Yuma: Gateway to the Great Southwest

Plan for sunny and warm in Yuma, Arizona

The true Southwest awaits in Yuma. Immerse yourself in rich culture and heritage rooted in centuries of history. Soak in blue skies and sun that shines 310 days a year—perfect for outdoor excursions.

Yuma is the winter lettuce capital of America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Yuma is known as the Winter Lettuce Capital—thanks to its abundant vegetable production—and it holds a Guinness World Record as the “Sunniest City in the World.” With a prime location overlooking the Colorado River and home to the well-preserved Wild West-era Yuma Territorial Prison, this destination is an ideal place to explore.

A river runs through it at Colorado River State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your first stops should be the Yuma Visitor Center and the Colorado River State Historic Park, the former site of the Army Quartermaster Depot established in 1864. Stock up on brochures and maps and find the latest info on Visit Yuma’s food tours and specialty dinners which are a great way to experience the region’s agritourism.

The Yuma Quartermaster Depot was a U.S. Army supply distribution point for forts throughout the American Southwest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Park includes a visitor center, the office of the Depot Quartermaster, the officer’s quarters, the corral house, the storehouse, a passenger train car, and more. Visitors can learn about how supplies delivered by ship from the Sea of Cortez were distributed to Army forts throughout the Southwest.

Related Article: I Was Wrong About Yuma

Serving hard time in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sitting on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River are the remains of Arizona’s famous Yuma Territorial Prison. On July 1, 1876, the first seven inmates entered the Territorial Prison at Yuma and were locked into the new cells they had built themselves. A total of 3,069 prisoners including 29 women lived within the walls during the prison’s 33 years of operation. You can tour the original cell blocks, guard tower, and solitary chamber. In the museum, browse prison artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the prison staff and the notorious convicts.

Yuma as a Colorado River community © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore Yuma’s lush parks and perhaps spot a LeConte’s thrasher or the elusive black rail. Be sure to pick up a copy of Finding Birds in Yuma County AZ by local birder Henry Detwiler available at the Visitor Information Center. East Wetlands Park offers 400 acres of wetlands at the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area; it’s part of an environmental restoration effort that’s doubled the bird population and increased species diversity. There are paved pathways suitable for all abilities.

The old steam locomotive at Pivot Point Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

See a 1907 Baldwin steam locomotive, hear a “ghost train” travel along the original railroad alignment, and learn about the historic importance of the Yuma Crossing. The outdoor exhibit area opened in 2010 where Madison Avenue meets the river―the exact site where the first railroad train entered Arizona in 1877.

Yuma Territorial Prison is a living museum of the Old West © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Toast the survivors of the Territorial Prison at the Prison Hill Brewing Company with a craft beer and conversation. Then, continue a few blocks to Lutes Casino, a historic establishment dating back to 1901. Despite the name, there are no card tables or slot machines; however, you can shoot some pool, order food, shop, or eye the quirky décor: retro signage, vintage photos, and posters of iconic Hollywood stars.

Related Article: The Beating Heart of Yuma

The Yuma area is one of the largest date producing areas outside of the Middle East © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Never had a date shake? Now is your chance. You’re in date country after all. At Martha’s Gardens sip on a Medjool shake, a sweet and creamy concoction made from Medjool dates grown right on-property. While indulging take a tour of the grounds to find out how these dates are cultivated in the desert (offered November–March only).

The Peanut Patch is nuts for you. Stop for a visit. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Converted from a vaudeville house, the Yuma Art Center features a pottery studio, an artists’ gift shop, four visual-art galleries, and a 1912 theater. Before you leave, pick up a map for a self-guided tour of Yuma’s public murals and sculptures. Don’t forget to snap some photos!

Yuma’s historic downtown offers a wide variety of shopping, dining, and old-fashioned street fairs and festivals © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now it’s time to stroll Yuma’s downtown center. Stretch your legs without stretching your wallet as you shop for handmade wares and agri-centric souvenirs at Brocket Farms, Colorado River Pottery, and Desert Olive Farms.

E.F. Sanguinetti helped transform the economy of Yuma heading into and through the start of the 20th century © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Round out the day with a stop at the historic Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens and Jack Mellon Mercantile. Named after the “Merchant Prince of Yuma” and a riverboat captain, respectively, these charming abodes are full of memorabilia and antiques, and frequently offer events such as tea time and haunted ghost tours.

Related Article: Yuman Nature

The Sanguinetti House Museum is a stop not to be missed © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now an Arizona Historical Society museum, Sanguinetti House Museum chronicles E. F. Sanguinetti’s (1867-1945) life as the Merchant Prince of Yuma. Visit the museum and hear stories of how Sanguinetti came to Yuma as a penniless young man at just 15 years old. He quickly grew to become a civic-minded businessman whose various enterprises—electricity, ice house, ranching, farming, merchandising, banking, and real estate—advanced his own well-being and that of the community he loved.

Related Article: Of Yuman Interest: Top 7 Attractions In and Around Yuma

Gateway Park is Yuma’s downtown riverfront park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Three national wildlife refuges in the Yuma area—Cibola, Imperial, and Kofa—make up one of the country’s largest contiguous protected areas for wildlife. With more than 1,000 square miles between them, their ecosystems include desert, desert upland, riparian, grasslands, and forest.

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.

I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, and sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

13 More Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter

Here are some of the best parks for snowbirds to explore

There are 63 national parks across the US. That’s not counting the hundreds of national monuments, historical sites, battlefields, memorials, trails, and more. When you count all of them together, the number of protected sites that fall under the US National Park Service is well over 400. And America’s state parks number over 8,500.

So it should not surprise anyone when I say that there are scores of incredible sites worth exploring in America.

Whether you’re looking to explore waterfalls or rivers, volcanoes or deserts, canyons or mountaintops, there’s a park for snowbirds to discover this winter.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast the Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals, including its namesake.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This stretch of desert marks the northern range of the organ pipe cactus, a rare species in the U.S. With its multiple stems, the cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ. There are 28 different species of cacti in the park, ranging from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion.

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goose Island State Park in Texas

Lapping water and Gulf breezes: We must be on the coast! Goose Island offers camping, fishing, and birding along St. Charles and Aransas bays. Camp, fish, hike, geocache, go boating, and observe and take photos of wildlife, especially birds. Fish from shore, boat, or the 1,620-foot long fishing pier.

