As the winter season approaches, many RV enthusiasts look forward to embarking on memorable adventures in December. With crisp air, snow-dusted landscapes, and cozy campfires, winter RVing can be an enriching experience. However, finding the perfect campground that caters to winter RVing can be challenging. This article aims to provide an informative and objective analysis of the top 10 campgrounds for winter RVing with your camper or travel trailer in December, considering key factors such as camping, travel trailers, campers, trailers, and RVs.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Known for its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, Yellowstone National Park offers several open campgrounds in December. However, it is essential to note that these campgrounds may have limited facilities and access due to winter conditions. Choosing this option requires careful planning and consideration of the challenges associated with winter camping.
- Wildlife Watching: Yellowstone is known for its diverse wildlife population, and winter provides a unique opportunity to witness animals in their natural habitats.
- Cross-Country Skiing: Yellowstone’s stunning landscapes transform into a winter wonderland, making it a haven for cross-country skiers.
- Winter Hiking: Winter hiking is a fantastic option for those who prefer exploring on foot. Several trails are open year-round, allowing you to experience the park’s geothermal features, such as the famous Old Faithful geyser or the mesmerizing Grand Prismatic Spring, without the crowds that summer brings.
- Photography: Yellowstone’s landscapes offer countless breathtaking views, especially during winter. Photography enthusiasts will find endless opportunities to capture the park’s serene winter scenes.
- Camping and Stargazing: Yellowstone’s remote location offers minimal light pollution, allowing for incredible stargazing opportunities. Witness the Milky Way stretch across the horizon; if you’re lucky, you might even glimpse the northern lights.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park also provides winter RVing opportunities. With its stunning mountain vistas and peaceful ambiance, campgrounds in this area offer a unique experience. However, like Yellowstone, winter camping facilities may be limited, and careful preparation is crucial.
- Winter Activities: Grand Teton National Park transforms into a snowy wonderland in winter. Explore the park’s winter trails on cross-country skis or snowshoes, slowly taking in the serene landscapes.
- Hiking: The park boasts over 200 miles of hiking trails, catering to all skill levels. Some popular trails include Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls, and Inspiration Point.
- Wildlife Viewing: Grand Teton National Park is renowned for its diverse wildlife population. Keep your eyes peeled for majestic creatures like moose, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, and even elusive predators like coyotes, wolves, and bears.
- Mountaineering and Climbing: For experienced climbers, the Teton Range presents numerous peaks exceeding 12,000 feet; mountaineers can test their skills and enjoy stunning views from the summits. Check in with the park’s rangers and obtain the necessary permits before climbing.
- Visitor Centers and Museums: Take some time to visit the park’s visitor centers and museums to learn more about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife. The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve provide valuable information and exhibits to enhance your understanding and appreciation of the park.
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park’s mild winter climate makes it an attractive choice for winter RVing. With stunning red rock formations and enchanting trails, camping in Zion offers a perfect blend of adventure and comfort. While some campgrounds remain open during December, making reservations well in advance is advisable due to high demand.
- Canyoneering: For those seeking adventure, canyoneering is an exciting activity in Zion. Some popular canyoneering routes include The Subway and Mystery Canyon.
- Ranger-led Programs: Participate in one of the park’s ranger-led programs to learn more about Zion’s natural and cultural history. These programs include guided hikes, educational talks, and stargazing activities.
- Camping: Spend the night under the stars in one of Zion’s campgrounds. From developed campgrounds with amenities to remote backcountry camping, there are options for every type of camper. Waking up surrounded by the park’s natural beauty is an unforgettable experience.
- Photography: Zion’s red rock cliffs, dramatic canyons, and vibrant sunsets make it a paradise for photographers. Visit popular photo spots like Canyon Overlook and the Watchman Trail for picture-perfect moments.
- Scenic Drives: Enjoy the park’s majestic beauty from the comfort of your car by taking a scenic drive along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway or the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. These routes offer breathtaking views of towering cliffs, deep canyons, and the winding Virgin River.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
With its desert landscapes and unique Joshua trees, Joshua Tree National Park offers an extraordinary winter RVing experience. Campgrounds like Black Rock and Indian Cove are open year-round and provide necessary amenities. However, preparing for chilly nights and variable temperatures is essential, as desert climates can experience extreme temperature fluctuations.
- Hiking and Nature Walks: Joshua Tree National Park boasts an extensive network of trails that cater to hikers of all levels. Winter offers milder temperatures, making it the ideal time to explore the park on foot.
- Stargazing: Joshua Tree National Park is renowned for its clear skies. Winter nights in the park are typically free from light pollution, so bundle up, bring a blanket, and lay back to witness the breathtaking display of stars, constellations, and even the Milky Way.
