When planning a tour of the Mogollan Rim in central Arizona it is best to plan on doing some camping because this is a scenic place that a visitor will not want to leave anytime soon. The dispersed camping options in the National Forests outnumber the developed campgrounds in this region, so boondocking is the way to go, especially if maintaining a tight budget is necessary to do. Several of the Mogollan Rim dispersed camping areas can be found on a map and these tend to fill up first, while more free campsites can be found along the forest roads deeper in the woods. Of course there are places where no overnight camping is allowed, which includes the day use areas.
In recent years, several free camping websites have popped up and I have given a few a try. These websites depend upon users to volunteer free campsite information, which is not always correct. The majority of the free camping locations at these websites is right on the money, but there are a few that will leave a weary traveler high and dry. Mistakes made with GPS coordinates occur quite often and some point campers to roadside spots deep in the woods that are primarily used seasonally by hunters or the forestry service. Other free campsite user references are just plain old completely wrong, like when somebody categorizes a picnic area as a free dispersed camping spot. Just because somebody camped in there car overnight at such a place does not make is a free campsite, but some people enter the data anyway. Needless to say, this can result in frustration, so it is always best to cross reference a "free campsite" when making plans.
To make a long story short, I discovered the Flowing Springs Day Use Area in the Tonto National Forest when seeking the GPS coordinates generated by a free camping website. The plan was to do an overnighter, then tackle the Mogollan Rim the following morning. As it turned out, the free campsite turned out to be a day use picnic area, which is par for the course at the free camping websites. Basically, I then swore that I would never use those websites ever again, but all was not lost because Flowing Springs turned out to be a cool place. The East Verde River flows under the towering bluffs through this day use area and there were plenty of shade trees, so this actually was a very cozy spot. There is a grassy meadow that is perfect for activities and there are also a few hiking trails to explore. The Flowing Springs Day Use Area is equipped with basic facilities and there are some ideal picnic spots, so this unique destination is well worth mentioning, even though there is no camping allowed!
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