Related Article: Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter

The Big Tree © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose from 44 campsites by the bay or 57 sites nestled under oak trees, all with water and electricity. Every camping loop has restrooms with showers. Be sure to visit the Big Tree which has been standing sentinel on the coast for centuries and has withstood several major hurricanes.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elephant Butte Lake State Park in New Mexico

Enjoy camping, fishing, and boating at Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico’s largest state park. Elephant Butte Lake can accommodate watercraft of many styles and sizes including kayaks, jet skis, pontoons, sailboats, ski boats, cruisers, and houseboats. Besides sandy beaches, the park offers restrooms, picnic areas, and developed camping sites with electric and water hook-ups for RVs.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park in Utah

Zion is a park that you have to see to believe. It is a true desert oasis and an American icon. The surrounding area looks desolate, dry, and barren, but when you drive into Zion Canyon, a massive formation, miles wide, with sheer rock walls that rise thousands of feet, await you. There is something so incredible about seeing the oranges and yellows of sandstone mixed with the greens of the Virgin River and the vegetation that grows so easily there.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park in Texas

Big Bend National Park is home to more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, and 56 species of reptiles. Big Bend is named after a stretch of 118 or so miles of Rio Grande River, one part of which forms a large bend in the river at the Texas-Mexico border.

Related: Top 10 State Parks to Visit This Winter

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over 150 miles of trails give visitors the opportunity to venture out on a day hike on their own or participate in a ranger-led program with a ranger as your guide, teaching you about the science, history, nature, and culture of Big Bend National Park. There is a little bit of everything for those visiting this unique part of the world.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park in Arizona
Located on the Valley’s east side, this 3,648-acre park is located at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. The park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Along with the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support the hanging gardens of Rock Daisy.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park offers a campground with 73 individual sites. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a dump station, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and a fire ring.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Myakka River State Park in Florida

Seven miles of paved road wind through shady hammocks, along grassy marshes, and the shore of the Upper Myakka Lake. See wildlife up-close on a 45-minute boat tour. The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. The park features three campgrounds; 90 campsites offer 50 amp electrical service and water; some with sewer hookups.

Related Article: Ultimate Collection of National Parks Perfect for Snowbirds

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park in Mississippi

Located on the beach in Waveland (adjacent to Bay St. Louis), Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands, and the Gulf of Mexico. The use of this land was first recorded in history in the late 1700s. Buccaneer Jean Lafitte and his followers were active in smuggling and pirating along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park in Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of Mobile Bay and is a day-use, picnicking and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors. A self-guided walk on two nature trails includes a boardwalk with an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile Delta.

Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park in Texas

In the Rio Grande Valley, you’ll find wonderful bird-watching opportunities. Approximately 360 species of birds have been spotted at Bentsen-Rio Grande. Butterflies, javelinas, bobcats, and more have also been seen at the park.

plain chachalaca at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You will definitely want to bring your binoculars for birding with you. Like many other state parks, nature is the most intriguing part of the journey. Cars are not allowed to park on-site to help preserve nature. You can leave your car at headquarters and explore on bike, foot, or even tram.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico

Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Regardless of the snow and cold temps above, the cave is always a temperate 56-57 degrees.

Related Article: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

The most popular route, the Big Room, is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. This 1.25-mile trail is relatively flat and will take about 1.5 hours (on average) to walk

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Joshua Tree is a diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. The park is home to two deserts: the Colorado which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as ocotillo and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona

Visitors traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park. Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak. The unique shape has been used as a landmark by travelers since prehistoric times. Many hiking trails traverse the desert landscape and offer hikers both scenic and challenging hikes. Enjoy the beauty of the desert and the amazing views.

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

Top 10 State Parks to Visit This Winter

While there are many state parks that are great to visit in the winter, this list is focused on the parks that are generally warm and perfect for exploring

As shorter days and cooler temperatures descend in North America, it’s time to look for the next great outdoor adventure. We encourage visiting a state park at any time of the year, but winter is a unique time to explore.

November to March provide some of the most beautiful, peaceful, and picturesque landscapes, and parks that can be relatively inhospitable during the height of summer become havens during the cold months. Here are the best state parks to visit this winter.

Elephant Butte State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

Enjoy camping, fishing, and boating at Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico’s largest state park. Elephant Butte Lake can accommodate watercraft of many styles and sizes including kayaks, jet skis, pontoons, sailboats, ski boats, cruisers, and houseboats. Besides sandy beaches, the park offers restrooms, picnic areas, and developed camping sites with electric and water hook-ups for RVs.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Myakka River State Park, Florida

Seven miles of paved road wind through shady hammocks, along grassy marshes, and the shore of the Upper Myakka Lake. See wildlife up-close on a 45-minute boat tour. The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. The park features three campgrounds; 90 campsites offer 50 amp electrical service, and water; some with sewer hookups.

Related: 16 of the Best State Parks in America

Galveston Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island State Park, Texas

Come to the island to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Or come to the island to go fishing or look for coastal birds. With both beach and bay sides, Galveston Island State Park offers activities for every coast lover. You can swim, fish, picnic, bird watch, hike, mountain bike, paddle, camp, geocache, study nature or just relax!

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, New Mexico

The park is located on the Rio Grande near Las Cruces and 1.5 miles from historic Mesilla. Visitors have many opportunities to view wildlife in natural surroundings while strolling one of the self-guided nature trails. Enjoy a fun ranger-led tour. Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park is an Audubon designated Important Birding Area.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona

Visitors traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park. Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak. The unique shape has been used as a landmark by travelers since prehistoric times. Many hiking trails traverse the desert landscape and offer hikers both scenic and challenging hikes. Enjoy the beauty of the desert and the amazing views.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Arizona State Parks

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park, Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of Mobile Bay and is a day-use, picnicking and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors. A self-guided walk on two nature trails includes a boardwalk with an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile Delta.

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi

Buccaneer has been beautifully restored following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands, and the Gulf of Mexico. Today Buccaneer State Park is best known for its wave pool, camping, and winter retreat.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails provide visitors with numerous opportunities to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert. The park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti, and sweeping vistas.

Related: The 15 Best State Parks for RV Camping

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, 40 miles east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Enjoy camping and experience native wildlife including mule deer, coyote, javelin, and jackrabbit.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Alabama

Gulf State Park’s two miles of beaches greet you with plenty of white sand, surging surf, seagulls, and seashells, but there is more than sand and surf to sink your toes into.

Located 1.5 miles from the white sand beaches, the Gulf State Park campground offers 496 improved full-hookup campsites with paved pads and 11 primitive sites.

