Tag: Nevada

My Best States for Winter RV Life

Fall is in the air, and winter is around the corner. For those of us who live in Residential Vehicles, cars, or vans, this time of year means we either winterize or move to warmer weather. I prefer to chase livable temps than to suffer through freezing cold days, snow, and ice. There are a few states I’ve wintered in, that are comfortable and offer plenty of boondocking. Below are my three favorite states for winter RV Life.

#1 Arizona

Arizona is snowbird mecca. Every year, thousands of RVers from the U.S. and Canada flock to Arizona for the warmer climate and plentiful boondocking on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Quartzsite which is 128 miles west of Phoenix, is especially popular as it hosts the annual Tyson Wells Market and Swap Meet and the Rock and Gem Show. There are plenty of campgrounds, RV parks, Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs offer designated dispersed camping areas for around $180 for the entire season! So, you don’t have to worry about moving every 14 days like you do when dispersed camping on BLM lands) and vast deserts with ample BLM land for free dispersed camping.

Boondocking in Arizona for Winter RV Living

There are thousands, maybe millions, of acres of BLM land in Arizona. Just use an app like FreeCampsites.net or Campendium to find spots people recommend, or get a BLM map and explore on your own to find your own piece of desert paradise. I’ve explored the state from the Mexican border to the Grand Canyon and have found some gorgeous desert campsites. Just remember, when wintering here, stay in the lower elevations for warmer weather.

Temperatures During Winter RVing in Arizona

Just because you’re in the south doesn’t mean you’re going to be warm. Elevation plays a BIG role in temperatures. Remember, for every 1000’ in elevation you rise, the temperature gets three degrees cooler. So stay low for the warmest temperatures! Winter temperatures in the low elevations of Arizona are comfortable. They generally range from the 60s to 70s during the day and high 30s to 40s at night. It rarely drops below freezing at night south of Phoenix, so you won’t have to worry about freezing pipes.

#2 Southern California 

From Slab City to Anza Borrego State Park, Joshua Tree to the Mojave Preserve you can find some beautiful, quirky, and remote places to boondock in southeastern California.

Boondocking In CA for RV Winter Living

If you’re not afraid of anarchy and have some street smarts be sure to check out Slab City, they call it the last free place on earth (Learn more in the 4 part video series I did: https://youtu.be/Y3oNM53oEtg). You can actually live in Slab City if you want but it gets HOT in the Summer. Many nomads spend the entire winter there, enjoying the freedom and warmer winter temperatures.

If you’re looking for more solitude and less anarchy, Anza Borrego State park has free dispersed camping and it’s gorgeous! It can be a little crowded in some of the designated camping areas, so keep that in mind when you go.

There’s also camping near the Salton Sea which is a fascinating piece of CA history. If you really want to be alone explore the thousands of acres of the Mojave preserve, a pristine, desert with ample boondocking. But be sure to know before you go by checking out the website. You can’t boondock just anywhere within the preserve. There is also some decent boondocking on BLM land right outside of Joshua Tree National Park, which is a must-see if you’re in Southern California.

Temperatures for California During Winter RV Camping

Winter temperatures in the Salton City area are between 70 and 80 during the day and 50s at night. With Anza Borrego being about 10 degrees cooler and the Joshua tree area about 15-20 degrees cooler. The same weather/elevation rule applies here. The higher you go, the colder. Be sure to always check the forecast before traveling to higher elevations so you don’t get stranded in snow!

#3 Nevada and New Mexico Winter RVing

Both are a little higher in elevation than the areas I mentioned above. But, if you want less crowds and can handle cooler temps, you’re in for a winter RV life treat! There is plenty of BLM land in both Southern New Mexico and Nevada, and you won’t find the snowbird crowd in the heart of winter.

Boondocking in Nevada and New Mexico to Enjoy Winter RV Life

Nevada: there is boondocking south of Las Vegas on HWY 95 at the Dry Lake Bed and plenty in Pahrump, just about 60 miles northwest of Vegas. (Remember to check your camping apps!). Going north of Pahrump takes you higher in elevation, where the temps will be colder, and you’re more likely to get snow. BEWARE: And check weather forecast before you go so you don’t get stranded in snow!!! Storms can come out of nowhere and dump inches, if not feet very quickly in higher elevations.

