As fall approaches, it’s a great time to enjoy nature at some of Tucson’s best campgrounds. The annual North American Camping Report in 2020 states that the COVID-19 pandemic stimulated a renewed interest in camping. They found that more than 94.5 million households enjoy this relaxing vacation, and what better place to do it than a city with some of the country’s unique natural wonders?
Tucson is surrounded by places you can enjoy nature, whether driving your RV or pitching a tent. They come with various amenities, and there are sites designed for the camper that isn’t looking for luxury. Some are cheap, while others are more costly. You’ll find them in the famous deserts around the city or further into the majestic mountains.
Tucson, AZ, is famous for something other than camping, though – eegee’s. We first introduced our famous cool, refreshing eegee drink to Tucson in 1971. Now, we have locations all over the city and in other areas of Arizona.
Some of the best campgrounds in Tucson are just a short drive away from an eegee’s. Here are a few we think are worth checking out.
If you are drawn to the desert, then the Gilbert Ray Campground is the place for you. This campground sits just 13 miles outside of Tucson at the door of the Saguaro National Park on the west side. There are 130 camping sites with 30-am electrical hookups.
A few have shade covers, as well. If you want to rough it, there are five sites designated just for tents. Sites are first-come, first-serve, and tenters can also use RV sites.
While not free, pricing is definitely budget-friendly. RV sites run 20 dollars, and tent sites 10 dollars. There is centrally located water, picnic tables, modern restrooms, and a dumping station for RVs. You can reserve a site online and must book 72 hours in advance.
There is also a maximum stay time of seven days. You’ll find multiple eegee’s restaurants close by. Stop by one on your way in and pick up some eegees and subs for the road. They fit perfectly in a cooler.
Maybe you’ve done Gilbert Ray and want to change the view. Next, head to Catalina State Park, where there are two campgrounds to enjoy, almost adjacent to one another. Both offer amazing views of Mount Lemmon and lots of local wildlife.
The two campgrounds have a total of 120 drive-in sites that come with water and electricity. The campgrounds also feature free WiFi, showers, restrooms, and dump stations for RVs. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning to head over to Catalina State Park. First, this is a very busy campground, so plan ahead accordingly and reserve your spot online. Second, it costs 35 dollars a night if you want electricity and 25 without it. It is open all year round to campers.
Also, there is very little shade there. Bring umbrellas, fans, and a bucket of eegee (called a Fun Pak) to keep you cool. There are several within 15 miles of the park.
This campground will take you up the slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains and also further away from the city. You’ll want to make your eegee’s stop on the way there.
As the name suggests, you’ll find this campground centered around Rose Canyon Lake at an elevation of 7,000 feet. There are 70 sites in a well developed area back from the lake. Sites are first-come, first-serve, and reservable.
This isn’t the fanciest campground, but it’s a practical choice if you want to enjoy nature and do some fishing. They seed the lake with rainbow trout once a month, from April to August. You’ll find only pit toilets and water taps here. There is also a shelter and nearby picnic tables.
The rates are 26 dollars a night for a single-family unit and 42 for double-family units. You will also pay 10 dollars a night for additional vehicle parking. If you go as a group of up to 50 people, the rate is 95 dollars daily.
You’ll find one of the nicest camping sites if you want some privacy along the Sky Island Scenic Byway just east of Tucson and not far from the eegee’s on N. Campbell Avenue. This campground will put you at about 4,500 feet elevation but still has a desert-like feel. There are plenty of oak and mesquite trees scattered on the grounds.
The sites are well-spaced at the Molino Basin Campground and surrounded by scenic hills. Many of the sites perch on small hills for a little extra privacy. There are 37 sites perfect for tents and small campers. This is not glamping, though. The campground is not set up to handle larger RVs. There is no water there, but there are pit toilets.
Most sites are first-come, first-served, and there are a couple of walk-ins. This campsite is open from October to April and costs 20 dollars for a single unit. You pay at the site with cash or a check.
If you want to enjoy the tall ponderosa pines, head further up the Sky Island Scenic Byway to 6,000 fee elevation and the General Hitchcock Campground. This location is for the serious camper only. There are 12 tent campsites – all first-come, first-served. Each site has a fire pit and standing barbeque. There is no water and only pit toilets in the area.
What you will find at the General Hitchcock Campground is an alpine nature experience. There are large boulders and lots of pine needles. There are also bike and hiking trails to explore. When you need a break from all that, there is an eegee’s about 23 miles down Mt Lemmon Hwy. The cost is 20 dollars a night, and you pay there with cash or a check.
Camping and eegee’s are a natural fit. Why? Two words – cold drinks. Camping in Arizona requires lots of cold drinks, and eegee’s has the best ones in the state. They come in fruity flavors and with some juicy bits for extra energy. You’ll also find lots of cold subs to enjoy and refreshing salads. Bring a cooler and some ice with you and stock up as you head to your favorite campgrounds around Tucson.