Boondocking Jackpot | Beautiful Locations in the Desert Southwest
By golly, we hit the jackpot! Nope, not in Las Vegas but in the Desert Southwest! This winter, Brian and I not only accepted a challenge to boondock (dry camp with no amenities) for at least 30 days, we also committed to boondocking around the Desert Southwest. Even though we hail from the SW, we've never spent more than a week exploring it in our motorhome. One, because we didn't have the resources to do so, and two, we didn't have the time. What we found both awed and inspired us to do more of it!! If you're considering boondocking and looking for free and inexpensive areas to do so, here are four areas we've loved so far!
Where is the boondocking area: If you're looking for free, yet want to be near (within 10 miles) of facilities (gas, water, propane, etc.), consider 95 S to the La Paz Valley Turnoff. On the right side are numerous boondocking areas that are wide-open and gorgeous! Also available are four Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) with a fee that includes dump stations and garbage dumpsters. 95 N also includes areas like the Plomosa Road turnoff. Off I-10, you can find Dome Rock Road which includes a campground and BLM boondocking. Most of these sites can be found on Campendium.
Why should I go: Go in January and you'll be in town for the Big RV Show. February is the Rock and Mineral Show. Go for the camaraderie and eclectic finds. Stay for the beautiful wide-open spaces, TONS of 4 wheel riding, proximity to Blythe California, Glamis, The Desert Bar, the Colorado River, Yuma and Lake Havasu City. You'll find beautiful desert vistas and mountains. Best times to go are November - March.
How Long Can I Stay: Up to 14 days. For a fee, you can stay longer at the Long Term Visitor Areas in Quartzsite.
Where do I get provisions: The town of Quartzsite has many RV parks, gas stations and pit stops where you can get water, propane, dump and trash. We've heard of the availability of "honey wagons" and 'water trucks" but we've never used them. The town has some "Dollar General" type stores as well as two fully stocked groceries and restaurants.
Where is the boondocking area: There are three that we're familiar with. We stayed along the Colorado River in an area considered to be part of the Bluewater Casino RV Park. But please note, while you must pay $15 a night to dry camp here, you are not eligible to use any of the RV Parks amenities up the road. Staying along the river and having our own little slice of waterfront property was well worth the $15 a night. The Bluewater Casino also permits visitors to boondock in the dirt areas surrounding the casino. Please note, as of the time we were there, the north, dirt parking lot required a fee, while the south did not. You will get incredible views of the surrounding mountains, access to the casino and perhaps if you're lucky, a view of the Colorado River. You can also lot dock in the casino's paved parking lot but it's hugely unlevel. A third option is down the Shea Rd. (Use google or Campendium to find it). You'll need to drive down about 5 or so miles on a dirt road to find the boondocking sites. There are some real beauties in this area. An alternative to Parker could be Earp, California right across the Colorado River. Although we didn't stay there, we saw several Earp, CA BLM locations available on Campendium.
Why should I go: The mountain views are spectacular and the one along the Colorado River is awesome! If you go down Shea Rd. you'll have more 4-wheeling trails than you can imagine. The location is close to the casino, Desert Bar and many waterfront restaurants and bars. This location is also home to the Parker 425 races in January. and Arizona Dragboat Races in February. Best times to go are November - March.
How Long Can I Stay:Generally up to 14 days
Where do I get provisions: The Shea rd. location is about 6-8 miles out of town but still an easy ride back in. The other locations are right in the town of Parker. You'll have a ton of resources including a Walmart SuperCenter, Safeway, gas stations, propane, RV stores and a whole lot more!
Lake Havasu City, Arizona Where is the boondocking area: There are several boondocking areas off the 95 heading into Lake Havasu City. We stayed in an area called "The Steps". You'll recognize this area as there are several terraced areas where boondockers can set up. The higher you go, the more you'll need four-wheel drive, but the views of the river are spectacular. When we arrived, the location was pretty empty; however, we soon found out it was the annual fireworks show the coming weekend and the place quickly filled up. The Steps were about 10 miles from the town of Lake Havasu City. When you enter the site, you'll see a small sign stating the land is AZ State Trust Land requiring a permit. You can obtain it online for $20. We chose to purchase the permit to avoid any issues; however, we know of several campers around us who did not. Also off the 95 are Craggy Wash and several other BLM areas that can be found on Campendium.
Why should I go: Great boondocking location with views of the Colorado River. The higher you go up the terraced sites, the better the view. There are plentiful four-wheeling trails all around. In fact, there's a nice dirt road that leads from the camping area to the top of one of the mountains for a beautiful view. We took our Jeep Grand Cherokee up the hill without problem. The London Bridge and a multitude of water activities are only 10 miles away in Lake Havasu City. The "Blast" fireworks show happens in February around the Valentine's Day holiday and lasts several nights. Best times to go are November - March.
How long can I stay: The AZ State Trust Land permit allowed us to stay up to 14 days. This is a typical time frame for most BLM land in the area.
Where do I get provisions: You'll need to travel into Lake Havasu City to obtain provisions (about 10 miles away) and they have everything you'll need! There's a small state campground a few miles away that may provide water and/or dumping for a fee. We didn't use it, but wanted to make mention that it's there. I believe it's called Cattail Cove.
Lake Meade National Park, NV
Where is the boondocking area:We found the boondocking site on Campendium and it's called Government Wash, off Government Wash Rd. There are several off shoots from the main road and all lead to beautiful camping. You'll have a wonderful view of Lake Meade, the mountains and surrounding land. Most sites were level plus they've carved out several level pull outs for RV'ers. We had wide open spaces, even through the weekend. Plentiful boondocking available.
Why should I go: Go for the views of the lake and the mountains. Stay for the wide-open spaces, bright stars at night and howling coyotes. If you have a boat, you can put it in the water at the bottom of the hill. If you have four-wheelers, there are plenty of trails. Lake Meade NP takes the America the Beautiful pass and we paid zero dollars to stay. If you don't have the pass, it's $25 per vehicle. Be sure to keep your tow vehicle hooked up when you enter or they'll charge you for each vehicle. The park has a huge visitor center, biking trails, boat docks, RV parks and more!
How long can I stay: You can stay up to 15 days
Where do I get provisions: You'll be close to Boulder City, NV about 10 miles back to town. Boulder City has everything you'll need. There is a RV park onsite that may allow you to fill up with water and/or dump, possibly for a fee. We didn't use it so we don't really know. We filled up with water and propane before we arrived.
We hope this information was helpful and you take the opportunity to boondock and possibly explore these areas. Campendium is a terrific source of information on free camping and something we use religiously to find great boondocking spots. If you'd like more information on our 30-day boondocking challenge and how we did, please see our YouTube videos covering each of the four weeks below:
Boondocking Week Four: https://youtu.be/lUwWmsT0lNQ
Boondocking Week Three: https://youtu.be/PW_Ttf8y6Xk
Boondocking Week Two: https://youtu.be/KlmTdqFkwfU
Boondocking Week One: https://youtu.be/8yhbNpuqFzQ
For additional information on boondocking and to connect with Brian and I on other platforms, please check out:
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