Boondocking Site Review – Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Sasabe, AZ

Hiking at our new boondocking site
Hiking at Buenos Aires NWR

A stunning and remote boondocking area in the natural grasslands of south-central Arizona

Location: Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Link to refuge HERE
Coordinates: Entry to Buenos Aires around 31.812813,-111.44365. The refuge extends south to Mexico and east to Arivaca, AZ. Link to map location HERE
Cost: FREE (14-day stay limit)
How We Found It: I originally heard about this spot from Ivan’s blog and subsequently found more information on the web.
Nearest Dump/Water: Not sure? Sanidumps lists this RV park ~19 miles form Arivaca. Household garbage can be dumped for free at the local Arivaca transfer station (west side of town).

  1. Access – 2.5/5
    Mixed access here, depending on where you go. The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge is huge (~118,000 acres) and has miles & miles of dirt roads. There are 83 total campsites throughout the refuge which are designated and numbered (no dispersed camping allowed outside of designated sites). Some of the campsites are along very rutted and difficult roads and thus best accessed by more nimble or high-clearance vehicles, whereas other campsites are along better roads with easier access. Road conditions change depending on weather, so best option is to call or scout ahead to find the most accessible sites. Out of the total 83 campsites we reckoned only around 8-10 were “beast-accessible” whereas the rest were best left to smaller rigs.
  2. Nature – 5/5
    Outstanding nature here. This place is very remote and you’ll be completely surrounded by the natural grasslands with views sweeping all the way to the sacred Baboquivari mountains and the border of Mexico. Lots of lots of dirt roads to explore as well as some local hiking trails.
  3. Isolation – 4.5/5
    Very good isolation here, depending on time of year. This is a rarely-visited refuge so chances are good that you’ll be alone, but there are regular hunting parties & back-road enthusiasts who frequent the refuge. Plus the closeness to Mexico means you will see border patrol quite frequently in the area. While we were there a large hunting party was camped a few miles away, but the huge size of the refuge our separation allowed us good solitude. We saw only a handful of cars/day down our road and during the mid-week we saw very little at all.
  4. Pet Friendliness – 5/5
    Another excellent location for doggie. Lots of open space around camp plus plenty of dirt roads to walk/bike/explore. Surroundings are mostly grassland & dirt which are easy on the paws.

Overall Rating = 4.25
BONUS ALERT = Camp in the glorious grasslands of southern Arizona withing view of the sacred Baboquivari mountains!

Summary: I originally heard about this refuge from Ivan’s blog and have wanted to come here ever since. The place did not disappoint! Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge covers 118,000 acres of natural grasslands in south-central Arizona from the border of Mexico to the base of the Baboquivari mountains. It’s very remote, it’s gorgeous and it’s the perfect spot to get away from it all. Plus it’s also ~10 miles from sleepy Arivaca and local hiking. It’s an unusual refuge in that camping is only allowed in designated sites all of which are numbered and signed. There are a total of 83 campsites along dirt roads throughout the refuge. Most of the sites are actually very spacious but accessibility varies tremendously. Some of the roads are extremely narrow and rutted, whereas others are larger and less bumpy. The road conditions change depending on the year (and weather) so it’s good practice to call ahead or scout out your site before bringing in your rig. The majority of the sites are probably best suited for more nimble and/or high-clearance rigs, but there are probably around 8-10 which are relatively easy to access (= closer to the main road) and can handle “beast-size” (again, depending on road conditions). Hunters & back-road enthusiasts do frequent the refuge (we moved because of a large hunter group coming in the week-end we were there) plus the border patrol is very active, but the refuge is large enough that if you can find a site, you’ll most likely have a very relaxing time. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here and will most definitely be back!

Extra Info: Very varied 3G Verizon signal throughout the refuge. Some sites have no (zero) signal whereas other have 1-2 bars. NO facilities (no garbage, no dump, no water), however household garbage can be dumped for free at the local Arivaca transfer station (west side of town).

