Safford Arizona, near the New Mexican border, offers some good opportunities for boondocking. It’s a little bit off the beaten path, on Highways 70 and 191; if you want to get off I-10 to or from New Mexico, a detour through Safford could be quite satisfying.
You’ll find a variety of camping opportunities around Safford, from the cool, Ponderosa pines of Mount Graham, along the Gila River, and of course, in the desert.
Driving into Safford, the first thing you’ll notice are the cotton fields; the economy of Safford relies on “Copper, Cattle and Cotton”. Safford is a full-service city of 10,000, and you’ll find everything you need here, from a Walmart, grocery store, to an RV dealership and service center.
Before you drive into these areas blind, it’s a good idea to spend a night or two at one of the RV parks in town, and check out the boondocking with your truck or car beforehand.
Seven miles east of Safford on Hwy 70 is Hackle Road, a BLM area. There is plenty of space for any size of RV here. The area has great cell reception, and while it’s close to town, it seems very far away. The ground here is firm and level, and the spots are spaced well apart.
GPS: 32.7854, -109.6008
Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area
As the name suggests, this BLM area is a popular place to off-road on 2,000 acres of sand dunes and soak in a natural hot spring.
Also as the name suggests, if you are driving in with an RV, be very careful where you park; you naturally want to avoid getting stuck in the sand. The road into the recreation area also doesn’t have many places to turn a big rig around, so if you can, check it out before you drive in.
GPS 32.5205, -109.4407
From Safford, drive seven miles east on Highway 70. Turn right on Hackle Road and go another 25 miles.
Go south on Hwy 191 towards Mount Graham to Tanque Road. The landscape is slightly hilly but it’s fairly accessible, but be cautious; some spots are sandy, and if it rains, it gets very muddy. However, the camping spots are spaced well apart, offer a lot of privacy.
GPS: 32.6084, -109.6782
Majestic Mount Graham is the centerpiece of the Coronado National Forest. The lower altitudes are covered with pinyon and cedar, and higher elevations are covered in a dense Ponderosa pine forest. At the very top, you’ll find 11-acre Riggs Flat Lake.
Camping on Mount Graham ranges from free, to around $10 per night, depending on the campground. Of course, being up in the mountains, access for larger RVs is somewhat limited, as is cell service. If you have a bigger rig, or need cell, check it out beforehand.
This one is free, and at the lower elevations of Mount Graham, off Hwy 266. However, the dirt roads around here are pretty rough, and cell service is sketchy. If you have anything bigger than a truck camper or van, use caution.
GPS: 32.5767, -109.8527
Stockton Pass Campground
This is free, and also along Hwy 266. However, the actual campsites, which have picnic tables and fire rings, are geared towards tents and truck campers. But you may be able to find a spot for a larger RV close by.
GPS: 32.5917, -109.8503
Old Columbine Dispersed Camping
This one is also free, and at more than 8,000 feet, the weather is nice and cool. It’s down a short, good dirt road, may be able to fit in a medium-sized rig in around here. However, no cell service, and the roads are closed in winter.
GPS: 32.698, -109.9121
Camping Along the Gila River
Around 20 miles from town, off Hwy 191, this riverside campground is only $5 per day. However, you’ll need to contend with 15% grades and tight, blind curves to get down there, and back up. Big rigs can make it, but unless you’re very confident in your driving ability and your rig, you may want to skip it.
Once you get there, the campground is clean, with cabanas, fire rings, and picnic tables, but you’ll be lucky to get cell service.
GPS: 32.8874, -109.4797
This is a very easy access campground for only $5 a day, on the way to Clifton. It’s just 4 miles off Hwy 191 and the dirt road is good, as well as the cell service. It’s just a short walk to the cottonwood-lined creek. You’ll also get good cell service here. There are 7 spaces, with ramadas and picnic tables.
GPS: 32.9664, -109.3073