestructible aside from taking a machete to them. Some of the products I have were matte and others were polished but I have noticed no difference in the durability, usability, or ability to be cleaned between the two so it appears to be purely cosmetic.
Squeeze-a-Bowl (pictured in Tie-Dyed Polished Hippie Hops and Translucent Matte Bend Blue)
The Squeeze-a-Bowl was actually incredibly sturdy. I tried filling it up fairly full and could still easily pick it up with one hand without it flopping around and spilling the contents. It was sturdy enough that even my 4 year old could be trusted holding, carrying, and using it. We have used it for cold cereal, hot soups, and hot chili. I also tried doing scrambled eggs in the microwave. If you have ever done this you know that there is always a film left on the dishes that requires scrubbing and soaking to clean off. In the Squeeze-a-Bowl I used a little water and it wiped right out and there was no weird bubbling on the sides like you get when you reheat in plastic containers. With any temperatures, it insulated really well and prevented us from burning our hands on the bottom when we were holding it. These stack really well and fit into the dishwasher without any problems. The only thing about it that bummed me out was that it stained a little red from having the chili in it (but we all know tomato sauce stains everything).
Original Pint Glasses (pictured in Tie-Dyed Matte Arctic Sky and Translucent Matte Everlasting Emerald)
These glasses were perfect for hanging around camp. Mid-day it was in the low 90s and any canned beverage will not stay cold long. We would pour our sodas and beers into the cups and they stayed cold much longer. Another added perk is the benefit of them not being breakable so if you have glass bottled beverages you can transfer them to these cups and not risk shattering a glass or bottle when you want to go sit in the creek to cool down. With as large as the cups are (a full 16 oz) they keep their shape incredibly well even when full of liquid. I didn’t feel as though I had to be super careful holding the cup so that I didn’t squeeze in the sides and spill my drink all over my hand. The Travel Lid does fit the Original Pint Glass by sitting flush with the top of the glass pressed inside the cup itself. We actively tried to shake the lid off with liquid inside and it held on for dear life. Then to make it even better when we were ready to take the lid off you just use the Quick Lift Grip and it comes right out.
Tumbler Base (pictured in Tie-Dyed Polished Hippie Hops)
Amongst the group that used these this weekend this was the overall favorite. The sides are a little thinner and the bottom is weighted. I know it sounds “sili” that a weighted bottom may be important but we spent a lot of time sitting in the creek and the rocks make great tables but often aren’t perfectly level which makes cups a bit easier to spill when they are full of a cold beverage. The capacity on it was perfect as it held a 12oz canned beverage without issues. The Travel Lid does fit the Tumbler Base and made it easy to keep the bugs out while still providing a leak-free drinking experience. The only down-side to this style was that the walls of the cup are straight up so it will not stack nested inside of another Tumbler Base.
Shorty on the Rocks (pictured in Translucent Matte Frosted White)
The Shorty has a lot of great qualities. It is quite short and wide which made it fit comfortably in the hand and still helped make it a bit harder to tip over than the Original Pint. The sides are slanted so they will stack nested in other Shorty on the Rocks glasses. While we were out we were making bacon and realized we had way too much grease in the pan. For fear of it burning in the pan we started panicking looking for something to pour it into because we didn’t want that on the ground at camp and if you’ve ever tried putting hot bacon grease in a Styrofoam cup or a plastic cup you know it doesn’t end well. Then I saw it…. The Shorty on the Rocks. I thought to myself if it can handle the oven and boiling water it can handle this… so we poured the grease in. After the grease cooled I cleaned it out and the cup was still in perfect condition with no sign of being burnt or damaged at all. To top off the greatness of this cup the Travel Lid does fit (even though it is not included on the compatibility list). It could not handle violent shaking upside-down but casually knocking it over it stayed on without problems and was leak-free when used for drinking.
Kid-Friendly Half Pint (pictured in Tie-Dyed Matte Sea Swirl)
I wish I had known about these when we did the sippy cup phase with my son! The cup is perfect size for little hands. We used this for hot chocolate with my son and even though he doesn’t drink his hot chocolate nearly as hot as we do we do still mix it with boiling water then mix in ice. The cup handled the boiling water without issues and was cool enough to the touch that it could be held without a sleeve. When used with the Travel Lid the cup could be shaken with liquid in it pretty violently without the lid coming off which is super cool for the little ones that may get easily overexcited or a little wild. From a purely aesthetic standpoint the designs and colors are really neat and my son didn’t want to stop using the cup even when we got home.
