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Van Life Winter Destinations for Van Camping

The van life fun doesn’t have to stop once winter arrives. Instead, you have two options for van travel in the winter: escape the cold by flocking to the south or embrace it! In this article, we will recommend some amazing van life winter destinations for both types of travelers that you can check out.

Winter Van Life Destinations

The destinations on our list are a mix of places that have warm, cool, and snowy weather. Some destinations make for the perfect mix of sun and snow, with ski resorts or beaches not too far away. Also, you’ll want to keep in mind that warm destinations will get chilly and sometimes freezing at night, so be sure to pack warm clothes too.

 

1. San Diego, California

San Diego is a classic van camping spot you can visit year-round. We love it in the winter particularly because it has warmer weather and there are fewer crowds, but there’s still plenty to do. It has gorgeous beaches, spectacular hiking trails, and overall good vibes. 


Things to do:

  • Kayak at La Jolla State Park
  • Hike Annie’s Canyon Trail in Encinitas or Cowles Mountain
  • Visit the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
  • Bike along the Mission Beach boardwalk
  • Take a sunset stroll on any of San Diego’s beaches
  • Go on a whale-watching cruise
  • Visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

You can camp at sites like San Elijo State Beach or Silver Strand State Beach, among other campgrounds and RV Resorts along San Diego’s coast.

 

2. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Not too far from San Diego and Los Angeles, you can head to Joshua Tree National Park to see two deserts collide; the Mojave and the Colorado. A diverse number of animal and plant species call this national park home, and it’s a perfect destination for those who want to be immersed in nature. 


Things to do:

  • Wander around the Hidden Valley Nature Trail to see rock formations and trees
  • Drive up to Keys View lookout
  • Walk along the Barker Dam Nature Trail
  • Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden
  • Take a picture in front of Skull Rock
  • Rock climb and boulder
  • Hike the Arch Rock Trail

There are several campgrounds and RV parks surrounding the national park where you can van camp. Check out the different options available here

 

3. Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is a super van-friendly town with a range of activities to choose from in the winter. The commonly photographed red rocks are usually snow-capped, with clear blue skies in the background. The weather is crisp, with daytime temperatures in the 60s, making it the perfect time to be outside.


Things to do:

  • Take a Jeep or ATV tour through the canyons
  • Hike around Red Rock State Park or Slide Rock State Park
  • Go off-roading through the deserts
  • Go skiing and snowboarding in Flagstaff
  • Stargaze 
  • Book a UFO tour
  • Visit a spa
  • Hike on the Cathedral Rock Trail or Bell Rock Path Trail 

On the west side of Sedona, you can find some free dispersed camping areas, or head north to Flagstaff for more van camping. You can also pay to park your van overnight at the Rancho Sedona RV Park

 

4. Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces is a culturally rich and sunny destination to head to this winter. Temperatures during the day are mild, reaching the upper 50s and 60s, but can dip below freezing at night. There’s a lot to do around Las Cruces, both indoors and outdoors. 


Things to do:

  • Visit White Sands National Park
  • Hike the Dona Ana Mountains or Picacho Peak
  • Go to the Kilbourne Hole geological site
  • Sample New Mexican cuisine
  • Visit one of the museums and cultural centers: Las Cruces Museum of Art, New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, and Las Cruces Railroad
  • Visit The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

There are a ton of campsites around, such as the Aguirre Springs Campground, Las Cruces KOA Journey, and Siesta RV Park. There are also free dispersed sites in the Sierra Vista, Dripping Springs, and Gap Tank areas.

 

5. Brazoria County Beach, Texas

Brazoria County Beach is your spot if you want to head to the beach this winter. It may not be warm enough to sunbathe or swim; however, temperatures are in the 60s, making it perfect for relaxing beachside in a hoodie. Plus, at night, temperatures normally only reach the 50s. This beach is located just outside Galveston and offers free camping.


Things to do:

  • Sit back and relax on the beach
  • Paddleboard, kayak, surf, and fish
  • Drive over to Houston and check out the city
  • Visit the Surfside Jetty Park
  • Stroll down the pier
  • Off-road on the beach area east of Highway 332
  • Horseback ride on the beach
  • Hike the Surfside Beach Bird & Butterfly Trail
  • Birdwatch at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
  • Take a Road trip to Austin, Texas in a few hours drive (another van-friendly city!)

You can camp for free on the beach for 14 days, with a permit from any local shop. Or, you can stay at an RV park near Surfside Beach if you prefer amenities. 

 

6. Jacksonville, Florida

Traveling by van during winter in Florida is preferable to other times of the year as there’s less humidity and heat, but there’s still plenty of warm weather. Many people like to venture down to the Everglades and The Keys. However, Jacksonville, on the northeastern coast, is a great place to start, especially if you’re new to van life in Florida. 


Things to do:

  • Visit the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
  • Walk along one of the city’s white-sand beaches
  • Stroll along the Northbank River
  • Head over to the Osceola National Forest for hiking and camping
  • Take a day trip to Little Talbot Island State Park
  • Relax on the beach (bring a sweatshirt; it may be chilly!)
  • Sightsee wildlife 
  • Drive along Florida’s coast
  • Bike on the beach

Camp beachside at the Huguenot Memorial Park campground or Little Talbot Island State Park campsite. There’s also lakefront camping at the Flamingo Lake RV Resort.

 

6. Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge is a winter wonderland that’s perfect for skiing and van camping. It has 2,980 acres of skiable terrain and 187 trails for all levels of experience. Not to mention, it also has a cute, lively downtown with active nightlife. 


Things to do:

  • Ski and snowboard
  • Sled
  • Snowmobile
  • Visit the Breckenridge Arts District 
  • Catch a performance at a local theater

Breckenridge’s Tiger Run Resort is excellent for skiing and van camping in the winter. It has a free bus that’ll take you straight to the gondola and offers a variety of amenities. 

 

7. Bend, Oregon

Embrace the winter spirit and head to Bend, Oregon (the birthplace of Esplori!). The area is super van-friendly, and there are many places to explore, from hot springs to snow-filled hikes. 


Things to do:

  • Ski, sled, and snowshoe at Mount Bachelor
  • Ditch crowds and head to Hoodoo to ski
  • Soak in a hot spring
  • Go on a snowshoe tour
  • Fat bike in the snow
  • Cross-country ski at the Ten Mile Sno-Park
  • Hike 
  • Stroll through Drake Park
  • Enjoy local craft beers

There are free camping spots all around Bend. Check out Deschutes National Forest, Sno Parks, or Cascade Lakes Highway. In addition, there are paid campgrounds with amenities like the Bend-Sunriver RV Campground or the Bend/Sisters Garden RV Resort.

Wrapping Up

Just because temperatures drop doesn’t mean you need to give up van life.The United States is filled with plenty of destinations to travel during the winter months. Whether you’re looking to go skiing or escape the snow, there’s something for everyone. Check out our article on winter van life if you need help preparing your van for the colder months.
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