How to find winter boondocking sites?

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elevine17

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I am looking to figure out what the rules are in regards to winter boondocking on public land. I would like to park my trailer in some areas near ski resorts or snowmobile trailheads.

Do the same rules apply as in summer? If so, it seems fairly impossible to boondock legally since you cannot park along roads or at trailheads.

Has anyone had experience with boondocking in snowy areas?
 

RVMommaTo6

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I don't know where you're specifically looking to stay, but freecampsites.net has sites all over the united states. You can also check out free apps like RV Parky or Overnight Parking Finder for single night stops.
 

UTTransplant

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I don?t boondock in cold weather locations, but I have certainly driven by a number of snowmobile drop offs (I used to live in Utah). Ski resorts get pretty protective of their spaces, and I think it will be hard. I have seen a few motorhomes pulled into far corners of ski lots, and many ski areas know of private winter campgrounds nearby. Your post history implies more snowmobiles though. I think you can overnight in any of the snowmobile parking lots the Forest Service has. I know people can camp there in the summer, and I can?t think why winter would be any different. In my mind the biggest challenge would be getting a nice fresh snow and you get plowed in.
 

AStravelers

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UTTransplant said:
I don?t boondock in cold weather locations, but I have certainly driven by a number of snowmobile drop offs (I used to live in Utah). Ski resorts get pretty protective of their spaces, and I think it will be hard. I have seen a few motorhomes pulled into far corners of ski lots, and many ski areas know of private winter campgrounds nearby. Your post history implies more snowmobiles though. I think you can overnight in any of the snowmobile parking lots the Forest Service has. I know people can camp there in the summer, and I can?t think why winter would be any different. In my mind the biggest challenge would be getting a nice fresh snow and you get plowed in.
Most NF Snow-Parks require permits for a fee to park in the winter.  I don't recall if they restrict overnight RV parking in the winter.  In the summer many of the Snow-Parks are left open for RV's for overnight parking.
 

AStravelers

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elevine17 said:
I am looking to figure out what the rules are in regards to winter boondocking on public land. I would like to park my trailer in some areas near ski resorts or snowmobile trailheads.

Do the same rules apply as in summer? If so, it seems fairly impossible to boondock legally since you cannot park along roads or at trailheads.

Has anyone had experience with boondocking in snowy areas?
If the area you want to boondock is just an open field off the NF service roads which allow disbursed camping in the summer, they would be open in the winter.  One minor detail, if you could get in, you will be snowed in.  No one clears the roads.

You could call the NF office and ask them what the winter restrictions for RV parking. 

Boondocking in snowy areas?  Can you keep warm and keep your batteries charged. How about dumping your black & gray water tanks as well as keeping all water tanks from freezing.  Will you be snowed in? 
 

Frank B

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We have winter camped in Provincial Parks in Western Canada. We went for the peace and quiet (very few vacation campers in the dead of winter). We were careful to stay in places where we knew the roads would stay open.


As others have mentioned, is your trailer setup for those kinds of extreme conditions? The 23 foot fifth wheel that we used for winter camping I had heavily modified with extra ducted heat and spray foam insulation on the underside. the so-called Four Season unit that we have now is not good in really cold weather.


Again, as others have mentioned, what area of North America are you planning to camp in?
 

Bhfromme

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Finding sites for winter camping is a little tough. National Parks and Forests generally have good websites with the info you need plus the rangers are usually very helpful on the phone. Googling free campsites is always a good option. We winterize our TT and carry water in jugs. Furnace works great on dc power and I have my little 2000 watt inverter generator to keep the batteries up over 50%. Best part about winter camping is the peace and quiet. No crowds. No noise. Just the quiet forest.
 

Frank B

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Bhfromme said:
Finding sites for winter camping is a little tough. National Parks and Forests generally have good websites with the info you need plus the rangers are usually very helpful on the phone. Googling free campsites is always a good option. We winterize our TT and carry water in jugs. Furnace works great on dc power and I have my little 2000 watt inverter generator to keep the batteries up over 50%. Best part about winter camping is the peace and quiet. No crowds. No noise. Just the quiet forest.


:))


Winter camping can be amazing because of the peace! So nice to park in a camp area that is so quiet that you can hear the Ravens coming because of the swoosh of their wings!
 

AStravelers

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I don't know about "winter" camping, as in temps down near zero degrees or lower.  Can't quite handle that.

However we love the camping in the fall, winter and spring.  Going to places most folks on this forum and other forums poo-poo as having weather far too nasty to consider camping or even attempting to drive in the area. 

As others have written earlier in this topic, it is wonderful to go to these places without the tremendous crowds for other parts of the year. 

It does take some planning and research to determine when is a good time to go.  You also experience some "risk" in that you have a decent chance of having temps down to 10 degrees in early morning and/or 2-6 inches of snow or cold rain.  By "decent chance" I mean if you stay 2 weeks you may have a 15% to 50% chance of having the weather I just wrote about.

