This is my personal review of camping along the Mogollon Rim, specifically along Forest Road 9350 near Payson.
One of the most impressive geological features in Arizona, the Mogollon Rim stretches roughly 200 miles across the northern half of the state crossing through Coconino, Tonto, and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests.
Although there are a ton of great places to set up camp around here, one of my absolute favorites are the designated dispersed campsites along Forest Road 9350 – here’s why I like them so much!
Related Post: What Is Designated Dispersed Camping?
Please always follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping, especially packing out all of your trash, including human waste.
Forest Road 9350 is located in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
It’s about 45 minutes northeast of Payson just north of Highway 260 off of Rim Road (Forest Road 300).
The campsites here, while free, are designated dispersed. This means the camping area is very primitive and the campsites are spaced far apart, but you have to camp in a marked campsite.
FR 9350 is just under two miles long and has around 40 marked campsites. The first mile or so is best for RVs and trailers (all but the biggest rigs should manage here) while the last mile is better for passenger vehicles as the road becomes quite a bit rougher (high-clearance is helpful but not required).
The campsites on the south side of the access road (the left as you’re driving in) are closest to the rim and many have breathtaking views of the sprawling forests two thousand feet below.
This designated dispersed camping area is often called “FR 9350 Campground” and appears on Google Maps as such.
Related Post: My Favorite Free Campsites in Arizona
Several campsites here are bordered by a 200 foot drop. This area is not recommended for families with young children. Please keep a close eye on all children and pets.
Important Info About FR 9350
You must camp at designated numbered campsites only within 50 feet of a “Camp Here” sign.
|Price: Free||Max Length Stay: 14 Days|
|Reservations: First-Come, First-Served||Season: Early Spring to Late Fall|
|Usage: Heavy||Elevation: 7,500 Feet|
|RVs: Up to About 40 Feet||Amenities: Metal Fire Rings, Vault Toilets|
|Cell Signal: Weak & Spotty w/ Verizon, AT&T, & T-Mobile||Noise: Moderate, Louder on Weekends, OHV Traffic|
|Safety: Very Safe, Camp Host Lives On Site||Wildlife: Black Bears|
|Best For: Large Groups, Tents & Vans, Small RVs & Trailers||Not Good For: Families w/ Small Children|
Dispersed Camping on Forest Road 9350
Forest Road 9350 is a two-mile dirt road that branches off from the well-graded Forest Road 300 (Rim Road).
The first mile isn’t terribly rough, aside from a few potholes and moderate washboarding. Large rocks are common here, but are typically pushed to the sides of the road.
As mentioned above, the first 20 or so campsites along the first mile of road are best for boondocking in RVs and trailers. Not only is the access road smoother here, but the campsites are more spacious and level with less trees and other obstacles to navigate.
The next mile is rougher, but nothing almost any passenger vehicle can’t handle. Just expect more large rocks, including a few wedged deep into the road. High-clearance is helpful but not necessary here.
Almost all of the campsites along FR 9350 are quite large. You can definitely fit a couple of passenger vehicles in every campsite. The majority could also accommodate two or three medium sized trailers or RVs.
Because of the sizable campsites, this area is somewhat loud, especially on weekends. It’s popular for family gatherings and is something of a local party hotspot. However, an onsite camp host helps keep things from getting too out of hand.
The entire Mogollon Rim area, including FR 9350, is very popular, especially in summer. The high elevation means temperatures are significantly cooler than much of surrounding Arizona during the peak summer months.
If you’re planning to camp on a summer weekend, I recommend arriving as early as you can on Friday, ideally early afternoon at the latest to make sure you snag a campsite. However, if everything is full, there are plenty of other free campsites nearby that get a little less traffic.
Although it’s easy to spend your entire stay taking in the views from the rim, especially if you score a view campsite, FR 9350 offers great access to Woods Canyon Lake among countless other recreational opportunities.
As mentioned above, you’re restricted to camping in marked campsites here. Designated dispersed camping like this is relatively new but increasingly common in very popular areas, like the Mogollon Rim.
Amenities are limited to two vault toilets at the start of FR 9350 (near Carr Lake Trailhead) and metal fire rings at each campsite.
Related Post: Guide to Dispersed Camping in National Forests
Fire restrictions are common here, especially early summer through mid fall. Please follow all current fire restrictions.
Pros and Cons of Dispersed Camping on Forest Road 9350
Take this with a grain of salt as it’s my personal opinion, but here are what I consider the top pros and cons of designated dispersed camping on FR 9350.
What I Like
Here’s what I like most about FR 9350:
- Views – The stunning views over the edge of the Mogollon Rim are the number one reason people flock to camp here.
- Beautiful Setting – Even if you don’t have views from your campsite, the surrounding forest is very peaceful and serene.
- Large Campsites – Although you’re limited to 10 people per campsite, most of the campsites here are quite spacious and can accommodate large RVs and trailers or even multiple rigs.
- Decent Roads – FR 300 is extremely well-maintained and FR 9350 isn’t terribly rough. It doesn’t require high-clearance or 4WD.
- Lots to Do – Hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and boating are just a few of the recreational opportunities available near the Mogollon Rim.
What I Dislike
Here’s what I don’t really like about FR 9350:
- Noisy – This is a very popular free campsite. Expect noise, especially on summer weekends. OHV use is also popular and FR 9350 experiences a lot of daytime traffic.
- Storms – These campsites are quite exposed to the elements and summer thunderstorms are a regular occurrence. Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, it’s best to prepare for the possibility of rain and/or hail.
- Windy – The campsites right on the rim, in particular, can get very windy. Make sure to very securely stake down your tent if it’s at all windy during your stay.
Black bears frequent this area. Please follow bear safety best practices and properly store your food (ideally in a hard-sided vehicle).
How to Get to FR 9350
Forest Road 9350 is super easy to find.
It’s searchable and navigable on Google Maps as “FR 9350 Campground.”
From Payson, travel east on Highway 260 for approximately 30 miles before turning north (left) onto Rim Road (Forest Road 300).
The turnoff for FR 9350 is well marked. Look for it on the left side of the road. It’s hard to miss.
Other Free Campsites Nearby
Forest Road 9350 is far from the only place for free camping near the Mogollon Rim.
For a “real” dispersed camping experience not confined to designated spots, look just south of Highway 260 about 2 miles east of the turnoff to Rim Road along Young Road (Highway 288).
There are a ton of free dispersed campsites here, including on Forest Road 171, Forest Road 181, Forest Road 33, and countless others. You’ll find much more private campsites the farther south you drive on Young Road before setting up camp.
If you’re looking for free camping but prefer a developed campground rather than dispersed camping or designated dispersed camping, we recommend checking out Airplane Flat Campground east of Young Road.
More Mogollon Rim Dispersed Camping Info
Forest Road 9350 is part of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
Call the Black Mesa Ranger District for the most current information: (928) 535-7300
YouTube is another awesome resource to get a better idea of what to expect, especially this video from FreeCampsites.net.
And, like always, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly to me if you have any other questions about dispersed camping on the Mogollon Rim, especially along Forest Road 9350!
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