- Birdwatching: Winter is an excellent time to spot various bird species that reside in or pass through Joshua Tree National Park. Watch for the vibrant western bluebird or the elusive cactus wren and let yourself be serenaded by their melodious songs.
- Relaxation and Reflection: One of the most significant advantages of winter camping at Joshua Tree National Park is its peaceful solitude. Take time to unwind, read a book, meditate, or enjoy the serenity surrounding you.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia
Assateague Island National Seashore offers a picturesque campground experience for those seeking a coastal winter RVing adventure. With its pristine beaches and wild horses, camping here during December can be a serene and extraordinary experience. However, it is crucial to research the availability of facilities and potential weather-related challenges.
- Wildlife Viewing: Assateague Island is famous for its wild horses that roam freely along the beaches and marshlands. Winter is a great time to spot these beautiful creatures, as they are often more active and more accessible to see without the large crowds of summer.
- Beachcombing: Walk along the pristine sandy beaches and search for seashells, unique driftwood, and other treasures that wash ashore. With fewer visitors during the winter, you’ll have a better chance of finding some hidden gems.
- Birdwatching: Assateague Island is a haven for various bird species, and winter is an excellent time for birdwatching. Look out for bald eagles, snow geese, tundra swans, and various waterfowl that migrate to the island during this season.
- Hiking and Nature Trails: Explore the island’s diverse habitats by hiking along the nature trails. The Wildlife Loop Trail and Life of the Marsh Trail offer breathtaking views of the surrounding marshes. At the same time, the Woodland Trail takes you through a serene forested area.
- Camping: Despite the colder temperatures, camping at Assateague Island in the winter can be a unique and memorable experience. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of the island while staying warm and cozy in your tent or RV. Just check for any camping restrictions or closures during that time of year.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park’s picturesque landscapes and breathtaking coastal views make it popular among winter RVers. Several campgrounds remain open during December, but checking for any seasonal closures or restrictions is advisable. Although the weather can be cold, the park’s beauty and solitude make it a worthwhile destination.
- Hiking: Acadia National Park offers an extensive network of trails; some popular trails include Jordan Pond Path, Precipice Trail, and Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail.
- Scenic Drives: Drive along the Park Loop Road, which offers stunning coastline views, rocky cliffs, and forested areas. Take advantage of iconic sights such as Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff, and Sand Beach.
- Wildlife Watching: Acadia National Park is home to various wildlife species. Watch for white-tailed deer, moose, foxes, and seals. Bird enthusiasts will also enjoy spotting the park’s diverse avian population, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and seabirds.
- Photography: With its diverse landscapes and stunning vistas, Acadia National Park offers countless photography opportunities. Capture the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the rocky coastline, or the vibrant colors of fall foliage.
- Stargazing: Acadia National Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park, meaning it offers exceptional conditions for stargazing. On clear nights, head to areas with minimal light pollution, such as the summit of Cadillac Mountain or the Blackwoods Campground, to observe the dazzling night sky and learn about the constellations.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
For the adventurous winter RVer, Rocky Mountain National Park offers awe-inspiring scenery and recreational opportunities. Campgrounds such as Moraine Park and Glacier Basin Campground provide limited services during the winter months. However, navigating through winter road closures and preparing for challenging weather conditions is essential.
- Snowshoeing or Cross-Country Skiing: Experience the breathtaking winter landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park by exploring the park on snowshoes or cross-country skis. There are several scenic trails available for winter enthusiasts of all skill levels.
- Winter Wildlife Viewing: Winter is a great time to spot wildlife in the park. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and bobcats. The park offers guided snowshoe trips specifically focused on wildlife viewing.
- Ice Climbing: For the more adventurous, Rocky Mountain National Park offers excellent ice climbing opportunities. Climbers can tackle various frozen waterfalls and ice formations, ranging from beginner to expert levels.
- Winter Photography: The park takes on a magical quality during winter, making it ideal for photography. Capture stunning snow-covered landscapes, frozen lakes, and wildlife in their winter habitat.
- Winter Camping: If you’re up for a unique experience, camping in the winter can be a memorable adventure. Rocky Mountain National Park offers designated winter camping areas for those who want to experience the tranquility and beauty of the park during the colder months.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park’s diverse landscapes, including rainforests, rugged coasts, and snow-capped mountains, make it an ideal destination for winter RVing. While some campgrounds may be closed, Kalaloch Campground along the coast remains open year-round, offering stunning ocean views. However, be prepared for rain and stormy weather typical of the Pacific Northwest.
