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Gilbert Ray Campground---
Tucson Mountain Park's desert camping gem
Desert scenery lovers will enjoy a stay at Arizona's Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountain Park.
"Snowbirds" head to the Tucson area to enjoy this region's mild and agreeable winter climate. Snow never falls here, and daytime high temperatures in the '60s and '70s make for pleasant outings and sightseeing excursions. (Tenters, in particular, should note that nighttime temperatures drop into the 40s and 50s, and should bring warm bedding to guard against the chilly hours of darkness.)
In addition to enjoying the pleasant weather of fall, winter or spring in Tucson, Arizona, there are more active pursuits you may enjoy both in and around the Gilbert Ray campground. On this page, we'll talk about these fun activities. Plus, you can see pictures of the Gilbert Ray campsites, and learn practical campground details to help you plan a successful tent or RV camping trip to this popular desert haven.
Gilbert Ray Campground's campsites
Sleeping amongst the saguaro!
The Gilbert Ray Campground has 130 camping sites.
Other facts about the campsites include---
1.) Both tents & RV's accepted; including, of course, pop-up campers, camper vans, pickup trucks with camper shells, etc.
2.) Though the interior roads of the campground are paved, the camping sites themselves are made of gravel.
3.) As you can see in the pictures above and to your right, some campsites feature "back-in" style camping for your RV's. Or, as you can see in the photos below, some camping spaces are "pull through" style. Since the Gilbert Ray camp ground doesn't accept advance reservations, your choice is limited to the campsite locations and types of space available when you arrive.
4.) 30 amp electrical hookups are available, for an extra fee (see last section of this page for Gilbert Ray camping fees.)
5.) Adequate space is maintained between the camping sites, so that you won't feel "squished" amongst your neighbors. Each campsite is surrounded by a buffer zone of natural desert vegetation, which adds both to your feelings of privacy AND to the "atmosphere" of camping in this desert realm.
6.) Each campsite includes a grill for cooking (charcoal only; no wood fires permitted); plus a sturdy picnic table.
7.) A camp registration office with an attendant is maintained during the park's "busy season," which is January through March. Otherwise, you'll use a self-pay booth; security patrols make the rounds at night, in either case.
Gilbert Ray Campground Amenities
Nature lovers will enjoy their stay at the Gilbert Ray Campground better than folks looking for an RV Resort.
There is no pool, clubhouse, recreation schedule nor slate of activities in this desert hideaway. You won't even find more common amenities, such as showers, a laundrymat, a playground nor camp store. (There isn't a store nearby, even OFF of the premises; be sure you have charcoal for your BBQ grill, food & utensils, and whatever else you will need for your stay before you arrive.) The nearest stores & restaurants are 5 miles away in the Tucson Estates south of the park. (Head south on Kinney Road to reach them; see link to map below.)
However, the "basic necessities" are covered. You'll find clean restrooms (depending on the cleanliness of your fellow campground mates, of course); running water (from the spigots which you see above, which are spaced throughout the campgrounds); an RV dump; and good paved interior roads throughout the camping loops. The roads through Tucson Mountain Park leading into the campground area are 2-lane, and are maintained in good condition.
Pets are allowed. Dogs must remain on a leash when out of the RV.
The park's biggest amenity is its very natural setting amidst the desert flora and fauna, as well as its peace and quiet.
Gilbert Ray Campground--Things to do
Despite the fact that the Gilbert Ray Campground sits inside of Tucson Mountain Park, the camping area itself is on the floor of a valley. So, yes, there ARE mountains within Tucson Mountain Park, the entire area is not hilly.
The relatively level terrain around the camping grounds makes this an ideal place for families to take hikes through the desert to enjoy the scenery. You'll find a number of trails scattered throughout Tucson Mountain Park which look like the desert hiking trail in the photo below (both near the campground and away from it.)
The best time of year for taking hikes is the cooler season between November and April. Safety precautions call for sticking to the trail, carrying ample water, and hiking during the daytime hours (when you can spot hazards.)
Hikers (and even tourists in their automobiles) will be treated to sights such as this beautiful ocotillo plant with red blooms, seen in the photo above.
Many other types of desert flora may be spotted from the hiking trails, including prickly pear cactus and many other desert plant "favorites."
If you prefer to hike through forests of saguaro cacti (as you can see in the photo below,) you can do that, too. Simply drive from the Gilbert Ray Campground to the highlands area of Tucson Mountain Park, where this visual feast awaits you. Parking lots and pull-outs are available along the roadside near the trailheads.
The Gilbert Ray Campground also makes a great base for exploring other attractions in the West Tucson area.
In the immediate vicinity, you'll also be able to enjoy 3 major attractions, in addition to Tucson Mountain Park:
1.) Saguaro National Park, west unit
2.) Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (an exciting interpretive center for the flora, fauna, and geological history of this region)
3.) Old Tucson Studios, a movie set combined with theme park features, restaurants and souvenir shopping.
Gilbert Ray Campground: Address, contact info, directions & map
Gilbert Ray Campground address: 8451 W. McCain Loop Road, Tucson, AZ 85735.
Gilbert Ray Campground phone number: (520) 724-5000 is a year-round phone number you may call with your questions. However, this number does not reach a ranger on-site at the camping ground. The Gilbert Ray campground's registration office is only staffed during the busiest months of the year (January through March.) During those 3 months, you may call the campground directly at telephone number (520) 883-4200.
Gilbert Ray Campground Fees: As of Summer, 2018, fees for tent camping/sites without electrical hookups were $10/night. Fees for RV's/electrical hookups were $20/night. Reservations are not taken; camping operates on a first-come/first-served basis. Fee-paying is by cash or check only; no credit cards are being accepted yet. You may pay at the staffed entrance booth from January thru March. The rest of the year, campers will be using a payment drop-box. There is a 7-day maximum-stay limit at the park.
Gilbert Ray Campground website: There isn't a dedicated website for the Gilbert Ray camp, which is a part of the Tucson Mountain Park (which happens to be one of the units of the Pima County Park System.) You may use the following link to reach the Gilbert Ray page of the Pima County website. If this specific link fails (because the county changes links from time to time,) here's the list of services that the Pima County provides. They should leave a new link to their campground page here.
Map to Gilbert Ray Campground: Here's a Google map to the area near Gilbert Ray Campground at Tucson Mountain Park. This area is just west of the developed area of Tucson, Arizona. Or, to pinpoint the campground more accurately, please see the Google Custom Map to your right.
Or, if you'd rather print up your map to the Gilbert Ray Campground before you leave home, you may enjoy viewing the following campground flyer featuring a
PDF map of the Gilbert Ray camping loops and campsite numbers.
Camping in the nearby Saguaro National Park/West Unit is back-country camping that requires a permit. No camping vehicles are allowed. If this interests you, then here's a link to the Saguaro National Park Camping page. And here's a link to a PDF map of the Saguaro NP, which also shows you how to get there from the Gilbert Ray campground. It isn't far. The visitor's center and nature trail are interesting for family members of all ages. But no, you don't have to pay fees or enter the national park in order to enjoy the stunning beauty of the Saguaro cactus forest. You can see them in all their splendor while simply driving along the roads in this area!
Finally, here's a link to the Saguaro National Park home page. If any of the deeper links fail...because this park, too, changes its links from time to time, then the Home Page should continue to work. Thank you for visiting our website's Gilbert Ray Campground page. We hope that the pics and info has been helpful to you. And thank you for your visit to Arizona. We are glad that you are here.