If you want four-season camping, but you’d rather not camp in the snow, where do you go?
I’ve created the list below for those of you who want to extend your camping season without freezing temperatures.
The following locations provide milder winter camping, with temperatures often above freezing, and I promise they’re not all in Florida.
1. Joshua Tree
Beat the cold with hikes and camping among Seussian Joshua Trees, otherworldly rock formations, and Cholla cacti. Joshua Tree National Park sees the Sonoran and Colorado deserts meet within its borders, leaving you with two beautiful landscapes to explore.
With busy-season at Joshua Tree National Park running from October to May, I admit I may not be the only one with this winter camping idea.
However, if you plan your camping trip for December or January, you’ll avoid the peak of the busy season which runs mid-February to mid-May.
Temperature-wise, you’re looking at lows in the high 30s and average highs in the low 60s during the winter months. Winds can certainly kick up, so be sure to dress for warmth, secure your tent, or bring out your camper.
You have eight campgrounds to choose from, some being first-come, first-served and some being reservation only during the high season months. While campgrounds are typically full on both weekends and weekdays during the peak months, December and January will see campgrounds filling up mostly on the weekends.
If the campgrounds do fill up, there is plenty of dispersed camping available on BLM land just outside the southern entrance to Joshua National Park.
There’s no denying Florida is a great destination for outdoor fun while the rest of the country is under blankets of snow.
Florida’s State Parks are abundant, well-kept, and great for camping. Depending on what you want to do and what kind of weather you want, you have options from the Florida Keys all the way up to the Florida Panhandle.
If you plan for a January trip, be sure to check the weather. Cold fronts and cold snaps do happen in Central Florida and North Florida. But, overall, winter is the best time to enjoy Florida’s paddling, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, fishing, swimming, and camping without the oppressive heat and mosquito swarms of other months.
If Everglades National Park is on your list, be sure to visit before the end of March. For some paddleboarding on the Suwannee try Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park. For some pristine camping accessible only by ferry boat, visit Cayo Costa State Park. And, for some camping in the Florida Keys try John Pennekamp or Bahia Honda State Parks.
For a pack-rafting adventure be sure to take advantage of the Suwannee River Wilderness State Trail. Free river camps along the trail provide screened overnight camps as you make your way along the Suwannee River. Local outfitters are ready to help you with gear, provisions, and planning.
If slot canyons and badlands are more your jam, head over to Anza Borrego State Park for some wintertime camping.
Stargazing at Borrego Springs is not to be missed with Borrego Springs designated as an International Dark Sky Community––in fact, it was the second location in the world to be designated as such.
There is plenty of hiking to do throughout these beautiful and mysterious desert lands. And, if you prefer to drive, there’s plenty of off-road adventuring to be had here.
Winter temperatures here will have you enjoying lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s––even the low 70s!
4. Southern Arizona
Winter is a great time to camp out in Southern Arizona and explore the rich beauty it has to offer. You’ll find plenty of camping options whether you’re tent camping or pulling a camper trailer.
Patagonia Lake State Park, Cochise Stronghold in Arizona’s Dragoon Mountains, and Catalina State Park are all camping options that are sure to treat you to a relaxing winter camping trip. There is plenty to see and much to hike through. For some beautiful rock formations and maybe even a little backpacking try camping over at Chiricahua National Monument.
There is much to see and do while camping in Southern Arizona, with winter being one of the best times for a camping adventure.
5. Big Bend National Park
While summer temperatures at remote Big Bend National Park soar into the high 90s, winter temps are just right with highs in the 60s and 70s and lows in the 40s and 50s.
While here you can try some backpacking or a little off-road driving. Assuming you have a 4WD vehicle with you, dirt roads like Glen Springs Road and Old Maverick Road are good to start with.
For a shorter trip, driving the main highways will give you a general sense of Big Bend. With a little more time, throw in some hikes and get up close and personal with the Rio Grande and the Chihuahuan Desert.
Big Bend is a great place to extend your camping season and recover from the holiday madness––maybe it’s even a great way to replace the holiday madness with a little serenity.
Where do you like to camp when the weather gets cold?