As the sun dipped toward the horizon, a ribbon of gold streaked across the surface of the lake and the Colorado River water lapped gently onto the shore. Bundled up on the deck of my cozy lakeside cabin, I couldn’t help but think that I had the best seat around for watching the Arizona sunset.
What made it even better was the fact that the cabin was surrounded by the beautiful acreage of Lake Havasu State Park — one in the collection of Arizona State Parks that offer camping cabins for rent — with hiking, boating, and fishing opportunities all around.
Another wonderful feature is that most state parks with camping cabins are located in the warm-weather regions of Arizona, which makes them perfect for a stay in the winter months, when much of southern and western Arizona features sunny days and crisp nights.
For me, the state park cabins offer a chance to “camp” without the tents, RVs, and gear that usually come with camping. Here are six of my favorite Arizona state park cabins for a winter visit.
1. Lost Dutchman State Park
For its sheer scenic beauty as well as its compelling history, Lost Dutchman State Park in the east-Phoenix-metro community of Apache Junction is a not-to-be-missed destination in Arizona. Sitting at the base of the rugged Superstition Mountains, the park is known for its spectacular views, excellent desert trails, and fascinating mining history that features a mysterious lost mine.
Right in the midst of all of the splendor is a row of five camping cabins, which are billed as a way for visitors to “play hard and rest easy in air-conditioned comfort.” Along with air-conditioning for the hot-weather season, the cabins are also equipped with heating for those chilly desert nights, as well as with a ceiling fan, an overhead light, electricity, a queen-size bed, and two sets of bunk beds. Campers bring their own bedding and pillows, and shower/restroom facilities are a short walk from the cabins.
Each cabin also has a picnic table outside and a fire ring with a grill grate, making it convenient to barbecue outside and enjoy an evening fire.
All of the comforts aside, perhaps the best feature of the Lost Dutchman cabins is the view. The cabins look out onto the distinctive grouping of jagged peaks that make up the Superstition Mountains. Campers are just steps from iconic trails like the easy Native Plant Trail or the strenuous Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron.
Pro Tip: The winter months are especially lovely in Apache Junction, which is located about 40 miles east of Phoenix. January posts an average high of 67 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of 42, while February has an average high of 70 and a low of 44, and March an average high of 77 and a low of 48.
2. Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu City
Whether you’re interested in watersports, beaches, or lake views, the location doesn’t get much better than the 13 camping cabins positioned along the shoreline at Lake Havasu State Park.
The park skirts the shore of the Colorado River in the state’s western region known as Arizona’s West Coast. It is billed as a “watersport haven” and features sandy beaches, nature trails, boat ramps, and convenient campsites. It is also located near Lake Havasu City’s famous London Bridge, which was relocated from the River Thames in London to the Arizona desert by a developer back in the 1960s.
Along with its Colorado River identity, Lake Havasu City is also known for its hot summers and balmy winter weather. On my recent early-January visit, daytime temperatures were in the 70-degree range, and nights were in the mid-40s — the perfect climate for sunny daytime hikes and cozy nights around the fire.
Like the other state parks, the Lake Havasu cabins come with comfortable beds and bunk beds, a spacious deck, a picnic table, and a fire ring. Campers bring their own linens, and showers and bathrooms are located a short walk away.
Perhaps my favorite feature at my Lake Havasu cabin was the west-facing deck just feet from the shoreline. As night fell, the deck offered a splendid view of the sunset over the water.
Pro Tip: The months of January, February, and March offer mild weather in Lake Havasu City, with average highs ranging from the 60-degree range in January to the high 70s in March. Nighttime lows range from the low 40s to the low 50s.
3. Dead Horse Ranch State Park
With its towering cottonwood trees lining the banks of the rushing Verde River, Dead Horse Ranch State Park makes for a wonderful retreat in central Arizona. The park is known for its diverse birds and wildlife, great hiking and mountain biking on the nearby Lime Kiln Trail, and stellar fishing in its lagoons.
For a mellow visit to Arizona’s beautiful Verde Valley, Dead Horse State Park offers eight rustic log cabins that are tucked away from the park’s other campgrounds. The cabins come with a full-size bed, bunk bed, table and chairs, ceiling fans with overhead light, electricity, and heating and cooling.
Pro Tip: Dead Horse State Park is situated in the charming Verde Valley town of Cottonwood, midway between the desert heat of Phoenix and the cool mountain heights of Flagstaff. The months of January and February post average highs in the low 60s and lows in the low 30s, while March and April have average highs in the 70s and nights in the high 30s/low 40s.
4. Patagonia Lake State Park
Santa Cruz County
Located in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona, Patagonia Lake State Park is known for its boating, birdwatching, hiking, and fishing. It offers a beach, a picnic area with ramadas, tables, and grills, a creek trail, boat ramps, and a marina.
The lake is also near the quirky town of Patagonia, which is worthy of a visit on its own. For those who want to stay at the lake but do not want to bring a tent or RV, the state park’s seven cabins with lakefront views are the perfect option.
The cabins are furnished with a queen-size bed, bunk beds, table and chairs, mini-fridge, microwave, ceiling fan with overhead light, electricity, and heating and air conditioning. Campers supply their own linens, and shower facilities are a short walk away.
Pro Tip: Winter weather is fairly mild at Patagonia Lake State Park, with average highs in the mid-60-degree range in January and February and lows in the mid-30s. March has an average high of 74, and an average low of 40.
5. Alamo Lake State Park
Surrounded by rugged mountain terrain speckled with brush and cacti, Alamo Lake State Park occupies a remote area in west-central Arizona that is “away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” says the park’s website.
Owing to its remoteness — 40 miles from the nearest city lights — the park is known for its amazing views of the night sky. It is also renowned as one of the best places to fish for bass in Arizona, as well as for its plentiful wildlife and wildflowers in the spring.
Offering a view of the lake and the surrounding desert terrain are the state park’s four camping cabins. The cabins feature covered, wood porches and are furnished with bunk-style beds with mattresses, a table and chairs, electricity, ceiling fans, lights, heat/air conditioning, a picnic table, a fire ring, and a charcoal grill. They are accessible by car or pickup truck — with a boat if the vehicle and boat both fit in the cabin’s parking space.
Pro Tip: Mild winter weather at Alamo Lake features average high temperatures of 66 degrees in January and lows in the 30-degree range. February and March both have highs in the 70-degree range, with lows from the high 30s to mid-40s.
6. Kartchner Caverns State Park
With its limestone columns that stretch from floor to ceiling and its icicle-like rock fingers dangling from above, Kartchner Caverns, located about an hour southwest of Tucson, is known as an otherworldly subterranean space.
The caverns were discovered by cavers in 1974, and today Kartchner Caverns State Park in the southeastern-Arizona community of Benson offers a number of tours, including a Big Room tour and a Rotunda/Throne Room tour.
Along with its tent and RV camping sites, the state park also features four camping cabins that look out onto the nearby Whetstone Mountains. The cabins are near hiking trails and within walking distance of the park’s Discovery Center and other park amenities. They are furnished with a queen bed, bunk beds, a microwave and mini fridge, electricity, and air conditioning/heating.
Along with serving as a base for exploring the caverns, the state park is also convenient for visits to nearby tourist sites, such as the charming mining town of Bisbee and the historic town of Tombstone.
Pro Tip: Winter weather at Kartchner Caverns State Park ranges from highs in the low 60s in January to highs in the low 70s in March. Lows range from 29 degrees in January to 36 in March.
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