- Snowshoeing or Skiing: With heavy snowfall during winter, Olympic National Park offers fantastic opportunities for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. You can explore the winter wonderland at destinations such as Hurricane Ridge or the Hoh Rainforest.
- Winter Wildlife Viewing: Winter is an ideal time to spot wildlife in Olympic National Park. Watch for elk, deer, mountain goats, and even the elusive gray wolf. The park also offers excellent bird-watching opportunities, particularly around Lake Quinault and the coast.
- Hot Springs: After a day of outdoor activities, rejuvenate your body and mind at Sol Duc Hot Springs. Soak in the natural mineral waters surrounded by snow-covered trees for a truly blissful experience.
- Storm Watching: The rugged coastline of Olympic National Park is known for its fierce winter storms. Brave the wind and rain to witness the power of the ocean as massive waves crash against the rocks. Popular storm-watching spots include Rialto Beach and Cape Flattery.
- Visit Lake Crescent: Although the water may be too cold for swimming, Lake Crescent offers a serene winter retreat. Enjoy peaceful walks along the lake’s shore, take in the stunning mountain views, or cozy up with a warm beverage and a good book at the historic Lake Crescent Lodge.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park offers a unique desert experience for those seeking a warm winter getaway. With its vast expanses and stunning mountain ranges, this park allows for various outdoor activities. Campgrounds such as Rio Grande Village remain open, but it is crucial to plan ahead and be prepared for limited services.
- Hike the Window Trail: This iconic trail offers breathtaking views of the Chisos Basin and is especially beautiful during the winter months when the surrounding landscape is dusted with snow. The trail takes you to the Window, a notch in the mountainside, through which you can admire the vast desert below.
- Take a scenic drive along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive: This 30-mile road offers stunning panoramic views of the Chihuahuan Desert, including the majestic Santa Elena Canyon and the towering limestone cliffs of the Sierra del Carmen Mountains.
- Stargaze at the Rio Grande Village: Big Bend National Park is known for having some of the darkest skies in the United States, making it a perfect location for stargazing. Set up your telescope or look at the countless stars above.
- Explore Santa Elena Canyon: Embark on a hike through the Santa Elena Canyon, where the Rio Grande River slices through the towering canyon walls. The winter months offer cooler temperatures, making it an ideal time to explore this stunning natural wonder.
- Visit the Hot Springs Historic District: Relax and rejuvenate at the historic hot springs near the Rio Grande River. Soak in the natural warm waters while enjoying the picturesque views of the river and surrounding mountains.
Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
Despite its name, Death Valley National Park boasts mild winter temperatures, making it an enticing destination for winter RVing. Campgrounds like Furnace Creek and Sunset are open year-round, providing a range of amenities. However, bringing plenty of water and being cautious of potential flash floods in this desert environment is essential.
- Badwater Basin: Visit the lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin. Take a walk on the salt flats and marvel at the unique landscape. Be sure to check the weather conditions and dress accordingly, as winter can be frigid.
- Zabriskie Point: Witness the stunning sunrise or sunset at Zabriskie Point. The eroded landscape and the golden hues make for a breathtaking view. Remember your camera!
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Explore the iconic sand dunes at Mesquite Flat. Enjoy the solitude, try sand sledding, or take a leisurely walk to experience this unique desert environment.
- Dante’s View: Head up to Dante’s View for a panoramic view of Death Valley. The viewpoint offers a stunning vista of the salt flats and mountains, especially during winter when the air is crisp and clear.
- Scotty’s Castle: Take a guided tour of Scotty’s Castle, a historic Spanish-style mansion in Death Valley. Learn about the history and legends of this unique attraction and explore the beautiful surrounding area.
While these top 10 campgrounds for winter RVing in December offer unforgettable experiences, weighing the tradeoffs involved is important. Winter camping often means limited facilities, potential weather-related challenges, and the need for thorough preparation. It is essential to research campground availability, road closures, and weather conditions in advance to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Considering the impact on travel trailers, campers, trailers, and RVs is crucial when deciding on winter RVing. These vehicles must have appropriate insulation, heating systems, and water management solutions to withstand the colder temperatures. Additionally, selecting campgrounds with suitable RV-friendly infrastructure, such as electrical hookups and dump stations, can significantly enhance the overall experience.
In conclusion, winter RVing in December can be a remarkable adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. Considering factors such as camping, travel trailers, campers, trailers, and RVs, along with the tradeoffs involved, one can make informed decisions about the top 10 campgrounds for winter RVing. Safety, preparation, and an appreciation for the beauty of winter landscapes are essential elements to ensure a memorable and enjoyable winter RVing experience.