Winter can be tough for van lifers since it’s more difficult to be spontaneous due to the weather conditions. Many wonder where they should take their van once temperatures dip. Some van lifers run towards the snow while others run away from it as far as they can. In this article, I share ten must-see winter camping destinations for each type of van lifer. So whether you’re craving the slopes or the sun, this article can help you decide where to take your van once the autumn leaves have fallen!
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1. Tucson, Arizona
With saguaros and sunny skies, you can’t beat Tucson for a desert oasis in the winter. There are plenty of dispersed camping options and paid campgrounds in Tucson to choose from. When I visited this year, I stayed in Gilbert Ray Campground outside of the west entrance to Saguaro National Park.
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
Although you may think Utah would be warm in the winter since the state is mostly desert terrain, it gets pretty cold. It is a better option for snow lovers! Salt Lake City has an abundance of ski resorts, including Snowbird, Brighton Resort, and Park City Mountain. While dispersed camping in a city might be challenging, you can find places to stealth camp!
3. Joshua Tree, California
If you’re looking for a peaceful area to camp with relatively warm temperatures for the winter, head to Joshua Tree. There’s land for free dispersed camping near the southern and northern entrances of Joshua Tree National Park. If you’d rather stay in a campground, there are options inside the park and paid campgrounds in the surrounding area.
4. Crested Butte, Colorado
Want a less popular place to ski in Colorado? Check out the Crested Butte Mountain Resort. It’s a beautiful place to enjoy the slopes and catch some powder. While there is free camping available in Crested Butte, it’s only accessible with 4-wheel drive. You may want to bring tire chains for extra traction.
5. Santa Monica, California
Nothing beats driving your van along the West Coast for the winter. In Santa Monica, I’ve seen countless vans and RVs. If your van is under 8 feet tall and less than 20 feet long, you can obtain an Overnight Oversize Parking permit to park on city streets overnight. Otherwise, you can stay in paid campgrounds outside of Santa Monica!
6. Jackson, Wyoming
There are a couple of destinations for skiing in Jackson: Snow King Mountain and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Both provide gorgeous views of the Grand Tetons. There are some options for dispersed camping around the Grand Tetons, but you’ll need 4-wheel drive and chains to safely access these spots in the winter.
7. Baja, Mexico
Countless van lifers flock to Baja, Mexico and park their vans on the free beaches in the winter. There’s an annual van festival with thousands of van lifers in January along the shore. Tacos, tequila, and ocean views – sounds like paradise to me!
8. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Some people consider the Steamboat Ski Resort the best place to ski in the entire state of Colorado. And since it’s a little further out from Denver, there tend to be fewer crowds. If you’re up for an adventure, check out this cute mountain town and enjoy some time on the slopes. You can soak in the warm hot springs afterward! There are options for dispersed camping on the outskirts of the town.
9. Melbourne, Florida
If you want to experience the southeast beach vibe during winter, Florida is the place to go! In Melbourne, there’s an annual event called Van Fest that brings hundreds of van lifers together. You can hang out along the coast while meeting new van life friends!
10. Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe is just how it sounds -heavenly! If you dream of skiing with views of blue water and snow-covered peaks, you’ve got to check out this resort in your van. You’ll have to stealth camp if you don’t want to pay for a spot, but it’s worth it!
11. Orange County, California
Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, offers a Mediterranean climate and beautiful beach campgrounds for winter van life. The campgrounds in this part of California are very expensive, though, so you might experience sticker shock when booking for the first time. However, you will enjoy amazing views, beach strolls, and exploring the local restaurants and bars.
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