Top 3 Winter Road Trips to Escape the Cold

by | Oct 24, 2017 | Depot Locations, Escapades

Winter is coming, as they say, but that doesn’t mean campervan adventures need to end! Warmer temperatures, off-season rates, and fewer crowds await on these three winter road trips.

Note:

While temperatures are mild during the winter, it’s still important to pay attention to driving conditions. Some mountain passes and towns at higher elevations may be snowy, so it’s always a good idea to bring along a basic winter survival kit. We offer snow chains for rent, as well as heaters and extra blankets for free.

Featured image by @adrianrichter

Winter Road Trip #1 – Southern California

Average Temperature (December to March): 65-73°F high, 38-50°F low

Nearest Escape Depot: Los Angeles

SoCal winter road trip van

While much of the country prepares for snow in the winter months, the weather in California (outside of the mountains, of course) remains comfortable throughout the season.

North to Santa Barbara

Winter road trip surfing

Santa Barbara is about 2 hours north of our Los Angeles depot, and there’s a lot to hit along the way. Santa Monica is just 30 minutes up the coast, where you can stroll along the iconic Santa Monica Pier, Third Street Promenade, and the Getty Villa (also a great place to spot celebs!). Head up Pacific Coast Highway 1 through the surf destination of Malibu before you hit Ventura (our namesake for the Ventura model!) and eventually the college town of Santa Barbara.

Escape Tips:

  • Matilija Hot Springs is 30 mins away from Ventura if rustic natural sulfur hot-spring pools are your thing.
  • Stop by In-N-Out and get the “animal style” burger off the secret menu at some point (or many points!) during your drive.

South to San Diego

Winter Road Trip California desert

San Diego is about 2 hours south of our Los Angeles depot (depending on traffic, of course). This is where you can hit all the famous beaches (Huntington, Venice, Newport, Laguna… old MTV reruns, anyone?). After that, San Clemente is a beautiful little city to explore on the way down. You’ll find plenty of beaches and attractions in the San Diego area, but don’t have too much fun that you keep driving down to Mexico! (It’s not covered under insurance.)

Escape Tips:

  • The further south you go, the better the Mexican cuisine will be. Wahoo’s Fish Tacos is a popular one, but don’t forget about the hole-in-the-wall stops.
  • Cruising down Highway 1 and I-5 is the perfect time to belt out some California road trip classics. A few tunes to get you in the mood…
    • California Dreamin’, The Mamas & the Papas
    • California Love, Tupac Shakur
    • California Girls, The Beach Boys
    • California Sun, Ramones
    • California Gurls, Katy Perry
    • Hotel California, The Eagles
    • Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • Dani California, Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • Beverly Hills, Weezer
    • California, Joni Mitchell
    • Going to California, Led Zeppelin
    • California Stars, Billy Bragg
    • Going Back to Cali, The Notorious B.I.G.
    • L.A., Murs
    • Paradise City, Guns N Roses
    • Welcome to Paradise, Green Day
    • California, Dr. Dog

East to Death Valley & Joshua Tree

Winter road trip arizona

If you’ve had enough of beaches and big city life, it’s time to hit the national parks! Winter is one of the best times of the year to visit Death Valley (about a 5-hour drive from LA), as it’s unbearably hot there in the summer. Alternatively, if you’re in the mood to listen to some Bono, Joshua Tree is just 2.5 hours from LA, has fewer crowds before springtime, and wildflower viewing as early as February. Swing by Palm Springs nearby to come back tan from your trip and make everyone at home in the cold jealous!

Escape Tip:

  • Fill up your gas tank before you head into Death Valley. It’s a long way between filling stations out there.

Winter Road Trip #2 – Arizona

Average Temperature (December to March): 60-70°F high, 33-48°F low

Nearest Escape Depot: Phoenix

Winter Road Trip Arizona Desert Van

With our brand new depot opening in November 2017, there’s never been a better time to explore Arizona! Fly into Phoenix and go round trip or one way to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver… wherever your heart desires. You can read our full American Southwest itinerary for more information, but here are some of the highlights.

Grand Canyon National Park

Winter Road Trip Grand Canyon

What would an Arizona road trip be without a stop at the Grand Canyon? One of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the 277-mile-long canyon is a mile deep and 18 miles across at its widest point. If you’re just passing by, you can see the Grand Canyon in all of its glory from the road (time it so you can watch the sunset, if you can). If you have more time to spare, take a multi-day hike from rim-to-rim or to the bottom.

