Tucson Mountain Park-Gilbert Ray Campground

8451 W McCain Loop, Tucson, AZ 85735

Date Visited: February 2022

Sites: #A-15, A-66, back-in, electric only (30-amp)

We paid: $22 per night


We like this campground a lot! It takes awhile to get here, driving southwest of Tucson along a very up-and-down road that got our cat sick. But once you’re here, you are literally in the middle of a saguaro forest in the desert, far away from everything.

Campsites are mostly spaced well apart and back onto the open desert, so you have lots of views of saguaros and the surrounding mountains. A-66 was not as level as A-15, but they were both pretty good. Picnic tables and gravel sites are the extent of the amenities, but the dump station had two stations, plus three water fills.

This is a large campground and some of the sites are first-come, first-served. Every morning there would be a line of RVs waiting to get into those sites, so it’s better if you can make reservations especially in winter and early spring, which is their high season.

Each campsite backs into open desert space with saguaros and lots of other desert foliage. You have views of the mountains and the desert, and might even get visits from rabbits or birds. We heard coyotes howling every night (don’t let your cats or dogs run loose!). Also, wood rats can chew on the electrical wires under your car hood, so people put out Christmas lights and keep their hoods open to help cut down on the wood rat problem. Moth balls work too!

You can hike right out of the campground, drive 10 minutes to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (definitely worth doing!), or drive 15 minutes to Saguaro National Park West, also definitely worth doing. Mountain bikers also have lots of trails to explore. You’re 30 minutes from downtown Tucson, but you feel like you’re a million miles away.

Our first campsite, A-15, was on the perimeter, which we preferred, but even A-66 had a great amount of private space because the interior section was not overly crowded or developed. We would definitely come back here again, though it would be very hot in the summer!

This is a good alternative if Catalina State Park is booked up.

Site A-15