Coronado National Forest | Outdoorsy

Coronado National Forest
Guide

Introduction

Mountains abound in the Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona, where you can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, fishing, swimming, and even skiing when the weather is right. There are quite a few mountain ranges in the forest that each have their own diverse zones from desert to glades. Mount Graham in the Pinaleno Mountains has 36 different recreation areas and more than 30 hiking trails. The Chiricahua Mountains has more than 50 recreation areas and close to 60 trails, and the Cave Creek Canyon has over a dozen of each.

If you are interested in water sports or would rather spend time in the forest, there are plenty of options here. Horseback riding, rock climbing, caving, and ATV riding are some favorite activities here in the mountains. And make sure you have a camera in your rig because the beauty of this place needs to be remembered. Of course, you can always come back again and again.

Fishing is popular as well with trout in almost every single body of water you can find. Whether you are spending one night or even a whole week, you will find plenty to do and will need to plan another visit soon to do more. The Coronado National Forest boasts 20 RV campgrounds and we will highlight our top three picks for you here.

RV Rentals in Coronado National Forest

Transportation

Driving

About an hour north of Tucson and three hours southeast of Phoenix, the Coronado National Forest is an easy place to find in southeastern Arizona. From the north, you can take Interstate 10 or 19, and from the south you can take Interstate 15D. If you are heading in from the west, Highway 82 will take you there, and from the east, you should take Highway 90.

Similar to other national forests, the drive in is one of the best parts because of all the diverse and beautiful scenery. The Catalina Highway, Stockton Pass, Pinaleno Swift, Canelo Hills Loops, and Harshaw Road #49 Scenic Drives are all amazing routes that will take your breath away. In the Huachuca Mountains you can find the Arizona Highway #83 Scenic Drive and Carr Canyon Road #368 Scenic Drive, which are pretty awesome as well.

The roads are mostly paved but are not as well-maintained as city or county roads, so take it easy if you are pulling a camper or driving a big RV. You should also watch out for wildlife that tend to cross the roads here. Campground streets are little more than dirt or gravel with not a lot of space to maneuver, so it is best to park the rig in your campsite and walk or ride to wherever you need to go.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Coronado National Forest

Campsites in Coronado National Forest

Reservations camping

Rose Canyon Campground

In the Santa Catalina Mountains of the Coronado National Forest, the Rose Canyon Campground has 73 campsites. They are open from mid-April until November. Each campsite has a fire pit with grill, picnic table, and a bear box to put your food and other scented items in. The sites can accommodate trailers and RVs up to 22 feet long. The campground also has several restrooms, drinking water access, and plenty of room for fun.

Rose Canyon Lake, at the lower end of the park, has plenty of fishing opportunities. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout and has many other species including bass, crappie, and catfish. If you like hiking, there are several trails, as well as a one-mile path around the lake. In addition, there are two group picnic shelters that can hold up to 120 people. If you have not reserved a campsite, you should get here early because these spots go fast, especially on weekends and holidays. Bring your pup along too because pets are welcome as long as they are restrained at all times.

First-come first-served

Peppersauce Campground

Peppersauce Campground only has 17 campsites, which are first-come, first-served, so you need to get here early if you want a spot. The picturesque setting at the foot of Mount Lemmon is perfect for selfies and photos to share on Facebook and Instagram. Each site has a picnic table, lantern posts, a bear proof food container, and a fire pit with a grill for cooking. These sites can accommodate trailers and RVs up to 22 feet in length. Vault toilets are in various locations around the campground as well.

If you are into caving, there are several caves nearby that offer plenty of spelunking opportunities for everyone. However, be sure to let someone know when and where you go. There are trails to hike and bike or you can do some ATV riding here as well. Bring your pup along too because pets are welcome as long as they are restrained at all times.

Lakeview Campground

Lakeview Campground has 65 spacious and scenic campsites, but only 31 are suited for RVs. These can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 36 feet in length. Each site has a bear proof container for food and scented items, as well as a lantern hanger and fire ring with a grill for cooking on. They also offer drinking water spigots around the camp and restrooms as well as vault toilets.

The campground is right on the Parker Canyon Lake, which is 160 acres of fun with a boat ramp and dock. If you want to work off that big lunch, try the five-mile Lakeshore Trail. This park also has a camp store by the boat ramps on the lake where you can rent boats, buy snacks, and grab some bait to fish with. Dogs and cats are welcome as long as they are restrained and attended during your stay. Be sure to come early if you want a spot, especially on holidays and weekends, because these sites are first-come, first-served.

Seasonal activities in Coronado National Forest

In-Season

Caving

It gets hot in Arizona in the summertime, but it stays cool in the caves. The Cave of the Bells in Sawmill Canyon is famously known for its amazing minerals and formations and has a huge lake inside. The Coronado Cave is thought to have been home to archaic people about 8,000 years ago and has some really cool and unique formations.

Mountain Biking

Be sure to pack your bikes on the camper or RV so you can do some mountain biking on the hundreds of miles of trails here in the Coronado National Forest. The 6.6-mile Elephant Head Mountain Bike Route winds across the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. Cunningham Loop Trail #316 is 5.6 miles of old logging roads and trails through the woods with a lot of views of the Galiuro Mountains. The Grant Hill Loop Trail #322 is also 5.6 miles and crosses Grant Creek and Fort Grant.

ATV Riding

There are two campgrounds that cater to ATV riders. The Calabasas Group Site near Pena Blanca Lake hosts groups up to 250 people with 14 tables and 12 campfire rings. The trails are vast and adventurous. White Rock Campground is also near Pena Blanca Lake and provides access to over 20 miles of ATV roads and trails. So, make sure you hook the ATV trailer to the RV before heading to the forest.

Off-Season

Fishing

There are quite a few lakes in the Coronado National Forest including Pena Blanca Lake, which has 49 acres of water filled with trout, bass, and crappie. The 90-acre Arivaca Lake on Ruby Road has bluegill, catfish, bass, and crappie. Parker Canyon Lake is 132 acres in the Canelo Hills with catfish, bass, trout, and crappie. And the Rose Canyon Lake is a six-acre trout fishing lake just northeast of Tucson. There are also several rivers and creeks where you can catch trout, bass, and crappie.

Hiking

There are 194 named trails in the Coronado National Forest where you can explore diverse territories from high mountain tops to grasslands and oak woodlands. The half-mile Ash Spring Trail #247A is easy and has an elevation of 6,125 feet. Turtle Mountain Trail #219 is a primitive trail about 6.6 miles long through the hot and dry mountains. If you want a more difficult trail, try the Bog Springs Trail #156 near the Bog Springs Campground. Bring a camera in your rig because the mountains, valleys, and meadows of vibrant wildflowers need to be captured and shared.

Horseback Riding

If you are a horse lover, there are 11 campgrounds that cater to equestrians such as the Half Moon Ranch in a canyon of the Dragoon Mountains. This area has several awesome trails. Round-the-Mountain Campground is open year-round and has three campsites, restrooms, corrals, and a trailhead that takes you to dozens of trails. And White Rock Campground near Pena Blanca Lake has 15 campsites with tables and grills, as well as a trailhead that leads to several trails.

Find the perfect campsite.