RV Camping in Quartzsite
Thousands of RVers head to Quartzsite, Arizona for cheap winter camping. Quartzsite is well known among RVers for the huge RV Show in January and the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral shows which attract thousands of winter visitors. Recreation vehicles start coming into town in late fall and by mid-January thousands of RVs converge on the tiny desert town of Quartzsite. While the permanent population is around two thousand inhabitants, during the winter months, Quartzsite is host to nearly a million visitors with over 100,000 camped in private campgrounds and on surrounding public lands.
The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show
In 2014, the main event, the Sports, Vacation and RV show, will take place on January 18-26, but that is only one of the many winter events taking place in the town. Gem and Mineral shows, craft shows, swap meets, and giant on-going flea markets attract gatherings of RV clubs, families, friends and especially, retirees from far and wide. Admission is generally free to the shows and swap meets that sprawl over the town, though there is a small fee to park in some areas.
RV Camping on BLM Land around Quartzsite
Some visitors arrive by car from Phoenix, Yuma, Parker or Lake Havasau City, Arizona or from across the border in California; others come in their RVs from all over the U.S. and Canada to stay for the winter. There are about 25 private campgrounds with full hookups in and near Quartzsite, but these sites must usually be reserved in advance. The greatest majority of RVers stake out a spot in one of the dispersed camping areas on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land that surrounds the town. No reservations are required, and you can always find a spot no matter which area you choose.
Day Trips from Quartzsite
Some Day Trips from Quartzsite may require 4 wheel drive vehicle. Check these links or check with the Quartzsite Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center for more information and maps.
- General Patton Memorial Museum - museum just off I-10
- Bradshaw Trail - 4WD road
- Hauser Geode Beds - may require 4WD vehicle
- Imperial Sand Dunes - can be viewed from main highways 78 and I-8 as well as other improved roads.
- Living Desert Reserve - zoo and botanical park at Palm Desert, California
- Opal Hill Mine - Palo Verde, California. $25 fee to dig your own fire opals
- Swansea Ghost Town - dirt roads, but mostly passable with ordinary vehicle
- Tumco/Hedges Ghost Town - 25 miles from Yuma north of highway 80.
All About Quartzsite
Quartzsite lies in the desert 876 ft. above sea level and is surrounded by mountains. It gets about 4 inches of precipitation a year with daytime temperatures in January and February ranging from a high of 65° - 71°F and nighttime lows ranging from 37°- 43°F.
In January and February, Quartzsite changes from a laid back western town to a small city as motor homes, trailers and campers of every description stream into the area. Some visitors return each year to congregate in their special spot in the desert where groups of RVs of every description gather around central campfires or spread out along the dirt and stony roads that meander through the desert. Other, first-time visitors come to see the big RV show and end up staying for a month or more as they explore the dirt roads into the desert, discover the jam sessions around the campfires, and make new friends along the way.
Quartzsite Attracts Rock Hounds, too!
A great number of the visitors are retirees who arrive for a month or for several months attracted by the mild weather and the shows and events. The area is a wonderland for rock hounds. In addition to quartz, turquoise, agate, geodes and many other collectible rocks, the hills are dotted with abandoned gold and copper mines with the hidden promise of gold in "them thar hills". In addition, about 2000 vendors sell rocks, minerals, craft supplies, jewelry making supplies, clothing, sporting goods and just about everything else you can imagine from around the world.
Pictures of Places Around Quartzsite
List of Useful Items for Boondocking
- Generator or solar panels for power
- clothesline or a rack for drying clothes
- outdoor rug, chairs and table
- small grill and propane cook stove
- propane heater
- solar powered emergency radio
- extra water containers
- Blue Boy (portable waste tank)
The sun is almost always shining, so check out other useful solar powered gadgets!
Solar Weather and Emergency Radio
Boondocking in Quartzsite
BLM camping at Quartzsite
The Bureau of Land Management, Yuma District oversees the camping areas near Quartzsite, Arizona. These are popular places for many winter visitors to camp for a few weeks or a few months. Dry camping or "boondocking" on BLM land is a whole other experience from camping in a campground where your RV can be connected to electric, water, sewer and cable TV. But thousands of retirees have not only adjusted to the primitive conditions, but love the time they spend in the desert. Some of the most popular places to camp are La Posa LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) to the south, Scadden Wash to the east, Hi Jolly and Plamosa to the north and Road Runner to the west.
