Balmy summer nights adorned with the sound of crickets are the idyllic vision that pops into mind when most think of “van life”. Throw in some quality pals and a grill to really sweeten the scenario. When the tans fade and the temperatures drop, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the thought of winter campervan travel—especially if you hail from the endearing tundra of Minnesota like we do. Thankfully, comfortable winter temperatures are abound elsewhere in the United States.
If you want to battle the frigid roads of the midwest with a windshield scraper in hand, power to you, but we’ll be escaping the treacherous conditions at one of these milder destinations:
Sequoia National Forest, California
Distance from Los Angeles: 3 hours 31 min
Imagery of towering redwood trees shrouded in delicate snow sounds like more of a poetic painting than your next destination. Google Images would agree, as most online snaps of Sequoia National Forest are from sunny summer days. Luckily, there’s a plethora of jaw-dropping viewpoints to see that are just as exciting when dusted in snowfall. Winter campervan travel in Sequoia National Forest changes the game entirely, bringing the joys of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and endless snowman building opportunities—without making your face hurt from absurdly low temps.
Coronado National Forest, Arizona
Distance from Phoenix: 2 hours 52 min
Home to the southernmost ski area in the continental United States, Coronado National Forest is known for breaking misconceptions about Arizona’s land diversity. Skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are all in a day’s work at nearby Mount Lemmon, clocking in at 9,159 feet. For those coming to Arizona to escape snow, there are plenty of campsites further down the mountain where you can find yourself surrounded by saguaro cacti and arid desertscape.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Distance from Austin: 7 hours 8 min
Come for the serpentine canyons, stay for the biodiverse bird watching. Conveniently located along a major migration route, the park boasts over 450 bird species between the open desert and forested canyons. Not to mention, you can casually cross into Mexico during your visit with a valid passport. You can’t drive the van south of the border, but you can hop on the oh-so short river ferry to Boquillas and check out the other side in between hikes. Looking for Texan wilderness with less of a drive? Try one of our favorite campgrounds within 2 hours of Austin.
Mount Hood, Oregon
Distance from Portland: 2 hours 14 min
We love regular campsites, but setting up shop on a bonafide stratovolcano is unarguably a whole new level. Enter Mount Hood: Portland’s horizon jewel, offering primo skiing and snowboarding with magnificent views in all directions. Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort offers 14 overnight sites to park on a first-come-first-served basis, allowing you to snooze comfortably right in the region’s most intense terrain. Whether you’re skiing down the mountain at lightspeed or lazily taking a gander from the base with a warm drink in hand, it’s the definition of a winter wonderland.
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