Silicone Travel Lid (pictured in Opaque Matte Bouncy Black, Translucent Matte Frosted White, and Tue-Dyed Matte Hippie Hops.
While the Travel Lid is “just an accessory” I think it is a must-have for anyone using Silipint with any desire to help keep debris out of the cups and a little extra spill proof ability. I love that the lid fits all 4 of the cups that I tried meaning you don’t have to stock a ton of lids for each variation of the cups. The Travel Lids also allow you to close and open the mouthpiece. I turned the cup upside down with the mouthpiece closed and nothing leaked out unless I started shaking it around then the straw hole would leak.
Sili-Straw (pictured in Translucent Matte White)
The Sili-Straw fits perfectly through the opening in the Travel Lid and makes a very good seal. It is slightly thicker than a fast food straw but about the same thickness as every plastic reusable straw I’ve ever seen. It is flexible and was easy to use and drink through.
If you have read this far then you can tell I’m SUPER impressed by Silipint and I would definitely recommend them. I have only tried a handful of the many uses that Silipint lists on their website and I look forward to trying even more as these are now on the “must have” camping supply list in my house.
Sinkhole Campground is relatively small compared to most of the campgrounds in this area. There are a total of 26 sites, and 13 of them can be reserved online in advance. These sites are spread over 2 loops, and each loop has 1 bathroom building with a men’s and women’s side. There is a campground host at the entrance, as well as an above ground water source (it does not claim to be drinking water but the info on Recreation.gov says it is drinking water). There are also dumpsters, but they have a sign saying it costs $3 per bag of trash to use them.
The bathrooms are nothing fancy, but they were clean, had toilet paper, working locks, air freshener, and they were regularly maintained. The vault toilets have the smallest seats I’ve ever seen, but again… they were clean. There was a “sewage” smell for about 10 feet around the bathroom building, but absolutely no smell inside other than the air freshener.
The campground was laid out in a different way than I’ve seen in any other campground, but it seems to work. Each site from 1-13 (as far as I noticed) was designed to be passenger side facing in a circular design that means you are not walking out to face your neighbor doing the same. We stayed in site 5, which is considered a group site with site 4. Thankfully, we were there with 2 other families, and we had both site 4 and site 5. Honestly, if we had been in either site without being there with the other family it would have been awkward. I’ve posted pictures because it will be very hard to explain. Basically, it’s 2 parking spaces that are extra-long, and one has an extra 10 feet at the back so the idea is that both RVs will open about 5 feet apart.
The campground is roughly a half-mile walk from the Willow Springs Lake. We ventured to the lake a few times and I swear each attempt to get to or from the lake resulted in a different path taken. It was odd to think, but I do not believe that these are highly traveled paths since there are multiple places you can drive right up to the lake and many of the trails looked overgrown. If you stay at Sinkhole, I strongly suggest you check out the lake. It was very pretty even with the water being roughly 5 or 6 feet low. We went fishing a few times and caught a few small trout, hiked about a quarter way around the lake, found a geocache, and just enjoyed the scenery.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. On this trip, I tested the Women’s OOriginal Sandal. The OOFOS sandals (or flip flops as I can’t help but call them) are kind of amazing. They claim to be recovery shoes. I had NO idea what that meant until I had them. Basically, these are meant to be worn after any type of high impact activity such as running, hiking or anything else that keeps you on your feet for an extended period of time. I’ve been wearing them daily for the last week. I’ve worn other shoes to work and then come home to my OOFOS… amazing. I’ve worn my OOFOS to work.,.,. amazing. I’ve gone hiking for a few miles then come back to camp and put on my OOFOS… amazing.
These sandals claim to float and be washing machine safe. I did actually put them in the lake, and, thankfully, they do float. They aren’t so buoyant that you can’t walk in the water with them but they aren’t like trying to step on a boogey board. Bottom line is if they end up in the water they will float. I think this adds to the “perfect” checklist for any boater because who loves being out in the lake and losing their stuff!? I’ve also put them through my washing machine and they have come out the other side much better than when they went in. I have a High Efficiency set which often means “really” dirty stuff like these shoes won’t come out clean on the first wash but these look pretty good! Also, there is no degradation of the material or the structural integrity of the sandal.
