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Camping for cheap: UA resources and campgrounds you can check out

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View along the Super Trail on Mt. Wrightson Wilderness taken on Mar. 15, 2021. (Courtesy Emmett Suckow). 

The unique location of the University of Arizona offers students the opportunity to go out and experience new and exciting adventures, such as camping, all within a driving distance of the campus.

The campus is situated near Tucson Mountain Park, Catalina State Park, Mount Lemmon, Saguaro National Park and many other accessible camping locations.

If students are interested in going on camping trips, the UA Campus Recreation Center offers students the ability to rent out any supplies they may need such as tents, sleeping bags, headlamps, stoves, camping chairs, bikes, canoes and more. 

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Kaylee Wilt, a student employee at the Outdoor Rec, mentioned the simple rental process that the center offers to not only students but also members of the community.

“You come in and explain what you would like to rent then fill out a rental sheet giving your name, number and student ID and then we will get your rental ready for you, it's super easy,” Wilt said. 

Along with the benefit of providing students with this straightforward process, rentals are also cheaper for students compared to non-student members and individuals who are coming in from the community. 

All of the necessary equipment is offered at extremely affordable daily rental prices. A sleeping bag is $4, a four person tent is $7, a sleeping pad is $2, a cooking equipment is $4 and more is available at these low rates.

Once students gather their camping supplies, they are left to decide between the various different camping destinations in the area. 

Wilt shared her opinion on the popular spots for students to check out when wanting to spend a weekend away with friends. 

“If you are looking to go out for a weekend with friends I recommend Mount Lemmon or Madera Canyon, or one of the two closest lakes like Patagonia Lake or Parker Canyon Lake,” Wilt said. 

Also, according to the Santa Catalina Ranger District information center, campgrounds such as General Hitchcock, Peppersauce and Molino Basin are all fantastic local camping destinations where campsites are first come first serve starting at prices as low as $10 a night. 

Emmett Suckow, a physiology and psychology major at the UA, utilized his convenient location, packed up his camping equipment and ventured down to Mount Wrightson Wilderness in Patagonia, Ariz. 

“The Mount Wrightson Wilderness was extremely picturesque at sunrise and sunset and was full of deer, turkey and signs of wolves or a bear,” Suckow said.


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View at Riley Saddle on Mt. Wrightson Wilderness taken on Mar. 15, 2021. (Courtesy Emmett Suckow). 


His journey up the trail started at a brisk 60 degrees Fahrenheit but as the elevation heightened and the afternoon progressed, the temperature quickly began to drop. 

Although, conditions continued to worsen throughout the night and Suckow realized his expedition was going to have to come to an end. 

“At about 3:30 am, the temperature was plummeting to below freezing and the wind was bending my tent stakes, so I was forced to pack up my gear and hike down to avoid the bad weather,” Suckow said.

Despite the alterations he had to make to his original plans, Suckow described his overall experience as amazing and exhilarating. 

“It was fun and I am excited to try it again when the weather is more reliable,” Suckow said. 

Haylee Weise, a psychology and care, health and society major at UA, also took advantage of the campus’s prime location and traveled to Mount Lemmon, located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, to spend the night camping and celebrating her friend's 21st birthday.

“Camping is great because you get to go with all your friends and just hang out and make food and we usually stay up most of the night so it's a good bonding experience for all of us,” Weise said. 

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Weise also shared how camping has become a regular activity for her and her friends especially now that the weather is getting warmer. 

“It's a nice way to get out of the house without spending a lot of money and being around a lot of people,” Weise said. 

Suckow and Weise both encouraged others to look into the many available campgrounds that are easily accessible to UA students living in the local Tucson area.

For more information regarding camping in the area, check out the Outdoor Rec along with Coronado National Forest Service website



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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (10/22)
742 5 0.7%
Total (8/2)
42,506 639 1.5%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated October 22, 2021