Tonopah, Arizona is a tiny, sparsely populated community in Maricopa County bordered by mountains on three sides and the Hassayampa River to the east. The name Tonopah may have come from an American Indian word meaning "hot water under a bush," a fitting reference to Tonopah's warm springs that fed the small town’s once popular hot-baths.
Tonopah may be small, yet it is neighbors to the largest power producer in the United States, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Phoenix is just an hour’s drive from town, and the Sonoran wilderness is a little farther down the road. In this dazzlingly hot corner of Arizona, your journeys will be made more pleasant with a motorhome you can take with you wherever you go. Book an RV in Maricopa County, AZ today and see where the desert roads take you.
Escape the Crowds For a Desert Experience Like No Other
The aptly named Saddle Mountain borders Tonopah to the south. If you're looking for a moderate hike, the volcanic peaks of this craggy mountain offer just the opportunity. The trail up the summit (3,000 feet above sea level) winds through 1.6 miles one-way, and in a few spots, ascends through a scree slope. Ideal hiking season is between late October to mid-March to avoid extreme heat. If you get lucky, you just might see the foothills carpeted in blooms of yellow Gordon’s bladderpod and patches of poppies and lupine.
An hour away by campervan rental from Tonopah lies White Tank Mountain Regional Park, so named for the "tanks" or depressions on the white granite rock made by infrequent but torrential downpours. This erosive action has left the range deeply serrated with ridges and canyons. At 30,000 acres, it is the largest regional park in Maricopa County. There are about 30 miles of shared-use trails here of varying lengths and difficulties, and a 10-mile competitive track for highly experienced cross-country runners, endurance cyclists, and equestrians.
Nature on a much bigger scale awaits at the Sonoran Desert National Monument. Encompassing almost half a million acres of cactus plains and rugged mountain ranges, the monument beckons those who prefer to experience solitude, with only a desert tortoise, a saguaro cactus, or a palo verde tree for company. Owing to the remote nature of this desert, ensure you are self-sufficient, and your motorhome rental from Tonopah is adequately supplied with food and water before exploring the few dirt roads that course through the desert.
Where to Park Your RV
The Saddle Mountain RV Park is right in town and makes an ideal base for your RV trailer rental in Tonopah so you can better explore the surrounding mountains. Offering full hookup sites, the campground sits close to BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management), so there’s plenty of opportunity for hiking, four-wheeling, and star-gazing.
Farther down the road but still within town limits, the Stage Stop RV Park offers showers, up to 50 amp electric hookup, and RV dump. It’s the closest campground to the power plants of Palo Verde and Mesquite. Or consider an overnight stay at the White Tank Regional Park to fully explore its trails. Water and electric hookup sites are available along with restrooms and showers. You can also take your camper rental from Tonopah to Buckeye (within 30 miles) for a stay in one of their campgrounds or in a Walmart parking lot. Talk to the store manager to secure a space for a night or two.
A Closer Look Around Buckeye Valley
For a town its size, Tonopah surprisingly has a handful of places to enjoy casual dining, comfort food, and fast food from national chains. There are also a few grocery stores to buy ingredients from should you wish to cook your favorites from scratch. With several gas stations in town and a truck stop, you can confidently venture out of town and explore neighboring attractions.
The nuclear plant is not open to the public for tours. Instead, drive your RV rental from Tonopah to Buckeye for a look inside the Palo Verde Energy Education Center to learn how nuclear power is generated. View displays comparing nuclear power with coal and oil, or stand before a full-scale mock-up of a storage unit that holds used fuel coming out of the reactor. The inside tour explains the operations of the power plant using interpretive panels and audio-visuals.
Seek respite from the desert heat and take a splash at the public aquatic center and enjoy winding water slides. A high dive is installed along with a low dive for younger swimmers. The center, managed by the city of Buckeye, has a beachfront and other water features the whole family will enjoy. It only opens in season, starting in May.
Step inside the Buckeye Valley Museum and view an impressive collection of pre-Columbian pottery, local artifacts, and historic photographs from the earliest days of Buckeye after it was founded in 1888. See a 1926 tractor, a row of seats from a community theater, and bronze plates from the Roosevelt Irrigation Canal. Founded in 1954, the museum was remodeled to include facades of historic Buckeye buildings.
Tonopah marks the start of your adventures in southwest Arizona. Nowhere will you make better use of a motorhome or a camper than in remote places where the land seems to stretch on forever. So when you make your travel plans, don’t forget to search for a camper rental in Tonopah that will take you to places you thought were beyond reach.