Camping Among the Red Rocks
On our journey a few summers back, we had occasion to spend a few nights camping near Flagstaff, Arizona. As it was near our route of travel, we reserved a site in Pine Flat West Campground in Oak Creek Canyon operated by the National Forest Service. We had located it online, merely searching for a place we would be passing by and were a bit put off by its unremarkable-sounding name. But names can be deceiving.
Of course, it was a minimalist campground with pit toilets and no showers, but the sites were spacious and populated with large pine trees (hence the name). There were only a few sites in the campground, probably not more than 20 or so, and though nearly every site was occupied, the place was quiet and peaceful.
One of the best advantages of the campground was the large cement fire pits located at each site. These were large pits with a 6 inch concrete block wall built about 30 inches high. They were spacious enough for the largest pieces of wood and the ledge was a terrific place to set a cold beverage or two. You could even rest a sore limb up on the edge and be quite comfortable! This came in handy when I was relaxing after spraining my ankle on a hike that we did, but that is the subject of another post!
The one unfortunate part was that the day we pulled in, there was a fire restriction in effect prohibiting all campfires due to the high fire danger. This is quite understandable given the recent wildfires in Arizona and the surrounding areas. Blessedly, the restrictions were lifted the following day so we were able to enjoy campfires for the remainder of our stay.
There was a small creek gurgling alongside this campground and our site as well, but the most picturesque feature of Pine Flats was the massive red rock canyon wall rising up from the opposite side of the creek. It was beautiful and impressive and really took our breath away! After we returned home, I discovered that the wall did not appear in any of my photographs of that campground! We will just have to return another day.
I would take issue with the individual in charge of naming that campground. Yes, there were pine trees, but if you want to draw people to the campground, why not focus on the best part—the gorgeous red rock canyon? Or, perhaps this is a special secret that only those lucky enough to stumble upon it unwittingly are deigned to discover. Hmmm…not a bad idea at that.
For more ideas of special places to camp in Arizona, browse Woodall’s listings of Arizona Campgrounds.