Saguaro National Park

The giant saguaro is the symbol of the American Southwest and the state flower–and you’ll find plenty of them here. Stop at the visitor center for facts about saguaro (like how they can grow to be 60 feet tall!), then drive the Cactus Desert Scenic Loop Drive.

Petrified Forest National Park

The best location in the US to see petrified wood is found here in a particularly beautiful range of bright colors.There are fossils, badlands, buttes and mesas, ancient petroglyphs, wildlife and wildflowers, and vast vistas for more than a hundred miles.

Monument Valley

Winter road trip red rock

You may not be in the middle of nowhere while visiting this place, but you can definitely see it from there. Located on Highway 163 between the towns of Kayenta and Mexican Hat (make sure you stop over and get a Navajo Taco), this is the land that time forgot. For a $5 fee—paid to the Navajo Nation —you can drive the 17-mile loop taking you on a meandering path around the Monuments.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

This remote and unspoiled 294,000-acre monument is a geologic treasure, containing Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes and Paria Canyon. Keep in mind that the most popular areas, like Coyote Butte, require hiking permits no matter what time of year you visit.

Havasu Canyon Trail

This strenuous 8-mile hike takes you to five beautiful blue-green waterfalls. A dirt trail will take you over two small bridges to turquoise swimming holes and waterfalls that reach up to 200 feet high.

Seligman, Route 66

winter road trip route 66

If you want a feel of what Route 66 used to be back in the days of Kerouac, this is your place. Pull over, grab a chili dog and chocolate malt at the Snow Cap and wander around town.

Horseshoe Bend

horseshoe bend road trip winter

This is one of the most iconic roadside stops in all of Arizona—a “must-see-to-believe” sort of geologic formation at Lake Powell.

Antelope Canyon

Located minutes from Page, Arizona, Antelope Canyon is easily the most photographed slot canyon in the world. You’ll need a guide for this trip, so try to sign up in advance.

Winter Road Trip # 3 – Florida

Average Temperature (December to March): mid-70s F high, 53-66°F low

Nearest Escape Depot: Miami

Winter road trip florida campervan

With the warmest temperatures on our list, Florida is the ideal destination for a winter road trip. It also happens to be one of the best times of the year visit the area, so take advantage of it!

Miami

Here, you’ll find diverse cultures, a thriving arts scene, delicious food, pristine ocean beaches… and plenty of nightlife. Walk through the bustling streets past historic homes with Spanish words and Caribbean music floating into your ears–a unique experience you don’t often get to have anywhere else in the US.

Escape Tips:

  • Art Basel is an international modern and contemporary art fair with three shows staged annually in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach, Florida; and Hong Kong. It comes to Miami in December.
  • Little Havana is Miami’s vibrant Cuban hub. Cafes sell Cuban coffee to cigar-smoking patrons. On Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), locals discuss politics over dominoes at Maximo Gomez Park. The historic Tower Theater screens independent and revival films, while the area’s clubs host live Latin music.

Everglades National Park

Everglades Winter Road Trip

The largest subtropical wilderness area in North America, this place makes the top of many Escapee to do lists. While the winter dry season is by far the most crowded time of year here, it’s also the most enjoyable (tolerable temperatures and fewer bugs make a big difference). The park protects the largest habitat in the world of rare and endangered species like the manatee, the Florida panther and the American crocodile. We’ve still yet to see a panther, but we have high hopes for a sighting one day.

Escape Tip:

Make sure you head east/west on I-73 for a few miles west of the Everglades National Park. Known as Alligator Alley, this is a world-class drive by any standard.

Florida Keys

1700 islands create the archipelago, and 42 bridges connect them along this 113-mile (181 km) section of US Highway 1. The epic trip starts just south of Miami and dead ends at the world famous community of Key West. While the area is known as a party destination, it’s also a great place to enjoy outdoor pursuits like kayaking in Bahia Honda State Park and see beautiful Victorian homes, art galleries, and beaches.

Note:

Florida had a particularly rough go with natural disasters during summer 2017. While it’s not back to normal by any means, The New York Times reports that the area is indeed coming back to life. That said, it’s more important now than ever to visit and support the affected areas during this time of rebuilding!

What’s your favorite winter road trip destination? Tell us!

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