Flagstaff, Arizona is a camper’s dream. Thousands of acres of National Forest, the San Francisco Peaks, and close proximity to both National Parks and National Monuments make this the perfect destination for your next trip. All this public land means you should definitely consider doing some free, dispersed camping near Flagstaff.
Easy access means you can wake up in your tent and easily explore the thriving downtown, hop on some world class mountain bike trails, or even hike Arizona’s highest mountain, Humphreys Peak.
To make your Flagstaff trip planning a bit easier, we’ve compiled this handy guide of the best dispersed camping areas near Flagstaff. Check out all your options below.
Flagstaff, Arizona Dispersed Camping Guide
- The Basics
- The Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Flagstaff
The following sections contain all the basic information you need to plan a free, dispersed camping trip near Flagstaff, AZ. Everything from when to camp, what to bring, and even some information on recent closures to popular camping areas.
This is the essential info before you head out!
When to Camp Near Flagstaff
Flagstaff’s unique geographical location has it sitting with one foot in the desert and one foot in the mountains. Located at the base of Arizona’s tallest mountain, Humphreys Peak, means that you will likely be camping at high-altitude here. Flagstaff itself sits at nearly 7,000′ above sea-level.
Given that, the best time to camp near Flagstaff is typically from April – October. For the higher up campsites in the San Francisco peaks this might be shorter by a month on either end, and at the lower elevations you can likely extend that season by a month or two.
Those in campers or RVs will also be able to comfortably camp for a longer season.
What to Bring
The wilderness surrounding Flagstaff can be a harsh place. This is where the desert meets the mountains so coming prepared for your camping trip is essential. This is especially true for dispersed camping, since you can’t depend on the amenities of a developed campground.
- Map: A good map is essential to making sure you are on public land, exploring the area, and learning more about your surroundings. We recommend this National Geographic version for a good overview of the Flagstaff and Sedona area.
- Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
- Portable water container – None of the camping areas included in this guide have dependable water access. As such, a portable water container is essential.
- Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping, particularly in Flagstaff’s climate. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
Permits and Fees
One of many camper’s favorite things about dispersed camping is the lack of need for any permits or fees to be paid. Camping near Flagstaff is no different, and none of the dispersed camping areas in this guide require a permit or have any associated fees.
However, it is always a good idea to do a quick internet search or check with the local field office before setting out.
Your best bet is to contact the Flagstaff Ranger District for the most up to date information.
Recently closed areas for dispersed camping near Flagstaff
It is important to note that as of the publication date of this article several popular dispersed camping areas near Flagstaff have been closed. This was primarily done through Forest Service Order 03-04-20-5-F. Popular dispersed camping areas that are no longer open include:
- Schultz Pass Road
- Fort Valley Dispersed Camping
Please observe these closures and do not camp in these areas. There is the potential that they will reopen in the future.
Seasonal fire restrictions and fire bans are very common in the wilderness areas surrounding Flagstaff. It is critical that you check and obey any and all fire restrictions. The surrounding wilderness has seen several devastating wildfires in recent years, so please only have a campfire if it is allowed.
Keep in mind there are permanent fire bans in place at:
- Oak Creek Canyon
- Pumphouse Wash
If you are able to have a campfire, be sure to completely put it out prior to going to sleep or leaving you campground for any amount of time!
Pets are welcome at all of the dispersed camping areas included in this guide. Pets should be kept under control at all times, especially in areas where wildlife could be present or when you have other campers nearby.
Remember to pack out pet waste and ensure that pets are protected from extreme temperatures.
- Environmental Impact: Dispersed camping near Flagstaff seems to get more popular every year. As a result, there is an ever increasing impact on the fragile environment. As such, it is important to be a good neighbor and steward to keep these areas open for dispersed camping. That means carefully observing private property and always practicing Leave No Trace principles, and leaving a campsite in better shape than you found it.
- Access: We’ve done our best to describe the road conditions you can expect when heading to each of the areas described in this post. Luckily many of the dispersed camping near Flagstaff is accessible by most passenger vehicles. However, several campsite required 4WD or high-clearance vehicles.