Read Next: The 10 Best State Park Camping For Snowbirds

Worth Pondering…

The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult.

—Marie de Vichy-Chamrond

15 Amazing Places to Discover in Phoenix

Explore my list of fun things to see and do in the Phoenix metro area

Phoenix has its buttoned-up business side (it is home to the state capitol, after all). But that doesn’t mean you need an expense account to enjoy everything the greater Phoenix metro has to offer. Scattered across the Valley of the Sun are dozens of museums, regional and state parks, trails, and historic sites. If you’re looking to explore the Phoenix area, these are the fifteen best places to discover.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, Gilbert

Stroll 110 acres of greenery, ranging from marshland and riparian habitats to upland vegetation areas. Over 4.5 miles of trails weave through the park with interpretive panels on wildlife and vegetation throughout. Viewing blinds have been established at various locations near the edge of several ponds. Approximately 298 species of birds have been identified on the site. A floating boardwalk crossing the northern end of the lake allows visitors a close-up view of the fish and ducks on the water. Additional educational areas include an ethnobotanical garden, a paleontology dig site, a hummingbird, and a butterfly garden. 

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also at the preserve: the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory where you can see comets, meteors, planets, and the sun Just be sure to check the hours—the trails are generally open from dawn to dusk, but the observatory operates separately.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Papago Park, Phoenix

Looking for great outdoor recreation just minutes from downtown? Take a hike around the red butte formations in Papago Park including the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, cast a line in seven acres of stocked fishing lagoons, or enjoy a round at Papago Golf Course.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trails in Papago Park are typically smooth with little elevation gain providing easy access for walking, hiking, mountain biking, or trail running. The park is split into east and west sides by Galvin Parkway.

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

Discover the tranquil beauty of 50,000 desert plants nestled amid the red rocks of the Papago Buttes. The Desert Botanical Garden offers the world’s finest collection of arid plants from deserts of the world in a unique outdoor setting. Stroll through five thematic trails to explore plants, including towering cactus, alluring succulents, and brilliant desert wildflowers.

Related: Absolutely Best Road Trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy specialized tours, special events, seasonal exhibits, concerts, family activities, Gertrude’s restaurant, Patio Café, and the Garden’s gift and plant shop. It’s pretty dazzling year-round but the flowering spring season is the busiest and most colorful.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Located on the Valley’s east side, this 3,648-acre park is located at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. The park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Along with the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support the hanging gardens of Rock Daisy.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park offers a campground with 73 individual sites. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a dump station, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and a fire ring.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apache Trail

Named after the Apache Indians who once used the route, the Apache Trail (AZ 88) links Apache Junction at the eastern edge of the Greater Phoenix area with Theodore Roosevelt Lake through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. The scenic byway was designated in 1998 and is approximately 39 miles long, winding in and out of some of the most awe-inspiring country in Arizona—or for that matter, in the West.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This mostly unpaved road winds past magnificent scenery of twisted igneous mountains with dense forests of saguaro and several deep blue lakes. The road though has been mostly closed since late 2019 because of landslips and other damage associated with the Woodbury Fire. The worst affected is the steepest section just west of Fish Creek; the only part still open to vehicular traffic is the (paved) 18 miles from Apache Junction to Tortilla Flat.

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cave Creek Regional Park

This 2,922-acre park north of Phoenix sits in the upper Sonoran Desert and ranges in elevation from 2,000 feet to 3,060 feet. Cave Creek Regional Park offers over 11-miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Related: Top 10 Day Trips From Phoenix

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park trails range in length from 0.2 miles to 5.8 miles and range in difficulty from easy to difficult. If you are looking for an easy, relatively short hike the Slate Trail is recommended. If you are looking for a longer, more difficult hike, try the 5.8-mile Go John Trail. Cave Creek Regional Park offers a campground with 55 campsites for tent or RV camping. The average site size is 40 feet; however, pull-through sites may accommodate up to a 60-foot RV with water and electrical hookups, a picnic table, a barbecue fire ring, and a nearby dump station.

Wildlife World Zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park, Litchfield Park

Located in the West Valley, Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park is home to Arizona’s largest collection of exotic animals with 600 different species. Visitors can feed giraffes, parrots, and stingrays. See wildlife on the new Log flume ride, African Safari Train, Australian Boat Ride, Wildlife Skyride, or exotic Merry-Go-Round. Dine with Sharks at Dillon’s Barbecue Restaurant and Flamingo Lounge.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Nestled in the lower Verde River basin, the 21,099-acre park is a desert jewel in the northeast Valley. Elevations in the park rise to 3,000 feet along the western boundary at the base of the McDowell Mountains. Visitors enjoy a full program schedule, over 50 miles of multi-use trails, and spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

McDowell Mountain Regional Park offers 76 individual sites for tent or RV camping. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a dump station, a picnic table, and a barbecue fire ring.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goldfield Ghost Town

Established in 1893, Goldfield was a mining town with saloons, a boarding house, general store, blacksmith shop, brewery, meat market, and a schoolhouse. The grade of ore dropped at the end of the 1890s and the town was all but deserted. The town came back to life from 1910 to 1926.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, visitors can tour the historic Mammoth Gold Mine, visit the Goldfield Museum, pan for gold, take a ride on Arizona’s only narrow gauge train, explore the shops and historic building, eat at the Mammoth Steakhouse and Saloon, and witness an old west gunfight performed by the Goldfield Gunfighters.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake was formed by the Stewart Mountain Dam which was completed in 1930. It was the last of the reservoirs to be built on the Salt River. Saguaro Lake has more than 22 miles of shoreline creating a great environment for boating, kayaking, sailing, skiing, jet skiing, fishing, and camping. 

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Discover canyon-walled Saguaro Lake aboard The Desert Belle. Relax in air-conditioned comfort on one of her 80 minute narrated cruises and see Arizona wildlife, towering canyon walls, and dramatic desert vistas. Live music cruises, wine, and live music cruises, craft beer, and live music cruises are also available.

Related: When you need to get out of the Phoenix Heat, Cool off with These Getaways

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert at the base of the Superstition Mountains 40 miles east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron. Depending on the year’s rainfall, you might be treated to a carpet of desert wildflowers in the spring but there are plenty of beautiful desert plants to see year-round. Enjoy a week of camping and experience native wildlife including mule deer, coyote, javelin, and jackrabbit.

