Cinder Hills OHV Area, Arizona | Camping

Red Jeep Wrangler with pit of volcano in background

Cinder Hills OHV Area near Flagstaff, Arizona is the place to camp if you’ve got a dirt bike, ATV, Jeep, or dune buggy. It’s the ultimate playground for off-road vehicles. I even spotted some equestrians out for a ride, which is fitting, as a horse also makes a great all terrain vehicle!


Finding a spot to park the RV is easy – and you can camp pretty much anywhere among the cinders. There is much to see nearby, including Sunset Crater National Monument (directly north of the OHV area), San Francisco Mountain (with the highest peak in Arizona), Elden Mountain, and much more.

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Where in The World?

Below you’ll find two places to camp. By no means are these the only campsites. Camping opportunities are virtually unlimited at Cinder Hills OHV Area.

Camping Elevation: 6,670 feet

RV Campsite #1

GPS Coordinates: N 35 19.471’ W 111 31.512’

Directions to Campsite: From Flagstaff, Arizona take Highway 89 north about 8 miles and turn right (east) on FR 776. Follow FR 776 about 1 1/4 miles to Cinder Lake, a large treeless expanse of black cinders. You’ll see a road on your right that follows the tree line. Take this road 1/4 mile to the campsite next to the ponderosa pines on the right.

RV Campsite #2

GPS Coordinates: N 35 19.674’ W 111 31.651’

This campsite is just up the hill from Campsite #1, and in the trees. It’s more private and quiet, being away from the majority of traffic. However, it doesn’t have a view of Cinder Lake like Campsite #1. This campsite is right next to the OHV area boundary and near a hill that has a great view of Elden Mountain and San Francisco Mountain. There are a few short single track hiking/biking trails on top of this nearby hill.

Caution

If you have 2 wheel drive (like I do) be very careful that you don’t go off any paths that aren’t packed down. You can easily get stuck in the loose cinders.

Cinder Hills Camping Area Map

Cinder Hills OHV Area RV Camping Journal

July 2, 2012

This is a neat place to camp, but it would be more fun with a dirt bike or ATV as this is an OHV area. All I have is a 2-wheel drive truck and a mountain bike. Hiking and biking can be difficult due to the loose cinders.

Surprisingly, it’s quiet most of the time. Weekends are the busiest times. If you don’t have an OHV, there isn’t much to do here. However, it is a convenient place to camp if you want to visit nearby Sunset Crater National Monument, San Francisco Mountain, or Elden Mountain. There are many excellent hiking trails on these mountains, including a few that are popular for mountain biking.

Hiking and Biking: Hiking is difficult – it’s sort of like hiking in sand here. The OHV area is quite large so you wouldn’t run into dirt bikes and ATVs too often, unless it’s a weekend or holiday. There are plenty of cinder hills (extinct volcanoes…we hope!) to explore. Forest Road 776 is a good road for biking and receives only light traffic. From it you can get to FR 545 and Sunset Crater National Monument, and also to Strawberry Crater Wilderness. You can also bike west across Highway 89 to San Francisco Mountain. Many of the less traveled roads among the cinders are impossible to bike, as bike tires easily sink into the loose cinders.

Weather: It’s early July and this must be the warmest place to camp near Flagstaff. It seems my last campsite, west of Flagstaff, was the coldest. All this black volcanic rock really absorbs the sunshine, heating things up. The ponderosa pines are stunted here due to the drier conditions. Highs have been in the 80s, with a few days reaching the low 90s. At night, it only drops down into the 60s. The wind hasn’t been too bad; just breezy now and then. It’s been quite calm the last few days with clouds rolling in. I’ve had no rain yet, except for a couple sprinkles.

Wildlife: Due to the traffic, noise, and reduced vegetation there isn’t as much wildlife here. What I have seen are squirrels, cottontail rabbits, swifts, a couple hawks, and a few other birds. I did see a golden eagle and a deer on Elden Mountain.

Insects: There are some large gnats that look like small flies. They like to fly in front of your face sometimes. They don’t bite and haven’t really been a problem.

Privacy: If you want privacy, camp somewhere else. OHVs can go anywhere and it can be noisy at times.

Cell Signal: Verizon cell phone service is great. Verizon mobile broadband internet is consistently fast, usually 2-3 bars. Videos take a bit longer to load, so it’s not the fastest service I’ve had. I have an external antenna placed on my RV roof for better internet reception.

RV Campsite Rating: 7 out of 10. It can be noisy and hiking is limited. Summertime temperatures can be a bit hot. But the Cinder Hills OHV Area does make for a unique camping experience…there aren’t too many places with a surreal volcanic landscape like this and in a forest setting.

Cinder Hills OHV Area Video Slideshow

Red Jeep Wrangler with pit of volcano in background

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