The State of Arizona itself has adopted only a handful of laws with respect to recreational camping. These laws apply to much of the state, with exception of indian reservations and national parks. There are also other federal agencies, such as U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Reclamation, that have adopted laws and rules of its own.
This article is specific to just the camping laws and regulations adopted by the State of Arizona.
Arizona Camping Laws
The following laws and regulations apply to the entire State of Arizona, with the exception of indian reservations and national parks. Note that most of these laws are not specific to camping, but can apply in many other situations and in any public place…
Water Setback Law
The State of Arizona has a law prohibiting anyone from camping within 1/4 mile of a body of water (lakes, rivers, et al) or from a livestock watering container. This law is published under Arizona Revised Statute, Title 17 Fish & Game. (Reference, ARS § 17-308 Unlawful camping).
Note: this particular law does not apply to state and federal wildlife refuges, state and federal parks, and state and federal monuments. This is based on the State of Arizona’s definition of “statewide” as used in reference to Title 17 Fish & Game. (see definition).
Dumping Waste Water & Sewage
The State of Arizona requires anyone dumping waste water or sewage on to the ground to first obtain an, “Aquifer Protection Permit”. In addition, dumping waste water or sewage into a body of water (lake, river) is a criminal offense. For more details, see, “Can I Dump Gray Water on the Ground in Arizona“.
Permission to Kill Wildlife in Self Defense
You are allowed to kill wildlife in the act of self defense or the defense of another person. This law is published under Arizona Revised Statute, Title 17 Fish & Game. However, you are required to notify the Arizona Game & Fish Department within five (5) days of doing so. (Reference, ARS § 17-301.01 Protection from wildlife)
Nude camping is only illegal in Arizona if a person has exposed themselves in a way that is reckless, or without concern that other people may be offended. As long as other people around you are aware that you are nude, and are not offended by it, it is legal to be nude in public. This law is published under Arizona Revised Statute, Title 13 Criminal Code. (Reference, ARS § 13-1402 Indecent exposure)
Note: this particular law is not specific to camping, and applies to any public place.
Campfires are Legal Across Arizona
Arizona adopted a law that made it illegal to set fire to public lands, with the exception of creating a campfire for purposes of cooking and keeping warm. Note that this law requires a person to prevent the campfire from spreading out of control. This law is published under Arizona Revised Statute, Title 13 Criminal Code. (Reference, ARS § 13-1706 Burning of wildlands)
Where Parking Your Vehicle is Illegal
Arizona has a law that lists every place and situation where parking your vehicle is illegal. These would never apply to camping, though some may apply to overnight parking in cities and suburbs. Rest areas are given a specific exception in this law. This law is published under Arizona Revised Statute, Title 28 Transportation. (Reference, ARS § 28-873 Stopping, standing or parking prohibitions)
Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Use
The State of Arizona has a law stating that off-highway vehicles (OHV) may only be operated on roads allowed for such use by a federal, state, or county agency. The law goes on to say that it is also illegal to operate OHVs where it damages the environment, including plants and animals, or creates an excessive pollution of air. It goes on to list other situations where OHV use illegal. This law is published under Arizona Revised Statute, Title 28 Transportation. (Reference, ARS § 28-1174 Operation restrictions)
Note: There is another law that specifically defines the term, off-highway vehicle. (Reference, ARS § 28-1171. Definitions)
Camping in Arizona State Parks
Boondocking is not allowed in Arizona State Parks…
- All camping is restricted to just developed campgrounds, where camping fees are paid. Arizona Administrative Code Title 12 sets this requirement, and also goes on to state the maximum length of stay. (Reference, AAC R12-8-111. Camping)
- Campfires are allowed only in a designated campsite or day-use area where campfires have specifically been allowed. (Reference, AAC R12-8-112 Campfires)
Camping on Arizona State Trust Lands
The State of Arizona allows camping on most of its 9.4 million acres of trust lands. There are some rules, however…
- You must obtain a “recreational permit”, either a single permit for each person occupying your campsite, or a family permit for two parents and all children.
- Camping is limited to maximum of 14 days “per year”.
- All camping is boondocking only; there are no developed campgrounds.
- For the entire set of rules and maps of Arizona trust lands, see “Camping on Arizona State Trust Lands“.
Camping Laws and Rules for National Forests in Arizona
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Camping Rules
- Coconino National Forest Camping Rules
- Kaibab National Forest Camping Rules
- Prescott National Forest Camping Rules
- Tonto National Forest Camping Rules
Camping Laws and Rules for Arizona BLM Lands
Camping Laws and Rules for National Wildlife Refuges in Arizona
- Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Camping Rules
- Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Camping Rules
- Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge Camping Rules