As winter moves in, it is time for many full-time RVers or snowbirds to begin the migration south for warmer climes. There are many opportunities for free camping in the American Southwest. These range from free RV parks run by the city in order to attract tourists to vast tracts of desert where you can stay for months at a time.
Quartzsite is probably the most popular snowbird location in the country. Every winter, this small town in the middle of the desert explodes into something approaching a small city as hundreds of thousands of RVers arrive for the rock show and the RV show. If you want to be around a lot of other full-timers or snowbirds, then Quartzsite might be exactly what you’re looking for.
There are five BLM dispersed camping locations within a few miles of town as well as a Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA). For $180 you can stay in Arizona’s two LTVA areas from September to April. If staying put that long isn’t quite your thing, you can stay at the dispersed camping areas for free up to 14 days out of every 28.
Everyone knows about Carlsbad Caverns, but did you realize there is also a lot of BLM land in the area where dispersed camping is legal for 14 days at a time? Carlsbad Caverns is, of course, the big tourist draw in the area. However if you enjoy hiking, climbing or caving, there are many other recreation opportunities in the area.
The nights do get a little chilly, but the daytime temperatures are balmy and the Guadalupe mountains offer some wonderful hiking and caving opportunities. Unlike Quartzsite, you may very well camp in an area where you can’t see another camper or even a car for long stretches at a time.
Padre Island, TX
Maybe the beach is more your style. What could be better than camping on the beaches of southern Texas? The Padre Island National Seashore allows camping for up to 14 days. A vehicle pass costs $10 for 7 days, so it’s not quite free, but it’s pretty close. Padre Island is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.
Consider that last statement. Now imagine camping on a warm sandy beach and not being able to see a high rise condominium or hotel. If you get tired of deserted beaches, you can also head north to Port Aransas and camp on the beach in the city limits for a few days!
These are just a few of the possibilities for this winter. There are many more spots throughout the southwest ranging from southern California to Texas that many snowbirds call home each winter. Sure, you could just head to a destination RV park and spend the winter in one place. Or, you could spend a little bit more money on fuel and stay at several of the wonderful free campsites on public lands instead.