Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
Southern Arizona continues to be a top destination for snowbirds from the northern U.S. and Canada. But, as Susan L. Brenton of GoCampingInArizona.com explains, snowbirds not only love the Arizona’s bright sunny days and clear, starlit nights, but the wide range of attractions and things to do.
“You can be in southern or central Arizona in the weather and it’s still good weather,” Breton said. “You can be physically active. Mountain biking is very big. You can hike Camelback Mountain, enjoy the beautiful Desert Museum in Tucson, visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, or you could drive three hours north and go skiing.”
Snowbirds who come to Arizona every winter eventually discover the state offers more to see and do than they ever imagined. To kick start your RV trip planning, here’s a sampling of interesting winter destinations across central and southern Arizona with campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts that can be used as base camps along the way:
Sedona: The enormous red and orange rock formations around Sedona have enticed visitors for generations. Snowbirds enjoy Sedona’s many art galleries and restaurants as well as its hiking trails and hilly roadways, which attract mountain biking enthusiasts from across the country.
Jerome: Roughly 40 minutes southwest of Sedona is the historic copper mining town of Jerome, whose century-old buildings cling to a mountainside high above the Verde Valley. Jerome is a walkable town with art galleries, restaurants, museums and mine shafts. Potential base camps in the greater Sedona area include:
Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve in Phoenix: While there are numerous parks and other locations with Native American petroglyphs in Arizona, this one is noteworthy for its easy access in the Phoenix area. The preserve features a self-guided quarter-mile nature trail with petroglyphs, native desert plants, and animals in their natural habitat.
Taliesin Westin Scottsdale:Nestled in the desert foothills of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter retreat is now home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and the location of a wide range of tours, which include night walks and behind-the-scenes views of Wright’s personal art collection. Taliesin West was built and maintained almost exclusively by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect’s creations.
Desert Botanical Gardenin Phoenix: The garden is a living museum of more than 50,000 plants. The 140-acre site features nature trails, and numerous special events, from culinary events to workshops involving everything from landscaping and gardening to art and photography as well as cooking and wellness.
Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium in Tempe: This Frank Lloyd Wright-designed auditorium at Arizona State University is where snowbirds can enjoy Broadway plays and other live performances.
Camelback Mountainin Phoenix: Camelback Mountain attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. There are two routes to the top of this 2,700-foot peak, the Echo Canyon trail and the Cholla trail, both of which test even the most advanced hikers with rough terrain and steep elevation changes.
Potential base camps in the Phoenix Valley include:
The Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area: Located in southeast Arizona, this wildlife refuge is the winter home of more than 20,000 sandhill cranes, enormous birds that grow to four feet in height and have a wingspan of seven feet. During the winter months, the cranes spend the night in the Whitewater Draw’s shallow waters to avoid predators and fly out each morning to hunt for food and to socialize before returning to the draw in the evening. The Whitewater Draw is also home to many other species of birds, including great blue herons, northern harriers, vermilionflycatchers, and hawks. The city of Willcox has an event each January called the Wings of Willcox Birding and Nature Festival, Jan. 12-15, which features educational seminars, tours, and a nature expo.
Cochise Stronghold: Located at 5,000 feet in the Dragoon Mountains, the Cochise Stronghold is a beautiful woodland area with granite domes and cliffs that for a period of time in the late 1800s was the refuge of the Apache Chief, Cochise, and about 1,000 of his followers, roughly 250 of whom were warriors. Cochise eluded capture and died peacefully on the Chiricahua reservation in 1874. He was buried in a secret location.
Chiricahua National Monument: Also in southeast Arizona, this monument features 17 miles of day-use hiking trails that provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds, and inhabitants of this 12,025-acre monument. The monument also includes the historic Faraway Ranch, which was the home of the Erickson family, who led the campaign to establish Chiricahua National Monument. Rangers lead historical tours of the ranch, although the ranch building itself is temporarily closed for renovations.
Fort Bowie National Historic Site: This site preserves what remains of the U.S. Army outpost where American forces were based as they searched for the famous Apache chief, Geronimo. He was eventually captured, and his tribe was exiled to several states, including Florida and Alabama.
Tombstone: One of the best known historic silver mining towns of the “Old West,” Tombstone is the site of the famous Oct. 26, 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which actually took place on an empty lot nearby on Fremont Street. While Tombstone has many tourist shops, the town also has many historic structures, including its Victorian-style courthouse, built in 1882, and the Bird Cage Theater, built in 1881, which was a gambling hall, dance hall, house of prostitution and the site of many gun battles in the late 1800s. Tombstone is also the home of the Oriental Saloon, which was frequented by Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and other gunslingers during Tombstone’s “Wild West” days. Actors frequently walk Tombstone’s streets in period attire, and if you hang around long enough, you’re bound to see a gunfight show.
Bisbee: Drive a winding road 30 minutes south of Tombstone and you’ll end up at the historic silver and copper mining town of Bisbee, a hilly town that retains some of the most beautiful historic architecture in Arizona. Historic buildings include the Copper Queen Hotel, built in 1902, and the Copper Queen Hospital, built in 1880 and the Phelps Dodge mining company headquarters, erected in 1886. The Bisbee Central School was built in 1905 and 1906 using Italian Renaissance designs.
Potential base camps in Southeast Arizona include:
Arizona Sonora Desert Museumin Tucson: This museum is a fusion experience, including a zoo, a botanical garden, a natural history museum and aquarium, as well as an art gallery. Guest lectures are also offered on a variety of topics involving the Sonora Desert.
Mission San Xavier del Bacin Tucson: A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. The church’s interior features original statues and mural paintings.
Saguaro National Park: This national park protects giant saguaros, the nation’s largest cactus and universally recognized symbol of the American Southwest. The park contains two different sections, to the east and west of Tucson, and features scenic drives and scenic hiking trails that are especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset and after storms.
Tumacácori National Historic Park: A focal point of this park, roughly 45 miles south of Tucson, is the Spanish mission of San Jose de Tumacácori, the first Spanish mission in what is now Arizona. The native people who live around Tumacácori called themselves "O'odham," and their native homeland included areas in northern Sonora, Mexico. The O'odham were farmers, raising corn, beans, squash, and other crops using flood irrigation long before the arrival of the Spanish.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument:This park, near the tiny town of Ajo, was created to preserve original Sonoran Desert habitat. The park features 31 different types of cacti, including organ pipe cactus and saguaro cactus.
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park: Built in 1876, the Territorial Prison held a variety of law violators, including the legendary stagecoach robber Pearl Hart. Arizona’s first prison continued in operation for 33 years when, due to overcrowding, all inmates were moved to a new facility in Florence, Arizona.
Potential base camps in southwest Arizona include:
Jeff Crider, President and CEO of Crider Public Relations, has been involved in covering the campground industry for over 25 years. Jeff has worked as a freelance writer for publications such as RV Business, Motor Home Magazine, Trailer Life, Highways and other Affinity Group Inc. publications since 1995. He has also successfully pitched many of the nation's top tier media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Financial Times, Reuters, The Associated Press and National Public Radio. In addition to writing, Jeff is also a talented photographer and humanitarian.