What to Bring When Boondocking
RVers come prepared with generators, extra water tanks that they can take to filling stations, extra tanks on wheels (called Blue Boys) for their waste water and a myriad of miscellaneous supplies. Some RVs are equipped with solar panels or small portable wind mills which provide electrical power. Others use generators sparingly to charge batteries and for lights at night. Every camp usually has a small outdoor rug with lawn chairs, a table and an outdoor cook stove or grill. Even though wood is hard to come by and wood collection is not allowed on BLM land, most campers make a small stone fireplace for campfires.
Because nights and early mornings are sometimes cold in the winter, a portable propane heater is handy. Most people will not leave a portable propane heater on all night, but they are fine to use indoors to warm up the RV in the evening and early mornings.
Where to Boondock in Quartzsite
Quartzsite is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Because the BLM Yuma Field Office manages 1.2 million acres of southwestern Arizona and southeastern California, there are almost unlimited opportunities for free or very cheap camping.
The BLM land around Quartzsite allows two types of camping:
- Long Term Visitors Areas (referred to as LTVAs) which generally charge $40 for a 14 day stay or $180 for a seven month stay. All of the camping is dispersed camping with no designated sites. RVers who camp at LTVAs can choose a spot in the desert and set up their campsite. While groups of friends or clubs may circle an area for a cozy gathering place, others who like their privacy can choose a more remote spot away from noisy gatherings or generators. The small camping fee at the Long Term Visitor Areas entitles the campers to use of a central dump station, water filling station and trash dumpsters.
- Short term or 14 day areas are free dispersed camping, but those who choose to camp in the 14 day free areas must either travel into town to use dump stations and fill up with water or pay one of the vendors from town to bring water to their site and pump out their waste water tanks. Another drawback in the free areas is that you are supposed to vacate the site after 14 days.
Points of Interest Within a Day's Drive of Quartzsite
Parks and Wildlife Refuges
- Joshua Tree National Park – 94 miles west
- Riverside County River Parks – 25 miles west
- Alamo Lake State Park – 71 miles northeast
- Kafa National Wildlife Refuge – 5 miles south
- Cibola National Wildlife Refuge – 40 miles south
- Imperial National Wildlife Refuge – 50 miles south
Historic Points of Interest
- Hi Jolly Memorial – 5 miles east
- General Patton Memorial Museum – 86 miles west
- Parker Dam – 50 miles north
A First-Timer in Quartzsite
If you've never been to Quartzsite, one of the things old-timers say is, "You have to go at least once!"
Perhaps this is the year you will make the trip to the little desert town to see what all the fuss is about. Let me tell you about our typical visit to Quartzsite.
From Phoenix, we traveled 125 miles west on I-10 through cactus and rock populated land. As we came closer to Quartzsite, we saw more and more RVs heading in the same direction until we finally exited the interstate into town. There the streets were dotted with RVs of every description. It's not uncommon to see million dollar Prevosts side by side with 30 year old Winnebagos. There were pickup campers, pop up tent trailers, motorcycles pulling little tent trailers and everything in between including homemade rigs. We turned left on Rt. 95 and headed towards La Posa South, traveling through the main event area of Quartzsite where vendors had already set up tents and populated the ramshakle buildings. Many of their wares were already set out: camping equipment, RV supplies, tables of rocks, outdoor chairs, grills, clothes, wind chimes, tables of housewares, food vendors and used books.
Closest Towns with Motels
Although most visitors arrive in their self-contained motor homes or trailers, there are many Quartzsite visitors from Arizona and California who choose to visit Quartzsite by car during the winter events. Quartzsite has very limited hotel facilities, but there are hotels in nearby cities for those who want to drive to the shows and check out the flea markets and swap meets. If you are coming by car, check out accommodations in these cities just a few miles away:
- Blythe, CA - 25 miles west
- Parker, Arizona: 35 miles north.
- Yuma, AZ - 83 miles south.
- Wickenburg, Arizona - 111 miles northeast.
- Phoenix, AZ - 125 miles east.
- Ehrenburg, Arizona: 17 miles west.
Boondocking at LaPosa South BLM campground
About 3 miles from town, we came to our destination, LaPosa South, one of the BLM Long Term VisitorAreas with the luxury of a water filling station, dump station and trash dumpsters. We headed in and signed up for our first 2 week stay, then headed out to find our friends. Trailers and motor homes were strewn around along the dirt roads, singly and in groups. Some had flags and tents set up. Others had small outdoor living areas near their doors.There were a few with solar lights decorating their outdoor areas, many had solar panels and satellite dishes.
