If you’re planning a trip to Sedona in your RV soon, you have three basic choices on where you can camp for the night. You can stay at an RV park in town, stay at a nearby Coconino National Forest campground, or you can boondock in the surrounding Coconino National Forest. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather boondock for free in a scenic national forest than pay money to stay at a crowded RV park or campground. Even though Sedona is surrounded entirely by the Coconino National Forest most of it’s closed to dispersed camping. Fortunately, there are still some areas fairly close by where you can set up camp and boondock for the night.
During our trip to Sedona last May, we explored several areas reported to be open to boondocking. The best spots are located along Loy Butte Road (Forest Road 525/Red Canyon Road) about 5 miles west of Sedona on Highway 89A. Both sides of the road are open for dispersed camping up to Boynton Pass Road. Unfortunately, only the west side of the road is open for dispersed camping north of this road. Prime boondocking locations can also be found on two roads that branch off of Loy Butte Road, Forest Road 761 and Forest Road 9513. We found the area along FR-9513 pretty crowded, so we decided to isolate ourselves a bit and look for a good spot along FR-761 instead. A short time later we found a nice location near a small airstrip used to fly radio controlled airplanes.
While we were boondocked off of FR-761, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we had pretty good 4G reception with AT&T. We also found that the views of the stars around Sedona at night are pretty impressive, and if you’re lucky, you might even see a hot air balloon or two flying overhead in the morning, too. Unfortunately, goatheads, a particularly nasty thorn found in Arizona, are abundant in this area, so make sure your shoes are free of them before stepping foot in your camper. Otherwise, you may “find” a nasty surprise in the middle of the night in your bare feet.
The Coconino National Forest map above identifies those areas where dispersed camping is permitted. Basically, everything outside of the green outline is open to dispersed camping, though that isn’t necessarily true in all cases. One example, is Forest Road 9845A, south of Loy Butte Road and Highway 89A. This forest road showed lots of promise when we began to explore it last May but we were disappointed to find that nearly all of the nice spots were blocked off by large boulders. You can still find a couple of nice spots along this road, but you’ll have to drive a quite a distance to find them.
The top of Schnebley Hill Road offers what are, without a doubt, the most scenic locations around Sedona where you can boondock. The views from the top are without equal. Unfortunately, these spots are difficult to get to from town due to the poor condition of Schnebly Hill Road. The 5-mile-long drive to the top of Munds Mountain is very rough which basically limits traffic to ATVs, Jeeps, and other 4×4 vehicles (a 4×4 truck camper can safely navigate Schnebly Hill Road but it will be slow going). The only way for small motorhomes and travel trailers to reach these spots is to loop around and come in the back way from Interstate-17. The extra time to do this, however, is worth it as the views from atop Schnebly Hill Road are breathtaking.