Arizona's coolest campsites: How to book an Airstream, a bubble tent or an alpaca farm (2022)

To everyone whose weekends seem empty without traipsing to the middle of nowhere, setting up camp and pouring hot water in a pouch of dehydrated pasta:

Sleeping in a tent on public land is so 2010s.

The same internet that brought you ride-sharing, app-based dating and a peer-to-peer economy now enticesyou to stay a night or two in a bubble tent. Or in the cozy confines of a walk-in, formerly refrigerated, box. Or with alpacas, if not fire-spewing robots.

Consider the Airbnb of outdoor escapes. Private landowners post their cabins, RVs, campsites and, well, whatever odd domiciles they have that likely are off the grid(in most cases, many miles off the grid).

Accommodations range from a pad made of pea-size gravel to a fully furnished two-bedroom, one-bath cabin with most of the amenities of home. Travelers can spend anywhere from $14 to $300 a night at locations throughout Arizona.

Here are 10 of the most unusualArizona campsites we found on a recent deep dive into Hipcamp.

Sleep in a bubble

Why: Gaze at a canopy of stars without the inconveniences ofexposure to the elements. The inflated and ventilated tenthasa clear plastic ceiling, allowing the outdoors to shine through. Of course, the outdoors can see you as well, though your tent is fairly isolated.

Camping scale(1 = roughing it when the TV only gets 20 channels; 10 =the best vacations involve a backpack and a shovel): 3. The stargazing pod requires no setup, andfoam mattress and fluffy blankets are included. But there’s no room service — er, bubble service.

Hipfeature: The owner offers free meditation classes most mornings. If you’re a 2or less on the camping scale and didn’t sleep well, consider this another opportunity to get some rest.

Where: Verde Valley.

Essentials: Toilet, potable water, showers and WiFiavailable.

Cost: $115/night.

Arizona's coolest campsites: How to book an Airstream, a bubble tent or an alpaca farm (2)

Amid goats and robots

Why: The beauty here is not so much scenerybut the amenities. Once you park your RV on one of three concrete slabs, wander among free-range goats and check out the works of the residentartist, who specializes in musical fire-spewing robots. According to the Hipcamp listing, he’s displayed his work at the Burning Man festival.

Camping scale: 3if you’re driving your own RV. 4if you rented an RV and are curious what this valve does. Whoops.

Hipfeature: You can spend time with an artist who’s been to Burning Man. With fire-breathing robots! Perhaps he’ll even fire one up that evening.

Where: Verde Valley.

Essentials: Toilet and potable water, water and sewer hookups, power available (bring 80-foot or longer extension cord), campfires and pets OK.

Cost: $28/night.,

’70s groove in a lemon grove

Why: Step back in time and hipness to the 1970s with a stay in a disco-era Terry Trailer (a popular vintage camper). The trailer is parked in a lemon grove, so you may drift off to sleep and wake up to that zesty scent. Or, if staying in spring, enjoy the rich bouquet of the citrus blossoms.

Camping scale: 3.The trailer has the comforts of a ‘70s home, without the shag carpeting.

Hip feature: While set not far from an urban environment, hiking trails through open desert are minutes away, for those who insist on an outdoor adventure while (somewhat) camping.

Where:NearSouth Mountain.

Essentials: Hot water and shared bathroom, potable water and showers. Campfires and pets allowed.

Livein a box

Why: Why think outside the box when you can sleep in one? A former refrigerated box that once occupied a produce truck has been turned into a camper with a king-size bed and sofa.

Hip feature: It’s offered by the same people bringing you the groovy 1970s Terry Trailer, so you may have some very hip neighbors when you arrive.

Camping scale: 4. With all the comforts of a box, including a bed, it’s not like you have to battle the elements. Though owners do warn visitors to pack bug repellent for the mosquitoes.

Essentials: Kitchen, shower, toilet and potable water. Pets and campfires allowed.

Arizona's coolest campsites: How to book an Airstream, a bubble tent or an alpaca farm (3)

Where:Near South Mountain.

Cost: $39/night.

A (frame)-rated experience

Why: Long before there were tiny homes, there were cabins like this one, an A-frame built in 1973. Set amid the pines, it’s the perfect place to sip a cup of coffee on the small porch and enjoy the view.

Hip feature: Owners saythey gutted the place in 2018 and installed new flooring, kitchen and bathroom.

Camping scale: 1. You're indoors and you have power, plumbing and a sturdy roof over your head.

Essentials: Kitchen, toilet and shower. WiFi is available and campfires are allowed.

Where: In the Heber-Overgaard area.

Cost: $79/night.

Pack in, alpaca out

Why: Sometimes it’s not about the outdoors, but what’s in the outdoors. In this case, alpacas. A herd of them. Close enough to visit, far enough away that they won’t trample campsites with their alpaca hijinks.

Hip feature: The landowners arehappy to answer alpaca-related questions, like this one: Is an alpaca a llama? No. Llamas are bigger and have longer ears. There are other differences, but those are the most obvious.

Camping scale: 8. You’re going to need a tent and camping gear to spenda night outside. Food, too. Definitely bring some food.

Where: Sierra Vista.

Essentials: Potable water. Pets are allowed. Campfires are not.

Cost: $10/night.

Live ‘streaming

Why: The sleek silver Airstream trailer once was a symbol of lives constantly on the move. Now the classic trailer is a symbol of cool camping or minimalist living (your choice).

Hip feature: Among the farm animals living on the owner’s plot of land near Cave Creek are a number of hens that have no problem producing thatpopular breakfast staple.

Camping scale: 2. Staying in a trailer means never having to pitch a tent. Or build a fire. Or do anything remotely suggestive of camping.

Where: Cave Creek/north Scottsdale.

Essentials: Tiny kitchen and bathroom, WiFi.

Cost: $99/night, two-night minimum.

Camping safari

Why: Spend a night on an African plain that's nowhere near Africa. Once the Outof Africa Wildlife Park closes for the night, you'll be taken inside an enclosure to a large tent equipped with amenities rarely found where wild animals are free to roam.

Hip feature: The wild animals with whom you'll be sharing space are of the non-predatory kind. Though their cries may prey upon precious sleep time.

Camping scale: 2. While most people camping in the desert worry about snakes and coyotes, visitors here hope to have a close encounter with wildlife.

Where: Camp Verde.

Essentials: Toilet, showers and kitchen.

Cost: $149/night.

Rustic hideaway

Why: If you're looking to drop off the grid for a night or two, hoping no one can find you, this cabinis perfect, as it resembles a randomly placed storage shed.

Hip feature: The full-sizebed is perfectly situated under a skylight to providea view of the heavens. Just remember to bring your own bedding.

Camping scale: 7. That's for the toilet alone, a bucket 30 yards away that requires visitors to install a liner so as to properly dispose ... well, you understand.

Where: About 30 minutes south of Grand Canyon National Park.

Essentials: Toilet (such as it is),solar power to charge mobile devices.

Cost: $39/night.

Home on the range(r)

Why: Built in 2011, thiscabin originally served as the home of a park ranger who made sure to include appointments rarely found in the backcountry, including a stove, sink and plenty of counter space.

Hip feature: Even with the small kitchen and a flush toilet, the cabin has all the solitude of a tent pitched in the wilderness. Located 4miles from the nearest paved road, access requires a high-clearance vehicle or a decent hike.

Camping scale: 4. That's based largely on its rather inaccessible location. But the sink and toilet go a long way toward easing any outdoors-induced anxiety.

Where: Painted Desert.

Essentials: Kitchen, showerand toilet. Pets and campfires allowed.

Cost: $38/night.

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