- Water: None of the dispersed camping areas in this guide have a dependable water source. As such, it is important to bring all the water you’ll need, or have a plan for how you’ll get it.
- All of these dispersed campsites are first-come, first-served. Many fill up quickly on summer weekends- you may need to get there on a Thursday and/or arrive early in the morning to secure a site.
Dispersed Camping Near Flagstaff, Arizona
The following list contains the 11 best dispersed camping areas surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona.
The map below gives an overview of each site’s location with a full description included in the following section. Enjoy!
For other nearby dispersed camping guides, check out our other posts:
- The BEST Dispersed Camping Near Sedona
- The Best Dispersed Camping Near Grand Canyon National Park
- The BEST Arizona Dispersed Camping: Everything you need to know
Distance to Flagstaff: 9 miles
Forest Service Road 222 is located northwest of Flagstaff, just off Highway 180. This is an excellent place for dispersed camping as you’ll be just 15 minutes from Flagstaff and the road is passable by almost all vehicles. This is a popular camping destination and offers easy access to the San Francisco Peaks as well as Highway 180 if you’re heading north to explore the Grand Canyon.
Getting here is straightforward. Simply head north out of Flagstaff along Highway 180 for approximately 8 miles. Forest Service Road 222 will be on the left hand side of the road. Campsites start almost immediately after turning off the highway and continue for the length of the road.
Keep in mind there is no water here so you’ll want to be sure to bring all that you’ll need.
Distance to Flagstaff: 13 miles
Located on the opposite side of Wing Mountain from FR222 and accessed from Interstate 40 is the Forest Service Road 171 dispersed camping area. Another great dispersed camping option near Flagstaff that consists of large campsites and relatively smooth roads. You’re only 20 minutes from central Flagstaff here and you’ll have tons of campsites to choose from.
To get here take Interstate 40 west from Flagstaff for about 11 miles before turning north onto FR 171. Head up the road for about 1 mile and then you’ll have your pick of campsites. There are also lots of good sites up FR 222A, which you’ll reach about a mile from the highway.
There is no water here so come prepared!
Forest Service Road 151
Distance to Flagstaff: 11 miles
The Forest Service Road 151 dispersed camping area is located just up the road from Wing Mountain sites, but is often much less crowded. With easy access to Highway 180 and a smooth road to get to the campsites, this is a great option near Flagstaff. You can expect some traffic noise from the highway, but that is a small price to pay for being less than 20 minutes from Flagstaff.
This is a dry site, so bring all of your own water.
Campsites appear almost immediately after turning off of the main highway and continue for quite a ways, so you’re almost assured of finding something that will work here!
Distance to Flagstaff: 10 miles
The Freidlein Prairie dispersed camping area offers free camping in 14 designated dispersed campsites. The area was established for dispersed camping given the high-impact camping has had in the surrounding wilderness. The result is an excellent place to camp in a USFS designed area that is very close to Flagstaff. This is the perfect dispersed campsite for hiking Humphreys Peak, as you’ll be very close to the main trailhead.
Each of the designated campsites here are marked, feature a fire ring, and have a place for at least one tent. Given the size of the campsites, RVs are not recommended.
There are no services here so you’ll need to pack out all of your own trash and be self-sufficient in terms of water.
To get here from Flagstaff head north of Highway 180 before turning onto Snowbowl Road. After 2.4 miles take a right onto FR 522 and be on the lookout for the campsites. Most are located on the south side of the road.
Distance to Flagstaff: 15 miles
Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area is one of Flagstaff’s most popular dispersed camping areas. Located northeast of town, this is a great destination for those hoping to do some off-roading or ATV driving in the Cinder Hills area. These are dry sites, so no water or bathroom facilities are available.
Keep in mind that given how popular with off-roaders the area is you should expect some noise and dust. Most campers set-up right on FR 776, but keep in mind that if you keep driving back from the highway there are more spots along FR 244 that tend to be a bit quieter.
To get to Cinder Hills OHV head north from Flagstaff on Highway 89 for approximately 8 miles. Turn right on FR 776 and drive for about 1.5 miles before looking for a campsite.
