Free Camping in Sedona 

We park and camp at the same spot every time we come to Sedona. There are no free camping areas inside Sedona, but there are some scattered just outside, with a stay allowance of 14 days. There is free camping on Schnebily Hill, but I’ve heard that it is difficult to get to, but worth the views. The Free Dispersed Camping just off Arizona SR 89A and Forest 525 road is the only one I can speak for. Apparently this is an alternate launch site for a Sedona balloon tour company, so breakfast views sometimes come with some nearby balloon landings.  

Be prepared to share this site. The first couple pull offs are usually occupied by quite a bit of trailers and motor homes every time we come. You can drive further down the road for quieter more solo sites, we’ve done that for tent camping. And when we were sick of camping with the cavemen and their loud ass generators, we went as far as we could down Forest Road 525. The views get better the further down 525 you go. Some spots are right up in the red hills below Bear Mountain and they are totally secluded and actually feels like camping or quiet off the grid living. 


Mountain Biking in Sedona

In the morning after you’ve cooked up a breakfast, head in towards Sedona for some mountain biking or hiking. There are heaps of trails just off Dry Creek Rd. 

We hoped on the 7.6 mile Chuck Wagon loop. It is a hike/bike trail. For us, it was walk-a-bike in a few sections, but it was an overall really fun ride. There was enough flow-y, fun, and technical sections to make you forget any bumpy technical climb you may have just endured. It is definitely one of my favorite trails. The views are all time. 

We took in the views from our pull off parking spot and snacked in the van. Since we had not been around wi-fi, we headed into the restaurant area to find a Starbucks or some place with free wifi. We hung outside of a pizza place to send some emails and make contact with the outside world. 

Once we were up to speed and wi-fi’d out, we headed back towards Forest 525 Road to cook some food and catch some z’s. 

Aeire Trail/Cockscomb trail - After being pumped about the Chuck Wagon trail, we wanted to try some others, although we were really tempted to do it again. 

We decided to try the Aeire Trail linked with the Cockscomb trail to creat the Aeire Loop, it does a 5.4 mile loop around around Doe Mountain. It was pretty chunky, but makes a nice short loop if you are short on time or if you are a eager beginner that wants a trail with some rewarding reviews. We saw people doing this trail with bike lamps at night. They were flying thru there.  Made me want to get some bright ass lights and try some night biking!

After the loop around Doe Mountain, we made some food in the van and looked for a hiking trail to cap off the afternoon. We checked out our REI Hiking app and saw two nearby that looked interesting: Bear Mountain and Boyton Canyon. They were both about 2.4-2.6 miles, one-way. Since the Boyton Canyon hike seemed to just hike gradually up thru the canyon, instead of straight up a mountain, we decided to do that one, since we weren’t really mentally prepared or ready to hike down a crumbly mountain in the dark. We would leave that hike for the next day.

Boyton Canyon Hike - Boyton Canyon was beautiful. At the beginning of the trail, it looked like you were hiking into a secret city. There were mind blowing houses and vacation properties, with stucco to match the hill sides they were so efficiently nestled into. There were views of the canyons for about the first 1.5 miles, then the tree canopy kind of takes away the views of the hill sides pretty much until you reach the End of Trail sign. The hike was more like a stroll, and where the “end of trail” sign is, it kind of invites you to find your own view. If you follow a little goat path to the right of that sign, it leads you up to a ledge where you can over look the canyon valley you just hiked thru. You return the same way you came in. 

Twin Buttes Loop - At this point our stoke level is high with Sedona, we want to do everything. So we figure we need to get on our bikes to see things faster. Even if we have to walk-a-bike in sections, if we can ride partial parts of the trail, we are into it. So we hoped on the Twin Buttes loop. This was a hike/bike trail. It was pretty epic, like every part of it was up until Chicken Point. Then, it was just alright. Parts of the trail go thru neighborhoods on the pavement. It is just kind of bizarre that it is part of the same loop as the first couple epic miles of Broken Arrow. 

The only lame part about this loop was all the pink jeeps EVERYWHERE, at every single vista. I found them to be very annoying. I didn’t mind the Duck tours in Seattle or other big cities, because it was chaos everywhere in cities and when one of those things comes squawking by with their obnoxious blab pointing out stuff, it just blended in with all the city noise, but bloody hell, they are just obnoxious out in nature. 

