Here's a little-known recreational opportunity for those fleeing the cold of the north. Many RVers take advantage of land managed by the federal government--most by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). But the state itself holds title to over nine million acres of trust lands, and of that, nearly eight million acres is open to recreation. But there's a catch: State trust lands are not technically "public lands," and to be able to access them legally, you need a permit.
What does a permit allow? First, access to the land itself--with some exceptions. Some trust land is under lease, for mining, agriculture, or even military use. Other trust lands are closed to recreation out of safety concerns. But those lands open to recreation allow for hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, and limited off-roading. What about camping? Yep, that's allowed with a limitation--you can only stay in any given site for up to 14 days per year. Yes, you can move off that site and stay elsewhere on state trust land, but you do have to relocate.
There are some things that permit holders cannot do: Target shooting, paintballing, rock-hopping, and sand railing are all out. Leave the fireworks elsewhere, too, they're illegal on trust lands. You can't "take" things away, as in, no metal detecting or rockhounding, nor taking home live or dead plants. There are other restrictions the state spells out in the permit process. Still, there are plenty of great places--and most of them wide-open and sparsely populated--to go and see the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon State.
What's a permit cost? For an individual, a one-year permit runs $50. A family--two adults and children under 14, runs $75 a year. This is not a situation where you and the RV club will be able to move in--groups over 12 require a special "event permit" that can take a while to get your hands on, read that about 60 days. Individual and family permits are processed in less than a week. You can apply for a permit in person in Phoenix, or by mail. The permit application is on the web on the state's web site at http://www.land.state.az.us/programs/natural/RecreationPermit07_31.pdf.
The department also sells maps of state trust lands, or you can go to a free internet viewer at http://sco.az.gov/website/parcels/viewer.htm, although the viewer is a bit cryptic and can be tough to understand. Some maping software and atlases offer detailed information that may show the location of state trust lands.
Bottom photo: Boondocking on public trust land near Quartzsite, Arizona. All photos by R&T DeMaris