Monday, December 4, 2023


My visit to Quartzsite: What a weird, wonderful, quirky place

By Chuck Woodbury
I am camped about four miles north of Quartzsite, Arizona, on government land where camping is free. A few dozen other RVs are scattered about, but none within a stone’s throw.

To get my campsite, I turned off the road into the Hi Jolly Short Term Visitation Area and drove around until I found a plot of dusty earth that suited me. I can stay here for up to two weeks for $40, and then I must move away to another spot, or go up the road and pay the government $180 and stay for up to 7 months. Or if you want, just drive a few miles and drop your anchor and stay for free for two weeks on wide-open, no-frills government land!

For months now, I have been dreaming of Quartzsite. Those of you who know this place must think that I’m off my rocker, for Quartzsite is hardly a top tourist destination. Even though 3,000 folks live here year round, there is hardly a blade of grass in sight and no apparent building codes. Instead, there are small homes and mobile homes, and official and unofficial flea markets everywhere offering new and used merchandise of all kinds. A new housing development, chain motel and giant gas/station mini-mart are latecomers and probably a sign of more growth to come.

Quartzsite is famous for its mild winter temperatures, when it’s the scene of giant gem and mineral shows, flea markets galore and, in January, a huge RV show. Literally hundreds of thousands of people show up in January and February, most “boondocking” on public lands. In town, about 50 RV parks offer full hookup sites for half price what you’d pay in Yuma or Phoenix. Retirees, many living on Social Security, hole up until it gets too hot, and then move on, to return next year.

In prime time, Quartzsite is Ground Zero for winter snowbirds, who come to soak up sun (and lots of dust in the process), hunt for bargains at the flea markets, search for precious rocks and gems in the desert, and mingle with more RVers that you will ever see gathered in one place at one time anywhere else in America.

I like Quartzsite because it is so different from where in live near Seattle. There, it’s perpetual green. Here, it’s perpetual brown. That might sound ugly, but to me it’s a wonderful change of scenery.

But, boy, is it fun to visit Quartzsite and just roam around. You can stay a week and not see everything. With its tacky, circus-like atmosphere, Quartzsite is a visual smorgasbord of people, places and things. ATV folks can roam the countryside. Many do it with friends and have a great time.

My dream of coming to Quartzsite and Arizona, itself, is to be in the magnificent Mojave and Sonoran deserts with the dry air, warm winter days and abundant sunshine. And it is all here, and for this reason alone, I am happy to be in Quartzsite, where in the front yard of one home a sign proclaims Welcome to Camelot.

And I suppose it is Camelot to a lot of folks. In an annual tourist guide, a visiting snowbird couple wrote, “Friends told us we’d love Quartzsite and they were more than right. We told other friends, they told others, and now there are 16 of us who come down to meet here and camp together for the winter. This is more fun than anyone could expect anywhere.”

Yesterday evening in the dark and lonely desert, a couple in a spacious fifth wheel trailer about 40 yards from me sat by their campfire under a star-drenched sky, talking quietly and enjoying the warm air and the solitude — not a bad life, I thought.

I suppose to a lot of people that’s what Quartzsite is all about.

Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Frankie Ittel (@guest_82828)
3 years ago

A stay at Quartzsite is an “experience”! You bought your rig to be able to stay wherever you want…..This will show you how well you can adapt. We can make it 5-7 days before empting/filling our tanks. There are places in town to do that or there are trucks that come through that will accommodate you. All you have to do is pick out a rock or cactus and you are home!! The nights are blacker and the stars are brighter. The people are from everywhere and it doesn’t matter if you have a $5.00 unit or a Million dollar unit…you are all out there to enjoy the area. When we first started going there, there was a restaurant on the north side of town made of canvas sides but had the best food. They now have a “hard” side but the food was still great last time we were there. On Friday you have to go early and stand in line for their fish fry. It a “no frills” place and the waitresses are marvelous!! Paper plates, plastic ware, (almost an outside privy) and you sit next (or across) from each other with one big long table! You get to know your seatmate and the desserts are WONDERFUL!!! Each night they have a “blue plate” special and again, the food is outstanding!! We enjoyed the many facets that makes Quartzsite what it is!! One must go to see what it is that draws a million people there for 3-4 months of the year. Put it on your “bucket list” for January/February.
Long time reader, Frankie Ittel

Jim (@guest_82775)
3 years ago

Love the “Q”
As a young commercial aviator I regularly flew over Quartzsite and wondered why anyone in their right mind would would want to camp in the Arizona desert.
And now retired with an RV and living in Arizona’s midlands where we get cold and snow.
And, Yup, for 18 years now you’ll find us in Quartzsite every January camped with great friends enjoying campfires, sunsets and all that makes Quartzsite unique!

sandy (@guest_47564)
4 years ago

We spent our first winter there last year. Met new friends. We’re looking forward to next winter and more new friends

Tommy Molnar (@guest_47551)
4 years ago

Quartzsite is also a Geocacher’s dream. There are HUNDREDS (if not thousands!) of caches around to be found. We even put one out there!

Last I knew, Hi Jolly was free, as is the next one north of there (Plamosa Road). The “pay” areas are south of town on 95. Scadden Wash (on the south side of the freeway) is also one of the free spots. Love that whole area! l tow our trailer down and wifey follows towing our covered RZR trailer.

impavid (@guest_47550)
4 years ago

There is much to see in Quartzsite but on the north side I always smile at one street name being “NO NAME STREET”

rvgrandma (@guest_47532)
4 years ago

We always dreamed of going to Quartzsite for the RV show. Finally did in 2010 when we decided to take a break from workamping and play ‘snowbirds’. We spent December in Yuma, then January and February in Quartzsite before going back to visit friends in Yuma. January was amazing – the excitement, energy was high, February quieted down to a slow pace. We stayed at Patty’s RV park – nothing fancy but their wi-fi was great. February the rent went down I think $50 dollars. It was about a mile to walk across to the flea market and show but that was fine. Never before have I seen golf carts, quads, autos, RVs and trucks on the road together. Don’t know if I will ever make it back, but it was worth going.

Charles (@guest_47473)
4 years ago

After years of driving through Qz, I finally spent a week there this spring. The Editorsaurus is correct: It is a unique and interesting place to spend some time.

Carl (@guest_47457)
4 years ago

Chuck, glad to hear that you are experiencing “Q”, one of my all-time favorite “Snowbird” destinations!
Unfortunately, it’s 2650 miles from our house. We can travel to and from FL in fewer miles!
There is so much there to keep you busy and entertained, not even mentioning the outstanding sun rises and sunsets!
We are planning on returning soon.

Take Care, Travel Safe and Enjoy.

Carl G.

Debbie Orban (@guest_47451)
4 years ago

Mom and Dad introduced us to Quartzite last year, we had a great time exploring the many,many OHV trails! Everyone we came across in town were very friendly too! This town has a lot of history as well,we will be coming back!

Ron Lane (@guest_47468)
4 years ago
Reply to  Debbie Orban

A very common spelling error. The correct spelling is “Quartzsite”… not Quartzite. Think of it as two words and as a place..not as a thing.
We have done the Q several times in both our previous travel trailers, motorhome and now our Phaeton and always have a great time. The big tent can be very crowded sometimes, but worth the effort. Everyone should do this place at least once.

Robbie (@guest_47436)
4 years ago

Those are the very same reasons we have gone to Quartzsite 12 of our 13 years as full timers.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.