The Prescott National Forest in the middle of Arizona is made up of approximately 1.25 million acres and is bordered by three other National Forests. Prescott National Forest was established in 1898 by President William McKinley. Since then, it has spread to over eight wilderness areas with diverse vegetation and ecosystems. At the lowest elevation, you can find desert-type vegetation, which changes to chaparral trees as the terrain increases in elevation. As the elevation continues to rise, the landscape changes again, this time to juniper trees and piñon pines, until the point where the forest is almost entirely taken over by mature ponderosa pines.
Prescott National Forest is a haven for OHV riders, offering dozens of off-roading trails and open riding areas, including the Alto Pit, Crown King, Groom Creek, Iron Springs / Jerome Canyon, Sheridan Mountain/Smith Mesa, and Camp Verde. For people who prefer floating over off-roading, the Verde River is the only Wild and Scenic River in the state and has rapids ranging from Class I to Class IV. The Highlands Center for Natural History is an 80-acre campus that provides nature-based education for everyone and is located by Lynx Lake.
Prescott National Forest is a recreational area where people can take part in outdoor activities year-round. From hiking to horseback riding, hang gliding to target shooting, you can find something for everyone here. If you want to stay the night or the weekend, there are 11 RV campgrounds here to choose from. We highlighted our top three choices for camping below.
Just a couple of hours north of Phoenix, you can find the Prescott National Forest right in the center of Arizona, southwest of Flagstaff. For some scenic driving, Highway 89, or White Spar Road, just south of Prescott will take you 60 miles through rolling hills, ranches, historic towns, and the picturesque town of Wickenburg. If you want to take a shorter drive, the Salt Mine Road to Beasley Flat takes you along 20 miles of foothills and rocky slopes, mountains, and even a big stone house built in the 1870s.
Accessing the forest is easy since it is in the center of the state. You can take Highway 89 from the north, 93 from the west or southwest, and Interstate 17 to Highway 69 or 169 from the east or southeast. Regardless of which way you come, the roads are not as well-groomed as those you see in the county or city, so drive slowly and keep your eye out for the wildlife that likes to cross the roads here.
The campgrounds here are typically rugged and primitive with dirt or gravel roads, so do not expect groomed streets. You will usually find narrow roads with potholes, low hanging branches, and even some mud if it has rained recently. Most people park their rigs at their campsite and walk or ride bikes around the campground.
The popular Lynx Lake Campground has 35 single campsites and four double campsites, each with their own fire rings and grills, picnic tables, and a large cleared space to sit around the campfire. The maximum length of RVs that can fit range from 22 to 35 feet, but 17 of these are pull-throughs, so just about any rig can fit here. Be sure to reserve your spot in advance to get the one you need. There are no hookups, but there are nine drinking water spigots around the park. You can also find two flush toilets with running water, four vault toilets, and trash bins to keep the campground clean. Bears frequent the area, so keep your food in a bear-proof box.
The 55-acre Lynx Lake has over 90,000 visitors every year for trout fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking. Some of the hiking trails include the 2.3-mile Lakeside Trail #311, 7.1-mile Homestead Trail #305, half-mile Lynx Creek Ruin Trail #301, and the 4.2-mile Salida Gulch Trail #95, which is also open to bikers and equestrians. If you need bait, snacks, or other supplies, the Lynx Store and Marina is available during the summer. They even rent boats and electric motors. You can also bring your pets if you keep them restrained and supervised during your visit.
In the Granite Basin Area, the Yavapai Campground has 17 single campsites and four double campsites with space for RVs up to 40 feet in length. These are reservable, but you should reserve one early if you want a spot, especially on weekends and holidays. Each site has a large cleared area, a picnic table, and a campfire ring with a grill for cooking. The campground also provides two drinking water spigots and several vault toilets for your convenience. Bears are frequently spotted here, so make sure you keep your food and other scented items locked in a bear-proof container.
