7 great reasons to camp in the Arizona desert during the winter

For many, camping is synonymous with summer however we’ve found that the Arizona desert may have just as much to offer during the winter.  It’s definitely the place to go if you’d like to log more camping nights in your year or if you’re like us and just don’t have time to camp much during the summer months.  I’ve experienced my fair share of heat from 11 years living in the Arizona desert and you couldn’t pay me to spend another summer there but the winter months are where it’s at.  Here’s 7 reasons why camping in the desert during the winter is awesome…

1.  The weather can’t be beat.

During the winter, the Arizona desert consistently delivers ample sunshine and highs in the 60’s and 70’s.  There’s occasional windy days and colder days in the 50’s but for the most part, for anyone used to shoveling snow all winter, the desert is utopia.

Colorado River aerial photograph
Enjoying a sunset flight over the Colorado River near Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Arizona camping and off-roading
Searching for the perfect boondocking spot outside Jerome, Arizona.

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2.  The sunsets are incredible. 

It’s my favorite time of day and I’ve never seen the sky light up anywhere else the way it does in the desert.  It gives every night cause to stop and appreciate the simple things in life.

Arizona boondocking and camping
Boondocking outside Parker, Arizona.

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Lake Havasu City Arizona sunset
Sunset on Lake Havasu from our camp site at Lake Havasu State Park.

3.  The Arizona desert is practically free of bugs and predators during the winter.

Anyone who’s ever had a camping trip ruined by mosquitos or flies can appreciate the glory of this.  We hardly ever come across bugs of any kind when we camp in the desert during the winter.  An added bonus is that snakes aren’t active during the coldest of the winter months.

4.  Summertime activities during winter.

Colder climates like where we’re from in the Colorado Rockies offer a short window every year to enjoy our favorite activities like hiking, biking and paddleboarding but the weather in the desert is perfect to enjoy those and tons of other summertime activities all winter long.

Camping and boondocking at Lake Mohave, Arizona.
Paddleboarding at Lake Mohave, Arizona.

5. Little to no crowds.

The desert may attract snowbirds from all over the country looking to flee the wrath of old man winter but we’ve never experienced crowds in the winter like we do when camping during the summer.  Maybe it’s because the expansive desert offers plenty of room for everyone to spread out or the RV parks attract the majority of winter campers, either way sometimes it feels as though you have a whole piece of the desert entirely to yourselves.

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Alamo Road near Kingman, Arizona.
Standard Road off-roading Lake Havasu City
Looking for a place to boondock on Standard Wash Rd. outside Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Camping and boondocking in Quartzsite Arizona
Camping near Quartzsite, Arizona.

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6. Tons of free/cheap camping.

Huge areas of public land in the desert, managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) offer free or low cost camping.  You, of course, need to be fully prepared to boondock and be 100% self-sufficient but for us, that’s half the fun.

Camping and boondocking on Lake Mohave, Arizona.
Camping near Cottonwood Road at Lake Mohave, Arizona
Tonto National Forest camping
Camping in the National Forest outside Payson, Arizona.
Lake Mohave shoreline camping
Camping at Lake Mohave with the lights of Laughlin, Nevada in the background.

Where are some of your favorite places to camp in the Southwest?  Do you like to camp during the winter?  Where have you always wanted to go but have never been?

19 Comments

Leave a Reply to Rob Cancel reply

  • We have never made it to the SW yet but would really like to soon! There used to be some intense winter camp-outs during snow storms while I was in undergrad but those aren’t as fun nowadays 🙂 Probably the SW is one of the top places I have never been but would like to experience.
    It looks like the tag-along trailer is working out well! I hope to see a more in-depth review of it in the future 🙂 Pics are awesome too!!

    • Greg, this month is the first time we’re really putting the trailer through it’s paces and I plan to write more about that soon. Be sure to get out West one of these days, you’ll love it!

  • Living in Las Vegas allows us to experience the Arizona desert often! I love this post, because my family and I love the desert for the same reasons you do! We have boondocked in or near all of the places you have shown here!! It makes me feel happy that there are other people who enjoy the beauty of the desert as we do.

    • Thanks so much for reading Heather! The desert is definitely an under-appreciated gem in this country. How lucky are we to enjoy all that it has to offer!

  • We take a yearly camping trip out near Quartzite AZ, a place called Crystal Hill, and go crystal hunting. We are usually the only ones camping here, but a few people drive over during the day. Well worth the time.

  • I live in a heavy crime area and live with more fear of the thugs than any snake or bug. We have always used RV parks with rangers or some type of security around. The boondocking sounds great but a little out of our comfort zone. I guess the best way to get knowledge is by trying it. We will be in a 35 ft. motorhome. Will we be able to access these places?

  • I live in AZ and find that camping out Boondocking is the best. We have lived her for 20 years and have had no issues with our safety. Most people respect your privacy and there are some that just like to visit. You can get the Motor home in most places. Best thing to do is come enjoy.

  • What are some of your favorite places to boondock within fairly easy driving distance of Phoenix? My husband and I are taking out our new roof top tent this weekend and looking for a good, secluded spot! Thanks!

  • We are soon to be retired in 3 years and have been planning and setting up our RV for full time boon docking. We live in Colorado and are so over the winters here. I was excited to come across your website as Arizona is one place my husband would like to spend a large time in the winter. Myself, I just did not know the areas to look for. You have some beautiful pictures and now I am very excited to start our adventure. We are outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy fishing and hiking. You have proven to me that you can find water in Arizona. Thanks for the great information

    • Laura, thanks so much for reading and for your comment. I’m so glad we’ve gotten you excited for your upcoming travels. May your retirement be everything you’ve dreamed of and more!

  • If you want to camp near Phoenix try Picacho Peak campground. About 45 miles south of PHX. Right off I10. Fully functional winter camping with al amenities. Only 30 minutes from PHX. Hiking and views are great. No lake but nice all the same. Camping around PHX area near water would be Lake Pleasant or Roosevelt. Lived here for 45 years and love the desert.

  • Great site! I’m surprised there’s been no mention of the night sky at three or four a.m in the desert. I got to experience it somewhere North Northwest of Phoenix decades ago taking flight lessons at an ultralight Airport sleeping in a camper behind the airport stepped out one morning about 3 or 4 a.m. and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life a billion trillion stars that felt like you could reach out and touch and I want to show that to my wife so bad. We camped all over Colorado last year see the Milky Way shooting stars and all that but not like anything in the desert at all so I need help here. Any suggestions for a great camping spot that would accommodate that view? Larry

By michele

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Hi!  We’re Mark & Michele, a couple of modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, perpetual travel.  We believe that being debt-free and free to roam is the ultimate freedom.  This blog is where we share our travels as well as our insights in to this lifestyle that we absolutely love.  We hope you enjoy it!

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