Coconino National Forest is comprised of a staggering number of different ecosystems, ranging from red rock canyons to dense ponderosa pine forests. You can cross deserts on your way to explore alpine tundra at elevations above 10,000 feet. The same variety that draws in RV campers attracts a wide variety of wildlife, including over 100 species of mammals and dozens of amphibians and reptiles.
Hiking is the main attraction in the forest, with hundreds of miles of trails that allow you to explore the full range of diverse terrain types. Hike deep into the red rock canyons near Sedona, or take the 10 mile long trail up to the summit of Mt. Humphries to reach the highest point in the state of Arizona.
There are over 20 RV campgrounds in the forest, with a range of amenities. There are excellent primitive RV sites near Flagstaff, where you’ll be able to hike many of the trails that lead into the San Francisco Peaks. You can also camp near Sedona and hike the famous trails leading through the red rock canyons. Read on below to get the scoop on a few of the featured campgrounds in the forest.
Located in northeastern Arizona, Coconino National Forest is within driving distance of Phoenix, and is also just a quick drive from Flagstaff. Most of the forest can be reached via major roads, so large RVs should have few problems. However, a number of the campgrounds, especially those in the area near Flagstaff, may require you do drive down winding dirt roads.
From Phoenix, take I-17 north out of the city and you’ll reach the edge of the forest in around an hour and a half. Both Flagstaff and Sedona are located within the forest itself, so you’ll be able to reach most of the major sites from either city in within an hour.
Major campgrounds in the forest, such as Ashurst Lake Campground and Oak Creek Canyon Campground, are easy to access with large rigs. However, if you choose one of the more remote areas in the forest, be prepared for narrow dirt roads.
This campground, located in the famous Oak Spring Canyon near Sedona, is one of the most popular in the forest. Open from April to October, it has excellent fishing in the spring that passes through the canyon, as well as some of the best hiking and birdwatching in the region. You can get away from it all and relax at your campsite under the shade of pine tees. There are 84 sites in the campground, none of which have hookups of any kind. Each site does offer a picnic table, fire ring, and grill. You'll have access to restrooms, pay showers, and drinking water. There is a maximum vehicle length of 36 feet.
Tucked under the San Francisco Peaks, this campground is located on the shores of Ashurst Lake. There are 25 sites available. None of the sites have hookups of any kind, although you’ll have a fire pit, grill, and a picnic table. There are vault toilets, as well as multiple drinking water access points. You’ll have access to the range of hiking trails near Flagstaff, as well as fishing and boating on the lake. The sites can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long. The sites do not accept reservations, so plan on arriving early if you are visiting during peak season beginning in May and running through October.
Knoll Lake Campground is a scenic camping destination on the shores of Knoll Lake. You'll be close to one of the most picturesque natural features in the entire Forest, the cliffs and peaks of the Mogollan Rim. Although there are no hookups available, you'll have prime access to some of the area's best fishing, hiking, and horseback riding right from your campsite. Knoll Lake Campground offers 30 sites available for tents and RVs. Rigs up to 32 feet can be accommodated. Amenities include potable water, vault toilets, and picnic tables. Pets are welcome, but must be restrained by a leash.
Coconino National Forest boasts one of the most varied mixes of terrain types you’ll find anywhere in the country. There are hiking trails found in nearly every area of the forest, letting you explore all of the natural variety on offer. Hike some of the region’s most famous trails near Sedona, including the Devil’s Bridge and Soldier Pass. Or head up to Flagstaff, where you can climb to the top of Mt. Humphries for a view at 12,000 feet that looks out over most of the forest.
RV campers interested in angling will find a number of lake and stream fishing opportunities in the forest. You can fish on a number of lakes in the forest, as well as on one of the rivers that cuts through the area. The Verde River is stocked annually with trout, as are many of the lakes in the forest, including Ashurst Lake. Most of the recreation areas do not rent gear, although you can find a number of bait shops in nearby cities such as Flagstaff.
With a number of bodies of water located throughout the forest, you’ll be able to enjoy boating in many different areas. Lake Mary Recreation Area is a great location for water and jet skiing, and you can also kayak or canoe at dozens of lakes and rivers in the forest, including on the gentle waters of the Verde River. The availability of boat rentals varies by lake, so check the specific details of each before visiting, as you may need to bring your own along with your rig.
RV campers will also find a range of hunting opportunities in the forest, from big game to a variety of different waterfowl. You can find excellent hunting near Flagstaff, where forest officials have set up a specific area for deer and elk hunting. The area is also one of the most scenic in the whole forest, with views of the San Francisco Peaks. You’ll need all of the proper Arizona hunting licences if you plan on hunting anywhere in the forest.
Wintertime visitors to the forest can hit the slopes and enjoy downhill skiing. Arizona Snowbowl is a ski resort located near Flagstaff within the National Forest, and is the most popular ski destination in the state. It has runs of all difficulty levels, ranging from bunny hills all the way to backbowl double black diamonds that will challenge the most experienced skiers. The resort is commercially operated, so you’ll have to pay for daily lift tickets. Any equipment you need can be rented at the resort.
Coconino National Forest features some of the most famous roadways in the country, making it a great area for scenic driving. Drive down Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona for some of the best views of red rocks you’ll find in the region. Or head up to Flagstaff and take the Snowbowl Scenic Drive, which loops around the highest mountain in the state. If you visit the forest during the winter, do be prepared for winter conditions near the areas of a higher elevation.