They would come one right after the other. As soon as you thought, “oh this is the time I can go and sneak a picture before anyone else is around,” or just take a breath and enjoy the silence I was trying to escape to, here comes another over-enthusiastic dude romping over some hillside to turn his jeep around, precisely where you are standing. Even when the Pink Jeep tours weren’t around giving tours, they were giving instruction to new members of the team. Letting them practice on the obstacles before they bring paying customers aboard. I wonder if this bothers the hell out of the locals. I really can’t imagine this place during busy season, if that is the way it is in February. 

All my personal annoyances aside, the views are worth the hike, bike, or hike-a-bike. When we were done with the loop, we cooked some food, strapped on our hiking boots, grabbed some head torches and hiked the Broken Arrow section again. That is how awesome the views were. This time, we had it all to ourselves, as we saw the last Pink Jeep Roll out past the mostly empty parking lot. It was so quiet, I felt I could hear the static of silence. 

Bear Mountain -On this day, we got a late start. We couldn’t decide if we wanted to take the day off or go enjoy Sedona before the weekend hit and the Phoenix weekend warriors come up. We decided we better get out there. So we cooked a nice brunch, packed up camp, and parked up at the Bear Mountain trail head. We got on the trail about 2:45pm, just enough time to chill, see the sunset and probably hike the last part out in the dark. 

Most people don’t like hiking in the dark, but we find it to be a great trade-off to have the spot to yourself. We leave enough time for the easiest part of the walk to be mostly in the dark. The hike estimated time is 4.5 hours. It took us 1:35 to get to the top and about the same to get down. If we didn’t stop to take pictures every 5 steps, we may have been able to do it faster. 

The hike starts out pretty easy as it slowly starts to get crumblier. Then, you start to climb to get up top of that plateau, and then climb, dip down and then climb some more. It flattens out enough after each hard climb to catch your breath before the next climb. Sometimes you have to use your hands to pull yourself over some sections. It is exactly 2.4 miles from entry to end of trail sign. 

At the top, we hung out and tried to place where we were from our usual campsite. We spotted many RVs and campers so close to the rocks, we were curious as to what road they were parked, because those spots looked epic, secluded, and so far from those noisy ass generators we had been camping next to. From up on Bear Mountain, we realized you could take that same road all the way to the end and we would hit Forest Road 525, the road you can camp on for up to 14 days, free. So we started our hike down, with plans on finding our own secluded campsite. Although we found our spot in the dark, we woke up to a pretty epic views. 

Because you are hiking with your back to most of the views as you are climbing the trail, the entire way down is so picturesque. We literally stopped so often, just to take in the views. The view from any summit is rewarding, when you make the effort to get to the top, but I felt like the summit views weren’t as amazing as the rest of the hikes views. I am only mentioning this because if you were tired, and didn’t feel like you could finish the entire hike then, any of the vistas that you pass on the trail will make up for not making it to the top. So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make it to the top. Just take in the views.

Southern New Mexico Road Trip

We are both native New Mexicans, but we have not been back for quite some time. And on our inaugural trip in the new van we wanted to stay close to home and explore before we blasted off from New Mexico again. There were a lot of really awesome places in New Mexico that we may have overlooked when we were young, but we were ready to see them and experience them now. 

Socorro and the Very Large Array

First stop leaving Albuquerque, we headed for the Very Large Array, just outside of Socorro, New Mexico. This is apparently the largest array of satellites. We originally wanted to get some time lapse footage of them moving, but we arrived late and weren’t able to scope out the place and plan our shots. There was a security guard that came over to us and told us that the visitor center and area was closed. So, we packed it up and planned on coming back after we scoped out the distance we would need to walk from the side of the road parking lot to the closest array. We definitely plan on coming back when the moon isn’t stealing the show anyways. 

We camped on some National Forest Service land about 10 miles away from the array. The description on said “True Boondocking” so we headed towards it and were the only on around for miles. 


