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When most people think of taking a camping trip, they first consider the summer months and then perhaps the early fall season before temperatures drop too low. But there are actually many amazing camping destinations around the country that are ideal for winter camping too. Whether you’re looking to beat the crowds and see landscapes covered in snow or head south for the winter to camp somewhere warm, here are nine of our favorite winter camping destinations in the United States to embrace the outdoors in the upcoming months.
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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona
For warm and sunny weather all throughout the winter, head to Southern Arizona to camp at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This place is a wonderland of unique cactus shapes and formations, and it’s also an ideal spot to set up camp for bird-watching and to cross over into Mexico for an international adventure. The Twin Peaks Campground has 34 tent-only sites and 174 RV sites. There are no hookups here but there is a dump station and potable water onsite. If you’re looking for something more primitive, camp at the Alamo Campground, which has just four tent sites and is in a quiet desert landscape.
Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon
Mount Hood National Forest is a densely forested area east of Portland that also makes for an exciting winter camping destination. Winter is a serene time in the forest and offers opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, sledding, tubing, and other snow sports. Campground camping is offered at the Barlow, Clackamas River, Hood River, and Zigzag ranger districts. Make sure you have a Sno-Park permit in your windshield when you park at winter recreation areas in the winter.
Death Valley National Park, California
As the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the country, Death Valley National Park is an ideal place to visit during the winter months. In the summer, this park often reaches scorching triple-digit temperatures. But in the winter, the daytime highs are often in the 60s. During the winter, you can camp at the Furnace Creek, Sunset, Texas Springs, Stovepipe Wells, Mesquite Spring, Emigrant, and Wildrose campgrounds. Furnace Creek is the only one with full hookups if you’re camping with an RV, and the generator use hours are 7am to 7pm.
The Florida Keys, Florida
If you’ve had your fill of cold and snowy winter weather, head to the Florida Keys with your camping gear. Key West and also Dry Tortugas National Park are recommended places to camp in this part of the country, for example. The national park is about 70 miles from Key West and open year-around. Primitive camping is available at Garden Key in the park. Make sure to book your spot on the ferry months in advance during the busy winter season to get over here. Another spot in the Florida Keys to check out year-around is Long Key State Park, which has oceanside campsites that are perfect for relaxing and water sports.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
We also love spending the winter months at Padre Island National Seashore, which has a long stretch of undeveloped beach and first-come, first-served camping in the winter. The campgrounds here are open year-around and while there are no RV hookups in the park, there is a dump station and water fill station here. Take your pick from the Malaquite, Bird Island Basin, North Beach, South Beach, and Yarborough Pass campgrounds.
Arches National Park, Utah
The red sandstone arches of Arches National Park are impressive at any time of year, but there’s something truly magical about seeing them capped with snow. Fortunately, you can camp in the national park in the winter to see this wonderland for yourself. There are 25 sites at the Devil’s Garden Campground where you can camp between November and February. Firewood is sold at the visitor center bookstore to keep you warm, and there are restrooms and drinking water available here. Just be careful on the trails because they become slippery with packed ice and snow.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
If you have a snowmobile, then you’re in luck with winter camping at Pictured Rocks in Michigan. Here you’ll find backcountry campsites that are on a first-come, first-serve basis and open year-around. Come here to give ice climbing a try and witness the incredible ice curtains and ice columns. Visitors are allowed to camp at drive-in campgrounds without any charges or permits, although roads are not plowed to these campgrounds. You’ll still need to get a backcountry camping permit online if you want to camp in the backcountry during the winter. Certain areas are closed for camping during the winter, including the Sand Point, Miners Castle, and within 100 feet of Chapel Falls parking lot.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Camping in Maine in the winter may sound like a hardcore endeavor, and it most certainly is! The Blackwoods Campground is open here in the winter as long as you pick up a permit at the park headquarters on your way in. Since the entrance road at the campground is gated and locked, winter campers will need to hike in about a mile to the campground, and only about six vehicles will fit at the entrance gate. Activities to do in this area during the winter include snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. Although much of Park Loop Road is closed in the winter, you can still take a scenic drive on the Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road sections.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Most people visit this Colorado national park in the warm seasons to explore the tall sand dunes. But in the winter season, this is a fun place to go skiing, sledding, and to watch wildlife. It gets quite cold here in the winter because of the high elevation of this park, but it’s definitely fun to ski or sled down these towering dunes that are among the tallest in the country. Regional campgrounds open during the winter here include the Zapata Falls Campground, Blanca RV Park, San Dunes Swimming Pool and Campground, and UFO Watchtower Campground – all between 11 and 32 miles from the park’s visitor center.