New Mexico: The southernmost part of the state is the warmest. I’ve stayed in the Carlsbad, NM area, and while not pretty, it is warmer and not very crowded. There is some boondocking not far from the world-famous Carlsbad Caverns. New Mexico also offers an annual State Park Pass, which is a great deal! Most parks are open year-round, and they’re empty. You can go plug-in when it gets too cold!

Temperatures During the Winter in Nevada and New Mexico for RV Living

Temperatures in both southern NM ad NV are similar. The days will be in the 50s to low 60s, and the nights in the 20s to 30s. You’re also likely to get snow – oh and strong winds! But if you don’t mind the cooler temps, and you can handle one or two nights below freezing, without worrying about your pipes freezing, you’ll be rewarded with quiet and solitude.

Before you go, be sure to check out my video below for cheap and simple tips for keeping your RV Warmer in winter without a lot of effort or technical know-how. And if your solar doesn’t quite cut it with the shorter days and cloudier weather, check out the Jackery Power Station. It’s been a great addition to my RV Life for running my laptop, charging camera batteries and phones, running my coffee grinder and Nutri-Bullet and more!

What’s Your Favorite RV Living Winter Spot?

There you have it! My favorite Winter RV Living areas! Of course, many snowbirds also winter in Florida and Texas. I like the Southwest and the drier climate, gorgeous desert sunsets, and lack of bugs!! Where do you like to spend your RV life winters? Let us know in the comments below!

Helpful Links:
My Favorite Things for RV Living
Finding Free Campsites
Safety Tips for Extreme Weather

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DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.

I’m a Full-time RV Snowbird in Arizona and Nevada!

It’s almost February and I’ve been on the road for ten months.  When I try to create a timeline of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen over the last ten months, it’s but a blur. It’s true, the older I get, the faster time seems to go by.

I fondly remember the slow, lazy days of summer, exploring southern and eastern Oregon. Wintertime living in an RV is different; the days are short, the nights cold and I am spending much less time outdoors. Sure, some of that is because I’ve been consumed with work, but also, there are just fewer hours of daylight to take advantage of!

Since spending Thanksgiving in Medford with my good friend Bob and his family, I’ve frolicked in snowfall, high in the Nevada desert (and shot a video about it that went viral!),  woke up to a twenty-five degree rig in the outskirts of Carson City (where it was about 15 degrees outside),  survived RV-rocking 45 mile per hour wind gusts near a ghost town in Goffs, CA (video), explored Joshua Tree National Park (video) where I gazed  wondrously at the mysterious twisty-trees  and ambled through the rocky desert of southern Arizona (video).

My trek from Oregon to Arizona was adventure-filled, that’s for sure! I was excited to spend the winter in the desert- my first season as a genuine Snowbird!

A couple of years ago, on my way back from a backpacking trip in Capital Reef National Park in Utah, I stopped for the night in Mojave National Preserve. I was tired from my long drive and pulled off on Zzyzx road (yes, that’s a real road) into the desert to sleep in my car. I awoke to a mauve-tinted sandy landscape alive with sun-glow creosote and crisp, layered hills of the high-desert mountains in the distance. I pulled my backpacking stove out of my pack, boiled hot water and made my morning coffee. I sipped it’s smooth, robust warmth into me as I leisurely drifted over the barren land.  As the coffee pushed away the morning fog, my soul became electrified with adventure and freedom.  As I devoured the serenity of my surroundings, I made a promise I would go back and backpack it someday.

Camping Winnemuccca in the snow
Boondocking near Winnemucca in the snow

Last year, determined to keep my promise to myself, I drove the eight hours to Mojave Preserve for a three-day backpacking trip. It turns out ninety-degrees in the desert is far different from ninety degrees in the mountains. By 11 am, after hiking five miles, carrying 16lbs of water (a 3-day supply, or so I thought) plus 15lbs of gear, I had to stop, set up my tent for shade and lie as still as possible. I think I nearly got heatstroke!  I literally could not move a muscle until the sun went down.

The next morning, I was up and packed before sunrise, hell-bent on getting back to the safety of my car before it got too hot.  I hiked five miles in less than two hours and was back in my car luxuriating in my powerful AC by 8 am. I had gone through all two gallons of water in 24 hours!

Despite my less-than-fun backpacking experience, I couldn’t wait to get back to the desert- this time with plenty of water and my home behind me. So, I in my new RV life, as a winter snow bird, I headed south, in early December.

