Sedona is one of the most beautiful destinations within Arizona, due to the massive red rock canyons, spires, and views that go on for miles upon miles. The best way to see, and experience, the canyons that are practically everywhere in Sedona, along with the rest of what this area offers, is to do a little hiking. While you are hiking in Sedona, surprisingly, you only have a few options when it comes to camping in Sedona.
An incredible way to enjoy Sedona in its full splendor is sleeping in a tent with the soothing sounds of Oak Creek next to your head or under the star-filled skies next to the towering red walls and spires. While there my night be as many camping areas, campgrounds, and campsites compared to Flagstaff, there are enough to get by!
It is important to note that aren’t a lot of free dispersed camping spots in and around Sedona- most of the campgrounds are paid.
While camping for free in Sedona, Arizona can be challenging, here are our favorite free dispersed camping sites and spots in and around Sedona:
#1 East of Sedona: Off Schnebly Road Near Munds Park
This free camping spot off of I-17 and Munds Park is a great little spot. Easily accessible off of Schnebly Hill Road, this free dispersed camping area is buried deep in the pines and has great views of Sedona just to the west of the road.
Just a word of warning, all the free campsites are past the paid campground.
From camp, you can hike the actual Schnebly Hill Road to Sedona. The road is a rough, forest service road, so driving it is only recommended if you have a high-clearance vehicle. Hiking and mountain biking down Schnebly Hill Road is the way to go.
Eventually, you will stumble upon the creek bed, waterfalls, and finally Merry-Go-Round Rock. The end of your eight-and-a-half-mile journey will be at the other end of Schnebly Hill Road. Other trails you can take during your stay include Margs Draw Trail and Huckaby Trail.
All-in-all Schnebly Hill Road is a great place for free dispersed camping if you’re looking to hike in Sedona or looking for free camping outside of Flagstaff.
#2 North of Sedona: FSR 237 Near Oak Creek Vista
Pumphouse Wash is what I consider one of the most popular free dispersed camping spots in and around Sedona. The camping near Pumphouse Wash is technically part of FSR 237 and really isn’t that far from the Oak Creek Vista Overlook before the switchbacks that head to Sedona.
There are four different loops that all contain free campsites- some loops have as many as 26 campsites, others only have 11. There are no restroom facilities obviously, but fire pits are at every campsite. This is a rarity in my opinion because of the heavy fire season in Sedona, Flagstaff, and throughout most of northern Arizona.
There are more than forty different hiking trails to conquer when camping at this spot, which means you will have plenty of options for day-hikes from camp.
#3 West Sedona: FSR 525
If you want to be as close as possible to the spectacular red rocks, buttes, and canyons in Sedona, dispersed camping at FSR 525 is a must. All the campsites are located along Loy Butte Road and you are allowed to have campfires when you are there- which is again surprising because of the heavy fire season.
One of the closest trails to this campsite area is the Boynton Canyon trail. This hike is just over six miles and will take you to the ancient Indian ruins.
Paid (Not Free) Dispersed Camping in Sedona
As I mentioned above, there are not many free dispersed camping spots in Sedona. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy camping in the area!
You may just need to reconsider your options and actually pay for a campsite if you cannot find an open dispersed site available when you arrive.
#1 Manzanita Campground
The campsites at the Manzanita Campground are small and limited but this is easily my favorite place to camp in Sedona. Compared to the other paid campgrounds in Sedona, Manazanita’s campsites fill up very quickly. In fact, it’s not uncommon to drive past the campground and see a sign reading “Campground Full.”
The reasons that Manzanita Campground is always full is totally clear to me. The campground is literally 10 feet away from the banks of Oak Creek and a beautiful limestone canyon on the base of a red rock cliff. The scenery at Manzanita is stunning, to say the least.
The other reason is because of its proximity to the main artery in-and-out of Sedona: 89A.
The Manzanita Campground is literally on the highway.
These two factors mean one thing to me: the Manzanita Campground is an amazing place to camp in Sedona.
There isn’t a lot of hiking on established trails around the area (because of the tight spaces and being sandwiched between Oak Creek and 89A) but it’s commonplace for campers here to fish and swim in Oak Creek.
As mentioned before, Manzanita Campground is very crowded, especially on weekends; to get a campsite, it is best to reserve a weekday and to reserve as early as possible.
#2 Pine Flat Campground
Right up the road on 89A from both the Manzanita and Cave Springs Campground is the Pine Flat Campground. Easily one of the biggest paid campgrounds in Sedona, Pine Flat offers 59 campsites. In addition, there’s a place to purchase firewood, water on-site, and several pit toilets.
What’s great about the Pine Flat Campground is the proximity to 89A while being much quieter than the Manzanita Campground.
The scenery from your tent at the Pine Flat Campground includes lots of ponderosa pines and with views of the nearby Oak Creek Canyon’s red rock cliffs between the trees. Pine Flat Campground is somewhat “nestled” between the trees. This campground is great in the summer because of the shade.
There is nearby creek access about 50 feet from most of the tents. The creek is much more shallow than other campgrounds on our list which limits the water activities you can do at Pine Flat Campground. Regardless, fishing and wading in the shallow waters is still a popular activity here.
Another plus of Pine Flat Campground is the nearby Cookstove Trail. While the trail is very short, at just over 1.5 miles, so it is an excellent one to do if you arrive in Sedona later in the day or want to get a quick hike in before leaving.
Campsites are much easier to reserve at Pine Flat Campground because of its size. Regardless, we recommend arriving early or applying online in advance to secure a camping spot.
#3 Cave Springs Campground
By far the biggest campground throughout Sedona and Oak Creek is the Cave Springs Campground. Buried in a massive ponderosa pine forest, you really are “in the woods” when you camp here. Being the biggest campground in Sedona and Oak Creek, at 84 camping sites, Cave Springs Campground is the most popular spot to camp by far.
The campsites are covered in shade most of the year making it a great summer location to camp. Oak Creek is a little further away for most of the camping sites, especially those on the back-end of the campground.
The creek is not as accessible and easy to play in at the Cave Springs Campground compared to other campgrounds on our list.
The creek is covered with brush and is much deeper with a faster current than other nearby campgrounds. That being said, there is great trout fishing from the banks of Oak Creek.
The Cave Springs Campground is easily the most equipped campground as well. Something worth noting is that 36-foot RVs, trailers, and motor homes are allowed to camp here. Each campsite also features a campfire fire, grill, and picnic tables.
All-in-all, Cave Springs Campground is great for large parties of people and families looking to get down, play games, listen to music, and party in the woods. The camping here is not as quiet as the other nearby campgrounds. If you’re looking for a more peaceful place to relax during the day, I would recommend camping at a different campground.
Like the other campgrounds, it’s best to arrive early to this spot or reserve a spot in advance. I have personally found that the Cave Springs Campground is the campground that is most likely to have spots available every day.
Camping in and around Sedona, Arizona is a bucket list item for any Microadventurer visiting “Red Rock Country. With a handful of free dispersed camping spots on the north, west, and east side of Sedona, if you’re on the hunt, you’ll have a good chance at snagging a free camping spot. For those looking for a little more luxury and accessibility to Oak Creek and nearby Sedona, there are several paid campgrounds in the area as well.
However you decide to camp in Sedona, free dispersed or paid, one thing is clear: Sedona is an amazing place to rest your head at night.
Resources for Sedona:
- Sedona Microadventure Guide
- 7 Reasons to Visit Sedona
- Our Favorite Dispersed Camping Sites in Arizona
- Guide to Dispersed Camping in Arizona
- Best Places to Swim in Northern Arizona
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.