I can’t truly tell you what the sandals are made of… but it’s a high density foam of some sort. They are soft enough that you would want to believe they are memory foam, but they don’t hold your shape when you take them off. The shoes are very supportive and when you take them off they instantly retain their original shape. They have arch support, which for me is often a bad thing. I generally have flat feet but the arch support on these is comforting and actually worth wearing. There is a pattern on the inside of the sandal which gives you grip when your feet are wet or slippery. They also have tread on the bottom of the sandal that will prevent you from slipping in slick conditions. I wore them around camp for a few days and had no issues with the dirt, asphalt, pine needles, etc.
Overall, I have fallen in love with my OOFOS. They are great for day-to-day wear and amazing for recovery wear. The wide range of color choices means you can easily find a pair that will fit in with your style. The foam is supportive and easily beats out any general flip flop for comfort in daily wear. I’ve used them after 8 hours of standing on hard wood… I’ve used them after 8 hours at the office… I’ve used them after 4 hours of hiking… and I’ve used them just because… and all of these are amazing.
Canyon Point is located in a beautiful Pine and Aspen wooded area just above the Mogollon Rim. The area has plenty of hiking trails, streams, and lakes. The closest lake is Willow Springs which is about 5 miles West of Canyon Point and allows fishing. There are 2 trails that start from within Canyon Point campground. One goes to the edge of the Mogollon Rim and the other is the Sinkhole Trail. We decided to brave the Sinkhole Trail while we were there. It was very easy and only about ¾ of a mile each way with great tree coverage.
I have been to plenty of campgrounds within 20 miles of this area but I was impressed with Canyon Point from the moment we arrived. They have a designated Contact Station at the entrance that was staffed with multiple camp hosts to assist with check in and check out. As part of the check in process the campground host assisting us, Linda, explained some of the campground highlights, provided a campground map, a trail map, a printout of the rules and regulations, and a comment card with directions on where to submit it. Linda also told us that the hosts would be around camp on golf carts and if we needed anything, we could just flag them down. At one point one of the hosts, Fritz, stopped by to see how things were going and if we needed anything. He made instant friends with my son and even had a dog treat for our four-legged friend.
Canyon Point boasts 113 sites between 2 loops with both back in and pull through sites. We stayed in site 75, which is at the very back of Loop B, and we were amazed at how well the sites were laid out near us. We heard the other groups when the kids were playing or they would laugh in unison at something but beyond that, it was spaced out enough that the day to day conversation couldn’t be heard. Our site had a plastic coated picnic table and a ground level fire pit that had a rotating grill and a low grate. Unfortunately, we were in Stage II fire restrictions so we were not able to use it but it looked to be very well maintained and in working condition. Generally, when we go camping we make it a routine part of our trips to pick up trash around our site and any areas nearby. This campground was so well maintained the only trash we found was a bread bag plastic tab.
Loop B had 6 bathroom buildings that all featured a Men’s and Women’s side. The bathrooms were immaculate! They were clean and fully stocked with paper products, a trash receptacle, and air freshener. The campground also has a shower building near the entrance that is available 8a-8p (with the exception of 1p-2p for extra cleaning). Canyon Point also had a dump station available and an outdoor amphitheater the Forestry Service Rangers often use to host educational programs. The roads throughout the campground and the driveways were all paved so there was very little dust being kicked up. The campground also had more than enough dumpsters to accommodate the trash and they keep them locked at night to deter the animals.
When we went the Day Use fee was $5 per vehicle and an additional vehicle costed $12.50/night.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – on this trip I tested the KoolSkinz Pet Vest. The vest is designed to be worn under your dog’s harness or collar and includes 3 reusable Kool packs that can be chilled to help your dog stay cool or heated to help them stay warm. The Kool packs are filled with S9 Kooling agent that is clear when hot or room temperature and then turns semi-solid and white when cold. All 3 packs are the same size so you don’t have to worry if you are putting them in the right pockets on the Pet Vest.
At first, I was really worried that the dog wouldn’t be able to move properly or he would destroy the Pet Vest because he loves to rub on the ground, the trees, the bushes, and really anything else his height. He was able to move freely without issues and didn’t mind continuing to rub on everything. The Pet Vest is a stretchy material and I did notice slight catches in the material after he had worn it a few times but it doesn’t seem to effect the functionality. The only other thing that I disliked about it was that the trim around the neck/chest was stitched with a single thread and as the dog wore it and stretched it the seems popped in multiple places. Again, it doesn’t affect the functionality but it looks silly having broken black threads on the bright material so I’m going to just pull the rest of the pieces out. I was also very impressed with the strength of the Kool packs. Our dog loves to roll on the ground and run into things. I kept expecting to see one of the Kool packs burst open but they have held up to his abuse.
