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Guide to the Best Camping Near Saguaro National Park

camping at and near saguaro national park

I’ve been to Saguaro National Park several times over the years and will continue to visit because I’m always discovering new ways to experience the park! This national park is truly magical and in my opinion, camping is the best way to experience Sagurao National Park.


In this guide, I share the best campground near Saguaro National Park, when to visit, what to do when you’re visiting, and what to pack! 

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best camping in saguaro national park

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Table of Contents

The Best Camping Near Saguaro National Park

While there are over 9 campgrounds surrounding the park and 6 designated backcountry campgrounds, I’m here to tell you all about the best camping near Saguaro National Park: Gilbert Ray Campground


Located 13 miles from Tucson, Gilbert Ray Campground is nestled among thousands of giant saguaros and has convenient access to Saguaro National Park’s extensive trail system! The campground is less than five miles from the infamous National Park sign.

camping at and near saguaro national park


There are 130 RV sites with individual electrical hook-ups and tents are allowed in every campsite, not just the 5 tent-only sites. There is a seven-day limit of stay and the busiest times to visit are January 1 – March 31. 

There are 26 first-come, first-served campsites in the H Loop – no reservation required!  

If you’d like to book your campsite ahead of time,
click here to make a reservation for $20/night. 


camping at gilbert ray campground near saguaro national park

Each campsite is centrally located to water and has a picnic table. There are multiple restrooms with flush toilets and sinks, and there is an RV dumping station. 


There are no campfires in this campground. 


Please be sure to remove your trash and leave your campsite better than you found it! 

Map to Gilbert Ray Campground

What to Expect When Camping at Saguaro National Park

car camping near saguaro national park


Summers are brutal in Saguaro National Park, with temperatures in the triple digits. NOT ideal camping weather!

The best time to go camping in Saguaro National Park is late October – late April. October and April can still be hot so if you want the absolute best weather, plan to visit from November – March.

Nature and Wildlife

The park is home to a great variety of unusual animals, some of which can only be found in southern Arizona! There are roadrunners, horned lizards, Gila monsters, kangaroo rats, tarantulas, desert tortoises, rattlesnakes, and so much more! 


When camping in Gilbert Ray Campground, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, kangaroo rats, toads, and brown recluse spiders – all of which were spotted on my last camping trip! There were also lots of coyotes nearby, but they kept their distance and just made themselves heard.  

Pictured is the rattlesnake I saw on my last visit – look how well it blends in with its surroundings!  

Entering Saguaro National Park

Payment options to enter Saguaro National Park include the honor system, self-pay stations, mobile apps, online, and in-person at the Red Hills Visitor Center and Rincon Mountain Entrance station.

I have an America The Beautiful National Parks Pass but I haven’t had to show it any of the times I’ve visited the park. 

Visit a lot of National Parks?

If you are visiting Saguaro National Park, or any of the other national parks across the country, consider getting an $80 America the Beautiful pass! It lasts for 1 year and gets you admission to all registered sites. 

Purchase your National Parks Pass here

Things to do while camping at Gilbert Ray Campground

There are so many things to do when camping near Saguaro National Park! Whether you want to stay active or hang out at your campsite, there is plenty to do and see. 

camping and hiking near saguaro national park


If you want to stay close to Gilbert Ray Campground, there’s a trailhead in Loop A of the campground that gives you access to hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Another great option is Brown Mountain Trail (pictured above), which is right across the street from the campground!

If you want to venture away from camp,
Valley View Overlook Trail and Garwood Trail are two of my favorite easy hikes in Saguaro National Park, which is only a couple minutes drive from camp!

Mountain biking

Gilbert Ray Campground has exclusive access to hundreds of miles of trails inside Loop A! We rode part of the Gilbert Ray Loop and ended up biking about 8-miles before it got too warm. 

What to bring on a Saguaro National Park Camping Trip

Here are a few things to remember to bring on your car camping trip to Saguaro National Park.

what to wear when visiting saguaro national park in the fall

Clothes to pack for Saguaro National Park

When I pack clothes for camping, I take into consideration what kind of camping I’m doing (car camping vs backpacking), how long I’ll be there, the weather, and the activities I will be doing! 


You might like my blog on Car Camping Clothes: Ultimate Packing Guide.


No matter when you visit Saguaro National Park, be sure to pack layers! Consider wearing a sun shirt for all-year around, a fleece jacket in the fall and spring, and a down jacket for winter. 


Here’s what I packed to go car camping for one night near Saguaro National Park in late October (the highs in the 80’s, lows in the 60’s)

Camping gear to pack for Saguaro National Park

camping at saguaro national park

Here’s a list of car camping gear I packed for one night: 

Final thoughts on camping near Saguaro National Park

I hope you found these tips helpful! After picking a date and booking your campsite, you’ll be ready to have an amazing Saguaro National Park camping trip! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below! 

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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