On our 7 week winter trip, Jan & Feb 2018 through southern NM, AZ & CA we experienced several hours of nasty weather.  During this trip we made a wonderful 8 day swing from Joshua Tree NP (southern CA) to Zion NP and then down to southern AZ. This was the risky part of the trip, heading up to about 4000? in elevation and farther north.  We had 5 days of great weather in Zion. Only a couple of nights did the CG inside the park fill, and there was only about 25 campsites open. Not a lot of people on the trails.  We could see from weather reports that a stretch of cold cloudy weather was on the way, so we left, heading south.  There was one more very pleasant day of travel with a boondocking night with great views of the Vermillion Cliffs near Lees Ferry and the Navajo bridge over the Colorado River.  The next morning was cool and clear, very nice.  However the drive south on US-89 to Flagstaff was pretty rough.  We ran into 20-30mph head winds.  I had trouble keeping my speed above 45mph because of the head wind.  As we approached Flagstaff, the weather turned into a wintry mix, complete with the head wind, on the climb up to Flagstaff.  A very tiring drive.  Fortunately at Flagstaff the worst of the drive was over.  From Flagstaff to Camp Verde the drive down I-17 was mostly downhill.  We had a quiet night in the casino parking lot in Camp Verde and the next day headed farther south to Picacho Peak SP, a little north of Tuscon. 

In the 7 weeks of travel, that was our only really bad stretch of weather.  Oh, we did have a few cloudy days, some rainy days, some wind on occasion, but we just waited out those days and enjoyed the mostly great weather and few crowds. There was a couple or three mornings in the low 20?s, but the sun warmed up the temps very quickly.


 

AStravelers

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Frank B said:
:))


Winter camping can be amazing because of the peace! So nice to park in a camp area that is so quiet that you can hear the Ravens coming because of the swoosh of their wings!
Just another reason we really don't like people pulling in to camp near our boondocking spot and cranking up their generator!.
 

UTTransplant

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AStravelers said:
During this trip we made a wonderful 8 day swing from Joshua Tree NP (southern CA) to Zion NP and then down to southern AZ. This was the risky part of the trip, heading up to about 4000? in elevation and farther north.  We had 5 days of great weather in Zion. Only a couple of nights did the CG inside the park fill, and there was only about 25 campsites open. Not a lot of people on the trails.  We could see from weather reports that a stretch of cold cloudy weather was on the way, so we left, heading south.  There was one more very pleasant day of travel with a boondocking night with great views of the Vermillion Cliffs near Lees Ferry and the Navajo bridge over the Colorado River.  The next morning was cool and clear, very nice.  However the drive south on US-89 to Flagstaff was pretty rough.  We ran into 20-30mph head winds.  I had trouble keeping my speed above 45mph because of the head wind.  As we approached Flagstaff, the weather turned into a wintry mix, complete with the head wind, on the climb up to Flagstaff.  A very tiring drive.  Fortunately at Flagstaff the worst of the drive was over.  From Flagstaff to Camp Verde the drive down I-17 was mostly downhill.  We had a quiet night in the casino parking lot in Camp Verde and the next day headed farther south to Picacho Peak SP, a little north of Tuscon. 
That sounds like a great trip! I am another one more than willing to put up with some colder weather if it means fewer people. Where was the boondock spot near Lee?s Ferry? We used to stop at the Lee?s Ferry campground pretty regularly, but I don?t think we fit anymore. A boondock site nearby sounds lovely.

We intend on spending time in southern Arizona and New Mexico this upcoming winter. I am hoping to find something in NM that isn?t quite as crowded as the standard snowbird spots, even if it takes a bit more heat to do it.
 

AStravelers

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UTTransplant said:
That sounds like a great trip! I am another one more than willing to put up with some colder weather if it means fewer people. Where was the boondock spot near Lee?s Ferry? We used to stop at the Lee?s Ferry campground pretty regularly, but I don?t think we fit anymore. A boondock site nearby sounds lovely.

We intend on spending time in southern Arizona and New Mexico this upcoming winter. I am hoping to find something in NM that isn?t quite as crowded as the standard snowbird spots, even if it takes a bit more heat to do it.
The boondock spot was pretty much an overnight stop.  If you are looking for longer stays Lees Ferry is a better choice.

Here is the listing I added to the Escapees RV Club members only web site, Days End:  https://daysenddirectory.com/
~18.1 mi W of Navajo Bridge, N side. Escalante Dominguez Monument. Lg circular driveway w/ 100?x25? level pullout. Driveway too narrow to park w/out blocking driveway. N36.69709 W111.90949. Also high-clearance dirt rd to mostly intact rock ranch house at MM557.3, N side.

For a closer look, copy the GPS coordinates and plug them into Google Maps, Google Earth or Bing Maps and use the satellite view. Also Google Maps has a feature that you can get a ground level 360 degree photo view from the highway.

Here is a photo of the BD site:


 

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Old_Crow

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That's a good stop to see condors in the late summer/early fall.  If you continue on west on 89A, right before you start up the mountain you'll find House Rock Road.  About 2.8 miles north on House Rock Rd is another condor viewing area with telescopes, shade structures and pit toilets.  I'll bet you could overnight there without any problems also.
 
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