Camping in Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona

Backpacking
Feb 2019

The Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is an incredible desert oasis of Arizona. A visit here is worth at least one or two nights so you can get the full backcountry hiking experience. Here’s what you need to know about camping in Aravaipa Canyon before you go!

View of Aravaipa Canyon walls on backpacking trip

Finding a Campsite in Aravaipa Canyon

The first thing to know about camping in Aravaipa is that you need a permit at any time of year. The canyon is on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and permits are issued 13 weeks before you plan to visit. Aravaipa Canyon permit rules, fees, and more can be found here.

The campsites themselves are first-come-first-serve in Aravaipa Canyon, so you’ll be competing for the best sites with all other permit holders. Ideally, you’ll want to start hiking into the canyon no later than about 3 in the afternoon to snag a campsite before nightfall, but we recommend starting your hike earlier. This also, of course, depends on the day of the week you have a permit for and how far you decide to hike into the canyon.

If your permit begins from the West Entrance Trailhead, a good benchmark for the first day of a backpacking trip is near the entrance of a side canyon called Horse Camp Canyon, around 5 miles from the trailhead. There are plenty of campsites here, but campsites can also be found less than 5 miles in if you’re ready to stop hiking earlier. Read more about hiking in Aravaipa.

Peace & the Sounds of Nature

Notice that I didn’t say “Peace & Quiet?” If I described Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness as quiet, I would be lying! While camping in Aravaipa Canyon you will get to enjoy the many sounds of nature including a rushing creek that runs year-round, over 200 species of birds, and other wildlife. Out of the hustle and bustle of city-life and immersed in a wilderness area, the sounds of nature are amplified. During the night I find these sounds have a soothing rhythm that puts me right to sleep. Throughout the day, and while I drink my morning coffee around camp, these sounds remind me that the desert is thriving with life.

 

Scenes from Aravaipa Canyon

Words don’t always cut it when it comes to describing the beauty of Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, but pictures might! Here are a few:

Aravaipa Canyon Packing List

  • Permit. You need a permit to visit Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness and this is strictly enforced by the BLM. Obtain a permit from Recreation.gov or just #goguided with AOA!
  • Water. Even though you’re surrounded by water, stay hydrated! This is still the desert. Bring a water filter to keep your reservoir full.
  • Bug spray. It can get buggy as you are in the midst of a rich riparian ecosystem. Those darn skeeters’ll getcha!
  • Backpacking Gear. Backpack, shelter (tent, tarp, bivvy, hammock), sleeping bag, sleeping pad, cooking gear, first aid/toiletries (items for blister care!). Read this blog that has more of a comprehensive list on what to bring for a backpacking trip.
  • Trekking Poles. Walking through the creek can be challenging. Bring a pair of trekking poles to keep you balanced.
  • Water shoes. If you’re going to Aravaipa, you’ll want to wear shoes that can get wet and can keep the rocks and pebbles out. Wear something like chacos or tevas with socks OR quick-dry trail runners with socks. Wool socks dry fast!
  • Camp shoes. It’s nice to have a pair of camp sandals to wear while your shoes are drying from a day of hiking through Aravaipa Creek.
  • Your noggin. Because this is a wilderness area, it is quite remote. Be smart, prepared, and responsible. 
    • Know the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, and practice them. Seriously, so we and future generations can enjoy this place long after you leave.
    • Know where you’re going. Even though it’s hard to get lost here, bring the official map from the BLM, know basic compass and map skills, and bring a working GPS with you (test that before you go).
    • Tell your friends/family where you’re going
    • Flash Flood Awareness: check the weather beforehand. If you happen to be in Aravaipa Canyon during a flash flood, find HIGH ground.