When we arrived at the campground it was just over 80 degrees. We put the Kool packs into the cooler for 20 minutes and they turned white and semi-hard. I tested the temperature on the inside of my wrist to be sure it wasn’t too cold then placed it in the Pet Vest and put the Pet Vest on my dog. The Kool packs in their cold form aren’t “burning” cold like ice cubes. They work in two ways, one is releasing cool temperatures in the vest surrounding the dog but the other is to pull heat away from the dog’s body which is why they don’t need to be freezing cold. I was shocked that 20 minutes of chill time could stay cold for 2 hours but sure enough after 2 hours of wear the Kool packs were still chilled and definitely helping to cool the dog.
Our dog is a fairly big dog (he’s a black lab) but he doesn’t like to be cold. When we go camping and the sun goes down the temperatures can drop quickly especially when we have fire restrictions and no fire for warmth. The Kool packs can be boiled for around 2 minutes then put into the Pet Vest to help keep the dog warm for up to half an hour. We brought an extra pot of water for our propane stove and boiled the Kool packs to put in the Pet Vest to help keep him warm. Our dog stopped shivering almost immediately and seemed to greatly enjoy the extra time he could spend outside with us. Really great side note with the Pet Vest is that it will also hold hand warmers so if you are backpacking or don’t have access to a microwave or boiling water you can use those to help keep your dog warm! (they also last a lot longer than the Kool packs do when heated)
The vest is machine washable which is a major perk for us. The dog LOVES to roll in the dirt and after every camping trip we get a steady stream of mud off the dog. After a weekend in the vest it was pretty filthy also. I threw the vest in the washer (with all of the buckles snapped together per the directions) and let it air dry. The vest cleaned very well and after washing the colors were bright and vivid and the material lacked any evidence of previously holding about a pound of dirt!
All around the concept of this product is really neat. In Arizona they close down the trails to dogs after temperatures reach 100 degrees. I definitely wouldn’t want to be out (nor take my dog out) hiking in temperatures that warm but even at 80 degrees it can get very hot and having something as simple as this KoolSkinz Pet Vest can make a big difference. We have definitely been using the packs more for heat than cold because of how much the dog dislikes being cold but it is such a great option because really how else do you blanket wrap an active dog to keep him warm.
Pumphouse Wash is a dispersed area with over 80 individual sites in 4 different loops. The campground was primarily pine trees with rock fire rings. The roads on the way in were dirt but well maintained and could have been easily accessed with a car. There is no facilities, trash, or water so be sure you come prepared. The sites are a bit closer together than I prefer but when we were there on a Friday night in April only every 3rd or 4th site was occupied so it wasn’t too bad. You could tell that quite a few of the sites hadn’t been used in quite some time so I’m assuming it is rarely full to capacity. We did walk through our loop and found that most sites had trash (bottle caps, pop tabs, straw wrappers, etc) left throughout camp. We picked up roughly an extra half a trash bag worth of debris.
We stayed in site 203 in the second loop. It took a few times to find a place level enough to setup our pop-up trailer but with the help of a few pieces of 2x4 we were able to make it work. If you have a longer setup (like a 5th wheel or RV) you can make it work in about half of the spaces. The fire rings were made of very random rocks. Some sites had very large pits and others were very small but 2 or 3 rocks wide. Just be prepared to doctor your fire ring if you are planning to have a fire. The tree coverage was nice. There was shade throughout most of the day but it was relatively open. There was little piles of toilet paper behind almost every tree so don’t be surprised when you see white patches outside of camp.
This campground is within half an hour of Sedona which is full of hiking, vortexes, and other red rock adventures! (be sure to get a Red Rock Country map if you venture into Sedona so that you know when you need a Red Rock Pass or other fee) While we stayed here we ventured into Griffith Springs (just a few miles North of the campground) which has a free day use area and a little over a mile long loop trail. There was a picnic table and single vault toilet (which was trashed).
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – on this trip I tested the Renogy E.FLEX10 Portable Solar Panel with USB Port. I do want to make mention that they have updated the design just slightly since I received these but I was told by support the functional specifics are the same but the new panel dimensions are a bit smaller than the ones I have.
This panel has quickly become one of my favorite camping accessories. The panel itself is not much larger than a piece of letter paper when open and then it folds in half and is not much wider than a piece of cardboard except the USB port. The panels are rigid except for the hinges that are actually fairly stiff but slightly flexible (like a reinforced fabric). The panels charge just as well as a charging block plugged into a wall unit when in full sunlight. When the panel is in indirect sunlight it will still charge just not as quickly. I had a bit of fun testing this with my cell phone and seeing the “estimated time until fully charged” change within a few seconds as I would change the amount of sunlight the panel was exposed to.
