Drive South for the Winter to These 5 Warm Retreats

An RV affords the ability to migrate with the seasons. But where should you go when the mercury drops?

1. Cottonwood, Arizona (Best for Mountain Biking Enophiles)

Sedona Arizona mountain landscape with orange peaks and dramatic skies

Snowbirds from around the country flock to Arizona each winter to bask in the state’s perpetual sun. Most head far south to the Sonoran Desert and pass by hidden gems like Cottonwood. Situated between Sedona and Prescott, Old Town Cottonwood is home to several nice restaurants, bars, and wine shops. That’s right — Arizona wine.

Cottonwood owes its vibrant wine scene to an unlikely patron. Rockstar turned winemaker Maynard James Keenen, of the band Tool, planted his first vines in the area nearly 20 years ago. The town once full of drunk copper miners at the turn of century now caters to weekend tourists.

As a mountain biker’s destination, Cottonwood sits within an hour of some of the best trails in the country. The closest trails in Dead Horse State Park start on the edge of town. Only 20 minutes away, riders can shred the famous red rock of Sedona. Perhaps the best winter ride in the state, the Black Canyon Trail, meanders through a veritable desert botanical garden.

The best-kept secret? That’s the 400-plus miles of swoopy singletrack in nearby Prescott. Despite the mile-high elevation, Prescott’s trails remain snow-free much of the year.

  • Average January temps: High 55 degrees F, low 28
  • Elevation: 3,314 feet
  • Nearby public lands: Prescott, Coconino, and Kaibab national forests
  • Nearby national parks: Grand Canyon
  • Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and skiing in nearby Flagstaff
  • RV parks: Rancho Verde RV Park, Verde Valley RV and Camping Retreat

2. Corpus Christi, Texas (Best for Beach Bums)

Night scenes around corpus christi texas
Night scenes around Corpus Christi, Texas

It’s by no means a small city with 320,000 residents, but miles of coastline allow ample room to find your own slice of secluded sand. Located just southeast of San Antonio, an interesting destination in its own right, Corpus Christi offers an abundance of activities.

With a steady and strong winter wind, sailing and kitesurfing are popular activities. Locals like to grab a lawn chair and watch the Wednesday night sailboat regatta races. If you need more solitude, you can slip outside the footprint of the city and into the surrounding wetlands, where thousands of migratory birds gather.

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Just north of South Padre Island, Mustang Island State Park offers a chance to camp within walking distance of the surf. The park’s 48 sites include 50-amp hookups and fresh water for a reasonable $20 fee.

If you can’t snag a spot there, cruise up the coast to Goose Island State Park with similar amenities. Launch your kayak or SUP on nearby St. Charles Bay, try your luck with your rod and reel, or just enjoy the beach.

If you want to tap into the vacation vibe of the Gulf Coast, the Texas State Aquarium and Naval Museum aboard the USS Lexington are worth a visit. While you’re relaxing, you can hit one of the small seafood restaurants along the waterfront, where shrimp boats create the appropriate backdrop.

  • Average January temps: High 68 degrees F, low 48
  • Elevation: Sea level
  • Activities: Surfing, sailing, kiteboarding, waterfowl hunting, general vacation fun
  • RV parks: Gulf Water Beach Front RV Resort, Laguna Shore Village

3. Hurricane, Utah (Best for Explorers)

Hiker on a trail in volcanic Snow canyon State Park in Utah, USA
Hiker on a trail in volcanic Snow Canyon State Park in Utah

Otherworldly — that best describes the landscapes of Southern Utah. Monoliths of red rock loom over verdant riparian areas where crystal-clear streams trickle toward lakes the size of inland seas. Although it’s usually too hot to visit in the summer, winter in Utah’s high desert is quite pleasant.

The small town of Hurricane makes for an idyllic base camp for outdoor adventurers. Within an hour or two, you can explore some of the most scenic parks in America. It’s a short drive to Capitol Reef, Zion, and Bryce Canyon national parks. Kodachrome and Goblin Valley are not huge parks, but they’re a fun place to explore, particularly for landscape photographers shooting in the low light of winter.