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Tank Mountains Regional Park

Nearly 30,000 acres make this the largest regional park in Maricopa County. Most of the park is made up of the rugged and beautiful White Tank Mountains on the Valley’s west side. The range, deeply serrated with ridges and canyons, rises sharply from its base to peak at over 4,000 feet.

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers approximately 30 miles of shared-use trails ranging in length from 0.9 miles to 7.9 miles and difficulty from easy to strenuous. The park offers 40 individual sites for tent or RV camping. Most sites have a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, a fire ring, and a nearby dump station.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Superstition Mountain Museum

Hikers, horseback riders, photographers, and tourists come to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the Superstition Mountains now preserved in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, many are curious about the history and mystery of this intriguing area and visit the museum comprised of a central 4,900-square-foot exhibit hall and Museum Shop and numerous outdoor structures and exhibitions including the Apacheland Barn and the Elvis Chapel, the last surviving structures from Apacheland Movie Ranch, a huge 20-stamp gold mill, a mountain man camp, Western storefronts, and a labeled Nature Walk.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

One of the most scenic water recreation areas in the Valley of the Sun, this northwest Valley park is a recreationist’s dream. Lake Pleasant is a water reservoir and is part of the Central Arizona Project waterway system bringing water from the Lower Colorado River into central and southern Arizona. 

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake water levels can fluctuate throughout the course of the year with the water typically reaching its highest level in the spring (March/April) and its lowest in the fall (October/November).  This 23,362-acre park offers many activities, such as camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.

San Tan Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Tan Mountain Regional Park

Consisting of over 10,000 acres, the southeast Valley park is a fine example of the lower Sonoran Desert. San Tan Mountain Regional Park ranges in elevation from about 1,400 feet to over 2,500 feet. The park offers over eight miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Park trails range in length from 1.1 miles to over 5 miles and range in difficulty from easy to strenuous.

Read Next: A Southern Gem: 14 Reasons to Visit Tucson

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert,

I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy.

The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.

I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, the sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night.

I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Winter Listicle: Experience Winter Wonderlands in National Parks

The days are shorter, but the possibilities are endless to enjoy national parks in the winter season

Winter is the perfect time for some creatures to hibernate and RVers to explore a magical season in the national parks. The serenity of fresh powder sprinkled over pine trees and the silence of the winter air are just a few of the wonders of winter.
So pack a canteen of hot cocoa, put on your coziest mittens, and get ready to explore the parks during this season in a variety of favorite ways. Be sure to do some trip planning before you embark on your journey—be prepared and be safe.

Winter Play

A little cold only adds to the fun outdoor adventures you can have during winter. Grab your ice skates, snowshoes, or cross country skis and feel like you’re gliding through a snow globe.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

The stark white of freshly fallen snow, red rocks, blue sky, and evergreen trees—some say Bryce Canyon is even more beautiful in winter! Here at 8,000 feet, the scenery changes dramatically in the colder months, providing unique opportunities to see the park and requiring a very different packing list.

Related Article: Best National Parks to Visit this Winter

In addition to daily activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival (February 19-21, 2022) is a popular annual event.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Vehicle access is limited to one mile from the Southwest and Northwest Entrances approximately November through May. Beyond the plowed roads to the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and Loomis Plaza, the entire park is snow-covered.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Southwest Area (6,700-10,457 feet) offers steep slopes and sweeping vistas just beyond the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center which offers the only services between November and early May.

The Manzanita Lake Area (5,800-7,200 feet) consists of gentle slopes and scenic lakes. It offers the easiest routes for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the park.

Wildlife watching: Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter Wildlife Watching

Winter provides an amazing opportunity to see new seasons of animals and enjoy the wonders of animal life at every part of the year.

Wildlife watching: Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to stay safe when watching wildlife is to give animals room to move. Parks provide a unique opportunity to view animals’ natural behavior in the wild. In general, animals react to your presence when you are too close. If you’re close enough for a selfie, you’re definitely too close. Use binoculars or a zoom lens and move back if wildlife approaches you. Let wildlife be wild and observe safely from a distance.

Related Article: National Parks at their Spectacular Best in Winter

Wildlife watching: Rocky Mountain sheep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Enjoy one of the world’s most famous national parks enveloped in winter magic. See the dramatic beauty of the canyon, dusted with snow, and maybe even mule deer, bald eagles, elk, condors, or ravens as an extra treat.
Colder temperatures, shorter days, and snow bring a slower pace to one of the nation’s most visited national parks. Winter visitors find paths less traveled throughout the park. Those prepared for ice and snow will find the Bright Angel Trail a bit quieter and scenic drives less congested.

Pack your jacket and winter gloves, avoid the crowds, and experience a Grand Canyon winter wonderland,

Bird watching: Roseate spoonbill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Birds are on the move this winter. Located on the Central Flyway, a major bird migration route, Padre Island National Seashore provides a chance to spot flying feathered travelers from more than 380 species of birds.

Bird watching: Great blue heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You never know what you may see when you join a volunteer-led birding guide on a tour of the park—the magnificent grasslands, the beach filled with shorebirds, and the long, shallow, hypersaline lagoon of the Laguna Madre. Each habitat abounds with a rich variety of birds. Your guide will take you to some significant birding locations within these habitats including one that would otherwise be inaccessible to the public.

Carlsbad National Park

Winter Escape

Not a fan of the wintery blues? Head south as a snowbird and enjoy warm weather year-round.

Related Article: National Parks that are Beautiful & Empty in Winter

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Regardless of the snow and cold temps above, the cave is always a temperate 56-57 degrees.

The most popular route, the Big Room, is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. This 1.25-mile trail is relatively flat and will take about 1.5 hours (on average) to walk.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona is home to America’s largest cacti. The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of Tucson. Here you have a chance to see these enormous cacti, silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park’s two districts offer more than 165 miles of hiking trails. A hike at Saguaro National Park can be a stroll on a short interpretive nature trail or a day-long wilderness trek. Both districts of Saguaro National Park offer a variety of hiking trails. 

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t wait for the snow to melt. Plan an incredible trip to a national park. Always be sure to check specific parks websites for safety tips, road closure information, and general advice before planning your trip.

Read Next: 7 National Parks You Should Have on Your Radar This Winter

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Winter

Favorite lesser-known destinations from around America to consider for your winter adventure

For RVers, the colder months provide opportunities to make the most of having a hotel on wheels. Make tracks in the snow to spots blanketed in white, follow fellow snowbirds to warmer shores, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet in places that are usually packed all summer long. Here are the best small towns to visit in your trailer, camper van, or motorhome during the winter.