Each panel comes with 4 removable suction cups so that you can mount it inside a window on your car (or outside the window when you are parked) as well as 2 carabiners so that you can hang it from a tent or on a backpack while hiking. There are small cutouts on each corner of the panel that you can place the suction cups or caribiners through. I’ve been using the panels primarily around camp. I’ll hook one up to my cell phone and the other up to a battery pack (that can then charge the small electronics when there is no sunlight). I’ve also used it in the dashboard of the car when travelling to the campsite. If you do this, I suggest you get a non-slip type grip pad so you don’t have it sliding across the dash when driving around corners.
Overall, I’m really happy with the E.FLEX10. It is so lightweight and very compact. Since receiving it I’ve had it in my overnight bag, my hiking bag, and an emergency bag in my Jeep and it still looks brand new while being a super useful tool around camp. I’d strongly suggest you get one (or two) of these if you want a little added security for an emergency pack or if you plan to be in the woods for a few days and would rather not risk killing your car battery charging your portable electronics.
Flowing Spring was an interesting area. The only bathroom was very close to the main highway (less than a mile) but the road was VERY wash-boarded and had a drop off to one side. The scenery on the way in is more high desert than lush green forest. The bathroom area has a large parking lot that could easily accommodate a lot of cars but all the spaces to camp there will be walk in only. The trees aren't super dense so expect a decent amount of sunlight.
We traveled a bit further down the road and found a spot right over the bridge and next to the river. This site (as well as a lot of the others we saw) was not very level. There was a lot of powder fine dust at the camp site and every time the wind kicked up it was a giant dust cloud. There were trees around but not a lot of shade. I'd say that had we gone when the weather was perfect to be outside in the sunlight and there was no wind blowing the dust the site would have been really nice.
Towards the end of the road there are a few more places that you could park a small trailer to camp. We arrived on a Thursday and almost everything we saw that would accommodate a trailer already had people in it. I'd guess we saw around half a dozen places you could put a small trailer (the website says nothing over 20 feet). There were plenty of places that will accept tents especially if you're willing to walk in.
We walked the river for a ways and the water was really dirty in the pools and you couldn't see much deeper than a few inches unless it was running. We didn't see any evidence of trout in the river but honestly didn't try fishing either. A lot of the pools didn't have enough water to connect them so I assume the river was just very low when we went.
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.
Upper Pinal campground is tiny. I’m not even kidding you… tiny. There are literally 3 campsites surrounding a 100 foot wide dirt turnaround in the center. The campground does not take reservations so it’s a long way to drive with a good chance you won’t find an open site. However, if you’re lucky enough to get one of the spaces you may really enjoy it. To the South is Unit 1 (where we stayed) and it’s an uphill driveway with a raised area with a fire pit and metal picnic table. If you have a small tent you can camp on the elevated area near the table and fire pit but otherwise you do have room to back in a small pop up trailer (beware, it is a curved driveway so if you aren’t comfortable backing up a trailer I wouldn’t suggest it). The site is almost completely surrounded by very tall trees which blocked both most of the morning and afternoon sun.
The East side of the circle is Unit 2. This is right on the edge of the circle and could be easily pulled right up to. The downside to that is that there is little to no privacy for that camp unit. It also has a fire pit and picnic table.
The North side has another campsite with a smaller (and straighter) uphill driveway. You wouldn’t be able to put a trailer facing towards the fire but you likely could camp with a small pop up in this unit and park lower down the driveway.
The West side of the circle had the single unit unisex bathroom building. It was really clean and well stocked with toilet paper (but another camper one of the nights we were there decided it was a smoking room, yuck).
The entire area had a lot of downed and broken trees for firewood. We could have easily supplied our fire all weekend with just broken pieces but we had a small handsaw so we were able to cut slightly larger logs from fallen trees.
