Kelly Vaughn

Tonto National Forest, Carefree

If you’re a fan of Neil Young, a certain song might pop into mind as you’re heading to this campground near Bartlett Lake in the Tonto National Forest. And though you will be “down by the river,” the Verde River, the real highlight of this campground is its view of Bartlett Dam.

You’ll first notice the dam as you round a corner on the road to the campground. You might even say to your travel companion: “Hey! There’s the dam!” But then as you round another bend, you’ll see the dam in its enormous, breathtaking entirety: “No, that’s the dam!” It’s impressive, to say the least, and the 12-site campground is as well.

It’s nestled at the base of saguaro-and-boulder-spotted hillsides, and sites are near enough to the river that you can dip your toes in it. Of course, you can also take advantage of all the recreational activities at the lake — the campground is near the Jojoba Boating Site.

Elevation: 1,600 feet
Directions: From Carefree, travel east on Cave Creek Road for about 7 miles to Bartlett Dam Road and veer right. Continue for about 13 miles to the Jojoba Boating Site, and turn right onto Forest Road 19. Follow FR 19 for about 3 miles to the campground.
Information: Cave Creek Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 480-595-3300 or
Season: Year-round
Fee: A $6 Tonto Pass is required per vehicle, per night.
Reservations: No
Amenities: Toilets, Pets