Area Status: Open
The name Prison camp came from the Federal Honor Camp begun in 1937 to house federal prisoners supplying labor to build a road providing access into the Santa Catalina Mountains. Prisoners had been convicted of federal crimes ranging from immigration law violations to tax evasion to bank robbery.
During World War II, many of the prisoners were conscientious objectors whose religions prohibited them from serving in the military. Some were Japanese Americans protesting the “Japanese American Relocation,” the largest forced removal and incarceration in U.S. History. After the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, over 100,000 Japanese Americans, many American Citizens, were imprisoned in crowded internment camps for fear they would conduct espionage and sabotage along the west coast.
Gordon Hirabayashi was a senior at the University of Washington in 1942. He challenged the constitutionality of internment based on race or ancestry. He turned himself in to the FBI rather than report for relocation. He was convicted and sentenced to serve at the honor camp in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
In 1987 Hirabayashi’s case was overturned. A federal commission determined that the internment had been motivated by racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. In 1988 the Civil Liberties Act was signed by President Ronald Reagan, which acknowledged the injustice and apologized for the internment.
In 1999 the Coronado National Forest renamed the site in honor of Dr. Hirabayashi and the other resisters of conscience who were imprisoned there. Dr. Hirabayashi and others attended the dedication ceremony.
At a Glance
||Camping: $10.00 per night per vehicle. Picnicking or other day use in Campgrounds: $10.00 per day. All fees are payable by cash, check, or money order at the time you occupy the site. Make check or money order payable to "USDA Forest Service." Coronado Recreation Fee Program passes are not required if vehicles remain in the campground. Limit of 2 vehicles and 10 persons per site. Campers must occupy site for the first 24 hours. 14-day stay limit per year.
||Nov 1 - April 30
||RV Camping is 22 feet and less.
No hookups. No pack and saddle stock permitted in camp sites. The Sheep Management Area in nearby Pusch Ridge Wilderness is closed to dogs for the protection of desert bighorn sheep. Mountain bike access is generally east of the campground and not allowed in Wilderness. Pets must be leashed at all times.
||Northeast of Tucson, just beyond mile marker 7 on the Catalina Highway.
||No water. It's always a good idea to bring drinking water with you on your camping trip.
||Santa Catalina Ranger District
Directions: Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue approximately 7 miles to the campground. As you go up the mountain, the campground entrance is on your left.