Borrego Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Borrego Springs, California

Borrego Springs is completely surrounded by nature, set in the midst of 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails, the park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti, and sweeping vistas of mountains and desert. Anza-Borrego is an International Dark Sky Park, and the town of Borrego Springs is a Dark Sky Community, offering opportunities for exploring the star-filled night sky.

Aransas Pass © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aransas Pass, Texas

Aransas Pass offers cool breezes and unique, crystal clear waters, beautiful seagrass, and excellent bay fishing. There are many marinas and boat ramps available with the largest at the historic Conn Brown Harbor. This picturesque harbor setting is a favorite spot for photographers and a preferred location to buy fresh seafood right off the boat. Nearly 500 species of birds pass through Aransas Pass. Some of the best birding is found in the Aransas Pass Nature Park within the 36-acre Aransas Pass Community Park bordering Redfish Bay. This area is a haven for migrating and regional birds. Another favorite site, Newberry Park is a 1.2-acre mall central city park landscaped to attract birds and butterflies.

Related Article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek (Out)

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairhope, Alabama

Shangri-La may be a fantasy but you can find a real-life utopia on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. The village was created by a group of hardy souls seeking adventure and being practical, who also wanted a “fair hope of success”. This experimental community has come a long way from those “old days”. It’s still entirely unique and keeps a small-town ambiance with a large and active arts community. If you love the Gulf Coast, there are few places more scenic with antebellum homes, streets lined with live oaks, and a charming, walkable downtown. With a population of about 17,000, Fairhope sits on bluffs that overlook Mobile Bay, so you’re never far from a view of the water.

Ibis at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamo, Texas

Alamo’s claim to fame as the “Refuge to the Valley” illustrates its symbiotic relationship with the adjacent Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, an internationally renowned birding destination. The subtropical thorn forest along with the resacas draws birds such as tropical green jays, Altamira orioles, great kiskadee, and chachalacas. After exploring the refuge, check out the Mercadome Flea Market and Alamo Dance Hall which draws thousands of weekend visitors to shop, eat, and move their feet to the sound of accordion-driven conjunto and norteño music.

Ajo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ajo, Arizona

With its rich tradition as a former copper mining hub, Ajo is a casual town with relaxed charm. Ajo is surrounded by 12 million acres of public and tribal land waiting to be explored. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge offer expansive hiking, camping, and birding places. Home to 4,000 people and only one stoplight, Ajo is a place to slow down and enjoy life. You could say it’s a small town with a huge backyard.

Related Article: American Small Towns Can’t-Wait To Visit Again

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seaside, Florida

A small resort community in the Florida Panhandle, Seaside is the epitome of cute. Featuring pastel-colored homes and pedestrian-friendly streets, the beach community is tranquil and picturesque. Just how adorable is this place? The fictional town from the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show was set here. West of the town visit the Grayton Beach State Park for some coastal trails.

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cave Creek, Arizona

Located in Maricopa County, Cave Creek is conveniently located 27 miles northeast of Phoenix so you’ll never be too far away from a big city even if you’d never know it by the relaxed pace of life here. Not to be confused with the Cave Creek town that is tucked away in the Chiricahua Mountains, this one is said to have been the original town of Cave Creek and therefore has a true claim to the charm of the name. Be sure to bring your walking shoes so you can hike at Cave Creek Regional Park or head out to Bartlett Lake. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and fishing gear for Bartlett. Enjoy getting back to nature without feeling like you’ve spent forever in travel.

Related Article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Summer

Port O’Connor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Port O’Connor, Texas 

Port O’Connor is a small fishing village on the Texas Coast. It is often known as the “Best Kept Secret on the Gulf Coast” for its relaxing, laid-back atmosphere, and numerous fishing and boating venues. The most common activity in Port O’Connor is fishing followed by recreational boating and coastal sightseeing. The Port O’Connor area is an excellent place for birding. Some places to view birds in town are at the Nature Park at Boggy Bayou, King Fisher Beach, the Little Jetties as well as walking the residential areas.

Crystal River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crystal River, Florida

Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Crystal River is centered around its pristine waterway, Kings Bay, and is the self-proclaimed “Home of the Manatee”. The small town of approximately 3,200 residents welcomes hundreds of manatees each winter to its many warm springs including the famous Three Sisters Springs. Together with neighboring Homosassa, the Crystal River is the site of the largest gathering of manatees in North America. Located along Florida’s “Nature Coast,” the waters of Crystal River have the only legal “swim-with” Manatee program in the Country meaning visitors can passively observe the mammals in their natural habitat. The springs flow at a constant 72 degrees, making the water attractive to all sorts of swimmers.  

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport-Fulton, Texas

Best known as a mecca for Texas artists, Rockport is also home to the Maritime Museum, prime saltwater fishing, and tons of outdoor activities. The area is popular for being a great place for bird-watching due to its small crowds and vibrant natural landscape, and visitors often come from all over the Texas coast to see the flocks of coastal birds that call the region home.  

Related Article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Fall

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

The RV Phenomenon That Is Quartzsite

A place in the desert not to be missed

Every January something happens that is hard to believe unless you have seen it!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They come in motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, truck campers, converted buses and vans, and even in tents. There are rugged individualists, small groups banded together (circling the wagons, in a modern way), and large groups, all parked in the desert to feel the Quartzsite vibe. Some have been coming for years, returning to a favorite site which they have marked with rock-lined drives (although “saving” unoccupied sites are not allowed under BLM rules). Long-term visitors often expand their domains to include screened “porches” and massive solar panel arrays.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite has become a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem and mineral shows and flea markets meet every January and February. From its humble beginnings, the now-massive Quartzsite show has grown to epic proportions with vendors offering everything under the Quartzsite sun.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Being close to town means being close to Interstate 10—the basic amenities that Quartzsite provides and giant flea markets which are the center of attention. Going by names such as Rice Ranch, Tyson Wells, The Main Event, and Desert Gardens, the open-air marketplaces host a variety of “shows.”

Related Article: Woodstock in the Desert

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These are actually a series of events that run through the winter, specializing in hobbies and crafts, gems and minerals, jewelry, classic cars, and RVs. Most are riddled with an indescribable variation of new and old products far beyond their title, plus all the snack foods of a county fair. A lot of annual visitors simply say, “We’re going to the show,” and their RV friends know they mean Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town itself features all the basic services of a southwestern desert highway stop: gas stations, barbecue restaurants, and seedy little grocery stores (several of which are run from tent-sided buildings during the season). Owing to the heavy RV emphasis there are also several places to get propane, RV supplies, and used or cheap tools.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be warned, though. Don’t come in the summer when nothing much happens. The gypsy-like encampment will have long disappeared. Vendors start packing up in mid-February and are long gone before the snowbirds migrate north and the intense desert heat becomes unbearable.