After consulting with our friends, we decided to search out an area that was less populated. Before we did, we prepared our rig for our desert stay by filling our fresh water tank and extra gallon size water jugs with water at the water station and emptying our waste tanks at the dump station. Then we unhooked our tow vehicle and headed out the dirt road into the desert. About two miles out, we agreed upon the perfect spot near a small wash with a few low trees growing nearby. Our closest neighbors were about a quarter mile away, though we knew that as more people came into town we were likely to have some closer neighbors moving in.
We inspected the area to be sure we were not parking in a low spot as flash floods are common during rain storms. Satisfied that we were in a safe place, we parked our rigs about 75 ft. apart. (never crowd your neighbors!) and smoothed off a small area around our rig so that we could set up our chairs. The desert here is covered with stones and rocks, large and small in all colors. We gathered a few rocks to build a small fireplace for our campfires and set a few of the prettier pieces of quartz on the edge of our rug to keep it from blowing away.
Our friends have a solar panel on their small trailer, so they had to park with the panel facing south to get the most benefit from the sun. One solar panel is enough to provide lights and power for charging their phones and computers. They use a small propane heater for heat and have the advantage that they never disturb the quiet of the desert by running a generator.
Although many people who spend months in the desert bring satellite dishes for their television and internet services, we don't have one. Occasionally, we run our generator in the evening to see if we can pick up a special TV show with our antenna, but generally we like to play cards or games with our friends or read. It is also considered bad form to run generators for too many hours as it disturbs other people who are are enjoying the peaceful desert evenings. (For more on good Boondocking etiquette see my hub: The RVing Life: Good Boondocking Etiquette. )
This Guide Will Help You Find Free Camping
Entertainment in the Boondocks
There is another reason why so many winter visitors love to spend winter months in Quartzsite. In addition to exploring the desert by foot, ATV or 4Wheel Drive vehicles, here are some of the ways people spend their time:
- Rockhounding - hunting for geodes, gemstones, gold, turquoise and many other kinds of rocks to be found out in the desert.
- Desert Golf - This is not very much like traditional golf as the golf courses are laid out among the washes, gullies, rocks and cacti of BLM land. Most golfers use one club and a ball in a bright color so that they can find it among the rocks and gopher holes, but it's a fun thing to do for a few hours of friendly competition.
- Jam sessions - So many RVers sing and play instruments that there are usually several jam sessions each week in each area. Everyone is welcome to attend to join in or just listen. Bring a chair and your drink and get to know people.
- Entertainment shows - The Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA) is a community center in Quartzsite that sponsors at least two shows a week that are open to the public for a nominal fee of just a few dollars. Shows might be comedy, gospel, blue grass or country music or something truly unique like a yodeler. Occasionally there are bigger names and admission fees go up accordingly.
- Classes and Crafts - There are also classes in line dancing, crafts and other areas of interest held at the QIA for a small seasonal fee.
- Side trips and Day trips - There are many places to explore if you are in the mood for a day trip. We often consult maps for off-road adventures and hunt down ghost towns, abandoned gold mines and points of interest.
- Reading - There are used book stores in Quartzsite as well as opportunities to exchange books with fellow campers. We are in the habit of traveling with a large tub full of paperback books that we exchange or give to fellow travelers.
- Arts and Crafts - Many snowbirds bring their hobbies with them on their travels. Woodworking, carving, jewelry making, knitting, crocheting, quilting and painting are just a few of the kinds of things RVers do to keep occupied.
If You Go
If you decide to visit Quartzsite for the first time this year, be prepared for an experience very different from any other. People say that you will either love it or hate it, but one thing for sure, you will never forget it.
One of the very best things about the RVing life is that your house is on wheels. When you find a place you like, you park it. When you are in a place you don't like, you roll on down the road!
Whatever you decide to do, have a wonderful time! Maybe we'll see you on the road or in Quartzsite this winter!
This article Copyright ©2010 by Stephanie Henkel
RV Boondocking books
I would love to hear from you!
Whether you are a novice or veteran RVer, I would love to have your feedback about this article on Quartzsite. Please take the survey and leave comments, questions, and suggestions below in the comment section.
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Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on January 28, 2019:
I would recommend that you get some good apps for your phone which will show you where to find BLM, National Forest and Corps of Engineers campgrounds. You can also buy books, but you will need a separate book for each. Camping on Public Lands is a good choice for BLM campgrounds. If you are in Arizona, you might want to check out the Arizona Land Trust, too. Good Luck with your camping adventures!
Dennis Demeyer on January 28, 2019:
Thank you for your informative article. We are in the process of building our retirement rig specifically designed for long term boondocking. We plan on going full time within 5yrs and part time within 3yrs. Quartzite is definitely on our list of places to visit. I am most interested in staying on BLM land, any recommendations would be appreciated.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 27, 2018:
I don't know where you posted a question. Have not seen it.
