If you are a retiree with an RV, you’ve probably heard of Quartzsite, Arizona. The tiny town of less than 4,000 permanent residents swells to over a million in the winter months. The town itself isn’t much to look at. At first glance, it is just a bunch of truck stops and fast food restaurants along I-10 twenty miles east of the Colorado River in Western Arizona. One is left wondering what the appeal is. We had heard about Quartzsite for years and we finally paid a brief visit after leaving Lake Mead. It was time to see if Quartzsite was worth the hype.
Quartzsite lies on the La Posa Plain along Tyson Wash. The Dome Rock Mountains rise to the west and the Plomosa Mountains to the east. The area has a typical desert climate with less than 5 inches of annual precipitation and an average daily high in the 60s – 70s during the winter months. Reason #1 to love Quartzsite—fantastic weather.
One of the biggest draws to Quartzsite are the winter shows. The Desert Gardens Rock, Gem & Mineral Show runs 7 days a week during the months of January and February. Up to 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, and fossils create one of the world’s largest open air flea markets. Undoubtedly the busiest time at Quartzsite is the last week of January when the area hosts the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, commonly known as The Big Tent. An impressive number of vendors come with everything from coffee, food and cell phones to ATVs and RVs. Click here for the 2022 list of vendors. The Arizona Highway Departments estimates that a million or more people descend on Quartzsite during Big Tent week. Many RV groups, such as the Escapees and various owner groups, time their yearly gatherings to coincide with the Big Tent. Reason #2 to love Quartzsite—lots of people and lots of shopping. For us, this is actually a big strike against Quartzsite. We don’t care for people or shopping. Fortunately, we visited the end of November when the town was still relatively quiet.
If shopping and crowds aren’t your thing, numerous outdoor recreation opportunities can be found nearby. ATV trails, rockhounding sites, ghost towns, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, and the Colorado River are all close by. There is also some interesting history in the area. Our friends Tom and Claudia were kind enough to drive us around and show us some of the sites. Reason #3 to love Quartzsite—variety of activities.
What do I think is the biggest reason to love Quartzsite? Dirt cheap camping. There are several RV parks in town, but the vast majority of RVers stay on BLM land that encircles the town. Short term visitors, like us, have several free BLM areas to choose from. We spent two nights north of town off Plomosa Road. There were a lot of RVs nearby, but everyone was spaced far apart and we found the area quite peaceful. Others, like our friends Tom and Claudia, stay at Quartzsite all winter at the La Posa Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) just south of town. La Posa is one of several LTVAs managed by the BLM across Arizona and California. For just $180, RVers can stay continuously from September 15th to April 15th. Like many who spend winters at the LTVA, our friends love the sense of community and the warm winter temperatures.
So what did we think of Quartzsite? We really enjoyed our brief stay, but it isn’t an area we see ourselves spending much time in—at least not at this stage of our lives. It made a nice stopover on our way to SE Arizona and I could see using it as a layover stop again in the future. But there isn’t much right there for us as far as hiking and kayaking. And the January crowds would simply be too much for us. But for people like our friends, who are looking for amazing weather and a great sense of community on a retiree budget, it is perfect. We were grateful to Tom and Claudia for showing us their favorite hang out spots and their home in the desert.
The Adventure Continues
Be sure to join us next time as we arrive at Kartchner Caverns State Park in SE Arizona. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase, you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!