Related Article: The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

But come winter, everything changes as the small desert community bustles with activity. RVs by the tens of thousands camp helter-skelter on the BLM land.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally built by Charles Tyson, Quartzsite began in 1856 as Fort Tyson, then became a stagecoach stopover called Tyson Wells and this name still echoes in the annual Tyson Wells Rock and Gem show. A mini mining boom led to its renaming as Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What started as a small-town mineral show in the late ’60s in western Arizona has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite, where a huge RV show greets them.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run from January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Related Article: RV Shows: One-Stop RV Shopping

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a popular destination for snowbirds on its own but many come for a week or two during the RV Show. When the gates open on the first day, people are lined up for a quarter-mile at each of the two main entrances to get in. It fills the tent and creates gridlock.

Related Article: RV Travel Bucket List: 20 Places to Visit Before You Die

If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.

Quartzsite is a phenomenon, a gathering place.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

Escape Winter in an RV: The How and Where

Hit the road and escape to warmer weather!

Winter is upon us and travelers looking to escape the cold are seeking new ways to travel this season after being mostly shut down last year. While looking for that sunny and warm getaway seems to be universal, many are still looking for ways of travel that avoid large, crowded airports and busy hotels with lots of small, shared spaces like elevators and hallways.

This is just one of the reasons RV travel has soared in popularity over the last year and throughout the pandemic.

Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a survey conducted by Lending Tree, “Interest in RVs was up 41 percent and 56 percent, respectively, in January and February 2021 compared to the year prior.” And when planning a getaway this winter, RVing checks many boxes: It’s a great way to travel safely in today’s COVID environment, it’s a quick and easy way to leave the expected bitter cold behind, and it also makes for a truly unique experience when visiting sunny hot spots like Southern Arizona and South Texas.

Colorado River Historic Park in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No RV? No problem!  

You’ve tried Airbnb or VRBO, now it’s time to try a peer-to-peer RV rental company to experience the RV trend! This is an easy way to explore the open road and get a taste of the RV lifestyle without the commitment of buying your own. Whether renting in a hometown location and hitting the road to your destination or securing an RV rental upon arrival at your destination, a rental makes it easy.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most popular, Outdoorsy, offers hundreds of RVs in all shapes and sizes for rent across the country, perfect for your next getaway. Rentals start at $109/night.

Now where to RV? The southwest is home to some of the best winter RV resorts in the country. Here are some fantastic options to explore this winter and enjoy the sunshine and 70-plus degree weather.

Related Article: Why You Need to RV in the South This Winter

California

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the Coachella Valley with the snow-capped peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains for the backdrop, Palm Springs has long been an upscale escape for area visitors and famous figures. Movie stars and mob bosses ditched L.A. to vacation here during the town’s first boom in the 1920s, popularizing a Spanish-Mediterranean architectural style.

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, hiking, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Indian Canyons are one of the most beautiful attractions for any Palm Springs visitor, especially if you love to hike. You can hike Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon. Unlike other area trails, most of the trails in the Indian Canyons follow running streams. Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm), and indigenous flora and fauna are abundant.

Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The waterfalls of Tahquitz Canyon are truly astounding, flanked by lush greenery and picturesque wildlife. The crisp water rushing past you tumbles 60 feet from apex to completion.

Palm Springs and the San Jacinto Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beautiful San Jacinto Mountains are the backdrop to Palm Springs. You can visit the top of the San Jacinto Mountain via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It’s the world’s largest rotating tramcar. It travels up over 2.5 miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon. The weather is about 30 degrees cooler so you can go from warm to cool weather in a 10-minute tram ride.

Related Article: A Dozen Amazing Spots to Visit with your RV during Winter

VillageFest rocks Palm Canyon Drive every week with a dazzling array of delightful fare. Fall hours are 6–10 pm. 

Coachella Valley Preserve

Downtown Palm Springs transforms into a diverse array of artists, artisans, entertainers, and purveyors of fresh fruits and veggies, flowers, jewelry, snacks, and sweets. Add all that to the great shops, restaurants, clubs, and entertainment venues located along World Famous Palm Canyon Drive—and the result is one of Southern California’s most popular weekly events: VillageFest!

Arizona

Yuma Date Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the sun shining 360 days a year, Yuma is known as the sunniest place on Earth, averaging more than 4,000 hours of sun per year (out of 4,456 possible). Winter guests enjoy activities like the nationally recognized Medjool Date Festival (January 8, 2022) where thousands of visitors head to Yuma’s historic downtown to get a taste of the delicious southwest fruit from local and regional growers.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking for some history? Touring the Yuma Territorial Prison, a famous Yuma landmark that was opened in 1876 and operated for 33 years is the city’s number one tourist attraction. Visitors can tour the prison, view the cells, get a feel for what 1800’s solitary confinement felt like, and get a mug shot memento to take home.

Downtown Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors looking for more should head to the nearby Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. With sand dunes topping 300 feet, these massive dunes are perfect for all-terrain vehicle riding and also made the perfect backdrop for the scenes in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sights and sounds of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an International Biosphere Reserve, reveal a thriving community of plants and animals. Thirty-One species of cactus have adapted themselves to the extreme temperatures and little rainfall including the park’s namesake and the giant saguaro.

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ajo Mountain Drive is the most popular scenic drive in the monument. It is a 21 mile, mostly gravel road usually passable by a normal passenger car. RVs over 25 feet are prohibited due to the twisting and dipping nature of the road.

Related Article: National Parks at their Spectacular Best in Winter

Camping at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can camp in one of two campgrounds within the monument. They have different amenities and offer campers a choice between modern comforts and rustic wilderness. You may see the desert, dark sky subtlety illuminated by countless stars or shadows that are awakened under a full moon’s glow at either campground.

Texas

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the winter, the seasonal warmth visitors enjoy from both the sun and the southern hospitality makes Texas the place to be when looking to escape the cold. With the Texas winter temperatures averaging in the mid-70s, visitors enjoy the sandy beaches of South Padre Island which is also the longest stretch of an undeveloped barrier island in the world. The water sports and the abundant fishing throughout the Gulf provide plenty of opportunities for fun in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Great kiskadee in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For travelers looking to develop a new hobby, it’s not only the human snowbirds that make the seasonal trek to South Texas, as there is a wide variety of migratory birds to spot throughout the area. The World Birding Center (WBC) has nine locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley that are suitable for first-timers or expert birders.

