Boondocking Lake Pleasant in Phoenix, AZ

June 12, 2023

Two years ago, we fell in love with boondocking, sort of by accident.  We knew we wanted to try it at some point, but as newbie RVers, we didn’t quite feel prepared to figure it all out.  But on our way from Zion to Moab, UT, we passed through Page, AZ and decided to park our Holiday Rambler Vacationer on Lone Rock Beach for a few nights.  Lone Rock Beach is a popular dispersed camping area on Lake Powell, just over the AZ border on the Utah side. We planned on staying four nights and ended up staying for seven!  We made new friends, went on some amazing hikes, and enjoyed having the most beautiful views right outside our front door!  We cooked hot dogs over a campfire and shared stories from the road late into the night.  The boondocking bug bit us hard and we were hooked!


Since then, we’ve set up camp in some amazingly beautiful spots along our journey.  We’ve made some upgrades to our Vacationer, including Liquid Spring suspension, Battle Born Lithium Batteries, and solar panels, to make getting to, and staying longer in, said beautiful spots easier and more comfortable.  By now we feel pretty comfortable with boondocking and our process to finding and enjoying off-grid places.  But, if there’s one sure thing about life on the road, it’s that you never know everything, and you’re always learning!  Which brings us to our visit to Lake Pleasant, where we planned to boondock for a week   Or so we thought…


Lately our travel style has been to stay in RV parks for a month at a time, then usually leave a week or two open before our next campground stay.  This gives us the flexibility to look for some cool places to boondock, take our time travelling to the next campground, or stay longer where we are if we really like it.  Kristi typically handles the planning and booking of campground stays, and Spencer, as the driver, takes care of the actual route planning and travel directions.  But both of us always keep our ears and eyes out for solid boondocking recommendations near the places we stay.  So, when we were planning our route from Sedona to the Joshua Tree NP area, we heard good things from locals and other travelers alike that Lake Pleasant would be a great place to boondock.  Lakeshore boondocking with great views?  Count us in!

Located about 45 minutes north of Phoenix, AZ, Lake Pleasant is a reservoir in a state-run recreation area nestled amongst Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and AZ State Trust Land. That means there are ample places to camp for free on public land in the area.  Our plan was to go there early in the week to grab a spot near the lake and meet up with friends to spend a few days enjoying some fun on the water.  The night before we were supposed to head there, Spencer did a little more research and found that the “first come, first served” dispersed camping areas around the lake had been closed off and were now unavailable.  The one dispersed camping area left had few designated sites that needed to be reserved, and all were taken.  There are also 2 dry campgrounds on the lake that charge a nightly fee.  So, in the matter of an hour the night before we were to depart, our plan to boondock on the shore of the lake for free quickly fell apart!


To make a long story a bit shorter, we were able to extend our stay at the RV park we were staying at in Sedona and reconfigure our plan.  We ended up booking a stay at the Desert Tortoise campground at Lake Pleasant for the following week.  Kristi was able to find a site that was on the water and big enough to fit our 37ft Vacationer, which is a hit or miss proposition at many state parks.  What we didn’t realize until we physically got to our site was that the map showed the water level at full pool of the reservoir.  It was currently quite a few feet below that level which meant that our waterfront site was lacking the water.  But the lake’s shoreline was still a short walk away from our site, so it was not too bad.


Then there was the heat.  We booked our time there in late April, and if you’re familiar with the Phoenix area, you know that’s the time of year the temps start climbing close to triple digits!  We have robust Battle Born lithium battery system with a Victron inverter that allows us to run one of our ACs, off-grid, so we felt like we’d be ok.  And with the AZ sun high in the sky, our solar would be able to recharge the batteries when we gave the AC a break.  The temps reached into the high 90s that week and we ended up needing to use both ACs.  Thankfully our generator was up to the task, and we could keep the temp inside the RV at a livable level…which is rather important with a newborn!


As I mentioned before, even with two and half years of full-time living on the road, we are still learning every day.  We learned as much on this boondocking adventure (probably our 15th or so) as we did on that first magical one at Lone Rock Beach.  Just when we thought we had it down, we got tossed a few curveballs.  But, despite all the less-than-perfect moments, we still had an amazing week with our friends!  We cooked out and caught up around the picnic table.  We went for a hike around the lake and enjoyed the water views with saguaro cactus all around us.  That hike also came with our first rattle snake sighting, which, thankfully, left us all unscathed and with a cool story to tell.  We got to see wild donkey’s which was both fun and interesting as they casually strolled through our campsite!  To beat the heat, we rented pontoon boat and spent a day slowly motoring around the lake.  We also got our paddleboards and kayaks out to explore the lake that way too.


It doesn’t matter if you live in your coach or take it out a few times a year.  RVing will always keep you on your toes!  But even when plans change, whether by choice or by circumstance, the other side of those changed plans will still mostly likely result in good times, stories to tell, and memories to cherish.  Its why we love RVing, and why we love boondocking.  Because this time spent with our family, and many times with friends, is irreplaceable.  And any challenges that may arise create learning experiences and another story to be told around a future campfire!

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