View of our first site at Buenos Aires
View of our first site at Buenos Aires
View of our second site at Buenos Aires
View of our second site at Buenos Aires
Typical site view. Each site is clearly numbered. This is #73
Typical site view. Each site is clearly signed and numbered. This is #73
Another typical site. Most sites are actually  very spacious...it's just the access roads that are the problem.
Another typical site. Most sites are actually very spacious…it’s just the access roads that are the problem.
View of one of smaller sites
View of one of smaller sites
Road entrance to one of the many dirt roads
Road entrance to one of the many dirt roads
Polly poses in one of the more narrow dirt roads
Polly poses in one of the more narrow dirt roads
Map of refuge with numbered sites clearly shown
Map of refuge with numbered sites clearly shown
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Ralph says

    Nina,
    Looks like you guys found another “Gem”. I’m adding it to my “wish list”. Have the “ocotillo” started blooming yet? The only thing blooming up here in SW Washington..are more rain clouds. You guys sure live “the good life”. I’m so jealous… I feel like drinking 2 or 3 margaritas..and pretend I’m somewhere sunny and warm!

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup, the ocotillos just started blooming here. In fact we have a group of blooms right outside our doorstep right now! Hope you see some sun up there in WA soon!
      Nina

  2. says

    Hello! I subscribed to your blog about a month ago and love it! Thanks for publishing it. I will retire in June and begin my journeys with my dog Maya.Your blog has helped me begin to prepare for this adventure. I will probably stay in national and state parks in the beginning but am intrigued by the idea of boondocking since I do have a fixed income. Do you see any single lady adventurers boondocking? Is it pretty safe? Have you encountered any problems? Just wondering, I’d love to try it. Pam

  3. Randy says

    Prior to 2014 your site review criteria were always: 1. Site Quality. 2. Facilities. 3. Location. 4. Pet Friendliness.

    2014 Criteria are: 1. Access. 2. Nature. 3. Isolation. 4. Pet friendliness.

    Guess if you need to save money by boon-docking and your tolerance for other people has declined that would explain the change.

    It’s hard compare prior reviews (ie. Pagosa Springs CO = 4.0 or Cape Blanco OR = 4.5) with Buenos Aries = 4.25. Seems the standards have shifted toward desolation.

    • libertatemamo says

      Well actually I have three completely different review systems -> one for boondocking, one for public parks and one for private parks…and they’ve always been the same. The reason I have 3 different sets is that the qualities you look for in each are different. So for example amenities (which is a standard part of my private park reviews) really have no meaning for boondocking (you are never going to have pools or WiFi while boondocking, but they are worth reviewing in private parks). And isolation, which is a key part of boondocking never features in my public or private park reviews.

      So, three different sets for three different purposes. This year (2104) we’ve only boondocked so you’ve only seen the boondocking set of criteria. When we go back to staying in public parks you’ll see the other set again.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Nina

  4. Michael says

    Hi Nina,

    You guys are on a roll. I’ve loved your last three spots. We’ll be heading out to Borrego Springs in a few weeks for our first boondocking adventure. Thank you for all the info and enthusiasm for this type of camping. I have no doubt it will be the first of many.

    Thank you also for doing the reviews of each of those spots. I thing it’s great that you have different criteria for the different types of camping. Safe travels.

    Michael-

    • libertatemamo says

      Well enjoy Borrego! With all this early heat, I wonder if the flowers are blooming there already? We are starting to see blooms here, so could be an early event this year.

      Nina

  5. David says

    Nina, About a mile away from your campsite is a place called “Round Hill Tank”. Wondering what a “Tank” refers to in that type of setting? Have you traveled the “Antelope Loop” with your vehicle and how was it (scenery, safety, etc.)? Thanks again for keeping everyone aware and informed as to what “Boondocking” really is. No sense making the same mistake twice. David

    • libertatemamo says

      The “tanks” on the map are big old water tanks. They’re dotted all around the refuge. No camping there since they’re not a designated (numbered) campsite. We drove part of the Antelope loop and it was fine (for our toad). We also did a few other dirt roads in our CRV, but couldn’t make them all (some of them were too rutted even for that car). Scenery is good all around.

      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      There are the normal warnings about potential illegal activity in this area. I say “normal” because you’ll pretty much find those warning signs everywhere in Southern Arizona. It’s certainly always a concern close to the border. We’ve never been bothered or seen anything to worry us, plus the border patrol has a pretty heavy presence down here, but if it’s something that worries you this may indeed not be a good spot to stay.