Walnut Canyon (FR 303)
Distance to Flagstaff: 11 miles
The Walnut Canyon dispersed camping area near Flagstaff sits adjacent to Walnut Canyon National Monument. This is an excellent place to camp if you’re looking to explore the National Monument, or if you’re looking to camp east of Flagstaff. The road to get here is also in good shape, so this is a great option for rigs that can’t handle some of the rougher roads.
A visit to Walnut Canyon is well worth it in our opinion as the ancient cliff dwelling and stunning canyon walls are a sight to behold. All the better given the option for free, dispersed camping right next door!
As with many of the dispersed campgrounds near Flagstaff you won’t find any water or restrooms here, so be sure to pack out all your waste.
To get here, head south along Walnut Canyon Road from I-40. Just before reaching Walnut Canyon Monument turn east along FR 303 where campsites will appear almost immediately. Keep in mind camping is not permitted along Walnut Canyon Road.
Distance to Flagstaff: 15 miles
The Marshall Lake area offers excellent dispersed camping southeast of Flagstaff. This is a large camping area so don’t expect solitude, but you will be well located to explore the southern reaches of Coconino National Forest. In addition, the Arizona Trail passes right through the campground so is perfect if you’re looking to do some hiking or mountain biking.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘lake’ name as Marshall Lake is more of a marshy depression than an actual lake. There are no facilities at the lake either, so come prepared to be self-sufficient.
To get there, head south from Flagstaff to Mary Lake Road. Take that for approximately 3 miles before turning onto FR 128, which is signed for Marshall Lake. Camping is permitted after driving just over 1 mile along FR 128.
Distance to Flagstaff: 20 miles
Ashurst Lake sits about 30 minutes southeast of Flagstaff and features two developed campgrounds. However, there are also some excellent dispersed sites before you reach the lake itself that make for a great free option. You’re right on the Arizona Trail here and also have easy access to the surrounding wilderness.
This is a good option if you find the sites at Marshall Lake full or if you’re looking for a quieter place to camp.
The road is serviceable and many folks report getting trailers here without any issues.
To get here, take Lake Mary Rd past Upper Lake Mary before turning left on 82E, just opposite the Pine Grove Campground. Look for campsites on the right-hand side of the road starting opposite of the Horse Lake trailhead.
Distance to Flagstaff: 13 miles
Pumphouse Wash is an designated dispersed camping area located approximately halfway between Flagstaff and Sedona just off Highway 89A. This is an excellent option for dispersed camping as you’ll be able to get a designated site and have great access to Oak Creek Canyon as well as Sedona. The campsites here are organized in four loops and can all be accessed by passenger vehicles.
Although these are designated sites, don’t expect any water or restroom facilities.
To get here, head south from Flagstaff along 89A before turning east on FR 237. You’ll then see signs for the designated campsites.
Be sure not to set-up camp outside of these areas as you are likely to be ticketed!
If you’re heading towards Sedona from Pumphouse Wash, don’t forget to check out our guide to the best dispersed camping near Sedona!
Willard Springs Road
Distance to Flagstaff: 18 miles
Willow Springs Road dispersed camping is straight south of Flagstaff just off Highway 17. This camping area is right off the highway so is convenient for those arriving late or looking for an easy campsite to access. For those looking for more peace and quiet, simply head a bit further back along the Forest Service Road as there are several good sites tucked into the trees.
Getting here is straightforward by heading south along Interstate 17 to exit 326 for Willard Springs Road. Once off the highway it is approximately 1.5 miles on Willard Springs Rd before the first campsites appear.
Schnebly Hill Road
Distance to Flagstaff: 22 miles
Although a bit further from Flagstaff compared to your other options, Schnebly Hill Rd still makes for some great dispersed camping. This is especially true for those venturing south to explore Sedona you’ll be conveniently positioned to explore both towns. For the adventurous, you can even take Schnebly Hill Rd all the way to Sedona, although you’ll want to take your time given how rough the road can be.
Have a great trip!
We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan your Flagstaff dispersed camping trip, and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure!
Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!