The Granite Basin Lake is just a short drive from the camp where you can swim, fish, and go canoeing or kayaking. There are 15 named trails in and around the campsite as well, so this is the perfect spot for those who enjoy hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The half-mile Chimbly Trail #348 is an easy one, but if you want a bit more distance, try the 3.3-mile Little Granite Mountain Trail #37, which has some fantastic views of Granite Mountain. Pets are welcome if you keep them restrained and supervised at all times.
In the mature pines on Mingus Mountain, the Mingus Mountain Campground has 19 campsites with electric, picnic tables, and fire rings with grills. Eight of these sites are pull-throughs, and the rest can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet in length. Bears frequent the area, so keep your food in a bear-proof box. There are several vault toilets and drinking water spigots in the campground for your convenience. Spots are first-come, first-served, so get here early to get the spot you want.
With some fantastic views of the Mogollon Rim, the San Francisco Peaks by Flagstaff, the Sedona Red Rocks, and the Verde Valley, you will have a plethora of photo ops here. You can also bring your pets if you keep them restrained and supervised during your visit. If you want some exercise, try the quarter-mile Mingus Interpretive Trail, 4.2-mile North Mingus Trail #105, or the 2.6-mile Gaddes Canyon Trail #110. The small Mingus Lake is stocked with rainbow trout, so don’t forget to pack your fishing gear.
The 14.8-mile Verde River from Beasley Flat to Sheep Bridge was named Arizona’s only Wild and Scenic River in 1984. Even though it may seem nice and calm, there have been a large number of wrecked canoes due to the many hazards in the water, so you should be prepared, careful, and wear a life jacket at all times. The rapids range from Class I to Class IV, so make sure you are experienced enough to ride this river. There are spots to camp along the river as well if you want to stay the night or just get out and rest.
Although some people like to find their own launching spots, the Mingus Mountain launch is the most popular hang gliding launch in the forest. Located between Jerome and Prescott Valley, you can choose from the natural ramp of a grassy slope or a poured cement launch ramp. Both launches are 7,800 feet above sea level, which can be rough in strong wind conditions. Early afternoon is the best time to get the right wind conditions.
If you are looking for a place to have a family reunion or friendly get-together, try one of the reservable picnic pavilions. The Thumb Butte Group Picnic Site can accommodate up to 100 people and has four BBQ pits, 12 picnic tables, a serving table, restrooms with running water, and electric outlets. There are also some trails, horseshoe pits, and a creek to cool off in. For a smaller group up to 50, the Groom Creek Schoolhouse has 10 picnic tables, vault toilets, and it is ADA-accessible. Although there are no BBQ pits, you are welcome to bring your own grill.
There are 137 OHV trails in the Prescott National Forest, so make sure you hook up the OHV trailer to the RV before coming for a visit. For an easy run, try the 1.3-mile Elouise Trail #306 off Forest Road 82 or the 3.3-mile Little Wolf Creek Trail #304 on Forest Road 9219B. If you want to camp at an OHV Campground, the 400-acre Alto Pit Campground has 10 campsites with picnic tables, BBQ pits, and vault toilets. There are 20 miles of trails in the Prescott National Forest to choose from with two cross-country areas that permit street-legal vehicles, so you will have more than enough trails to explore during your trip.
You will love the 4.2-mile North Mingus Trail #105, which is one of the more popular trails in the forest, especially during the fall. The changing colors of the trees in the Mingus Mountains are astounding, and since most of the trail is over 7,000 feet, the views are amazing. The Homestead Trail #305 meanders through the oak and ponderosa pine forests near the Lynx Lake Recreation Area. This 7.5-mile trail is classified as moderate due to the climbing you will be doing. Make sure you pack those walking shoes in the RV.
Some of the best equestrian trails are found in the Granite Mountain Wildlife Area. The 1.8-mile Clark Spring Trail #40 is easy and connects to other trails to make the ride longer. The 3.2-mile Balancing Rock Trail #349 is a lovely walk along the pines and boulders. For a challenge, take your horse to the 4.1-mile Granite Mountain Trail #261 or the 3.6-mile Tin Trough Springs Trail #308. The Mint Wash Trail #345 is 4.2 miles of meandering along Mint Wash, which is best seen in the fall.