Peter Brady from Kelowna BC on August 20, 2018:
Just a newbie here, a very newbie :). I asked a question through email before I signed up, but further to posting anymore, I'm waiting for a reply. If I don't get a rely to my email soon I will post my question on here.
Readmikenow on February 27, 2017:
You sure provided a lot of information. Very good article! I enjoyed reading it. Sounds like quite a good adventure.
Amada Gonzalez from Quartzsite on October 29, 2015:
Thanks Stephanie! I'm sure we will! :-)
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on October 29, 2015:
Freedom America - I forgot about the rattlesnakes! By the time we get there in January, it's usually too cool for snakes, though they are sometimes spotted on warm afternoons. We've stayed at La Posa South many times. Not sure if we'll make it this year, though It is nice to get there before the majority of the crowd so that you can pick your spot. Have a great time!
Amada Gonzalez from Quartzsite on October 28, 2015:
Stephanie, Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. We are now here in Quartzsite at La Posa South LTVA. These two weeks have been quite an experience and we are still learning so much. First night we stayed at Hi Jolly before we decided to grab a spot in the LTVA before all the good spots were taken. That morning when we were taking down our tent, we found a rattlesnake coiled up under the tent. In La Posa we have lizards, quails, mice and beetles. We are still trying to learn how to deal with the critters. :-)
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on October 11, 2015:
Freedom America - Boondocking in Quartzsite is quite an experience. You will find that there aren't too many people there right now. Most of the crowd arrives in December and January. You should make out fine with your van and tent, though you'll want to make provisions for some chilly nights as the winter goes on. Good luck to your fiance in his job search. As things get busier, I'm sure there is a need for temporary workers. Sometimes the private campgrounds are looking for workers in exchange for campsites and some pay. Have a great time!
Amada Gonzalez from Quartzsite on October 10, 2015:
I just came across this great article about Quartszite. My fiance and I are on our way right now to spend 7 months boondocking there. We have never been there but I have a lot of fb friends that spend the winter there. We have a conversion van and a 3 room tent. He will be looking for work in Quartszite. I have only heard great things about this place so I am really looking forward to being there. Thank you so much for all the great information that you have provided for us.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on September 20, 2014:
Mishelton - I haven't sold at the swap meets, but you can probably find more info if you search gem shows or swap meets in Quartzsite and Tyson Wells. Good luck!
mlshelton on September 20, 2014:
Great information. We and our close friends will be boon docking in 2015- mostly around Quartzsite… A question- has anyone sold at the swap meet/flea market? We’d like to have a table or two but don’t know how to go about it or who to ask… any info will be helpful. thanks so much, ML
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on February 16, 2014:
Richard Ciccarella - If you visit Quartzsite next year, you will find many options for RVs to purchase, from new to slightly used to older rigs, Look around and check them out...you may find the perfect rig for you! Actually, we traded in our rig at Quartzsite this year to upgrade to a newer and larger model and we're quite happy with our choice.
I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure your wife would have enjoyed RVing. I hope that you find what you are looking for at Quartzsite and enjoy some happy travels.
Richard Ciccarella on February 16, 2014:
stephanie, next season I would like to visit quartzite, it looks and sounds great. I lost my wife to cancer last year and she wanted to go rving. I dont have an rv yet but plan to buy one, the say u can get a god deal in quartzite. thank u for youe article.
Rich from nj
Age of people at Quartzsite? on December 07, 2013:
Are full timers at Quartzsite mostly retirees, or are there young people too? (More than a scattered few I mean.)
Also, how much privacy can you find there? Can you camp a 1/2 mile or mile from neighbors if you so wish?
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on January 06, 2013:
Midget38 - We do enjoy traveling in our RV and especially love camping in the Arizona desert near Quartzsite in the winter. Glad you enjoyed my article. Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing.
Michelle Liew from Singapore on January 05, 2013:
Traveling about like this is so exciting! And the site is interesting. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! Passing it on.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on March 15, 2012:
TheLastBabyBoomer - Quartzsite seems to be more attractive to RVers, but I think you might find it interesting if you visit in the months of January or February when all the vendors and shows are going. In the off-season, Quartzsite is just a quiet little town with not much happening.