In the morning, we headed towards I-25 and over to Truth or Consequences to photo a couple properties but to also check out their hot springs. We’ve never really explored TorC, but once we realized this little town really revolves around the various hot springs in the area. There are Air BnB’s with hot springs in their back yard or with in walking distance. We opted to check out the Riverbank Hot Spring resort. It is $12 for one hour for showers and there are 8 different pools with an entrance to the Rio Grande river as well. We went at night and there were heaps of laser lights shining into the pool and across the other side of the river bank. It really made for an awesome experience. Whispers were appreciated as it was a spa and hotel. There are private pools for $14 per hour, but you only get the one pool. With the $12 pass, you can go from their hottest 109 degree pools to their 104 degree pools. 

Gila National Forest

Gila National Forest Cliff Dwellings

After soaking in the TorC hot tubs, it reminded me that there was a cute little campsite near the Gila National Forests with hot springs. So we headed in that direction. I believe the campsite is called Gila Hot Springs Campground. There are three hot tubs steps from the campsite, potable cold and hot water, composting drop toilets, fire pits with plenty of wood, and about 10 secluded campsites. It is $5 to soak or $8 to camp (camping includes soaking). 

The hot spring tubs and campsites are right on the river and behind some farms, homes and other properties. When you turn off the road, you head thru some goat farms, follow the signs for the campsite. I believe you turn left on west fork lane, which goes along the river and the back side of the private property. Then, you got thru a gate to the right. If it is closed, you can still go in. You just need to pay your fees at the little hut near the first hot tub. The owners are a lovely couple. They come by every morning and night. They check the envelopes and say hello to everyone. So don’t go trying to skip your honesty box dues. They will not hesitate to make you pay. But at $8, this site is a bargain. I don’t know if you read the amenities and secluded campsites part, but I hope I had you at 3 hot springs steps away from your campsite to convince you that this is well worth every penny. If this were in New Zealand, it would be $40+. But, it is in New Mexico, so it’s a bargain at $8 per person. We stayed here twice. We didn’t plan on it, so we were a bit short money wise on second night, but the lady remembered us from the first night and let us slide and was glad we enjoyed it so much as to come back for a second night.  

This campsite is about a 10-15 minute drive to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. There is no way that you should miss this place if you are in the area. It is mind blowing. Apparently they are the best preserved dwellings in the US. They are 80% original preserved dwellings, with only 20% minor restorations. A lot of dwellings are reconstructions. This one is original. 

Apparently, back in the 90s this place was much less regulated, and you could camp anywhere inside or near them. When we went, there seemed to be more rangers than visitors, but they all were able to answer any questions we had checking out different areas inside the caves. The dwellings hike is about a 1 mile loop. 

City of Rocks State Park

After a late start at the campsite, we headed towards the City of Rocks. It was a half way point in-between Gila NF and Las Cruces, it was a place I had never heard of and it looked super cool from the pictures. 

Camping is $10 per site. There are trash cans and picnic tables at each site. It really looked like a little mini city of rocks; like Joshua tree or Alabama Hills type of random boulders, which made for some cool secluded campsites. There are both powered and unpowered sites. 

A lot of people were wandering thru the different walk ways the random rock piles seemed to create. Or climbing on the boulders. In the morning, we went out on a bike ride around the campsite and up the mountain. It was an 8 mile loop. It was gravely where it was easy and where it was more technical and hard, it was chunky and questionable if it was really a bike trail. Maybe one day I will be that good :)

Las Cruces/ Organ Mountains National Monument- Sierra Vista BLM Camping

Organ Mountains Las Cruces

After we cooked up some lunch, we headed towards Las Cruces to grab some groceries at the co-op and gas-up. Then, we set the GPS towards the BLM land just outside of Cruces, near the Organ Mountains National Monument,  Sierra Visa Trail head parking. There are hikes and biking that are reminiscent of Elena Gallegos or Bear Canyon on the foothills of the Sandia’s in Albuquerque.  

There are about 4-5 spots and they are usually taken. At the very end there is a larger parking area and a lot for about 3 medium size rigs parked efficiently down below. This is where the overflow late arrivers usually park up. 

