Visit these high desert locations on you way to the desert this winter

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November 4, 2011

By Bob Difley

This is the time of year when RVers are either putting the rig in mothballs for the winter or thinking about heading south to their snowbird hangout. If you are in the latter group and usually plan to head south in one continuous flight, driving 300 or more miles every day until you get to your destination,  try a new plan this year.

Many RVers tend to think of their RV year as consisting of two time periods, summer and winter, missing out on the two “shoulder” seasons between the two. These time periods can add another level of enjoyment to your RV calendar if you use them to visit and explore those places that are either too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.

And fortunately, many of these shoulder locations lie between your summer location and your winter haven so that can become part of your trip south–or north in the Spring, taking the stress of long days on the road. These locations are mostly in the high desert, at altitudes between 2,000 and 5,000 feet, and are missed as you rush past like a migrating goose.

Here are some suggestions to explore on your journey south this winter.

  • red_rock_canyon_sp2Red Rock Canyon State Park (photo)- In California’s Mojave Desert at 2,277 feet, this state park has spectacular white and red rock formations, trails to the top for great views of the surrounding desert, and a side trip to the Burro Schmidt tunnel, where Schmidt carved a tunnel with nothing but hand tools and his burro through a mountain to shorten the route from his gold mining operation to the market. The campground is tucked up against the base of dramatic desert cliffs, with 50 primitive campsites, potable water, pit toilets, fire rings, and tables–no hook-ups and no reservations. Plan to arrive during the week as it fills on weekends. The park is 25 miles northeast of Mojave on Highway 14, near Cantil, 120 miles north of Los Angeles, via Interstate 5.
  • Joshua Tree National Park – If you’ve always skipped this park larger than the state of Rhode Island because of its altitude of 3,000  to over 5,000 feet, you have missed a spectacular desert park. The park’s scenery, signature Joshua Trees, history of mining and ranching, pre-historic Native American petroglyphs, and several campgrounds–some with full hookups–make this park a must-see. East of Palm Springs via ST 62 (main north entrance) or via I 10 (southern entrance).
  • valley_of_fire_campgroundValley of Fire State Park – This is another park defined by its rock formations, both white and red rock carved by wind and rain into fantastic shapes and outcroppings. There are also hundreds of petroglyphs left by Native Americans that hunted through the area. Two campgrounds (photo) with 73 total sites–some with water and power hookups–nestle in among the rocks and have shaded tables, grills, and restrooms. The park is about 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas by I 15 then east at Exit 75.
  • Sedona to Phoenix – This area between Flagstaff at 7,000 feet and Phoenix with an average elevation around 1,000 feet is, at 4,500 feet, a perfect shoulder season fit for those headed to the popular Phoenix area for the winter. The area is surrounded by National Forests with lots of boondocking and forest service campgrounds, colorful deep red rock formations, and great scenery. Special locations include the old mining town of Jerome, Tuzigoot National Monument–an ancient pueblo site, Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, and Aqua Fria National Monument.

There are many more great shoulder season destinations, but you can’t do them all in one year. These will get you hooked.

Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (Kindle version).

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  14. Linda – Red Rock Canyon State Park has a 30-foot maximum RV length.
    You can fit in two campgrounds in Joshua Tree NP, Black Rock and Ryan.
    The Sedona area has several hook-up campgrounds that you could stay in to explore the area. I am not sure if there is a maximum size limit for the forest service campgrounds around Sedona but you could call the local ranger station to find out.

  15. Gene Liljenquist

    We visited Valley of Fire State Park in 2009. We parked two 32′ motor homes in one long space and had room for the two toads in front. Power is available at some sites. They have very clean showers. Make sure you drive around and enjoy the area. There are a couple of easy short hikes above the Visitor’s Center that are well worth taking. Have fun.

  16. catchesthewind

    Linda, the quickest way to find out is to call the fed agencie responsible and ask them or you can do a map recon and follow the road and see what the conditions are.. Hope this helps?

  17. Linda Gillespie

    Can you get a big rig into these places. We have a 40 ft MH with a 25 ft trailer. Thanks for the info.

  18. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Bob,

    Thanx, for the good info… We’ll try to use these boondocking places!!!

    Hope y’all are having a wonderful fall season!!!