If you get the itch to put on your snow gear, you can carve a few turns at Brian Head Ski Resort, provided the snow conditions are good. If you have not mountain biked Gooseberry Mesa, that should also top your shortlist. Or just drive the thousands of miles of gravel roads winding through the expanse of land known to locals as the Arizona Strip.

  • Average January temps: High 68 degrees F, low 54
  • Elevation: 2,860 feet
  • Nearby public lands: Dixie National Forest
  • National parks: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Zion
  • State parks: Coral Pink, Goosenecks, Snow Canyon, Sand Hollow
  • Activities: Hiking, cycling, climbing, and skiing in nearby Brian Head Resort
  • RV parks: Willow Wind RV Resort, Temple View RV Resort

4. Desert Hot Springs, California (Best for Sun-Seekers)

With January temps occasionally climbing into the mid-80s, the Mojave Desert is the perfect antidote to wintertime blues. Sunbaked rocks and towering yucca plants stretch to the horizon in all directions. Find the right spot to hide out for a few days, and your only neighbors will be lizards and rabbits.

You don’t have to channel your inner Edward Abbey to enjoy the solitude of the desert. Time your visit right and shake your groove thing with thousands of other music-lovers at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

If you need to cool off, drive up San Jacinto Peak to the mountain hamlet of Idyllwild. From the edge of town, you can tackle a small section of the Pacific Crest Trail. At the highpoint on the mountain, you should be able to make out the faint outlines of the Salton Sea, a whopping 10,000 feet below.

Joshua Tree National Park has long been a midwinter stronghold for dirtbag climbers, but bouldering isn’t everyone’s bag. The park offers seemingly endless miles of hikes, trail runs, and sunrise strolls.

The low light of winter solstice casts a magical glow over the Mojave. That alone is worthy of the visit. If pretty sunsets don’t do it for you, take a long soak in one of the many mineral hot springs in the area.

  • Average January temps: High 78 degrees F, low 54
  • Elevation: 1,076 feet
  • Nearby public lands: San Bernardino National Forest, San Jacinto Wilderness
  • National parks: Joshua Tree
  • State parks: Coral Pink, Goosenecks, Snow Canyon, Sand Hollow
  • Activities: Hiking, cycling, bouldering, music festivals, hot springs
  • RV parks: The Sands RV Park and Resort, Desert Springs Spa and RV Park

5. Silver City, New Mexico (Best for Hikers and Cyclists)

Morning seascape

The Southwest is full of quirky little towns like Silver City, New Mexico. For many people, it’s best known as the home of the Tour of the Gila, one of the longest-running bicycle stage races in America. If you like to pedal, Grant County’s road system offers challenging and solitary rides. If gravel is your thing, the roads in Gila National Forest will keep you riding for days on end.

The town itself is — well — it’s a bit of a sleeper. With just over 12,000 residents, the main street won’t compel you to stay for long. But the opportunities for adventure in the immediate area will keep you busy.

The Dragonfly Loop Trail is a popular hiking destination. Just to the west of town, the Continental Divide Trail parallels portions of the Gila River. Take the trail due north for a few days, and you’ll end up in Pie Town, a small pitstop made famous for the annual Tour Divide bikepacking race.

As a place to spend a few weeks, Silver City may not have enough to keep you entertained, but a short drive puts you in Truth or Consequences near Elephant Butte Reservoir. White Sands National Monument isn’t much farther east.

If you’d rather go west, more quirky little towns in Arizona are not far off. Places like Tombstone and Bisbee have even more quirk than Silver City.

  • Average January temps: High 54 degrees F, low 34
  • Elevation: 5,876 feet
  • Nearby public lands: Gila National Forest
  • Nearby national monuments: White Sands
  • Activities: Hiking, cycling, hot spring soaks
  • RV parks: Silver City RV Park, Rose Valley RV Ranch

If you have itchy feet and you’re prone to wander, a crafty traveler will fit all five destinations into one grandiose loop. Plan your travels well, and you can spend the coldest months of the winter in the Mojave and on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez. As the spring warms, head north in search of more adventure.

What a wonderful thing it is to have a house on wheels.


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