Sedona proper doesn’t actually allow any free camping. However, there are a handful of dispersed camping options in each direction 20-45 minutes outside of town.
Free Camping Options
My favorite dispersed camping spot is Loy Butte Road: Forest Road 525, located west of Sedona. It’s one of the closest options and also happens to be a very popular spot. If you’re willing to drive several miles up the road, you’ll be able to find a quiet spot with beautiful views. Camping is legal here for up to 14 days. (Pack in and pack out all of your belongings.) Cell service is okay for a hotspot —I’m able to check emails and watch Netflix.
Here’s are some additional options: (click the links for google map location/directions).
- Loy Butte Road: Forest Road 525 (west of Sedona)
- Angel Valley Road: Forest Road 89B (west of Sedona)
- Edge of the World: Forest Road 231 (north of Sedona)
- Pumphouse Wash: Forest Road 237 (north of Sedona)
- Schnebly Hill Road: Forest Road 153 (east of Sedona)
I’ve checked most of these out and still prefer Loy Butte Road due to its location and plentiful parking options.
Please note: As recreational users, we all bear the responsibility to ensure we preserve our precious public lands for future generations, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the 7 Leave No Trace principles. While these are public lands that are open to everyone, the increase in use at many popular dispersed camp areas has led to restrictions and/or closure. Sedona and the surrounding area also have cryptobiotic soil concerns that every visitor should familiarize themselves with. A good place for anyone to start would be visiting the Coconino National Forest page.
Now that you have a spot, what about a shower? Not every van lifer has a proper shower set-up. I travel with a portable shower but let’s be honest when it’s cold outside, I don’t use it, and usually go with a sponge bath inside where I can control the temperature.
It feels like everything in Sedona is expensive and if you’re on a budget like me, things add up quickly.
I found the town of Cottonwood to be a place I frequented often. 20 mins southwest of Sedona on Hwy 89, it’s close to my favorite dispersed camping spot (Loy Butte Road) —and in my opinion, the best shower deal in town. Cottonwood is also where I go to do my laundry, work in a coffee shop, and enjoy some delicious food. If I had money to invest in property, I would buy a vacation home in Cottonwood (some band members from Tool are building a winery here). The Dead Horse State Park mountain bike trails nearby are also worth checking out.
Here are some Cottonwood recommendations for showers, laundry and food:
- Shower: Cottonwood Recreation Center. $8 gets you a day pass for a shower, soak in the hot tub or a swim, and a workout (if you’d like).
- Laundry: Mamaw’s. I’ve actually met quite a few van lifers here, seems to be the hot spot for laundry.
- Food: Crema (amazing breakfast spot), Wholesome Cafe (healthy lunch option), Merkin Vineyards (beautiful spot for dinner).
- Coffee Shop: Firecreek Coffee. A nice space to sit and work, coffee is good too.
- Tiny House / Van Parking compound: Tiny Camp Sedona.
Sedona is a magical place. I was fortunate to spend 2.5 weeks here camping, riding, and hiking — and felt very safe traveling alone.
Edited March 21st, 2022 to include a paragraph on Leaving No Trace.