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The famous Red Rock Country city that is Sedona, Arizona. For those who haven’t visited, Sedona is a mecca for Microadventures. With miles of hiking and biking trails, climbing, and towering red sandstone views, you could spend a lifetime exploring Sedona and not see everything.

After a long day of Microadventures, unfortunately, Sedona isn’t the best place for camping. Free dispersed camping is somewhat limited and the established campgrounds fill up quickly.

Regardless, in this post, we explore our favorite free dispersed camping spots and established campgrounds around Sedona, Arizona:



Types of camping in Sedona, Arizona

For some, camping in Sedona is a bucket-list item. Whether you’re sleeping in a tent, RV, or the back of your car, camping in Sedona is an experience every Microadventurer should do when exploring in northern Arizona.

There are plenty of established campgrounds (campgrounds with fees) north of uptown Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon and south of town, there are also a few free dispersed camping options to consider.

Here is a breakdown of Sedona’s campgrounds and free dispersed camping areas:

Established campgrounds

In order to protect the beauty of Red Rock Country, camping in Sedona is primarily done via controlled established campgrounds. For those unfamiliar, established campgrounds are camping areas with restrooms, amenities like running water, trash service, and owned by the Forest Service and managed through a campground host.

At most of Sedona’s established campgrounds, you’ll find all of the mentioned attributes.

Fees for established campgrounds in Sedona fluctuate place-to-place and I’ve personally seen the prices fluctuate as well. You will want to do your research to ensure you are finding a campground that offers the most for your money.

In addition, the established campgrounds in Sedona fill up very quickly- especially March through August!

While there are last-minute cancellations and no-shows, I highly recommend reserving a campground online through Recreation.gov to ensure that you’ll be able to get a camping spot.

Don’t bank on trying to get a camping spot and reservation the day-of! Sedona’s established campgrounds are too popular for that.

You won’t be roughing it as much in Sedona’s established campgrounds- most of them are directly off of highway 89A and within a 15-minute drive to Uptown Sedona.

Although, there’s something to be said about having a little bit of comfort and convenience. Pulling up to an established campground, unloading your gear, and being able to get filtered water and use a restroom has its perks!

Unlike dispersed camping, camping in an established campground allows you to pack lots of luxury items and gives you more time to explore Sedona during the day.




Free dispersed camping

If you’re looking to save a little bit of cash and avoid the crowds at the established campgrounds, consider the free dispersed camping spots and sites around Sedona.

It is important to note that there aren’t a lot of free dispersed camping spots in and around Sedona- most of the campgrounds are paid.

All of the dispersed camping sites are outside of Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek. They are all located in the Forest Service areas surrounding the towns.

That being said, if you want to camp for free when traveling to Sedona, you can definitely do it- you’re just not going to be a short drive from downtown Sedona and the downtown trailheads.

Most of Sedona’s dispersed camping spots and sites are to the north, east, and west. As far as amenities are concerned, you’ll be roughing it! For those who have dispersed camped in Arizona before, this shouldn’t be surprising. No restrooms, no running water, no hook-ups, and no campground hosts.

Regardless of the lack of amenities, the dispersed camping around Sedona is amazing! 

You’ll have plenty of time to go hiking and exploring as many of the camping spots and areas are near hiking and biking trails.

Paid established campgrounds near Sedona, Arizona

As mentioned before, camping in Sedona will most likely land you at an established campground. Here are a few of the noteworthy campgrounds to check out:

The best chance (in my opinion) of getting a spot even during the busy seasons is to try your luck at Pine Flat and Cave Springs Campgrounds. Those are two of the biggest campgrounds in Sedona and are likely to have a spot available- assuming you book ahead of time.

Again, don’t bank on trying to get a camping spot and reservation the day-of!

More mentioning as well: the Manzanita Campground is the most difficult place to snag a spot in Sedona. With only 18 spots available and direct access to Oak Creek from camp, this campground fills up very quickly.



Free dispersed camping areas near Sedona, Arizona

If you’re looking to save some cash and avoid the crowds, consider one of the few free dispersed camping areas around Sedona. While limited, there are a few places to camp for free including:

The best place for camping on our short-list is off of Schnebly Road. The area is buried deep in the pine forest that rests above the rim that overlooks downtown Sedona.

