7 Magical Desert Towns in the USA
There is nothing better than planning a little desert getaway after too much time spent in the city. The arid climate and lack of bright lights of desert towns give visitors a way to narrow their focus on nature and reflect, or kick back and enjoy living in the moment.
Not to mention, local desert town breweries make the best beer!
Over our five years of full-time RV travel, we found seven desert towns that warrant your attention as great escapes.
And if you’re anything like us, you know that camping is the best way to experience the desert. That’s why we included the best campsites in all of these desert towns.
Let’s dive in.
#1 Moab, Utah
Red rock desert land surrounds Moab, Utah, which lies just south of Arches and Canyonlands National Park. Sandstones of every variety have been carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers here, making it a mecca for off-road enthusiasts, bicyclists, and rock lovers.
Like all great USA desert towns, Moab has a vibrant (and quaint) downtown. Local breweries and restaurants line the streets. There’s nothing as refreshing as a cold beer after a long hike.
Location: Moab is situated 100 miles southwest of Grand Junction, Colorado.
GPS coordinates: 38°34’19.4″N 109°33’02.4″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Live a luxurious life at Portal RV Resort! Two separate sections define the park. The first is open to all and provides full hook-ups. If you like camping at Portal, look into purchasing your own lot on the resort’s second designated area.
Amenities are top-notch, with a heated pool, a laundry room, heated showers, and restrooms.
Desert Town Vibes Score: 9.8/10
#2 Sedona, Arizona
If you are looking for a destination where you can commune with nature, Sedona is the place. Surrounded by majestic red rock towers and canyons, the town has become renowned for two things: spiritual journeys and hiking. Experience the “Vortex” here, or just be satisfied exploring any of the hundreds of hiking and biking trails the traverse the sandstone landscapes.
And be sure to enjoy a sunrise or sunset, where the rock formations that encircle Sedona tend to glow and shimmer!
Location: Located just 30 miles south of Flagstaff, Sedona sits amid red rock canyon country.
GPS coordinates: 34.862966, -111.787071
Great Nearby Campsite: When location matters, Rancho Sedona RV Park meets your criteria. Its address right in town and on Oak Creek is essential for those RVers who wish to be in the midst of it all.
Walk to shops and restaurants, then return to your rig for a comfortable evening in a spacious shaded site with full hook-ups. The park also provides wifi, cable, clean shower houses, and a laundry room.
Desert Town Vibes Score: 9/10
#3 Taos, New Mexico
Native American history and dramatic examples of fine art meet in Taos. It’s a rustic adobe town with hundreds of years of human migration that have left their mark on this quirky high desert destination.
Track Kit Carson’s legacy or follow in Georgia O’Keeffe’s footsteps at San Francisco de Asis Church. Take in the skills of resident artists at numerous galleries and studios, or travel a few miles out of town for a ski run in Taos Ski Valley.
Here are the 9 Best Things to Do in Taos!
Location: Taos is situated 70 miles north of Santa Fe on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains’ edge.
GPS coordinates: 36°24’25.8″N 105°34’22.5″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Stay close to all that Taos offers at Taos Valley RV Park and Campground. With full hook-up sites and clean showers and restrooms, it’s a great place to stage day trips in and around the “Soul of the Southwest.”
Desert Town Vibes Score: 9.5/10
#4 Palm Springs, California
Notable for its many mid-century modern homes, Palm Springs became a famous resort town in the early 1900s when dry heat was discovered to help those with health issues.
An entire industry of bathhouses and hot springs sprouted, supporting the growing health tourism field. Eventually, celebrities from Los Angeles discovered the desert’s allure and built second homes in Palm Springs. And today, an entirely new generation has followed the attraction of this scenic region, staging huge concert events in the Coachella Valley.
Location: Located 100 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs lies in the Sonoran Desert’s far west portion.
GPS coordinates: 33°50’41.8″N 116°32’43.2″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Make Outdoor Resort in Palm Springs your home away from home, with more than 1,200 full hook-up campsites, 27 holes of golf, eight swimming pools, ten tennis courts, and a full-service restaurant on site. You’ll never want to leave the campground!
