The famous wild west town of Prescott, Arizona has inspired visitors for well over a century. While gold and silver have been replaced by exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, Prescott still retains the same allure that draws people to this incredible destination. For outdoor lovers and those who enjoy spending a night in their tent, the wilderness surrounding Prescott is home to some great dispersed camping opportunities.
We’ve created this Prescott dispersed camping guide to help you navigate your options and find the perfect campsite for your upcoming trip.
Prescott, AZ Dispersed Camping Guide
- The Basics
- Dispersed Camping near Prescott
- Prescott Basin Designated Dispersed Sites
- FDR 373/Thumb Butte Loop Dispersed
- Potts Creek Road Dispersed
- Copper Basin Road Dispersed
- FDR 64/Marapai Road Dispersed
- Wolf Creek Road Dispersed
- FDR 707/Pineline Road Dispersed
- FDR 79/Trittle Mountain Road Dispersed
- Senator Highway Dispersed Camping
- FDR 80/Sundance Road Dispersed
- Enchanted Forest Trail Dispersed
- FDR 30/Bannie Mine Road Dispersed
- Prescott Basin Designated Dispersed Sites
To start, it is important to have a good understanding of the basics that come with planning a Prescott dispersed camping trip. This includes all the must know information on when to camp, what to bring, and how to minimize your impacts.
This is the essential info before you head out!
When to Dispersed Camp near Prescott
Prescott, AZ enjoys a favorable climate where it is possible to camp year-round. Spring, summer, and fall are certainly the most popular months to dispersed camp near Prescott, but it is also feasible to camp here in the winter months. The summer often sees high temperatures reaching into the 90s, but the desert climate keeps the nights relatively cool.
Snow is rarely an issue except at the higher elevations, but you’ll want to be prepared for colder temps during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.
All things considered, May/June and September/October are great months to camp near Prescott as you’ll enjoy some great weather with smaller crowds.
What to Bring
You shouldn’t expect any amenities when dispersed camping near Prescott so you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient.
None of the campsites included in this guide have access to any services. So, come prepared to be self-sufficient and ensure you’re leaving your site in better shape than you found it!
- Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
- Portable water container – Most of the camping areas included in this guide do not have a potable water source. As such, a portable water container is essential.
- Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
- Map – We prefer downloadable GPS maps via the Gaia GPS app. You can get 20% off your annual membership here. If you prefer paper maps, this package from National Geographic has everything you need to explore Prescott National Forest.
Our dispersed camping checklist has everything you need.
Want to know the essentials for your next camping trip?
Our dispersed camping checklist has all the camping essentials plus specific items for dispersed camping.
Permits, Fees, and Campfires
Most dispersed camping opportunities near Prescott are located in the adjacent Prescott National Forest, which permits dispersed camping under a specific set of rules and regulations. You can find additional information on dispersed camping in Prescott National Forest at the link below, and we’ve also highlighted some of the most relevant rules and regulations.
Much of Prescott National Forest permits dispersed camping in the traditional sense where your are allowed to camp in the National Forest as long as it is not expressly prohibited. However, in the Prescott Basin and the areas immediatly surrounding the City of Prescott, there are more specific rules:
- Dispersed camping in the Prescott Basin and camping on the forest near the City of Prescott is limited to designated dispersed campsites.
- There is a 7-day limit per 30-day period for this area.
- Camping outside of the Prescott Basin is limited to 14-days in a 30-day period.
Other helpful dispersed camping rules that broadly apply include:
- Keep your campsite small.
- Use existing sites and fire rings when available.
- Pick a site where vegetation is absent.
- Do not camp within 200 feet of a water source.
- Only have a campfire if it is permitted, and always be sure it is completely extinguished.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles – more on that below!
Additionally, given some of the bad fire season’s Arizona and the West have experienced in recent years, it is critical to check current fire restrictions before having a campfire. You can check the most recent notices and fire restrictions for Prescott National Forest here before heading out.
We can’t stress this enough as being a responsible forest user is essential to preventing wildfires and preserving our incredible forests!
Leave No Trace Dispersed Camping
One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping in the Prescott region is to follow Leave No Trace principles. The wilderness here is fragile and it is our responsibility to minimize our impact and keep the forest open to future campers.
Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping:
- Plan Ahead & Prepare: Have an idea of where you’d like to camp and always be sure you are camping in an area that permits dispersed camping.
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces: Never camp on fragile ground or create a new campsite.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all of your trash and bury human waste away from water sources. Ideally, carry out human waste or use a portable toilet.
- Leave what you find: Never take anything from your campsite. Other than trash of course!
- Minimize campfire impacts: Never create new fire rings and only have fires if permitted.
- Respect Wildlife: Properly store food at all times and be aware of the area’s wildlife.
- Be considerate of Other Visitors: Pack out your trash, don’t be loud, and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.
Dispersed Camping near Prescott, Arizona
The following section includes an overview of the top dispersed campsites located in the Prescott Basin, adjacent to the city of Prescott.
We’ve also created the map below to give you a sense of each campsites’ location.
If you’re looking for other dispersed camping in the region, we recommend starting with our Arizona Dispersed Camping guide. Then, check out some of our other camping guides in area:
Finally, if you’re interested in finding more dispersed campsites in the area, check out our guide to the best dispersed camping apps to help you find your next campsite.
Any discussion of dispersed camping near Prescott usually starts with the popular Prescott Basin region of the Prescott National Forest. Located southwest/southeast of the city itself, this is the most popular portion of the national forest for both recreational opportunities as well as dispersed camping.
As such, the Forest Service has implemented specific rules surrounding dispersed camping in the Prescott Basin. You can get an overview of these in the section above, but the most important of them is the rule that all dispersed camping must occur within a designated dispersed site.
For some, this may be a turnoff as you might think this misses the entire point of dispersed camping to begin with. However, fret not!
There are tons of designated dispersed sites available and they have a similar vibe and feel to what you would expect when finding your own off the beaten path campsite.
We’ve included details on all 11 designated dispersed camping areas in the Prescott Basin below.
FDR 373/Thumb Butte Loop Dispersed
Number of sites: 22 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 17 sites
The Thumb Butte Loop dispersed camping area is located on a long forest service road (FDR 73) that connects Thumb Butte Road and Copper Basin Road in Prescott National Forest. There are 22 campsites scattered along the length of the road, most of which are simple pull outs off the dirt road.
The majority of the campsites here can accommodate larger setups such as trailers and RVs, with 17 sites listed as being able to. However, many campers report that the road to get here is quite rough so you’ll want to take it slow and steady regardless of your camping setup.
As with all sites in the Prescott Basin there is no water, trash service, or restroom facilities along the Thumb Butte Loop.
Potts Creek Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 8 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 6 sites
An offshoot of Thumb Butte Loop, Potts Creek Road has eight dispersed campsites that offer a quiter, albeit harder to get to, camping option in this part of the Prescott Basin. The Forest Service lists 6 sites as being able to host RVs and trailers, although we feel this is a better site for tent campers or those with a smaller rig.
These sites are definitely quieter in terms of passing traffic as they are tucked down a forest service road and off of the main loop road where most of the campsites are located. The further back you continue of FDR 51, the more secluded the campsites get!
Copper Basin Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 7 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 6 sites
Heading south along the Thumb Butte Loop you’ll reach Copper Basin Road which features seven dispersed campsites. The majority of these, 6 in total, can accommodate RVs and trailers, and the road is much easier to navigate here making this a good option for larger rigs.
These sites are best accessed by taking Copper Basin Road directly here, which is very simple as the road runs all the way into central Prescott.
Most of the campsites (#3-6) are huddled together on short offshoots from the main road, near the intersection with the Thumb Butte Loop.
FDR 64/Marapai Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 7 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 7 sites
Heading west in Prescott National Forest you’ll find the Marapai Road dispersed camping area, which is located just off Ponderosa Park Road, and easy to access from Highway 89/White Spur Road. There are seven campsites here and all can accommodate RVs and trailers. This is one of the easiest dispersed camping areas to access in the National Forest since most of the drive is on a paved highway.
The majority of the campsites are clustered on the south side of Marapai Road, and there is no water or other facilities here. Given that, please come prepared to be self-sufficient!
Wolf Creek Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 12 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 8 sites
Wolf Creek Road connects the Ponderosa Park area of Prescott National Forest with the Senator Highway and features several good dispersed campsites. There are 12 located directly on Wolf Creek Road, with an additional 5 sites located on Pipeline Road, as described below.