      Nina

  6. Randy says

    “three different sets for three different purposes”.
    Ahh, makes sense now. I was confused since the Boon-docking reviews were included in the “RV Park Ratings” header tab. Good info Thanks.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, I guess I should change the title of that tab to “camping reviews” or something of that nature. It includes all our reviews from private parks to boondocking and I’ve had the same title for 4 years, but I can see how it can be confusing to new folks on the blog. When we started RVing I had no idea that boondocking even existed so that tab, and associated review system had to evolve over time.

      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      Ah sorry…didn’t write them down. However most of them are the ones closers to the main road. You’ll just have to do some boondocking exploring, which is all part of the adventure :)

      Nina

  7. says

    Another really wonderful review of a fabulous looking spot Nina. Thank you so much for these. Now if I could just get out there to try them out. SIGH……….. I need some of that isolation. I guess because of the really outrageous winter in the East, WAY more people have decided they need to be on the gulf beaches of Florida.

    • libertatemamo says

      I’ve been following a few of my RV friends out in FL and they’ve all mentioned the same thing. I gather it’s also bern quite a cold and rainy winter out there..although still much better than the icy storms up north.

      Nina

  8. Caryl Marie says

    Hi Nina… Once again terrific write up… Can hardly wait to be on the road but need to concentrate on the here and now and the miracles that continue on adailybasis.

    My husband and I are coming into some substantial $$’s and thought we would check out Paul’s blog, however, don’t see any recent posts. Has he retired the blog? Is he accepting clients? Didn’t think to see if there was a link to actually ask him, so, if you would rather pass this on … It would be greatly appreciated.

    Keep up the GR8 work! Wonderfully pics, writing and humor, suspence and information.

    Thank in advance… I know how busy this keeps you when there might be other things you might prefer ;))

    • libertatemamo says

      Congrats on the $$ and the upcoming travels! Paul has decided to stop blogging and just concentrate on our own finances. So sadly, no clients. I’ll certainly announce it if he ever changes his mind.

      Nina

  9. Rich Muller says

    Great post. I’m considering spending a day at Buenos Aires next weekend on a long loop home to Tucson from Bisbee.

    Where did the map of campsites come from? It looks like a photo of a paper handout — maybe from the seldom-open visitor center?

    I signed up to get future blog entries by email. Good stuff!

    Thanks, Rich

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup it’s a photo from the visitor center. Enjoy your stay there. It’s a pretty neat spot!
      Nina

  10. Reed Cundiff says

    Another site we loved. The folks at the HQ were extremely helpful and told us what sites were accessible to a travel trailer. We went off toe Arivica to bird walk and a Canadian couple were there when we got back and asked if they could share the site. The site was huge and we were delighted to share with them. We ran into them again at Shanty Pond in Florida at an SKP’s Boondocking venture and dug out our kayaks and paddled down some interesting narrow streams. A year later we ran into them again at a another SKP Boondocking venture in western AZ. We were headed to Baja and they had some great ideas. One keeps running into the same delightful folks when you boondock

  11. James says

    A little advice … First check with Boarder Patrol about drug activity in the area. Camping alone south of interstate 8 in Arizona can be iffy. Be prepared if you are in this area after dark. Be well armed and be prepaid to do what is necessary to protect yourselves and your property. Please read the following article. Just a heads up.

    http://tucson.com/news/local/border/armed-guards-ensuring-safety-of-organ-pipe-tours/article_ff023cb3-993e-51e2-932d-9fac0015a356.html

  12. says

    What a find! I finally got a chance for a couple of days at Buenos Aires, and it’s beyond wonderful. BIG open sky, mountain views in all directions, waving grass, endless roads and trails for walking. A pronghorn trotted through during breakfast, and the reddest red-bird I’e ever seen sang to me from the sad excuse they have for trees in this part.

    Nina has posted a picture of the site map,to which I’d add this: at the visitor center they have a list of all the sites with pertinent information like the difficulty of approach, the presence of shade, etc. One of the categories is “passenger vehicle.” This doesn’t mean it’s reserved for cars, just that you don’t have to have a high-clearance or 4WD vehicle to get there. Of the 83 sites, the following are those easy-to-get-to places: 36,37,38,39,40,41, 58,59,60,61,72,73,and 77. 73 is where I stayed, and beyond the gorgeous views and the solitude, it has the advantage of a rock-solid 5-BAR Verizon signal!

    I live in Tucson, so this place is easy to get to for me: I plan to use it for future getaways … just not in the summer, when the place is an oven!

    Nina, many thanks for highlighting this place. — Rich

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