During my first trip the area around Ajo and Why, AZ, I did not camp on the Gunsite Wash BLM land. I was enamored with the free camping on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop and didn’t have much motivation to move my butt anywhere else. But since I like to see new places (and write about them!), during my second visit to the area, I decided to spend a night at Gunsite Wash.
During my first visit, the Divine Miss M and I had pulled into the camping area on our way to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and had a quick look around. Although the area has no amenities (no running water, no trash cans, no toilets–pit or otherwise, no showers, no picnic tables, and no shade covers), it does have several desirable features.
First, if one wants to visit the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, this camp area is in a great location only twenty miles from the Monument’s Kris Eggle Visitor Center. Gunsite Wash would be a great free area to leave a travel trailer or 5th Wheel while visiting the Monument.
Second, the main road was in good condition when I visited (April 2016). There are many spots accessible to vehicles with low clearance. While friends in a minivan and a Prius had trouble finding sites for their vehicles on the Ajo Scenic loop, I think most anyone could find a workable spot in Gunsite Wash.
Third, there is a lot of room in Gunsite Wash. Unless this place gets super crowded in mid-winter, there should be no reason for people to camp on top of one another here.
Four, it’s really easy to find. The Gunsite Wash camping area is on Highway 85, just south of milepost 55. Right before the camping area is a sign for a roadside table. (The sign also shows accessibility for folks with disabilities.) The roadside table is on the east side of the road. The entrance to the camping area is on the west side, directly across from the entrance to the roadside table area.
After making the turn into the camping area, look for a couple of tall saguaros and a small sign that says “RVs”. Follow the sign’s arrow to the right.
Drive a very short ways and look for the cattle guard on the left. Cross the cattle guard. You are now in the camping area!
To the left of the cattle guard is one of those signs warning about smuggling and illegal immigration. During my day and night at Gunsite Wash, I saw no one who seemed to be smuggling or immigrating illegally.
From reviews I read of this camping area, I expected to see a camp host. In fact, I’m pretty sure there was a camp host there in January (2016) when Miss M and I popped in for a quick look-around. On that day there was a rig parked not far over the cattle guard and to the right. Also on that day, there was a sign-in sheet on the sign board. In April, there was no camp host and no sign-in sheet. There were, however, signs saying there is a 14 day limit on camping in the area.
While Gunsite Wash is by no means an ugly area, I don’t think it is a pretty as the BLM free camping areas adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop. (That my be why one place has “scenic” in its name and the other doesn’t.) While Gunsite Wash does include a few saguaros (some very large, which means very old), I saw no organ pipe cacti or any type of cholla out there. Gunsite Wash has a lot of creosote bushes and even some trees, which is nice in the desert. If one went far back and to the right on the main road (which is actually little more than a wide dirt trail), one would find a large tree offering some shade. I think it would be nice to camp with the tree.
Throughout the day I spent in the area, I saw critters moving. There were so many quail, I felt as if I were at a Partridge Family reunion. Sometimes little rodents dashed out into the open as they moved from one hole in the ground to another.
The most exciting animal I saw all day was a coyote. I must have noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, I saw a full-grown coyote standing next to a bush. I looked at it and it looked at me, then it moved on.
When I read the information at the sign board, I noticed a note written by the camp host. It said campers should be nice to the cows in the campground because they are “paying customers.” Apparently one or more ranchers lease the land for grazing. I definitely saw fresh signs of bovine presence. While taking an early evening walk, something up ahead moved in the trees. I thought maybe it was another coyote, but it was a cow (or maybe a steer).
I only saw one other rig (a big 5th wheel) parked in the area. After dark, I could hear the generator humming over there, but I was far enough away that it was a quiet hum. I could hear vehicles passing on Highway 85, but the road wasn’t very busy, and I wasn’t disturbed. I think by camping farther back, one could eliminate some of the noise I encountered.
I think this is a fine camping spot. However, since I don’t need to be close to the National Monument and my vehicle has decently high clearance, if I were in this area, I would probably choose to camp on the BLM land right outside of Ajo.
A note on spelling: I orginally used the word “Gunsight.” Then I saw on it spelled “Gunsite” on the Free Campsites website, so I changed my spelling. Then I searched on Google and saw it spelled both ways. I didn’t want to go through and change my spelling again, so I’m leaving it as “Gunsite.” I don’t know what’s correct in this situation.