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The 11 Best Free Campsites in the Southwest This Winter

The 11 Best Free Campsites in the Southwest This Winter

As you chase comfortable weather during the colder months, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up in the Southwest.

It’s a ritual for many RVers. For us, it means finding the best free places to camp.

Want to find out more about the 11 best free campsites for wintering in the Southwest? Let’s go!

The Southwest Is the Place to Be for RVing in the Winter

It’s a cliché that snowbirds flock to the desert to beat the cold. But it’s true and for a good reason. The Southeast is a popular wintertime destination, too, but many travelers prefer the arid high-desert areas of Arizona and New Mexico.

These two states are part of the Southwest no matter how you define it, and so are parts of Texas and California. You may also expand the Southwest to include Nevada, Utah, and even Oklahoma.

Besides the weather, it’s the camaraderie that calls so many people back for more. With such a high concentration of like-minded people, a huge sense of community comes with the territory.

Pro Tip: Want to escape the snow and cold this winter? Find out Where Do RVers Spend The Winter?

RV parked in the desert.
If you RV year round, enjoy free campsites in the southwest this winter.

11 Best Free Campsites in the Southwest

The Southwest has countless prime places for dispersed camping, maybe more than any other region. You may have to deal with some washboard roads and a less-than-stellar cellular signal.

Hopefully, the incredible scenery, the mild climate, and the unbeatable price will be worth it.

Read on to find out why these 11 exceptional locations found a slot on our exclusive list.

RV in desert
Enjoy beautiful starry skies, rock formations, and gorgeous sunsets all winter long at free campsites in the Southwest.

1. The Main Drag 525, Sedona, Ariz.

This is a nice remote spot that’s convenient to Sedona as well as Jerome and Cottonwood. This is U.S. Forest Service land in the Coconino National Forest, so there’s a 14-day stay limit.

The dirt road is rough in places, so take it easy as you drive farther in to find the perfect spot. Don’t be surprised if you encounter some cattle roaming the grounds.

2. Palm Canyon Dispersed, Quartzsite, Ariz.

These wild canyon lands lie less than 25 miles from Quartzsite but far enough to enjoy the incredible dark skies. This area is part of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, a huge wilderness area home to bighorn sheep.

Keep an eye out for jackrabbits and rattlesnakes as you’re scanning the horizon for the sheep.

Palm Canyon is a popular place, but there’s plenty of room to spread out. 

3. Indian Bread Rocks, Bowie, Ariz.

This rugged open country lies among the Dos Cabezas Mountains, so you may have a challenge finding a perfectly level site.

There’s a small picnic area with vault toilets, but otherwise, it’s undeveloped terrain with granite boulders to explore.

The higher reaches offer nice views of surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s a short drive from the small town of Bowie, and Wilcox is just 30 minutes down Interstate 10.

4. Craggy Wash, Lake Havasu, Ariz.

To find Craggy Wash, look for a sign near mile marker 190 on Highway 95 just north of Lake Havasu. This popular BLM spot is rocky and dusty without a lot of vegetation, but there’s also not much noise.

You can find good cell service in places and excellent views all around.

There are no amenities whatsoever, but there are camp hosts – and sometimes bighorn sheep along with coyotes and antelope.

5. Kelbaker Boulders, Kelso, Calif.

This sweet BLM spot is just outside one of the entrances to Mojave National Preserve in California. Kelbaker is the name of the main road through the area, and “boulders” refers to the eye-catching granite outcroppings.

The sunsets can be captivating, too. It’s a bumpy ride, but it’s not too hard to find a level site.

Be careful to avoid parts of the road that are soft, deep sand.

6. South Beach, Corpus Christi, Texas

While the other end of Padre Island is more commercial, this is a more natural area that’s a designated national seashore. You can set up camp right next to the Gulf of Mexico. (Just don’t get too close – be aware of the high tide line.)

There’s a dumpster as well as toilets and cold showers for rinsing.

Pro Tip: Spend your time exploring Corpus Christi by visiting these 9 Best Things To Do in Corpus Christi, Texas.

7. Chosa Campground, Carlsbad, N.M.

This BLM campground is about 30 miles from Carlsbad Caverns and offers nice views of the Guadalupe Mountains. It’s just off County Road, about a quarter-mile from U.S. Highway 62/180.

It’s a flat, crushed-gravel area inside a fence with a large dumpster, but you can also camp in dirt areas outside the fence.

It’s a very nice stop for a night or two to see the area or just get off the road for a bit.

8. Coconino Rim Road Dispersed, Grand Canyon, Ariz.

Talk about an amazing location – and it’s free. After you make your turn off the highway (near mile marker 253), keep driving past the No Camping sign until you find a nice spot.

The areas close to the tower are very popular, but keep driving for a more secluded site.

This area, called the Coconino Plateau, is 5,700 feet at its lowest point and surrounded by either government or Native American lands.

9. Cosmic Campground, Glenwood N.M. 

If you’re fortunate enough to score a spot here, you might just see more stars than you ever have before. It’s a designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary, and there’s no significant artificial light source within 40 miles.

There are beautiful sights on the ground, too, and amazing trails leading to them.

The only downside to this magical place in Gila National Forest is that there’s just a handful of campsites.

10. Forest Road 687, Tombstone, Ariz.

The Coronado National Forest isn’t far from the legendary Western town of Tombstone. Some of these other boondocking sites on our list are hard to get to, but this one is the most challenging.

It’s just under 10 miles of rough, slow going. Your rewards are big, open sites and stunning views of the Dragoon Mountains.

There are lots of interesting rock formations and great trails for hiking in almost every direction.

11. Darby Well Road, Ajo, Ariz.

Other than some military jets doing training in the vicinity, this is a gorgeous isolated area in the Sonoran Desert. You can study and compare several varieties of cacti without even visiting the nearby Organ Pipe National Monument.

You’ll find plenty of trails for hiking or off-roading.

There are usually many available sites, but it’s a good idea to test for a cell signal before committing to one.

Enjoy Beautiful Sunsets and Mild Weather in the Southwest This Winter

The Southwest can be a great place to get outside and enjoy nature, even during winter. To beat the cold, check out some of these free campsites in the Southwest.

You can enjoy beautiful starry skies, interesting rock formations, and gorgeous sunsets all winter long.

Where would you like to spend winter? Drop a comment below!

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

P. King

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

I was at Craggy Wash a week ago11/21. Yes quiet, mostly but trash everywhere. Cigarette butts strewn about on all our walks. I was disappointed that people did not take out what they brought in.

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