My first stop in the “real” desert (low and warm!) was on some BLM Land (Bureau of Land Management) in Pahrump, Nevada. I found an idyllic spot, high upon a mountain, amid creosote, Cholla and Joshua trees overlooking the city. I had almost complete solitude the four or five days I was there, save for a few dune-buggiers (yes, I believe I just made up a word).  My camp wasn’t far from the edge of a wide and deep wash that lent for gorgeous walks each day (video). The weather was mild, with days in the sixties and nights in the forties. I enjoyed my stay there immensely, but it was time to move on. I had plans to meet a group of fellow nomads in Arizona, for Christmas and a few places to see along the way.

From Pahrump I went into Las Vegas to do some banking and stock up at Whole Foods. I found a wonderful dry lakebed just south of Vegas to boondock for a couple of nights before heading to my next destination: Joshua Tree.

Boondocking in Pahrump,Nevada

In 1996, my BFF and I took a 10,000-mile road trip zig-zagging our way from Berkeley to New York and back. We were young, adventurous –  and poor.  I’d been working my way through college as a waitress at Goat Hill Pizza in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, where Kristi and I met.  One night at our favorite dive bar, after downing a few shots of tequila to wash away the crazy-busy night of serving pizza to Potrero Hill hipsters, we hatched a plan to drive cross country together once I graduated from Berkeley in May.  For months, we stashed tip money into a locked piggy bank to save for our grand adventure.  My little 1981 bright yellow Toyota Corolla was reliable, so all we needed was gas money, food and a tent.

Nine months later, we were in Joshua Tree National Park; the first stop of our cross-country adventure!  I’d never been to the desert and I was struck with awe; the smooth reddish rocks, the weird deformed-looking cactus-trees and the quiet serenity of the lumpy landscape.  It left a lasting impression on me. For decades, I dreamed of going back.

Ehrenberg, AZ

Twenty years later, a week before Christmas, Matilda carried Capone and me back into the park that held such fond memories. It was cloudy, gloomy and crowded.  Nothing like the barren and secluded place, I remembered. Nevertheless, it was perfect! I drove the windy roads in renewed awe at what our planet offers a hungry adventurer. I wanted to park my RV, grab my backpack and immerse myself in its beauty. But Capone isn’t allowed on trails in National Parks, so I had to be content driving through, stopping at crowded scenic points and making short jaunts into the scenes before me.

After carefully exploring and maneuvering Matilda through a couple of cramped and narrow campgrounds and finding nothing suitable for giant Matilda, I pulled into Belle Campground around 4pm and got the last site;  which  happened to be just big enough to squeeze into.

The next day, tired of the crowds and the rules and restrictions of a National Park, I exited on the long and desolate Pinto Basin Road toward Cottonwood.  I wasn’t exactly sure where I was heading, but thought I’d explore some BLM dispersed camping near the south entrance to the park. Just as I passed the Cottonwood entry sign, I spotted a sandy road that led to the West, speckled with Fifth Wheels, Motorhomes and Vans: boondockers galore! Yay! Home! I pulled in, found a level spot within eyesight of four RVs and called it a day. I could see and hear Interstate 10 from my site, but it wasn’t too bad. I ended up staying a few nights.

BLM Camping near Parker, AZ

Next, I drove due east to Ehrenberg, AZ, where I met up with my friend Bob and fellow full time RVers and VanDwellers for Christmas. The camp off the East Frontage Road in Ehrenberg was a disappointment:  rocky and barren, with obvious signs of heavy use and not much greenery – just overall bland. I stayed for Christmas (video), enjoying community and a low-key Christmas day potluck and then moved to the Colorado River for a few days.

The river was low and down the bank from camp I had a sandy beach all to myself.  My camp was framed by desert trees and brush, which shield me from the other boondockers along the river road; back to peace and solitude!

For the past month, I’ve been exploring Arizona, with a quick trip into Los Algodones  Mexico for migraine medication (video). I’ve spent time in Yuma (where I experienced more RV trouble, videos here), Kofa Wildlife Refuge, Parker and Quartzsite where I attended the CheapRVLiving.com Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) and met so many wonderful people (video of our meet and greet).

I have plans to explore southern Arizona and California over the next month or so, before it’ll be time to head north or to higher ground when the temperatures get to hot here.

I will have lots of fun and adventure to share and will do my best to keep blogging about it.