RVing in the winter can be tricky at times. Cold temperatures and snow can be very challenging conditions to experience in your RV, and, for this reason, many RVers spend their winters in the warm deserts. Of all the best desert areas to vacation in the winter, Arizona is one of the most popular. Between the two larger cities, small desert towns, national parks, state parks, mountains, and much more, Arizona offers so much to enjoy. With winter temperature averages in the 60s and 70s, Southern Arizona in particular provides many opportunities for camping and exploring. With all the beautiful places one can find to visit, there are actually many free locations available, as well. Check out any of the six places below for fun free camping beneath the warm desert sun.
Amongst RVers who enjoy boondocking, Quartzsite is immensely popular. While most public lands allow RVers to camp for up to fourteen days, certain permits allow RVers to boondock for up to seven months in the long-term camping area. The town itself is set up specifically to accommodate winter campers, with water refill areas, dump stations, repair and service shops, and so much more. Since the area is small, you will find only a handful of restaurants and shops available. However, there is also a series of tents and buildings selling useful RV items and most other essentials. It all has a sort of RV flea market feel to it. Each year, the area also hosts a large RV show, as well as a bunch of RV gatherings and meetups. If all this sounds confusing, then perhaps you just need to visit and see it for yourself.
2. Copper Hop Ranch
Beer lovers from all over the country will love this family-owned microbrewery in Santa Cruz County. Located just an hour south of Tucson, Copper Hop Ranch grows fourteen varieties of hops on their ranch. They produce a variety of craft beers and ciders, and they have a food menu available on Sundays. Throughout the year, they even host events, such as parties, weddings, showers, and more. Copper Hop visitors can also find plenty to do in the surrounding towns. This farm just so happens to be a Harvest Hosts location, so be sure to support the local business if you plan to spend a free night here.
3. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Everyone tends to recognize the famous Arizonian saguaros when they see them, but the organ pipe cactuses of Arizona are just as prominent and striking against the desert skyline. All around the organ pipe’s namesake national monument, you can find plenty of dispersed boondocking available. These sites are rather scenic, and most have plenty of cell reception available, as well. While staying nearby, be sure to visit the beautiful national monument. There, you will find plenty of hiking, biking, and scenic driving. Plan to spend at least a day or two exploring the desert beauty of the monument.
4. Sonoita Vineyards
If you love both wine and beautiful views, then you should surely pay a visit to Sonoita Vineyards. Located in the heart of Arizona wine country, this Harvest Hosts location allows members to stay overnight in their lovely grasslands in exchange for supporting the business. With seventeen housemade wines to choose from and a nice tasting room to visit, supporting Sonoita should be fairly easy. Visitors’ reviews tend to mention the picnic tables and seating area outside. This location allows rigs of any size and is pet friendly.
5. Tucson BLM
As the second largest city in Arizona, Tucson has quite a bit to offer. With an artsy meets hipster vibe and an excellent food scene, Tucson’s culture is very unique and offers something for everyone. People from all age groups and backgrounds gather in Tucson every winter to enjoy both the sunshine, saguaros, and city. Naturally, the BLM area just outside of Tucson tends to be rather popular. With views of desert mountains and saguaro cactuses in every direction, Snyder Hill remains one of the busiest public land areas around, almost resembling a campground. If you can find a site, you are sure to have neighbors in this less-typical boondocking scenario, but that is to be expected in a scenic free camping area with reception just outside of a popular city. While in Tucson, be sure to try a sonoran dog and check out the nearby Saguaro National Park.
6. Thunder Mountain Alpaca Ranch
After spending some time on public lands or at a brewery or winery, be sure to complete your desert trip with a visit to Thunder Mountain Alpaca Ranch in Hereford, Arizona. Located just ninety minutes south of Tucson and a half hour southwest of Tombstone, this Harvest Hosts location is both beautiful and unique. In addition to the gift shop full of woven alpaca-wool products, the ranch offers hiking, opportunities for visiting with the alpacas, and occasional events. Those with pets should take note that only those with small dogs may visit, due to the large guard dogs on premises. Pets must stay leashed and close to the RV at all times, and there is one space for RVs of less than forty-five feet. Those who cannot stay overnight (due to pets or large rigs) should still consider a brief stop to meet the alpacas and take in the scenery.
Enjoying the warm desert sun in the winter is an experience like no other. After all, a brief desert vacation may be all you need to make it through the chilly winter. Consider a trip to southern Arizona for beautiful cactus-filled views and sunny adventures you are sure to never forget.
Have you visited southern Arizona in the winter? How was the experience? Any locations we are forgetting? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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