Altamira oriole in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, headquarters for the WBC, the wildlife-viewing is nonstop. A plain chachalaca strolls the grounds while a green jay stops for a drink and an Altamira oriole takes a bite of an orange at the feeding station. Three different species of hummingbirds zoom in and out.

Plain chachalaca in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is one of the best places in the country for bird-watching. It’s at a biological crossroads with two migratory flyways. The result is one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on Earth with more than 530 species documented in the Rio Grande Valley (including about 20 species found nowhere else in the U.S.) and 365 species at Bentsen itself.

Related Article: The Absolutely Most Amazing Winter Road Trips

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, when thinking of Texas, one can’t forget The Alamo. The 300-year-old Spanish Mission is located in San Antonio where the Battle of San Jacinto took place on April 21, 1836. Visitors also enjoy the miles of dining, shopping, and museums along San Antonio’s well-known Riverwalk.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

RV snowbirds have turned this Arizona town into a yearly destination

Based on a 2017 book by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland follows the journey of Fern, a 61-year-old woman who turns to van life after she loses everything in the wake of the 2008 recession. While Fern is a fictional character played by actress Frances McDormand, the places she visits and many of the people she meets exist in real life. Quartzsite, Arizona, is one of the main filming locations for the Golden Globe best picture and a real-life nomads’ stomping ground.

Boondocking at Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Director Chloe Zhao called Quartzsite “one of the wildest towns” she’s ever been to in a recent interview with Conde Nast Traveler. It’s “the place that nomads gather once a year—you really want to see what it’s like. It’s special,” Zhao said.

Boondocking in Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Now, if you go every winter, you have the largest gem and mineral show in the country and also one of the largest RV shows. You could be walking into a store that has an ocean of gemstones. Those stores are just everywhere in Quartzsite,” she added.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Quartzsite, Arizona, is a town and a meeting place,” traveler Thomas Farley wrote in Rock & Gem magazine in 2017. “In winter it is a gathering of the clan for recreational vehicle snowbirds, flea market enthusiasts, ham radio operators, off-road motorists, geo-cachers, and rockhounds.” 

Related: Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle

From the purported largest RV gathering in the world to gem and mineral shows to a man known as the naked bookseller, here is the real-life story of Quartzsite.

Quartzsite Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a small town in the Sonoran Desert 130 miles west of Phoenix on Interstate 10 with a permanent population of roughly 3,700 people. Quartzsite has a classic low desert climate with extremely low relative humidity and very high summer temperatures. On average, it receives less than 4 inches of precipitation a year. Stores, shops, restaurants, theaters, and homes are air-conditioned year-round in Quartzsite. June, July, August, and September temperatures are in the 100 plus ranges.

Quartzsite Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each winter, Quartzsite attracts more than a million visitors. It’s particularly popular with RV snowbirds that flock to its trade shows, numerous RV parks, and boondocking areas on federal lands surrounding the town. The term boondocking, also known to RV enthusiasts as dispersed camping, dry camping, or coyote camping, is used to describe camping in the midst of nature without the use of commercial campgrounds and hookups.

Boondocking in Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many RV groupings resemble old wagon train circles, others are in rectangular camps, and still, other vehicles are parked solo. Numerous flags flutter high above the little settlements and handwritten signs point the direction to RV cadres, some with quirky names. Of course, regular RV parks are in town, too, as are several Bureau of Land Management (BLM) locations. But it appears that most people prefer to find an open space somewhere and just settle in.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1856, settler Charles Tyson built a fort at the present site of Quartzsite to protect his water supply from attacks by Native Americans. Fort Tyson soon became a stopover on the Ehrenburg-to-Prescott stagecoach route eventually becoming known as Tyson’s Wells. After the stage stopped running, it became a ghost town.

Related: The Snowbirds Have Landed

Quartzsite Flea Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A small mining boom revitalized the town and it became known as Quartzsite in 1897. It remained a mining town until 1965 when the Pow Wow Rock, Gem & Mineral Show initiated the rockhound winter migration to Quartzsite each year. Quartzsite has become a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem show and swap meet every January and February. From its humble beginnings, the now-massive Quartzsite show has grown to RV-epic proportions with vendors offering everything under the Quartzsite sun.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What brings so many RVers to Quartzsite? A combination of warm winter weather and good marketing!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During those months, Quartzsite hosts a variety of sales shows. They attract RVers who are searching for a destination, have some (or lots) of change rattling in their pockets, or simply enjoy looking at stuff. What started as a small-town mineral show in the late ’60s has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite where a huge RV show greets them.

Related: RV Shows: One-Stop RV Shopping

The Big Tent © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run from January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a popular destination for snowbirds on its own but many come for a week or two during the RV Show. When the gates open on the first day, people are lined up for a quarter-mile at each of the two main entrances to get in. It fills the tent and creates gridlock.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.

Related: Snowbirding in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

Quartzsite is a phenomenon, a gathering place.

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

Winter is Here: What to Do with Your RV?

If you haven’t already, now is the time to figure out what to do with your RV this winter

Summertime is a great time for being outdoors with clear, sunny skies and warm temps that provide fun RV outings. Trips to the lake, the Grand Canyon, and state parks resonate heavily with RVers during this season.

Now that the days of summer sunny skies and warm temps have been replaced with fallen leaves and falling temps, you might be wondering what that means for the open-road trips in your RV.

Winter is here and may put a damper on outdoor fun. But don’t pack away the sunscreen just yet! Winter months don’t automatically mean the fun under the sun has to end.

Wintering at Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people believe there is really only one option when it comes to RVs and wintertime, but that isn’t actually the case. Yes, the most common option of storing the rig is one choice, and it’s the right choice for many. That said, there are a few other options to consider and there might be a better one for you.

Below I’ve outlined four ways RV owners handle their rigs in the winter months, as well as some tips for each option. Each choice has its pros and cons and in this article, I’ll help you sort out the issues and answer the question: Winter is here; now what?

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Store Your RV

As mentioned above, the first and most obvious option is to store your RV for winter. This is a great option if you’re happy with your current RV set up, plan to RV next summer, and/or have access to a place to store the rig. That said, there is some work involved, and for some, storing for the winter can be a relatively large financial investment.

