According to our plan, we will spend the Winter in Arizona. Jess and I combed various websites for the best horse campgrounds. Apparently most snowbirds reserve a spot in Apache Junction for February a year in advance; now we know for next year. These directories look like they haven’t updated their styling since the 1990s, but at least the information was mostly correct:
Some entries are upscale boarding facilities, some are residential properties with room for 1 or 2 RVs, and some are horse campgrounds that cater to those staying all season. Look for those with monthly rates. The prime locations are next to public trails (National Parks or BLM land), so you don’t have to trailer your horse every time you want to ride. If you are looking for short-term (up to 2 weeks per site) stays, the Arizona State Park system accommodates RVs and horses.
I thought that anywhere in Arizona would be suitable during January, but historical local temperatures at Weather Underground corrected me. For example, the northern part of the state (e.g. Flagstaff) is too cold overnight, and some southern places are at high elevations and will also dip below freezing in the wee hours.
After leaving many voicemails, and only receiving a handful of returned calls, we got lucky. Not only did our top choice have availability for December and January, but Doug at Hay Creek Ranch called us back later to lock in what might be the last spot for February. We’ll be staying at the feet of Mt Lemmon.
Our effort taught us some lessons for the future:
- Reserve early (more than 6 months in advance), especially if you want one of the better places
- Most campground owners prefer it if you don’t have dogs, even if they are allowed
- Check the historical weather for the specific place you are considering
- Access to trails directly from the horse stables is a significant convenience