Arizona is a desert paradise. Yes, there are mountains. Most definitely, there are forests. But what everyone thinks of when considering Arizona are the glorious red rock buttes of Sedona, the towering Saguaro, and the wide, dusty plains.
For us, Arizona is a winter wonderland of boondocking, offroading, and hiking. We allow plenty of time to explore new roads, wander new trails, and never camp in the same spot twice. And that is the beauty of Arizona: while major tourist draws like Sedona and the Grand Canyon may fill to bursting, there are still wide expanses of Bureau of Land Management properties where one can camp in a valley of their own. It’s all about getting off the beaten trail and discovering the state for yourself.
Arizona has so many amazing parks, its nearly impossible to hit them all—though it’s on our list. While National Parks like the Grand Canyon may come readily to mind, there are many amazing state and county parks to visit, along with other public lands. Some of our favorite experiences have been wile exploring the back roads winding the land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
There is no shortage of hiking opportunities across Arizona. Like most any other hiking experience, it is important to wear good shoes and be aware of wildlife. In the desert, many insects hide underneath rocks and other objects as shelter. Practice caution and remember that, even in what seems like a desolate desert, you have entered a vibrant ecosystem. Stay on the designated hiking path and be sure to pack out all that you packed in.
Arizona has a wide and wonderful range of camping options. There are many developed sites around popular parks. During high season, many of these grounds will be booked out in advance. We have stayed in a few developed campgrounds in Arizona, but we have a preference for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grounds. Here, there are many boondocking opportunities and the further you are willing to travel, the more privacy you can find. To us, it is a way to truly be close to nature and have our own, amazing views.
High season in most touristy locations is the summer, when schools are out and families can travel. While that still applies in parts of Arizona, winter is also high season in the state. It is a popular destination for “Snow Birds,” retirees from northern states that escape the snow by traveling south for the winter.
This massive migration is most notable in Quartzsite, Arizona. Quartzsite is a small town most of the year but it swells up with warm weather seekers during the winter months. Temporary markets pop up to serve the seasonal clientele. What distinguishes Quartzsite is it’s location along Interstate 20 and its neighbor, the BLM. A lot of BLM land is open to boondocking. Permit holders can stay on the land up to 14 days for free. Quartzsite is surrounded by BLM land and many Snow Birds rotate between this and many other BLM
It is easy to be surprised by a full-to-bursting campground of retirees during the winter. So, be sure to plan ahead. Make reservations for popular campgrounds and don’t be surprised by the social community that thrives during this season.