To learn more about free dispersed camping in Sedona, check out our blog post linked below:

How to pack for camping in Sedona

Before you head out into the woods, it’s really nice to have a packing checklist for camping in Sedona. This will allow you to cross things off as you pack them, so you won’t forget anything at the last minute.

What you will be packing for your trip will be dependent on where you will be camping: either in an established campground or free dispersed camping area, what you will be doing while camping, the season, and how many luxury items you want to take.

Here’s a quick guide for what to pack when camping in Sedona:

Camping gear suggestions and list

Because camping in Sedona revolves around established and free dispersed campgrounds, you’ll likely be car camping. This means you can take almost anything and everything with you- well…as long as it will fit in your car! This is the time to bring along those extra comforts of home and prepare meals that are fit for a king and a queen!

You will definitely need shelter when you are car camping, so make sure you pack a tent, as well as your sleeping bags, pillows, sleeping pad, and a hammock for relaxing outside of the tent.

As for your kitchen supplies, you have the luxury of space and can bring a bigger stove than just a Jetboil, MSR PocketRocket, or portable backpacking stove. Bring a two-burner stove, pots and pans for your specific meals, cooking utensils, a cutting board, dishwashing container or bucket, dish soap, can opener, and trash bags are a must. Oh, and don’t’ forget everything you need for your morning coffee!

Since you are going to have your car, you can pack a few extra sets of clothes just in case the weather changes. The same goes for toiletries, and those extras like books, camping games, more camera equipment, and camping chairs.




What to do around Sedona while camping

When you are camping, the last thing you will be doing is hanging around your campsite all day and all night. There is so much to see and do around Sedona and you will want to take advantage of it all.

Here are some of our favorite things to do while camping in Sedona:

Hiking

You could honestly spend days, weeks, and even months hiking the gorgeous terrain of Sedona. With over 200 different hiking trails in Sedona alone, you’ll never run out of views of Red Rocks, canyons, Oak Creek, and the rugged desert plant life.

Some of our favorite hiking trails in Sedona include:

  • Bear Mountain
  • West Fork Trail
  • Cathedral Rock Trail
  • Secret Slickrock Trail and Overlook

Regardless of how long you decide to camp, you need to carve out time to take a hike around Sedona.

Mountain biking

Considered to be one of the best places to mountain bike in the country, Sedona has numerous trails to choose from- around 200 (most of Sedona’s hiking trails are also mountain biking trails).

Depending on where you camp, you may end up biking in a different area. If you’re camping in Oak Creek Canyon, the Village of Oak Creek, or eastern Sedona, stick to the trails on the southern edge of Sedona- like Broken Arrow. Camping on the western side of Sedona, you’ll likely stick to the trails to the north- like Chuckwagon.

Regardless, if you haven’t done much mountain biking in the past, and aren’t used to the area, you may want to start over at Bell Rock Pathway on the southern end of Sedona off of Highway 179.

Swimming

With so much water around Sedona- swimming is a favorite pastime of anyone who is visiting Sedona, especially during the warmer months of the year. Oak Creek flows through the entire area providing a number of swimming holes to cool off in.

While the established and maintained swimming areas/parks like Grasshopper Point, Slide Rock State Park, and Red Rock Crossing can be overrun with tourists, there are still plenty of places to swim around Sedona.

We recommend driving up and down Highway 89A, north of Uptown Sedona, and look for a place to park your car. Once you’re parked, hike down to Oak Creek (usually you’ll find a trail) and dive right into the water! This approach will resort in a quieter swimming outing than any of the established swimming parks around Sedona.

Conclusion

While camping in Sedona, Arizona is limited to a few established campgrounds and free dispersed camping areas, you can still explore the area without needing to book a hotel room- you just have to be a little aggressive and prepared!

By navigating through this post and picking out a favorite place to camp, that’s half the battle! From there, book a reservation if it’s an established campground, arrive early, and camp during off-peak times. Regardless of where you camp, Sedona is an amazing place to rest your head at night-a place where everyone should camp at least once in their life.

Resources

Nick The Rambling Man
Nick The Rambling Man

Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.

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