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Monday, April 22, 2024

Camping in the Winter: 4 Must-Visit Campgrounds in the U.S. Southwest

Photo by stellalevi via iStock

While winter often invokes images of cozy cabins and drinking hot chocolate in front of crackling fireplaces, the U.S. Southwest invites a different kind of adventure – one-of-a-kind winter camping. The red rocks and iconic desert formations get littered with snow, transforming them into breathtaking winter wonderlands perfect for camping.

In this guide to winter camping, we explore four must-visit campgrounds in the U.S. Southwest that offer magical winter camping experiences and span four states. From popular options in National Parks to off-the-radar hidden gems, we guarantee you will want to add all four campgrounds covered in this article to your upcoming winter itineraries. 

Additionally, we recommend our favorite trailer to hitch onto our vehicles when camping in the winter. With that in mind, it’s time to dive in and learn more about these amazing winter campgrounds!

Check out the video above by Justin Outdoors to discover seven winter camping tips designed to help you have a more enjoyable winter camping experience. 

Table of Contents

The Best Trailer for Camping in the Winter

rustic mountain overland anzac gfc trailer review

Due to the colder temperatures and less predictable weather, camping in the winter requires more gear than at other times of the year. That’s why using a trailer is an absolute must in our minds, and our go-to trailer is the Anzac GFC Moto Hauler. It’s an absolute beast of a trailer built by Rustic Mountain Overland.

rustic mountain overland 3

It’s ideal for exploring the Southwestern states during winter (and all other states, for that matter!) thanks to its premium build quality, outstanding durability, and unique off-roading features.

For example, three specs that particularly stand out for winter camping are its high ground clearance, 15-inch wheels, and 31-inch all-terrain tires, which come in handy if your Southwestern camping spot has seen recent snow or is off the beaten path.

rustic mountain overland 2

On top of that, its spacious storage bay (which is completely enclosed by the hinged doors shown above) measures 48” x 99”. That’s enough space to haul gear like motorcycles, bikes, and other large sporting equipment. We can’t forget the cozy rooftop tent installed on the trailer, either!

Perhaps best of all, you can move between the trailer storage bay and the rooftop tent without going outside, so if you want to crawl out of bed, head downstairs, and get your morning coffee going, you can do so without stepping out into the chill of the morning. Nice!




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Winter Camping in Arizona: Mather Campground, Grand Canyon National Park

Beautiful Winter View of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA, in March

Photo by T Schofield via iStock

The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s seven natural wonders, and the easiest way to see all it has to offer is by visiting Grand Canyon National Park. Moreover, winter is a great time to travel to the park because there are significantly fewer tourists than at other times. The South Rim of the canyon is open year-round, and the best place to sleep is Mather Campground.

Mather Campground is just outside Grand Canyon Village, where you have the backcountry information center, a grocery store, and multiple popular trailheads. The campground has 327 sites, each with a table, a fire pit, and ample parking space. Additionally, you will find multiple bathrooms and drinking water stations throughout the campground.

Winter Camping in New Mexico: Cosmic Campground, Gila National Forest

Amazing beautiful night sky and stars with meteor or shooting star as background.Traveler Man Silhouette Stand Top Mountain.

Photo by mohwet0833665342 via iStock

Are you New Mexico-bound this winter? In that case, one place you won’t want to miss is the Cosmic Campground. It’s part of the International Dark Sky Sanctuary and is the only one of its kind in North America. For reference, there are only 14 certified IDA sanctuaries across the whole planet.

The area has almost no light pollution because the closest light source is over 40 miles away. This creates some of the most spectacular night skies you’ll ever witness, making it a top destination for star lovers and astrophotographers! 

The campground itself is a primitive site with very few amenities, and all the sites are first come, first served. You can camp anywhere if you are wild camping with a tent or trailer. However, keep in mind that if you are traveling with an RV, there are only six sites.

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Winter Camping in Utah: Watchman Campground, Zion National Park

Mt Kinesava in Zion National Park Utah showing snow-covered trees along the Virgin River and pastures below red rocks of sandstone and mesas

Photo by Robert_Ford via iStock

While we love every campground we recommend in this article, without a doubt, our favorite one is Watchman Campground in Zion National Park. Camping in the winter in Zion National Park is a memory we will never forget, thanks to the snow-covered red rocks, lack of crowds, and hiking/snowshoeing opportunities. We especially recommend the Angel’s Landing hike! 

Watchman Campground has 127 sites, and it’s crucial you make a reservation since the campground is full nearly every night of the year. Sixty-nine of the camping sites are tent-only, and sixty-five are RV-only. Finally, bathrooms, drinking fountains, and National Park staff work year-round. 

Winter Camping in California: Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Monument. California.

Photo by ImagineGolf via iStock

Last but not least, there’s Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. The campground gets its name from the beautiful rock formations scattered around the area that look like they are from another planet. It has the warmest year-round weather of all the places described in this article and is a haven for rock climbing, biking, off-roading, and more!

There are 124 sites, and they fill up quickly in the winter. So, make a reservation well in advance to secure a spot. If you are too late and there are no more sites in the campground, there are plenty of good places to camp outside Joshua Tree National Park. One important thing to note is you can only have fires in designated areas due to the dry desert climate–please respect this.

Final Thoughts on Camping in the Winter

View of Horseshoe Bend (Arizona) at the sunset in the winter.

Photo by mauhorng via iStock

When most people start planning camping trips, the idea of camping in winter doesn’t even cross their minds. However, that’s a huge mistake! So many people miss out on the enchanting experience of winter camping simply because they don’t think it’s possible. 

But in hot places like the U.S. Southwest, not only is camping in the winter possible, it’s our favorite time of the year to camp there! Furthermore, with the help of a sturdy off-road trailer like the Anzac GFC Moto Hauler, you never have to leave any gear at home, not even your bikes or motorbikes!

Are you interested in purchasing an adventure trailer but aren’t sure the Anzac GFC Moto Hauler is right for you? Check out the list below of other trail-ready trailers made by Rustic Mountain Overland:

Finally, as a bonus, here are a few more awe-inspiring U.S. Southwest campgrounds to consider visiting this winter:

Heads up: Clicking on our affiliate links and exploring our sponsored content helps us at no extra cost to you, and we only recommend gear we’re absolutely crazy about!

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