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To store your RV for the winter, you will need to winterize the unit. This involves draining the water out of the holding tanks and draining and flushing the water heater and then bypassing it before introducing RV antifreeze, which are a few requirements to winterize your RV.

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Investing the time and work into prepping your RV will offset challenges caused by cold temps. If you are unsure of how to winterize, a local RV dealership likely offers a winterization service.

Storage options include storing on your land, a friend’s land, or paying for an indoor or outdoor storage spot. There are pros and cons to each and all should be considered.

If storing outdoors, using an RV cover is recommended. Some even choose to build an RV shelter.

Some RV parks offer covered parking/storage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s always best to store your rig as close to home as possible. Unexpected circumstances can always arrive. That’s why it’s a good practice to regularly check up on your RV throughout the winter. It’s best to check on your RV on a weekly basis but if you can’t manage check-ups that frequently, a once-a-month check-in is an absolute must!

Wintering at Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Your RV South

The next option is to take your rig south to keep on camping and avoid the cold weather altogether. Obviously, this is a great option if you are retired or able to work remotely. That said, if you are in a position to head south for the winter, it can be an awesome option, especially if you aren’t a fan of cold weather.

Some RV owners live in their RV year-round discovering America, one destination at a time.

Related: The Best States for Snowbird Camping

Winter in Florida (Myakka River State Park) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While most think of Florida as the ultimate snowbird location, numerous other warm, sunny destinations await this winter season. Keep that summer fun alive during the colder months by traveling to the U.S. Sunbelt.

Wintering in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider spending a winter month in sunny Arizona and taking in the warm desert scene. With the sun shining 360 days a year, Yuma is known to be the sunniest place on Earth, averaging more than 4,000 hours of sun per year (out of 4,456 possible).

Winter in Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most popular snowbird destinations is Quartzsite. Not far from the Colorado River, this dusty Arizona outpost expands to hundreds of thousands as RV folks arrive every winter for the largest rock hound exposition in the United States and free camping.

Wintering in Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You don’t have to be lucky to find great RV parks during snowbird season in Nevada. While Las Vegas attracts legions of travelers every winter, the surrounding region deserves just as much attention. Pick a spot in Laughlin, Pahrump, or Boulder and ride out the winter in style.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV snowbirds who visit New Mexico can marvel at historic pueblos and centuries-old buildings that date back to the Spanish Colonial era. After visiting the cities, explore spectacular landscapes at places like White Sands National Park.

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the winter, the seasonal warmth visitors enjoy from both the sun and the southern hospitality makes Texas the place to be when looking to escape the cold. With the Texas winter temperatures averaging in the mid-70s, visitors enjoy the sandy beaches of South Padre Island which is also the longest stretch of an undeveloped barrier island in the world.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, when thinking of Texas, one can’t forget The Alamo. The 300-year-old Spanish Mission is located in San Antonio where the Battle of San Jacinto took place on April 21, 1836. Visitors also enjoy the miles of dining, shopping, and museums along San Antonio’s well-known Riverwalk.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV snowbirds will feel welcome in ‘Bama. Cheer a classic college football game or take a stroll on sugar sands on the Gulf of Mexico. The cities of Mobile and Montgomery will show you new aspects of Southern cuisine and culture.

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Waveland to Pascagoula, the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers up winter fun for snowbirds. Enjoy the sunshine, surf, and turf at Bay St. Louis, where charming Old Town is filled with upscale restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. Pass Christian’s quiet beaches will entice you to stay for a while.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spicy gumbo and sizzling jambalaya aren’t the only things keeping RV snowbirds warm during winters in the Pelican State. Take a spin through festive towns like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, then venture in the bayous and lakes for sightseeing, angling, and hunting.

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plenty of RV resorts, ranging from southern Cali to Florida, offer a variety of activities, attractions, and beautiful scenery spaced throughout the southern border.

Related: A Dozen Spectacular RV Parks for Winter Camping

Smoky Mountains, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the non-snowbirds, plenty of colder-weather locales beckon. Take in a tender Tennessee Christmas, a snow-filled Vermont vacation, or spend some time in the Pacific Northwest.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These trips will be just as much fun as the sunny-sky trips, but your RV will require a bit more work for these destinations prior to arrival. Prepping your rig for colder temps is an important process to prevent damage. One of the best things you can invest in for winter camping adventures is a heated RV water hose. A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 40 degrees.

RVing in a northern winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Embrace the Winter Weather and Go RVing

Cold weather doesn’t mean you can’t use your RV, it just means you’ll have to be more prepared than you’d usually be. If you love camping and don’t want to stop for the winter, then don’t! Instead, make the proper preparations and get out there and enjoy the RV life.

RVing in a northern winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Depending on how cold your area gets, you may need to winterize the water system and camp without running water for the coldest months.

Make sure you always have full propane tanks when you head out.

Related: Handling Cold Weather in Your RV

Using space heaters can save on propane.

RVing in a northern winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moisture absorbers such as DampRid will help reduce damaging condensation. Applications for RVs include disposable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), refillable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), hi-capacity absorbers (4-pound tub), and hanging absorbers (14-ounce hanging bag).

DampRid’s crystals absorb excess moisture in the air to create and maintain the optimal humidity level in your RV.

Sell your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sell Your RV

There may never have been a hotter time to sell an RV, as so many people are still looking to buy. One option is to sell while there is a large market and buy a newer model in the spring.

There are plenty of buyers looking for used RVs.

Before you sell your RV, you can prepare your RV to ensure you get top dollar for the sale.

Now your RV sparkles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A bucket of household cleaning supplies and a little elbow grease can transform your RV’s appearance from “worn down” to “like-new” in less than a day’s time. A coach that sparkles and shines both inside and out can have a significant positive impact on its trade-in or resale value.

Related: A Dozen Amazing Spots to Visit with your RV during Winter

Ensure all important documents and paperwork is available, including the deed, transferable warranty, mileage and year, service and maintenance records, purchase receipts (tires, wiper blades, batteries, aftermarket items), documented changes that you’ve made to the RV over time, and any other documents you’ve accrued during the ownership of the RV.

Now your RV sparkles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other key documents include your RV owner’s manual; paperwork or instruction booklets associated with appliances, electronics, and aftermarket items; and current registration.

Selling your RV might feel like the end of something, but it is also the beginning of your search for a new RV!

Now that you know your options for dealing with upcoming winter weather, you can begin making spring travel plans!

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron