I want to describe the Gilbert Ray Campground as your “no thrills” oasis in the desert, but that’s not quite right. After all, Gilbert Ray was thrilling beyond belief in its seclusion, leaving even the most hardened wanderlust wanting to stay just a bit longer.
My wife and I took the Airstream out to Gilbert Ray for a weekend in mid-May, 2016 – well after high season in the desert Southwest. As quickly as the temperatures rise, so do full-time RVers high-tail it north in search of relief. That left the park relatively empty, only a speckling of RVs throughout the grounds – not to mention a tent camper here and there.
The campground’s registration desk is closed this time of year, but the honor system is in full effect to pay the nightly fee. We paid the $20/night fee with cash placed inside an envelope, clipping the accompanying receipt below our campsite number on the wooden post that sits at each site. A camp host did drive by on our first night, but we did not see him either of the next two days.
The campground offers 30-amp electrical hookups at each site, but no fresh water or sewer. There is a pump and dump station available, however, and water spigots are placed throughout to keep campers well hydrated with fresh water.
If you are in the Tucson, AZ area, make Gilbert Ray one of your stopping points. You won’t regret it.
Gilbert Ray was quiet and peaceful. The roads – though quite narrow in places – were paved and well-maintained. Nestled in the middle of the desert near Saguaro National Park west of Tucson, monstrous Saguaros litter the grounds, towering over “lesser” desert vegetation.
A hiking trail slices Gilbert Ray in half. Follow it East through a river bed and continue along the trail by following the electrical lines that parallel a nearby road. The trail itself is not well marked, but a sign when beginning the trail at the campground will point you in the right direction.
Nature-lovers will enjoy bird watching (and listening). My wife and I sat outside each morning and listened to these rhythmic communications. The wind would whip through the desert and knife past Saguaros, producing a lovely whooshing as it went. At one point, I was convinced that I could actually see the wind, but alas, it was only my ears playing games with me.
We only stayed the weekend, but we want to visit Gilbert Ray again, perhaps in August during the anticipated meteor shower. The skies are pitch black when the moon isn’t up, offering stargazers ample opportunity to bring out the telescope for astronomically clear views.