The Colorado River brings RVers and water recreationists to Parker, Arizona year-round. During the hottest weather, visitors can wait for the desert to cool by spending their time soaking in the water or cruising the river on a boat, creating a natural air conditioning effect. When the sun sets, dock your water equipment and watch the view from the comforts of your RV.
Buckskin Mountain State Park sits along an area called the Parker Strip. This 18-mile section of the Colorado River stretches between the Parker Dam and the Headgate Dam. The scenery along the river is spectacular, and visitors can stop at any of the viewpoints to witness the ever-changing sunrises and sunsets along the mountainous backdrop.
This area of the state is a popular destination for snowbirds or guests who leave their winter homes to escape the cold. The peak season is during the coldest months in other areas of the country because the desert climate is warm and less volatile. Lake Havasu City, less than 27 miles away, is also a popular destination during the winter months because of its 300 days of sunshine, and endless recreational activities. Visitors to both areas will have sun and warmth, but visitors to Parker will have a more peaceful, and less touristy waterfront vacation.
Just off of AZ-95, Buckskin Mountain State Park located in between the cities of Parker and Lake Havasu City, Arizona, is a 170-mile drive northwest of Phoenix, and a 233-mile drive southwest of Flagstaff, Arizona. From other states, the park is 180 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada, and 299 miles south of Saint George, Utah.
The roads you'll travel in the region are typically flat and even, but AZ-95 is a bit curvy. Take it slow and you should have no problems. It is best to drive slowly anyway to enjoy the view and let your passengers get some pictures. Stop along the way at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Area on AZ-95 in Lake Havasu. This 6,100-acre natural area along the Colorado River has majestic cliffs in the background on the Sonoran Desert. Enjoy the trails, do some kayaking, or enjoy a bit of fishing before heading on to your destination.
Buckskin Mountain State Park has a day-use fee that is payable upon entering the park. If you are bringing your boats or trailered water toys, be aware that parking is not allowed at the boat ramp, and the day-use area only offers limited parking. Campers who have boats and trailered equipment can park their trailers back at the campsite after launching into the water.
With 80 campsites to chose from, you can surround yourself with a desert landscape and the blue waters of the Colorado River. Each pet-friendly space is paved and has a grill and a picnic table. All of the RV sites have water and electric hookups. Fifteen of those sites offer full hookups, which includes water, electric, and sewer connections. Campers have access to potable water, restrooms, showers, and a dump station.
If you are okay with primitive camping or would prefer to set up a tent, you can still get a gorgeous view of the Colorado River. Primitive sites are right on the water, so you can let the rushing sounds of the river lull you to sleep. Since there are no hookups in the waterfront sites, generators are allowed, but they must be turned off during quiet hours from 10 PM to 7 AM. The largest space in the campground can accommodate an RV of 85 feet.
If you didn’t reserve a spot at Buckskin Mountain, you may have to camp somewhere else. In fact, River Island State Park is only a mile east of the park on AZ-95. They have 37 RV campsites with electric and water hookups. Eight of these are on the water and can accommodate rigs up to 24 feet in length. The others are better for larger RVs up to 65 feet in length.
All of these sites have a picnic table, campfire ring, and a pedestal barbecue grill. The magical cliffs in the background make for a beautiful setting no matter which site you get. While it is best to make a reservation, you may be able to get one of the sites on a first-come, first-served basis if you can find one that is not already reserved. Pets are welcome here too, so bring your furbaby.
No matter what else you do at the park, make sure you spend some time enjoying the wildlife in and around the area. Because Arizona has such a warm climate all year long, the wild critters are active no matter what time of year you visit. Take a walk on one of the trails and find a spot to sit and wait. Eventually, you are bound to see some kind of fauna like a rabbit, squirrel, or bird. You may even get lucky enough to spot a ringtail cat, coyote, fox, or bobcat. Do not feed or harass the wildlife though. You may also come across snakes such as the red racer and king snake, and lizards like the collared lizard and desert iguana. Be sure to pack your camera to take some pics to share.
Spend your visit taking full advantage of the park’s many resources. Buckskin Mountain State Park has many facilities that provide guests with comfort and entertainment. The day-use area, located northwest of the contact station, has a large grassy area with shade trees, picnic tables, and two large grills. Visitors also have access to a dog park, scenic viewpoints, a gift shop, and a small market. Spending time outside while taking advantage of the spectacular scenery is just one of the many reasons RVers stay at this beautiful Arizona state park.
Fish the shorelines of the river from two sides of Buckskin Mountain State Park. Whether you are a novice or skilled angler, there are plenty of opportunities to catch fish in the Colorado River. Try your hand at catching large and smallmouth bass, catfish, carp, bluegill, sunfish, and crappie. If you need some fishing gear, check out the park store to see if they have what you need. As always, anglers need to be aware of state fishing laws. Arizona Game and Fish requires that all people over the age of 10 have a valid fishing license to fish in Arizona waters.
The desert climate is perfect for people who want to spend their time outdoors. Hikers will want to take advantage of cooler mornings and evenings when the weather is too hot during the day. The scenic trails give hikers many things to see such as abandoned mines or views of the Colorado River. All of the trails are under a mile long. People who prefer longer hikes can try hiking more than one trail each day and see the park from many different angles. Be sure to stay on the trails and practice proper trail etiquette.
Be sure you have the bike rack hooked up so you can bring your bikes to Buckskin Mountain State Park because they have several excellent riding trails. All three biking treks can be done on their own for a fast and fun trip or combined to provide a challenging and exciting longer run. Starting at the parking lot off AZ-95, you can take the .6-mile Desert Bar Road, which is a nice and easy ride down the road to the Desert Bar. Then you can head west on the .6-mile Copper Mines Trail where you can stop and see the abandoned mines. Or head east on the 2.3-mile Lamb Springs Trail. This takes you back to AZ-95 right by River Island State Park.
Cool off in the river by swimming along the shores of the day-use area. Because the beach is a natural riverside beach, some of the sandy areas are more rocky than soft. Come prepared for swimming in the river by bringing proper footwear as the rocky terrain can be uncomfortable for sensitive feet. Because there are no lifeguards on duty, it is the swimmer’s responsibility to exercise caution in the water. Always stay alert and keep away from boats and boat docks, and do not swim outside of the designated swimming areas. Also, remember that the desert sun can burn skin quickly, so be sure to pack the sunscreen and have proper hydration while visiting the swim beach.
Watersports such as boating and paddleboarding are what brings people to the Colorado River year-round. Whether you own a boat, jet ski, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, you can find something to do on the river. To access the river, use the two-lane launch ramp near the northeastern area of the park. Because the Colorado River straddles both Arizona and the California state line, boaters need to be aware of the boating regulations for both states, since the river is considered an area of shared jurisdiction. Visit Arizona Game and Fish or the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways websites for more information on boating the Colorado River.
The park wants all of its visitors to have a good time. During the peak season, the park offers events and interpretive programs for guests of all ages, as well as opportunities for kids who want to earn their Junior Ranger badge. Kids will enjoy the Junior Ranger program because many of the activities and events are created with kids’ interests in mind. Stop by the Visitor Center to learn more about the events and programs the park has to offer. If something isn’t happening during your visit, you can always ask the park rangers for advice and suggestions about things to see and do inside of the park.