Desert Town Vibes Score: 9.8/10
#5 Marfa, Texas
Created as a railroad water stop in 1880, Marfa is now a magnet for the eclectic. From its location in West Texas’s far reaches, the town has acted as a training post for soldiers from the time of Pancho Villa through World War II.
But in the early 1970s, artist Donald Judd began turning abandoned army bases into art installation galleries of massive size. Thus started the immigration of minimalist artists to the area. Today Marfa is a tourist destination. If you love fine arts or seek spooky (unexplained) lights, Marfa is a must.
Location: Marfa is in West Texas, between Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains.
GPS coordinates: 30°18’32.5″N 104°01’15.5″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Tumble In RV Park is only a quarter-mile from downtown, with pull-thru and back-in sites. Full hook-ups are offered at this desert location for a reasonable rate, or you can dry camp in the tenting area for a song. No other amenities are provided.
Desert Town Vibes Score: 7.5/10
#6 Terlingua, Texas
Terlingua began as a mining town in the mid 1880s, when cinnabar was discovered amid the West Texas desert. Miners extracted mercury from the mineral, and the city grew around the mining community.
But by 1942, most of the cinnabar had been played out, and Terlingua quickly became a ghost town. Nowadays, it is known for the annual chili festival, held on the first Saturday of November. Tourists come from miles around to taste the spicy concoctions, then head over to nearby Big Bend National Park for more ‘recreating.’
Location: Terlingua is just east of Big Bend National Park and 12 miles east of Lajitas.
GPS coordinates: 29°19’16.2″N 103°36’55.8″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Just 4 miles from the Big Bend entrance is Paisano Village RV Park and Inn. Campers will find full hook-ups for rigs of almost any size, and although it’s nothing fancy, the RV campground location is convenient for exploring the vast national park next door.
Desert Town Vibes Score: 8.8/10
#7 Ojo Caliente, New Mexico
About the Town: Best known for its soothing hot springs, Ojo Caliente has been frequented by Native American populations for thousands of years. Today’s visitors find things almost exactly as they were back then, with a few modifications, including pools, massage rooms, and lodgings.
The destination is gaining popularity, as visitors discover that Ojo Caliente is the only hot springs in the world with four different types of sulfur-free mineral waters.
Location: Ojo Caliente lies 50 miles north of Santa Fe on Highway 285.
GPS coordinates: 36°18’08.5″N 106°02’42.9″W
Great Nearby Campsite: With 29 campsites complete with water and electric hook-ups, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa RV Park is a gem hiding along the Rio Ojo Caliente. Clean restrooms and a shower house are just the start of amenities, as guests can choose to purchase passes to the adjoining hot springs pools or massage rooms. There is also a fantastic restaurant on site.
Desert Town Vibes Score: 9.5/10
Plan Your Next Camping Trip To A Desert Town
There is something magical about desert adventures. They offer a unique way to clear our heads of superfluous focal points and give us a “reboot” as we surround ourselves with nature. These seven towns are just a sample of places around the country that provide clean air, spectacular scenery, and time to relax.
Isn’t it time to find your desert oasis?
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sedona scenic hwy is not for faint of heart driving a 29′ motorhome
Hey guys: great article! Gonna def check some of these places. FYI: noticed a typo on your location of Palm Springs, CA listed as 100 miles West of LA which would put it in the Pacific Ocean.
There was a fire at ojo caliente a few weeks back. May not be open
I’ve known Moab for some 50 years. The old Moab was really neat!! It’s been 30 or so years since we were there. The present Moab has been trashed. Too crowded. Too many people. No place to park. Too bustled. Too much crap. Nothing but hype and testosterone. We visited last year. Never again!!!!!!!!!! The only shop that’s any good and holds to the ‘old’ Moab is the Moab Rock Shop still owned by Len Ottinger (spelling). The rest is just trashed from the real old-time Moab. Not a destination for the future anymore for me or my wife!!!!!!.
Dave – WØLEV. ..
Been to Terlingua and Marfa. Terlingua was awesome. Between Terlingua and Study Butte, the eatery LaKiva is a must!