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.
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!
My Favorite Things for RV Living
Finding Free Campsites
Safety Tips for Extreme Weather
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.