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 Renogy E.LUMEN Multi-functional Flashlight. Upon opening the box I noticed the flashlight was much larger than I had anticipated. As such, I don’t think it would be ideal for everyday carry. However, it does have quite a few really neat features and I think it would be a great addition to any bug-out bag. Of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I was dying to test the seat belt cutter (because I’d rather know how it’s going to work before my life depends on it). Luckily, I had the belt from an expired car seat and decided that would be the perfect test subject. I angled the belt over my chest where a shoulder strap would sit and it was hard to get it to cut all the way through. It took a few tries and a lot of strength but it did make it through. I could imagine that while a knife may cut through it easier in a panic situation I’d hate to end up accidentally stabbing myself using a knife instead of the safety guided blade on this flashlight. To see the full video check out the YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/xWqkgSS7iEs
In addition to the belt cutter the flashlight can be solar charged and has a USB out so you can charge other devices. If you plan to use the solar charger the manual says it can take up to 30 hours for a full charge. Thankfully, there is also a USB charging option to cut that charging time into around 6 hours. Depending on use you’ll get anywhere from 3-7 hours of use from each charge. The light itself is very bright but of course using the brightest setting will put you towards the lower end of the usable time at around 3 hours.
The flashlight also boasts a compass on the bottom of the handle. We tested this a few times and it seemed to be completely inaccurate against 3 other compasses we had. I was able to true it up a bit by running a magnet along the needle a few times but that seemed to be a temporary solution. My 2 cents is that I would not trust this compass as a first choice.
The last thing I wanted to touch on was the magnet on the side of the flashlight they state is for mounting and storage. When I tried to hang my flashlight on my metal fridge it buckled under its own weight slamming on the ground and breaking one of the plastic clips for the wrist strap. It will not support itself in ideal situations and definitely will not support its weight in a violent car accident. If you choose to put this in your car it will need to be secured by some other means.
So overall, would I buy it again… yes. For the price you can beat the peace of mind knowing that if you were to get lost in the woods you’d have a way to charge your phone to call for help and have a light source if necessary.
HZ Wash had 1 defined parking area and another dirt road that could take you to some campsites. There is a bathroom building in the parking lot as well as shoreline access but it is posted 4 wheel drive vehicles only. HZ Wash has a good view of the Diversion Dam and is directly across the River from the Diversion Dam camping area. If you do take the dirt road to a campsite it gains in elevation and you will have to find a path and hike down the canyon side to get to the water.
Eucalyptus has 3 parking areas and multiple bathroom buildings. When we visited there was a motorhome set up in the farthest loop and they were obviously camping in it. Beyond setting up a motorhome in the parking lot (which I honestly didn't look at the signs to see if this was allowed) there is only 1 pull in campsite and it's immediately off of the first parking lot. There is a dirt road off to the left as you enter the area that you can use to get to campsites but it is for high clearance vehicles and 4 wheel drive only (just my 2 cents). Most of the area on the dirt road has powdered dirt and it was easy to get stuck. If you don't mind parking and carrying your gear in there are plenty of campsites located within a few hundred feet of the parking areas and very close to the river.
Eads Wash was actually pretty neat. There is a very simple bathroom with a men's and women's side. The final stretch of road on the way to Eads is dirt and did have a few rocky patches (nothing I could imagine needing 4 wheel drive for). However, every side road we took looking for a campsite had spots where there was powder soft dirt that could easily end poorly without 4 wheel drive. During our stay we did have to watch another group of campers dig out their truck/trailer less than 50 feet from our campsite. As such, my suggestion is not to plan on camping or going off the main road without 4 wheel drive.
The "campsites" aren't clearly marked but you can find plenty of places with dirt roads and cutouts big enough for a tent or trailer. Most didn't have very established fire rings so plan on rock hunting and making your own. There were multiple places you could get right up next to the river. There are signs up warning of flash flooding though so be aware of the weather that effects the river.
Eads Wash had very few cacti in the area we stayed in. It is obvious this area floods so the plants largely resembled bamboo and greasewoods and there were not a lot of large trees. However, this seemed to help with the wood situation because we were able to find piles of dead/down wood fairly easily within a few miles. We camped about 100 feet from the river but were able to easily hear the water running all night. Being in a wash did effect the temperature a lot. We saw freezing temperatures at night (long enough to form ice in our jugs of water) and low 80s during the day (again, very little tree shade to get out of the sun).
The Diversion Dam River Access Point was an interesting "campground". You are allowed to camp there but not in the parking lot you can't take vehicles out of the parking lot so you'll have to hike in to any of the spots. The part of this that threw me for a loop was the fact that there are spaces that look like campsites directly on the parking lot. They are day use spaces even though they have fire pits and tables. There are also grills near the parking spaces. There was a camp host with a camper in the parking lot but since there is no ability to pull into the areas you're allowed to camp in you will NOT be able to camp overnight in a trailer. The parking lot did have a few pull through trailer spaces though so if you're there for day use or just driving through you will be able to get in and park. There is a bathroom building with standard vault toilets. If you climb about 20 stairs you can look out over the Diversion Dam and read some informational signs on the damn project.
