The Aspen campground is one of the most popular national forest campgrounds in Arizona and for good reason. It is located less than a half mile south of Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim. This large campground offers 148 campsites with lots of space and quick access to lots of fun activities.
The campground is located in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, which is actually about 35 miles outside of Payson off of highway 260 in East Central Arizona. It typically takes between 2 – 2.5 hours to get to the campground from Phoenix. Access to the campground is very easy for all vehicles and RVs on paved roads all the way to each campsite.
The campground is located in amongst tall pines and near multiple lakes. The weather is very nice here in the summer due to its elevation of 7,000 ft. The temperatures can the upper 80’s to lower 90’s in the summer. Temperatures do drop down at night and can get pretty cold outside of the hottest times of the year. If you plan on doing any tent camping or simply want to spend a night out under the stars, make sure you have a good sleeping bag that’ll keep you warm.
All campsites in the campground allow RVs and tent campers, but they don’t have hook-ups. Each site includes a picnic table, fire ring, and campsite grill. The campground also offers vaulted toilets, a fee dump station, potable water, as well as an outdoor amphitheater. Solar can be a little tricky because many of the sites are under trees, but generators are allowed during the day and early evening.
There is also a full-service store located at the marina. The store offers quite a bit from basic groceries, camping gear, to boat rentals. For the most part, this general store will have your basic needs covered. So don’t worry, if you forget something, there is a good chance you can find it there.
This is a very popular campground, sites fill up quickly so it’s recommended to reserve a site early. Of the 148 sites, 27 are walk-up/first come first serve sites. So if you can’t get a reservation you could still find an empty spot when you arrive (I wouldn’t count on it for holidays or most weekends throughout July).
There is a nightly fee of $25, which covers one vehicle and eight people per site. Sites are half off if you have the America the Beautiful Senior or Disability Access Pass You can make a reservation by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at recreation.gov. You can reserve campsites 6 months in advance. If you are wanting to camp here on a holiday weekend or really anytime throughout July, I recommend reserving them as early as possible.
We stayed at the Aspen campground over the 4thof July weekend and we made sure to reserve a campsite as soon as it became available. These campsites fill up quick and during the busy season and you probably won’t have much lunch trying to find a walk-up campsite. We definitely recommend reserving a campsite online as soon as you can.
Woods Canyon Lake
Less than half a mile from Aspen campground is Woods Canyon Lake. This is a beautiful lake in amongst the pines that offers lots of activities. At the lake, you can fish for trout, swim, boat, and simply enjoy the outdoors. Boats are limited to electric trolling motors only so you don’t have to worry about anyone flying around the lake in a speed boat.
Our kids really enjoyed being taken out on the lake on a paddle board and kayak. This is a very family friendly area and there tends to be a decent number of families around the lake.
There are a lot of trails right around the campground and lake that are great for leisurely biking. We brought bikes for our older two kids and they had a lot of fun riding around the campground and near the lake. There were a handful of other kids riding bikes around the campground as well and all the kids ended up having fun.
Woods Canyon Lake Trail
This a nice easy hike around woods canyon lake. It’s only about 3.5 miles but offers nice views of the lake and a chance to see some wild life. We ended up seeing a couple of bald eagles while we hiked around the trail. At times the trailed can be a little hard to follow as it isn’t well defined but it’s hard to get lost if you stay close to the lake.
The Mogollon Rim is one of the most scenic locations in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. There are some great sprawling views on the road to Aspen campground from highway 260. There is even a Mogollon Rim Visitor Center that you can visit, where you can learn more about the natural history of the area. The Mogollon Rim offers some great opportunities for some selfies or family pictures.
Scott Woodruff loves camping and being in the outdoors with his family. He blogs regularly over at Tents n Trees and offers families tips, advice, and product recommendations with the goal of making it easier for families to get out, go camping, and grow closer. He believes that if more families spent time together camping there would be fewer problems in the world.
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