Urban Camping in Northern Arizona

wide openSee that teeny little disturbance in the middle of the photo? That is our camp site. Even though Dead Horse Ranch State Park is practically in the town of Cottonwood, AZ, there is still plenty of wide open space and privacy.

Les and I decided to give “Urban Camping” a go this past weekend. Urban camping is about choosing a campsite that is near or in a town or city.
We decided to camp at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Camping in Arizona is still kind of strange for us. Coming from Southern California, we are used to driving long distances past housing development after housing development just to get out of town, much less to get to an actual camping spot. We have lived in Arizona for thirteen years already and it still trips us out that we can step out our front door and hit a hiking trail. Being surrounded by this huge blue sky and so much unoccupied land is such a gift to be appreciated and, believe me, we do!.

Les workingSetting up camp: as usual Les was doing  all the work while I goofed off taking selfies. Life is good. (grin)
At Dead Horse camp grounds there are a ton of camp loops ranging from citified (lots of shade trees and fully equipped with electricity and running water) all the way out to the farthest point where we chose. And even that site (tents only) had the most immaculate restrooms and showers we’ve ever seen at a state park. Les said that they were better than some of the hotels that we have stayed in and he is right!

unusual plants at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona
unusual plants at Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona

abondoned cabinThis park is an exciting choice because, not only is there a lot of ground to cover, exploring abandoned shacks and ruins, but there is a wonderfully cool, shady lagoon to explore as well. You’ve got such a diverse eco-system within the park. You can hike from a high desert, to a cool lagoon to a shady marshland all in one day. Everywhere you look, the flora, birds and animals are plentiful.

Colorful and comical blue herons hang out at the dock of the lagoon where they steal fish from the buckets of unsuspecting anglers. This waterway is so peaceful and beautiful- an excellent destination if you just want to pack a lunch and go for a relaxing day hike.
the lakeAt the lagoon, there is also kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, and a ton of different hiking trails.

Tadeshi marshOn our second day in the park, we trekked on down to Tavasci Marsh.  It’s a fabulous hike down to a cool, wooded, marsh. It’s quite a surprise to find such an oasis in the middle of a dry Sonoran desert.  One of the rewards to this hike is coming upon a fern covered wonderland. You can see how dense the fine, lacy ferns are in the photo at the upper right corner of this collage.

Tuzigut Ruins, ArizonaFrom the Marsh trail-head, you can look across and see the Tuzigoot Indian ruins in Clarkdale, AZ. Also an interesting site seeing destination best saved for another day.

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