Deborah Turner from Surprise Arizona on March 15, 2012:
Lots of information, reminds me of my in-laws in AZ. They are RV'rs, I've lived in AZ since 1982 and never been there, only driven by on my way to Cali. Next time I think I will stop in. Thanks
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on November 05, 2011:
Hello Jerry and Deb - Wish we could stop in to say hello, but we are still on the east coast! Fire wood is rather hard to find in Quartzsite as you are not allowed to forage for wood anywhere on the BLM land, Some people manage to find wood pallets at some of the warehouses in Yuma and use them to burn. I think there are a few places in Quartzsite that sell firewood. One of our friends has a little portable propane "campfire"fireplace that's real cute. Have fun in Quartzsite - I'm jealous that you are there already! Thanks so much for stopping by to read my hubs and for your comments!
Feel free to drop me an email (contact through HubPages is a couple of inches under my profile picture at the top of this page) if you'd like to keep in touch.
2withwanderlust on November 05, 2011:
You're site is full of information, as we just pulled into LP South yesterday. If you happen to see a blue land cruiser, that would be us. I hope we have the opportunity to meet you. Looking forward to seeing all the sites and hope we can wonder up on one of the jam sessions. One question: how do you get firewood?
Thanks for Sharing & Happy Travels!
Jerry & Deb
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on October 27, 2011:
Alternative Prime - Quartzsite's RVers are indeed a unique blend of people, cultures, rockhounds and vendors, musicians and cowboy poets! I'm amazed that you haven't been there as you've managed to capture the feel of this town so well in your wonderful comments. Thanks so much for visiting my hub and for your feedback!
Alternative Prime from > California on October 27, 2011:
Hi Stephanie -
Fantastic piece on this rarely publicized yet rapidly emerging winter wonderland of merchandise exchange and regional interstate populous commingling. A cozy remote Arizona town where people of every demographic from all over the country, and in some cases the world, can escape colder climates and related harsh elements in the Northeastern or Midwestern United States to bask generously in the "Western Warmth" while promoting a hand made product or essential service, gaining a free precious metal & mineral crash course education, and of course one of the most invaluable perks, interacting with old friends and new acquaintances.
I have yet to attend but will hopefully indulge in the future when time permits.
Arizona has so many pristine, romantic, and rustic hidden gems yet to be discovered by mainstream America like Kingman, Golden Valley, Lake Havasu, and you've managed to introduce one such locale in typical "RV Mania" style once again.
Thanks for Sharing -
- A. P. -
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on October 26, 2011:
HikeGuy - I love using my own photographs, but I have so much fun looking at them again, that it's hard to choose just a few to share. Thank you for your kind comments!
Bryce from Northern California Coast on October 26, 2011:
This is wonderful! So informative -- you covered all the details I need to know. I love it that you used your own photos. They're strong images and add a lot to the article.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 17, 2011:
Hi Tina, I'm sure you'll find Quartzsite a blast if you go in January when all of the shows are going on. Rising gas prices are influencing our travel, so don't know what next winter will bring. Enjoy your new camper and keep in touch! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
gr82bme from USA on May 17, 2011:
I can not wait to go! I hope we can keep in touch. You can let me know when you will be there. I can try and come when you are there. Maybe you can show me the ropes. It is so much easier when you have a friend to show you around and give you tips.
Thank you for all the great tips.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on January 25, 2011:
Tardis, I wish you much luck with your plan to go full time! It's a wonderful lifestyle, and I know you'll enjoy visiting Quartzsite as well as many other fun and interesting places. Maybe we'll meet on the road!
TARDIS on January 25, 2011:
Stephanie, thank you for the 'visit' to Quartzsite. You make the area a mustsee. We are one year out from going fulltime and do plan a real visit to Quartzsite soon after. Hope to meet you there one day soon. Lessie
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on January 08, 2011:
Thanks for reading my hub! The southwestern states are so much different than Florida. They have a lot to offer and are less crowded. Depending on the kind of camping you like, you also have many less expensive options. Give it a try if you're feeling adventurous!
point2make on January 08, 2011:
I really enjoyed your hub. I have never tried Arizona yet and it sure looks interesting. Florida is getting crowded and maybe it's time to look westward!. Thanks for the info.
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 13, 2010:
Thanks for stopping by, Bill!
Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 10, 2010:
Quartzsite grows on you, doesn't it? It's quite a place in the winter! We also like to spend some time in Yuma out in the Imperial Dam area. Isn't the RVing life great?
DPJake from Manchester, New Hampshire on December 09, 2010:
I have been to Quartzsite many times and absolutely love it.....I stay in Yuma in the winter and pass thru Quartsite on my way to Laughlin and then on to Las Vegas (making sure I time it so I see the RV show in January). Thanks for writing this as it brought back many memories for me.
marie jean marie on December 05, 2010:
That is highly informative i had never heard of it before.