Please stay on the roads or designated/ all ready established areas. Since the popularity of, the rangers that maintain this area have really had to make this spot a priority. We had a really funny and pleasant conversation with one of the rangers calling the site, “camp free anywhere .com or something” he said that they have to come buy many times throughout the day, early in the morning,  later in the afternoon to make sure people are not creating more spaces. He said it is BLM land and you are allowed to camp over night, but you can not create your own campsite anywhere, which is what people are doing when they pull up and see that there are no spots. They figure if no one is there to tell them no, then why can’t they. This type of unchecked behavior is what will threaten these awesome places for overnight stays. Which means, gate closing times for spaces like this. 

There are no facilities at this spot. Please come prepared as a self contained or a shovel and a ziplock bag for your pee paper. No one likes to see where you marked your spot. 

White Sands National Monument

White Sands New Mexico

There are 10 backcountry permits available to campout at White Sands. It is $6 per person and the campsites are first come, first served. If you have a National Parks pass, you only have to pay $3 per person for camping. 

It is awesome to camp out and share the park with about 10-20 other campers once the park closes down. You get to see the sunset, moons, stars, and sunrise. And all four of those are some of the most magical parts of White Sands. Cotton candy magic hour skies and pearl white sand dunes all to yourself. The harsh white light during the day is usually short lived by visitors unless they have kids playing in the sand. Usually about the time White Sands turns on the magic, it is time to go home for day visitors. 

Backpacking White Sands National Monument

The temperatures at night drastically change; bring warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag. If there is no moon, it is very dark; so, bring a head torch. We went during the super, blue, full moon and it was as bright as dusk the entire night. The moonlight was lighting up the inside of our tent. We really didn’t even need a head torch at all. 

This place is pretty awesome. If you are taking a southern route thru New Mexico, you don’t want to miss White Sands, it is pretty mind blowing. 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

If you are in Southern New Mexico, this is something you don’t want to miss, as well, equally mind blowing. Make sure you do the walk down and through the caverns. It takes a while to walk the entire system of caverns. So, make sure you go to the bathroom. I seem to remember there was on at the beginning and one at the elevator, at the end. (Just a little tip for all you guys that try to stay hydrated, but end up peeing all day, like we do.)  If you are there when the bats are there (Mid Summer to late October), make sure you stay for the bats exit of the cave in the afternoon. The bats are how they found Carlsbad Caverns. Apparently, like clockwork, these free-tailed bats, would fly out together every summer afternoon. And, because they are somewhat blind, they stick closer together. When one dips, they all dip together, looking like smoke rising in the air. The original people that found Carlsbad Cavern’s thought it was a fire every night. So, they finally went to it and realized the smoke was hundreds of thousands of bats exiting an enormous underground cave. 

From the Ranger’s Intro talk before the bat’s exit the cave, they first told us they had a strict ban on electronic devices during the bat flight program. No cameras, video, phones… everything emitting a signal must be turned off. They are super sensitive to electronic devices.

It is really a crazy experience from start to end. 

ABQ to Burningman Road Trip

Mono Lake Camping

After getting the Subaru all rigged up for the road with a fold out bed and other accessories (Check it out here), we took it out to Black Rock City for our annual pilgrimage to Burning Man.  We don’t stay in the Subaru at Burning Man. We build a hexayurt, although we have tried the car and it was miserable.  (More info on hexayurts here)  We’ve only traveled to BM from California and Washington, so coming from New Mexico was going to be a mission. We figured we would break it up into a road trip.  So all you New Mexico burners out there, we found a pretty awesome and fun route with multiple stopovers on your way to BRC.


Sedona Devils Bridge

Our first stop was a five hour cruise over to Sedona. Being our first time in Sedona, we had no idea what to do. So, we headed to the Dry Creek Area for some exploration.  We wanted to see Devil’s Bridge, but we knew it would be swarmed with people since it is one of the top hikes and easiest in Sedona. Plus, it has jeep trail access. So you already know the Pink Jeeps are blowing this spot up.  So, we explored the surrounding exotic red rock territory until sunset and then headed up to Devils Bridge after sunset.  Per usual, on our way up everyone was heading down, we got to the bridge and had it to ourselves once the stars were coming out.  We shot a few photos, watched the stars, and had a drink.  We were getting very comfortable until we saw a few scorpions, so we decided to head down.  We drove to Forest Road 525, off  HW-89, for some free camping.  We drove past the first few occupied pull offs and found our own exclusive spot and set up for the night.  We woke up, cooked breakfast, and headed out towards our next destination. 

