RVing in Phoenix, AZ at Maricopa County’s Regional Parks

We spent a lot of time in Phoenix in March – far more than we had anticipated! In that time, we stayed in 3 different parks, all run by Maricopa County (where Phoenix is located). There are 5 regional parks around Phoenix:

Phoenix’s Regional Parks. We stayed at 3 out of the 5. Screenshot from https://maricopacountyparks.org/

Why did we stay in Phoenix for so long? Well, after staying in Phoenix for about a week initially, we went to California, where we stayed at Joshua Tree National Park and Anza Borrego State Park. After our stay at Anza Borrego, the RV we wanted became available in Phoenix (it was sold when we first inquired, but it fell through), so we turned around and drove right back to where we came from. It was in Phoenix that we sold Trudy and bought The Fox, so we had to stay there for awhile until all the moving parts on both deals had settled.

As I’ve mentioned before, we greatly prefer to stay at county, state, or national parks – not private RV parks. In Phoenix, we couldn’t have stayed at a private RV park even if we wanted to – they are all 55+ parks. Phoenix is quite the destination for snowbirds and us young RVers couldn’t help but feel a bit unwanted. We managed to cobble together stays at 3 of the different regional parks:

  • White Tank
  • Usery Mountain
  • Lake Pleasant

I say cobbled together because…dun dun dun…these parks were completely booked! Theme of the winter in Phoenix. I can’t really blame people…80 degrees and sunny every day, the weather is pretty darn perfect. But it’s times like these when not having any reservations and just ‘rolling on a whim’ (we have to live up to our name) can leave you with nowhere to stay. A couple of the parks allowed us in as ‘overflow’.

This means we were allowed to park in a gravel lot – no hookups, but we did have access to their dump station, water fill, and a trash can. Not to mention we could use all of their hiking trails, which is something I care a lot about. So for not having any reservations, we were actually able to make do pretty well in Maricopa County’s regional parks. We were so thankful that they take overflow – not many other parks we’ve seen do that, so thank you, Maricopa County!

This always makes you feel good…

 

Our First Stay – White Tank Regional Park

We stayed at White Tank Regional Park in their overflow area for a couple days. Since we didn’t actually stay in the campground, I can’t comment on their facilities. But from an overflow perspective, it was a decent place to stay. Trudy had her spot in a big gravel lot, and other RVs came and went from the same gravel lot, but we all had a lot of space.

Trudy in the giant gravel parking lot at White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Trudy in the giant gravel parking lot at White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Overflow Signs! Without overflow, we could not have explored Phoenix. Thank you, Maricopa County Parks!
Making the best of it. A gravel lot is kinda like a sandbox?

I really enjoyed a hike I did at White Tank, called Goat Camp trail. Tim did it, too. It was insanely steep and mostly rocks (hence the name, I guess?) between miles 2 and 3. That was the most rock scrambling I’d done up until that point…I’ve since done a lot more. But it was a good intro hike to climbing up rocks instead of an actual trail.  I was so glad I had my hiking poles – definitely could not have done that hike without them!

Goat Camp Trailhead
Goat camp trail..infinitely easier for mountain goats than humans
Sunset from Trudy’s spot at White Tank. Arizona has the best sunsets.

 

Second Stay – Usery Mountain Regional Park

Usery Mountain (in Mesa) is a special park in my mind because it’s where I spent my 30th birthday! I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise and I set out on a nice long hike in the park. It’s where I got this cool picture of me standing next to a mighty saguaro.

Birthday hike!

We managed to snag an actual site here (read: water and electric hookups) for 2 nights and enjoyed every second of it. I wish we could have stayed here longer, but you know the story….no available spaces!  Usery did have an overflow area but we decided to move on to California after our stay here. For some reason, we forgot to take a picture of our site at Usery.

Usery Mountain is a really nice park. I’d say it was my favorite out of all 3 we stayed at. Lots of great hikes, and they even had a cactus themed playground, which Calla loved! Neither of the other 2 parks had playgrounds.

How cute is this?
Playing at the playground

 

Third Stay – Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park ended up being our home base for a lot longer than we would have liked! For much of the time at Lake Pleasant, we had 2 rigs: Trudy and the Fox. This means paying double the nightly fee for camping. Thankfully, Lake Pleasant is pretty lenient (which is also kind of a bad thing…I’ll get to that in a second) and you can camp pretty much wherever you want along the shoreline as a walk-in….there are no reservations for shoreline camping. Of course, there are also no amenities, just a dumpster. But it ended up being a great place for us to switch rigs. Because there are no assigned spots, we were able to park them right next to each other for a few days.

Dry camping at Lake Pleasant with the Fox, Trudy, and the Ram during the transition between rigs
Cleaning Trudy after we moved out
For the first few days, we only had Trudy at Lake Pleasant and we managed to get a lakefront spot.
Lake Pleasant was where Calla found her love for rock throwing

The shoreline camping at Lake Pleasant is rather untamed. People can park wherever they want, in whatever orientation they want, blast loud music, use their generators at all hours, drive their cars into the water (yes we witnesses this, and they needed to be towed out), and just generally act like idiots.

No rules were ever enforced at the shoreline, and it was pretty much a party environment. So one one hand, we were thankful for the lack of rules because it allowed us to move rigs easily, and inexpensively (I think a night of shoreline camping was $12…sites are much more expensive). But the lack of rules also meant that the environment was a little unruly for our taste and we got sick of it.

Pink flamingo raft full of screaming people and loud music? Par-tay!
Accidentally drive your car into a lake? Whoops!

Looking to escape the insanity (and get some water and electricity), a site became available at Lake Pleasant, and we booked it for several days. We moved the Fox to the actual site, and kept Trudy in the shoreline camping area.

The first time we had the fox in an actual campsite!
The lake and scenery are really beautiful….

Our stay in the actual campsites of Lake Pleasant was a night and day difference. With camp hosts to keep an eye on things, it was a very relaxing, family friendly environment. The lake in the park is huge (and beautiful – and very popular with boaters) and there are a couple trails around the lake and a small nature center. One thing we noticed, for how hot it was, the lake never smelled bad.

Beautiful Lake Pleasant

By the end of our stay at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, I was definitely ready to move on, mostly because our time at that park was represented by the stress of trying to sell Trudy, moving from one rig to another, and towing the new one and getting it set up. Many stressful things all at once. So it wasn’t about enjoying the park as much as it was about getting stuff DONE!

With the exception of the rowdiness at Lake Pleasant (completely avoidable by reserving an actual campsite), we loved our stays at all 3 Maricopa County Parks around Phoenix.

Date Visited: March 2018

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