The reason this is not a perfect 5 star is because it is limited to tents only, doesn't have much shade coverage, and the open areas are fairly rocky. While it was clean and had facilities I think it's very catered to a specific type of camper.
Pinal Campground is a great little campground. We were shocked to arrive on a Saturday in March to find it completely empty. The roads to the campsites were heavily covered in pine needles and I could see it getting a bit tricky to determine where the tents were supposed to go versus where someone would need to drive to get through if there were a lot of people there. Of course, a lot of people is a relative term as there are only 13 camp sites. Majority of the sites are on the South side of the road with two independent bathroom buildings but there were a few on the North side of the road with another bathroom building. The bathrooms were nothing amazing and didn’t look to be regularly maintained but they were a welcome amenity with as cold and windy as our trip was.
While you are less than 10 miles as the crow flies from a major town the drive from town is about an hour. This was due to it being a single lane road with a lot of switchbacks and blind corners. According to the US Forestry Service FR 651 is a narrow winding mountain gravel road suitable for sedans under dry conditions and I would completely agree. I wouldn’t suggest making the trip without a high ground clearance vehicle. The forestry limits the campground to trailers under 20 feet and I’d be willing to bet that’s large because of the nature of the road. As a side note, when we left the campground after the snow had started to melt the roads did get very sloshy and slick. If you plan to see any type of wet weather make sure you have 4 wheel drive.
Most of the sites have excellent tree coverage. Each numbered campsite has a metal ring fire pit with a fold over grill grate and a picnic table (some were metal and some were concrete). We had our small pop-up trailer (under 13 feet) and found a place to put it between the trees but I wouldn’t imagine that a 5th wheel or even a larger pop-up (under the 20 foot restriction) would be able to navigate through the layout.
There are a lot of pine needles and small sticks to start a fire but as far as larger logs the campground seems to have been picked clean. There were a lot of downed trees around though so if you have an axe or chainsaw you’d have plenty of options. We were able to drive about a half mile in either direction from camp and find more than enough firewood to last through the trip.
If you’ve read this far then let me tell you how beautiful the area is. The campground is towards the top of the mountain but you can’t really look out over the valley because of the trees. There are a few places you can catch a glimpse but the drive up has some stunning views. Even with the tree coverage, the sunset through the trees was incredible.
The night we stayed, there was a lot of wind. In fact, we went to bed with clear skies and woke up to a blanket of snow. This is why the pictures look like two different places.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – on this trip I tested the Mountain House Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole. This wasn’t my first freeze dried meal but it was definitely my favorite! While I myself have not started backpacking yet I will be defaulting to the Mountain House meals when I do. Before preparation, the bag weighed about as much as a slice of bread and all it required for prep was some boiling water. This trip was very windy and it was hard to get the water hot enough to boil but once it did I followed the directions to add it in, zip it up, and wait. After 9 minutes (including a half time stir) I opened the bag and it smelled like Thanksgiving.
With it being a 2 serving size I scooped half out into a bowl to share with my husband and I ate mine straight from the bag. I had the better end of the deal, with as windy as it was the bag helped keep the heat in and it was hot until the very last bite. I was really surprised that the bag didn’t burn my hand at all even though we had used boiling water in it 10 minutes prior.
The food itself was very well flavored and needed no additional seasoning. The turkey chunks were moist and you could have fooled me that they weren’t’ freshly carved from an oven roasted turkey. The amount of turkey and veggies to the amount of stuffing was perfect. I definitely didn’t feel like I got shorted on the good stuff.
We opened up a can of cranberry sauce to eat on the side and it felt like a genuine Thanksgiving dinner. I am super impressed by the ease of preparation and how good it was. Maybe I will host Thanksgiving freeze dried style this year!
I hope this is the hardest campground review I ever have to write. The visit to Colossal Cave Mountain Park started pretty terrible but the property manager/caretaker (Gary) saved this review. Let me start from the beginning.
