Escaping the darkest, coldest days of winter isn’t easy for most people. But for RVers like us, it can be as simple as pointing our rigs to Arizona’s “West Coast” playground, Lake Havasu. RV parks and public campgrounds in this snowbird destination make a great base camp to explore one of America’s best year-round hot spots for water sports, golf, hiking and off-roading fans. Near the water’s edge and in the surrounding desert, Lake Havasu RV Parks roll out the welcome mat.
This Desert is as Real as It Gets
The Mojave Desert doesn’t miss an opportunity to play tricks on your eyes, but this stretch of the Colorado River is as real as it gets. With nearly 450 miles of river and lake shoreline created by nearby Parker Dam, water sports are a way of life on the massive reservoir that straddles the border between Southern California and Arizona. Lake Havasu is big on boating of any kind, from Tiki Boat Cruises to kayak rentals, powerboat racing to bass fishing.
The river is the centerpiece of Lake Havasu living, but there’s still so much to do on land for desert rats like me and my husband. Although many people think of the famous London Bridge tourist attraction when they hear the words “Lake Havasu,” the rugged Mojave Desert terrain offers so much more to RV snowbirds and thrill-seeking visitors. The endless terrain makes a great jumping-off point for off-road adventures lasting a day, a night or longer. Jeepers, mountain bikers and hikers like us have plenty of outdoorsy things to do in and around the Mojave’s dunes and canyons, like:
Oatman, on Route 66. Take a day trip 54 miles north of Lake Havasu for the only town in America where wild burros roam the streets and gunslinger shoot outs entertain visitors in search of the Old West around Lake Havasu. Spend a day-time tripping to enjoy the burros (descended from Oatman’s mining heyday), walk along wooden sidewalks and pop into historic buildings with thriving restaurants and gift shops that keep tourists happy.
Standard Wash OHV Area is an OHVer’s dream that the Bureau of Land Management calls an “unrestricted playground for OHVs, ATVs, UTVs, Jeeps and other off-highway vehicles.” There’s easy access to the Lake Havasu Travel Management Trail System and overnight camping too.
Swansea Townsite. All passenger cars and OHVs can make this fun day trip leading to an old mining site with interpretive displays and picnic facilities. Overnight camping is also allowed.
The Desert Bar is another old mining site but this one is special. It’s an off-grid party bar in the desert, accessible only to intrepid travelers who don’t mind the long, dusty road to enjoy food, drinks and fun in an old west setting.
Winter Sizzles at Lake Havasu RV Parks and Campgrounds
On our first visit, we could see why thousands of snowbirds call it home each winter. From the eco-friendly Campbell Cove RV Resort to the popular Lake Havasu State Park, this desert playground caters to visitors in any season. Over 700,000 people play in the area each year, and Lake Havasu’s RV parks and campgrounds can accommodate all of them.
Located less than three hours south of Las Vegas, the city’s seven RV parks and campgrounds might be surrounded by one of the harshest desert terrains on the continent, but they all have everything you need for seasonal RVing or a weekend getaway. Since it’s the biggest shopping hub between Las Vegas to the north and Phoenix to the south, people drive for miles to stock up when they visit. Each time we do the same, we are grateful that such a remote place can have big-city services with everything we need to be comfortable and well-fed.
The abundance of goods, services and things to do in Lake Havasu City are exactly what the community’s founders had in mind when they peered into the vast, open desert and saw a blank canvas primed for the perfect waterfront desert community. Founded in 1963 by an automotive industry entrepreneur named Robert McCulloch, it didn’t take long for the undeveloped landscape to attract thousands of snowbirds in search of sunnier, warmer winters. Many of them decide to stay and today, over 52,000 people make this desert community their year-round residence.
Lake Havasu knows how to party. The following events bring revelers from across the world to the lake’s shores.
On February 14-16, rockers from across the world gather to grease up their hair, rev up their hot rods and pluck their guitars. The retro Lake Havasu Rockabilly Reunion plays host to the nation’s largest ’50s-themed car show. There’s also live music, one of the West’s largest “Pin-Up Pageants,” and appearances by local and national celebrities.
Lake Havasu rolls out the red carpet in March for rollicking college kids taking a break from their studies. Running March 1-30, the Lake Havasu Spring Break Party sees legions of young people enjoying fun on the water and the beach. People who are averse to hard-partying are advised to stay away.
On March 6-8, the Bluegrass on the Beach Music Festival draws bluegrass stars for three days of music, dancing and jamming classes. Outdoor concerts under blue skies give music lovers a chance to appreciate acoustic performances.
In October, Lake Havasu hosts the International Jet Ski World Finals, an event that sees racers from 40 nations rev their engines to see who’s fastest on the water. The event also features freestyle competition, in which performers put their jet skis through daring maneuvers.
January’s Lake Havasu Balloon Festival features colorful craft floating over the water. Balloon glows, vendors and a carnival make this a must-see event.