Arizona State Parks are your snowbird guide to Arizona
By Bob Difley
RVers that head south from the northern states and Canada to warmer location are called snowbirds, yet not all snowbirds follow the same route. East coast snowbirds generally head to Florida (some to the Gulf coast of Alabama), while mid-west snowbirds aim toward the Rio Grande corridor in Texas.
West coast snowbirds pick the Coachella Valley of southeastern California and southern Arizona (though East Coasters think all of Arizona is a desert, in fact northern Arizona has vast Ponderosa pine forests, snow-capped peaks, and cities above the 7,000 level [Flagstaff] that are far from consideration as a snowbird destination).
For West coast snowbirds, much of where they head has to do with the depth of your wallet or purse. The Coachella Valley boasts the fancy, amenity laden (and pricey) RV resorts around Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Indio.
Slightly downscale from there are the RV resorts surrounding Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma, also amenity-heavy and pricey but also a bit below their Coachella Valley cousins. Then there are the ones a step down around Casa Grande, Lake Havasu, and along the Colorado River. Most snowbirds spend their entire winter at one resort, since they fill up early with reservations and it is sometimes hard to find a spot if you just drop in. It’s easier just to stay on.
However, if you’ve never been to Arizona before, or have always stayed at a single location, you have missed a lot of what the desert–especially the Sonora Desert that covers most of Southern Arizona–is all about. The state of Arizona offers a surprisingly broad range of scenic, historic, pre-historic, and natural history locations that are hard to match in any other state. But they are not all in Phoenix, Tucson, or Yuma. You have to get out of the metropolitan areas to see many of these attractions.
You can do this by spending your winter traveling between the 30 Arizona State Parks, which manages 8 of the top 25 most visited natural attractions in the state (photo above, Red Rock State Park near Sedona). If you time your arrival at any of the state parks for early in the day mid-week, you are likely to find a spot even if you don’t have a reservation (and many of the parks to not take reservations).
Even if the campground is full, park rangers will make every attempt to accommodate you. At Lake Havasu SP, for instance, they will allow you to spend up to two nights in the overflow parking lot (with Lake Views I might add). That then moves you up to the front of the list for campsites opening the following day.
By moving between the state parks you will get to see some of the best Arizona has to offer, scenic vistas, vast desert expanses with towering saguaro cacti and flaming red-tipped ocotillos, historic ranches and mines, and Native American sites with petroglyphs, puebloes, and artifacts (photo left, Homolovi SP), and wildflowers and cactus flowers that will blow your socks off in the Spring. So if you haven’t yet made a season-long reservation, go online to Arizona State Parks website and see for yourself the many exciting explorations available for the looking in Arizona.
For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.