Home > Travel > Backpack America > Wintering in Quartzsite

Quartzsite, Arizona is a low budget winter destination for avoiding the snow and colder temperatures up north.

Even if you aren’t living in an RV.

Quartzsite is a town whose population is normally well under 4,000 people, but because of the mild winters, from November to March, it is a snowbird destination which boasts as many as 1.5 million people visiting annually, though these peak numbers seem to be a thing of the past.

It is located at the intersection of Arizona State Route 95 and Interstate 10 in La Paz County, Arizona. And if you’re on foot like I am, or are hesitant to hitchhike across the desert, it is still easy enough to get to via Greyhound from either from LA or Phoenix, and there is a once a week bus called the Camel Express which runs from Yuma on Thursday’s.

Because of the gem and mineral shows, and the large influx of snowbirds, it is possible to easily find a job if you arrive even as late as December, due to the majority of visitors arriving in January and February.

Why Winter in Quartzsite?

Every year, (this is my second winter here), I meet people who come to town with little more than a backpack and a sleeping bag and by the end of the season have earned enough money to travel or have found an apartment and are rebuilding their life.

But it doesn’t have to be that drastic if one puts in a little forethought.

While there are plenty of free camping options the LTVA’s, or Long Term Visitor Area’s, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, are the most common places to stay, and they exist to prevent damage to the wider desert by keeping the majority of people in a few locations.

One of the biggest misconceptions is the need to move every two weeks, and this was something I thought was going to be a major hurdle when I first arrived. But it turns out that once you have a permit you are allowed to camp in one spot for as long as the permit is valid.

Permits are $180 for seven months, being valid from September 15th to April 15th, or $40 for any two week stay. So if you plan on staying more than two months you would obviously go with the season permit, unless of course you couldn’t afford it up front.

The permits can be purchased online, at the field office, or at the respective LTVA upon arrival.

The good thing about the LTVA permit is that it is valid at all of the Bureau of Land Management LTVAs, not just those around Quartzsite.

The biggest restriction for people who may be living out of their car, or like me, a backpack and a tent, is the reqirement to be within 500 feet of a toilet. Since not all of the LTVA’s have these toilets it limits your available choices as far as places to camp. But not enough that it should be a concern.

Also, do not make the mistake that I originally did in assuming a toilet meant running water. It does not. Nor are they very busy either. They’re simply pit toilets that look like porta johns.

Assuming a three month stay in Quartzsite, December through February, that’s $180 for the permit, plus a $10 a day average for food and other expenses, that $1080 to get through the worst of winter.

You can spend less, I do, and you can stay longer without pushing that price up too much because you’ve already paid for the permit.

And even a part time job during your stay will more than pay for that. But setting your sights a little higher one could potentially earn enough in those three month’s of solitude and reflection to generate an income to get you through the rest of the year.

Of course there are other things to consider if you’re thinking about wintering in Quartzsite on a budget. But that’s a pretty good introduction for now.

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