Trona Pinnacles

We made the long haul from Sedona to the Trona Pinnacles in Death Valley.  It’s best to arrive at the Trona Pinnacles later in the day, around sunset, because the late summer daytime temperatures are boiling.  It was about 102 degrees at 7pm, when we pulled up.  We braved the heat and shot some magic hour photos and set up the rig for another night.  Thankfully, for us, it cooled down at night and we slept without the rainfly to have an amazing star show that night.  If you’ve never heard of the Trona Pinnacles, it's a pretty cool place to stop over for a night of camping in Death Valley.  We woke up and headed for HWY 385 that heads up the heart of the Sierra Nevada.  

Highway CA 385

This is some of my favorite stretches of highway, for life on the road.  There are so many amazing and scenic spots throughout this area.  We stopped in Lone Pine for some supplies. If you have extra time, you must camp at Alabama Hills, outside of Lone Pine, it’s one of our all time favorite campsites.  We headed up the 395 for some hot spring action.  There are plenty of hot springs out here, you just have to find them and it’s not very hard. Whitmore Springs area is just one area with multiple hotsprings, some you can camp near. After soaking in three different tubs in the area, we found a campsite around June Lake. We stayed at a free site that wasn't anything special, but it was free and in route!  The next morning and headed towards Yosemite. 

Yosemite - Tuolumne Meadows

We’ve been to Yosemite many times, but we've never been to Yosemite from the East Entrance.  We thought it would be a better to head to Tuolumne Meadows during peak season since the Valley is a nightmare in late August.  Unfortunately for us, there was some serious smoke from a forest fire and we had to bail on hiking Clouds Rest.  So, we headed to the info center to get some tips on where to find something that would have better visibility.  We debated an overnight, but decided with all the smoke we should just hit a day hike and get out of the smoked out valley.  We chose Lembert Dome which ended up being a great hike considering the conditions and it was relatively short and easy for the awesome reward. We were actually really stoked on Tuolumne Meadows, on the backside of Yosemite. It’s really nice with half the crowds and you are able to get an amazing perspective of the Yosemite Valley from fairly easy hikes, and roadside pullovers .  

Jeffery Pine Camping

We headed out and talked with someone at the visitor center in Lee Vining that recommended Jeffery Pine Forest for a nice overnight camping stop over.  After about and hour + of adventuring around this area on the dirt roads, thank god we were in the Subaru,  we finally stumbled across one of our best campsites of the trip.  We were able to get lucky and find a pretty rough road along a ridge to our own little hilltop camping spot.  We set up and enjoyed a smoked out sunset cooked and slept in the car that night because it was a bit cold still in the high country.

Mono Lake 

After our camp at Jeffery Pine, we headed down to Mono Lake to see the famous Tufa formations in the morning before a bunch of people showed up. There were some kayakers on the water, but there was no one walking around yet. If you have not been to Mono Lake, this place is crazy. It's actually hard to explain, but it is worthy of taking 30-45 mins to pull over and check out how crazy the earth is. Although we missed both magic hour's at this spot, I am sure that Mono Lake would be pure magic for sunrise and sunset.

Panum Crater 

After Mono Lake, we stopped at Panum Crater, after seeing signs for it exiting the South Tufa area of Mono Lake. So, we decided to take the dirt road and check it out. The trail head starts out on a rough pumice trail that leads to the rim.  0.2 miles of further hiking will take you to the spectacular obsidian core of the volcano that erupted over 600 years ago. Fun fact we learned on the trail, dependent on how rapid the cooling process is, lava becomes Pumice or Obsidian. It is crazy the cooling process can change the look and feel of a rock so significantly! 

Camp Happy Hour Burningman

Tahoe - BRC

We headed out that morning to soak in the Travertine Hot Springs.  After a nice mud soak, we headed out to the Tahoe area to meet up with a good friend of ours.  We had great timing, as we arrived he was at an art car fundraiser for Burning Man, so we got to get in the groove and even got our first gift at the event.  From here, you could head to Reno and skip Tahoe however, we had to begin the prep for our camp “Camp Happy Hour” based in Auburn, California. So we headed out to Auburn to begin the prep and the final haul to the Playa.