Arizona gets the best of both worlds during winter. Higher elevations to the north are blanketed in powdery snow, while the southern and central parts of the state offer snowbird-approved temperatures. And wherever you go, you’re blessed with sunshine more days than not.
Whether you want to romp around in powder or dry out in the desert, spend a weekend camping at one of these RV and tent campgrounds that are both accessible and scenic when the mercury drops, the trees shed their leaves, and, in some spots, snowflakes stick to the ground.
Picacho Peak State Park Campground, Wymola, Arizona
Forget what warmth from the sun feels like? Spend a weekend defrosting at Picacho Peak State Park, located between Tucson and Phoenix in the Sonoran Desert. Daily temperatures often hover in the 60s even during the colder months, though you can expect sub 30s at night in December and January. The campground, which has 85 paved sites for both tents and RVs, offers expansive desert views and access to hiking trails that lead to the landmark mountain’s summit. Reservations are available online or by phone and are generally easy to get.
Cottonwood Campground, Roper Lake State Park, Safford, Arizona
The largest of the three campgrounds in Roper Lake State Park, Cottonwood has 25 sites with water, electric, fire rings, and picnic tables. The white-capped Mt. Graham and surrounding Sky Island peaks provide a wintry backdrop as well as recreational opportunities for hikers, anglers, kayakers, and especially birders tracking the winter migration. If you’d rather sleep with a roof over your head, the campground offers eight lakeside cabins with porches you can fish from. Wake early enough and you’ll catch sight of the fog lifting from the lake’s still, glassy surface.
Mather Campground, Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is quite dazzling when a sugary layer dusts the top of the walls. As long as inclement weather doesn’t roll in, the roads in the South Rim are driveable, and the inner trails are peaceful. Make Mather Campground—with 327 campsites spread among the ponderosa pine, pinyon, and juniper trees—your basecamp for a winter excursion. You can snag reservations through recreation.gov, but first come, first served sites are more available when visitation is slower in January and February.
River Island State Park Campground, Parker, Arizona
More off the beaten path than other campgrounds near Lake Havasu, River Island is a quiet and quaint escape for water lovers. Bass, catfish, and panfish keep anglers busy through the season, and the mile round-trip Wedge Hill Trail gives hikers hilltop views of the river and Parker Dam. The park’s campground has 37 RV and tent campsites available online or by phone, a ramada, sandy beach, cove, fenced pet area, and boat launch. A bonus of staying multiple days is there’s time to explore neighboring Buckskin Mountain State Park.
Twin Peaks Campground, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Located two hours south of Phoenix on the border of Mexico, this desert oasis is home to 31 species of cactus, including the photogenic, candelabra-shaped organ pipe cacti. To experience mild temperatures and soothing desert sounds, stay at the Twin Peaks Campground, which has 34 tent-only sites and 174 RV sites without hookups, plus solar-heated showers. Join the park’s dark sky programs for ranger-led stargazing. Since this is a popular winter camping destination, plan in advance by reserving a site by phone or through recreation.gov.
Kartchner Caverns State Park Campground, Benson, Arizona
Wintertime is full of anticipation for Kartchner Caverns rangers, researchers, and visitors as they await the return of about 1,500 bats that spend summers out in the park. But while they’re hibernating, hiking the trails along the base of the Whetstone Mountains and admiring the stars at this International Dark Sky Park are a delightful way to pass the time. Make overnight reservations in the two-loop campground, which has more than 50 RV and tent campsites, as well as cabins. Reserve online or by phone in advance to ensure your preferred dates.
Sedona Arizona RV Park, Sedona, Arizona
Most public campgrounds in Sedona either close for the season or are harder to book and access when there’s snow on the ground. Sedona Arizona RV Park is a privately-owned gem with 84 spacious sites within steps of Oak Creek and a short walk from restaurants and shops in town. Rigs under 45 feet can easily navigate the narrower roads, and detailed maps and photos on the website help with booking. Take note that campfires are not allowed. As long as you’re willing to brave the cold (and sometimes ice, so come prepared), the hiking trails through the land of red rocks will be less crowded than the hectic warmer months.
Willow Beach Campground & RV Park, Willow Beach, Arizona
Nothing is too far when you’re camping at Willow Beach. Las Vegas is less than an hour drive away, as is Lake Mead. The marina on the Colorado River is only a 20-minute walk. And, best in the winter when you’re needing to warm up and relax, the Arizona Hot Springs (also known as the Ringbolt Hot Springs) are a 20-minute drive and five-mile round trip hike away. The private campground has 28 full-service RV sites and 9 walk-in tent sites, plus showers, laundry, a store and gift shop, fishing pier, and launch ramp and boat rentals. With views of the river and desert scenery, you might just want to stay the maximum of 180 days or 6 months in your RV.