On a warm weekend in Arizona, nothing is better than getting some old college friends together for a camping trip—a few days to catch up in the great outdoors. This time, the destination was Aztec Peak, a pristine camping spot 7,748 feet up in the beautiful Tonto National Forest LINK.

If you’ve never been to Aztec Peak, know that you’re definitely going to rough it (i.e. there are no restrooms or showers). In fact, it’s so remote that you might not see anything but the occasional empty forest ranger tower in the trees, and most parts are only reachable with a 4x4 vehicle. We like to joke that it’s the ultimate destination for a guaranteed camping spot.

With nothing but a tent, a sleeping bag, plenty of food and a large supply of water (there’s no running water anywhere), we found a spot and made it our own.

Tonto_view with frames.jpgSo what do you do when you’re camping in the middle of nowhere? Lots of hiking. With a decent pair of hiking shoes and a trusty compass, you can find yourself in forest trails untouched by man. Thick, dense woods, perfect for bird watching and the occasional forest animal. And if you bring a camera, the views from some of the cliffs are simply breathtaking. If you look closely, you can get a glimpse of the sun shining on Roosevelt Lake, way in the distance. Mountain biking can be fun, too. Just don’t expect a path—these woods require you to blaze your own trail!

My advice is to keep your food packed up tightly and safely in your car. We’ve heard stories of bears coming for a nice picnic, and that’s a dinner guest you don’t want to invite. Fortunately for us, we’ve never seen one (we’ve never even seen a snake).

As for us, we ended up spending most of the trip curled up by the fire playing cards, enjoying drinks and telling old stories over some perfectly cooked s’mores. With homemade meals like pancakes on a griddle, star-filled skies and the gentle sounds of nature, we had the best weekend ever. Now we just have to find the time to go back.

Stephanie Stafford moved to Arizona in 1999 from Western New York where she grew up in a small town on a lake. Even after her move, she never lost her love for adventure, the calm of the great outdoors or her wonderful canoe. For Stephanie, nothing is better than heading out of town to find something new to explore.