Upon arrival we were checked in and told there were fire restrictions in place so we wouldn't be allowed to have a fire. I told them that's not what their website said and they argued "well we tell everyone when they call in". Needless to say, I wasn't told when I reserved my spot that there was any restrictions. (and even now, when checking the forestry websites and county fire restrictions they all direct me here (https://firerestrictions.us/az/az-pima-county/) and the specific location of the campgrounds doesn't seem to be under restriction nor can I even determine which specific area to look at. The park said they were part of the forestry service but that area seems to end East of there)
We were told that with our "RV" we would be located at El Bosquecito. We drive to the grounds and find out it's a walk in group site with a small cul de sac with 2 small dirt pull outs to park. I called the caretaker and asked where exactly we were supposed to be setting up so he drove down to meet us. It became very clear very quickly this spot wasn't going to work and this is when he told us they had overbooked their RV spaces (they only have 3) and they were trying to find somewhere to put us. He offered to let us stay in the Day Use area and that is where we spent the next 2 days. (and over the next few days we ran into him a few times to get suggestions on things to do, etc)
Like any camping trip we went exploring to see what the rest of the park looked like. Here is what we found:
While we were there we also did the Regular Cave Tour and it was really neat. Dane was our tour guide and he was fun to listen to and very informative. It really was 70 in the cave and with it being in the 50s/60s outside we went in overdressed and ended up really warm. Trust the temperature they tell you! If you have any choice in the matter stay towards the front of the group. We went down with 17 people and there were a few times we couldn't hear the guide or see what he was pointing out because we were so far back.
So overall… I wasn't super impressed this trip. However, Gary gave us a great impression and explained a lot of the "problems" were parts of the park in transition. I totally believe this park could be really neat when it's running as intended. Until then - I strongly suggest you know exactly what you plan to get out of the trip and call ahead to ask for clarification if there is anything in particular you want to see. Their website is NOT kept up to date so it is not a reliable avenue for information. If you are just looking for a neat day trip or a group campground you may have more success than we did but it all depends what you are looking for. I hope to go back in the fall to give it another try.
If you're going to camp on Copper Basin Road I strongly suggest coming in from the South side of Prescott instead of through Thumb Butte Road (the road on Thumb Butte is really rough and you need high ground clearance). Sites 3, 4, and 5 are grouped and so are sites 6 and 7. The entry way to sites 3, 4, and 5 was TERRIBLE and even with a high clearance vehicle would take some maneuvering (check out the video). The road was fairly well maintained and it looked like there were a few houses or resorts at the end of the road.
This "campground" is in the middle of cactus, dirt, and things that stab you. The only real redeeming quality is the view. If you come out here for an amazing sunrise or sunset you will not be disappointed. However, it's worth throwing out that this is the desert and that it's hot during the day, cool at night, and full of things that will sting/bite you. Personally, I wouldn't bring my toddler out here for the plant life. In this particular situation I wouldn't bring my toddler out here because of the trash/abuse. When we were scoping spots there was trash EVERYWHERE. PLUS. the camping needs to be roadisde (or from an established pull out) which means very little privacy from the road. If you do camp here you MUST have the Bulldog Permit. The road will vary (especially on the recent weather/rain).
The Lower Wolf Creek campground was clean but the spaces were really close together. There were a lot of people there with a lot of small children and when driving through the campground you had to be on constant alert looking for the little ones. The bathrooms were clean and the roads were "paved" and fairly well maintained. There was a water faucet but no way to turn it on. I don't know if it was an old pipe or for emergency only but they don't have water available that I could find.
The Potts Creek campground was TINY and it's a dead end road. Site 2 was covered in pine needles and overgrowth like it hadn't been used in a very long time. Site 1 was large enough to fit a large tent or a smaller pop up. Site 3 was definitely tent only. There is no where good to turn around down this road. We have a full size truck with a pop up camper and had to make a 10 point turn to get flipped around.
Thumb Butte Loop was super rough to travel on. If you plan to go past site 15 I'd strongly suggest something with high ground clearance. Sites 1, 2, and 3 were not clearly marked from the road. Sites 4 and 5 were immediately on the roadside. Most of the pictures posted are from site 7 which is more high desert than most of the other sites. This site accommodated quite easily backing in to the site with a camper. Sites 6 and 7 are on the outside of a switchback and had some dropoffs on the sides. Some of the spaces have rock fire rings and other have metal fire rings. There was a porta potty at sites 9, 10, and 11 (one group area) but that was the only bathroom I saw. Sites 16 and 17 are laid out to accommodate a very large group and could handle a few trailers. There is a giant (like 6 ft) fire ring in between the sites but it was FULL of broken bottles so I assume a popular local hangout. We also found a few handfuls of nails thrown across the road at this point on the road. Towards the south side of the road between sites 20 and 21 the road gets narrow and goes up the side of a mountain to Sierra Prietta Overlook and has quite the drop off.