This isn’t the quietest place to camp, as there are a few developed campgrounds and camps on this same stretch of road.
However, it is a beautiful part of the forest, and you can usually find an open site. Although the road to get here can be tricky, many folks have reported making it just fine with 30+ foot trailers and the forest services officially lists 8 of the sites as being able to handle RVs.
A few of the campsites on the east end of the road are close to some great trailheads, including the Groom Creek Trail.
FDR 707/Pineline Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 5 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 4 sites
Pipeline Road is a short offshoot of Wolf Creek Road and has five dispersed campsites in the Prescott Basin. The road (FDR 707) is located in between the Pine Summit Bible Camp and the developed Upper Wolf Creek Campground, making it relatively easy to find. There are four campsites here for trailers/RVs, while all five can accommodate tents.
Once off Wolf Creek Road, the going gets a little tougher so you’ll want to go slow and take an earlier site if in a low clearance vehicle.
This is a convenient place to spend the night as you’ll be close to several trailheads in the region.
FDR 79/Trittle Mountain Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 16 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 11 sites
Heading further east in Prescott National Forest you’ll find several dispersed camping areas around the Senator Highway. The first of these is the Trittle Mountain Road Dispersed area, which includes 16 campsites scattered along this forest service road.
The sites begin almost immediately once you get on FDR 79 from the Senator Highway and continue all the way back past the Hassayampa River. Don’t be fooled into thinking there is water here, as the creek is empty unless it has recently rained!
The Forest Service lists 11 of the 16 sites as being able to host larger rigs, and these tend to be concentrated at the base of the road.
Senator Highway Dispersed Camping
Number of sites: 7 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 6 sites
One of the more popular designated dispersed camping areas near Prescott are the seven sites located along the Senator Highway.
These are straightforward to get to, as the Senator Highway is one of the main roads that connects the National Forest with Prescott proper. Six of the sites are classified as being able to handle RVs or trailers, and those sites tend to the first ones you’ll get to.
As you head further back the road does get a bit rougher, but you’ll also get some additional privacy. As with all the other designated dispersed sites there are no services here, so plan to pack in all of your own water and pack out all of your waste.
FDR 80/Sundance Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 6 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 2 sites
Further south along the Senator Highway you’ll reach the junction with FDR 80/Sundance Road, which has six designated dispersed campsites. Only two of these are listed as suitable for RVs, but we generally think they are all best for tent campers or maybe a van. Sorry RVers!
Although harder to get to, you’ll be rewarded for camping here by being able to enjoy much less through traffic compared to what you’ll experience when dispersed camping on the Senator Highway.
The sites are also well spaced, so you’ll have plenty of privacy from your neighbors along Sundance Road.
Enchanted Forest Trail Dispersed
Number of sites: 11 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 9 sites
The final two dispersed camping areas in the Prescott Basin are both located off of Walker Road, and the first one you’ll reach when coming from Prescott will be the Enchanted Forest Trail.
There are 11 campsites here that can accommodate most camping setups. Note that the road is a bit rough the further back you go, so only those with high-clearance vehicles should attempt to reach a few of the sites.
This is the perfect place to camp if you’re looking to enjoy Lynx Lake, which is just a few short miles down the road.
A special note for dispersed camping in the Enchanted Forest area is to please be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles. Many campers report a lot of trash in the area which degrades the experience for everyone. Please do your part and always leave your campsite in better condition than you found it!
FDR 30/Bannie Mine Road Dispersed
Number of sites: 14 sites
Trailer/RV sites: 12 sites
The final designated dispersed campsite in the Prescott Basin is Bannie Mine Road. There are 14 total sites here, most of which are located quite a ways back from Walker Road. As such, although these appear quite close to Prescott, plan on a long drive on a fairly rough road to reach most of the campsites.
The Forest Service officially lists 12 of the campsites as suitable for RVs or trailers, but we’d recommend only coming here is your camper is on the smaller side or if you’re able to snag a spot closer to the main road.
Those who do venture back on Bannie Mine Road will enjoy some seclusion and quiet compared to some of your other dispersed camping options near Prescott. As such, this is one of the higher rated dispersed camping areas in the Basin.
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Have a great trip!
That’s it! We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a great dispersed camping trip near the wonderful town of Prescott, Arizona.
Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!