Like any tourist destination, finding a place to stay in Sedona, Arizona is a challenge. Most campgrounds are booked out in advance. But, if you have a 4-wheel drive and a willingness to rough it without facilities, there are undeveloped campsites with amazing vistas along Forest Road 525C.
As the name suggests, this is forest land. 525C travels through Coconino National Forest, a 15-minute drive down 89A, southwest of Sedona’s fine dining establishments and crystal shops. It’s a world away from the groomed sidewalks of the tourist center but with the same views of those iconic red bluffs. Many who camp here see very little of the road. Large group camping sites dot the forest road immediately off highway 89. Here large RVs, buses, and underpowered rigs become close neighbors with relative strangers.
It’s a common feature of these popular forest roads. A lot of people want free camping but are not equipped for rough roads. But, for those that are, there is seclusion to be found just a few miles further down the road.
We spend two nights along this road—though we could have spent up to the maximum 14. On the first night, we drive a little over 3 miles for a brilliant view of the sunset reflected on the Sedona buttes. While the site is fantastically scenic and visually isolated, it is a tough entry and exit. Despite all the trouble, we still hear other vehicles late into the night—returning from a day racing down dirt trails or on their way to their own campsite.
Finding a site on night two (a friday) is a little more difficult. While the previous night’s location is available, we really want to try a different view. So, we find ourselves five miles down Forest Road 525C at dusk and worrying about how many more sites are available. Frankly, I have no idea what is ahead because that is about the point that we find our site. We choose it out of desperation. I don’t know how magnificent a site it is until the next morning.
Frankly, most any site along this road is scenic. The further down the road you travel, the less cross traffic you will have to tolerate but that also means a longer distance when returning to town. There are some dips and tight turns that limit long rigs from traveling too far. But there are several group camping sites at the beginning of the road that can accommodate a few trailers.