This article about the best states for winter camping is brought to you by Midland. Their radios and long-range walkie talkies will keep you connected as you explore these gorgeous campgrounds year-round.
According to a recent survey of The Dyrt’s users, winter is the fastest-growing camping season. This could be due to the rise in popularity of RV and van camping, which allows campers to head to warmer climes or sleep in the comfort of an insulated rig. But even some brave tenters are heading to the campground when the temperature starts to drop.
Winter camping can be adventurous—think ski touring, snowshoeing, and even ice climbing. Or it can be totally chill (no pun intended), with lots of time spent around a crackling fire or in your cozy home on wheels. Bring a deck of cards and board games, download some of your favorite shows to stream, or make some cozy cocktails to keep warm.
We’ve rounded up our favorite states for winter camping. So pack an extra layer and get ready to head out—it’s time to take advantage of the off-season.
PRO Tip: Winter camping is all the more sweet when it’s free of charge. When you sign up for The Dyrt PRO, you get access to our handy Map Filters feature. Find free dispersed camping any time of year, or use Offline Mode to locate free camping near you, even without service.
Winter camping in California
Whether you’re looking for a sojourn to epic mountains or a snowbird escape, California winter camping has you covered. Choose from sunny SoCal or head further north for moody redwood forests and beaches. There are even options for free winter camping in California.
Featured campground: Bothe-Napa Valley State Park – Ritchey Creek Campground
Here, the peace and solitude of camping meet world-class vineyards. Ritchie Creek Campground is just 20 miles northeast of Santa Rosa, but is perfectly tucked away for a quick escape from the city. If you’re just dipping your toe into winter camping in California, Ritchie Creek is a great place to start. You can camp in a tent or RV, or even rent a cabin or a yurt. Pay showers are available as a quick way to warm up, or to get ready for a day of tasting local wines. In the evenings, enjoy a glass (or two, or three) at your campsite before allowing the gently flowing creek lull you to sleep.
Winter camping in Colorado
We know it, you know it: Colorado is a skier’s heaven. And while you could opt for a day on the world-famous (and costly) slopes of nearby resorts, there’s nothing quite like backcountry skiing and snowshoeing to feel truly connected to nature. Winter camping in the Centennial State is your ticket to breathtaking views and exhilarating adventure—at a fraction of the cost. (Bonus points if you’re finding free winter camping in Colorado with The Dyrt PRO.)
Featured campground: Moraine Park Campground – Rocky Mountain National Park
Moraine Park is about as picturesque as it gets. At this beautiful campground nestled on a lake, you can choose from RV or tent sites, or book a picturesque log cabin. Your campsite just may receive visits from curious—and hungry—wildlife, so be prepared. Though they’ll likely be hibernating during your winter camping trip, bears are notorious for sniffing around the cars and tents at these campsites in search of food.
Moraine Park is situated right in Rocky Mountain National Park, a perfect place to experience the winters in Colorado. Experience bluebird days with a ranger-led snowshoeing, sledding, or backcountry skiing tour. Or, if you’re experienced and avalanche-certified, you can try your own self-guided adventure.
Winter camping in Michigan
Bundle up! Winters in the midwest are no joke. But that’s exactly what makes winter camping in Michigan so much Type II fun, right? From snowshoeing to snowmobiling to cruising along the frozen—yes, frozen—Great Lakes, there are a number of cold-weather adventures to be had in the Mitten State.
Featured campground: Warren Dunes State Park
Ever gone sledding on sand? You can try it from your campsite at Warren Dunes State Park, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. While the park is extremely popular for its amazing location and amenities (including a shower and market), winter camping is a totally different experience. If it’s cold enough, you just might catch miniature icebergs on the frozen lake, while a scenic drive will take you to beautiful lighthouses that dot the coastline.
Winter camping in Washington
The moody, misty Pacific Northwest is a special place to be. Winter camping in Washington truly has it all: dramatic and rugged coastline, snow-covered mountains and all the winter sports they offer, all the way to the high desert in the east.
Featured campground: Twentynine Pines Campground – Cle Elum
When it comes to free winter camping in Washington, dispersed sites are your best bet. Twentynine Palms is located right on the Cle Elum River, and is free to camp in with a Discover Pass. You can buy a Discover Pass online or try your luck at a ranger station, hardware store, or several other locations in the surrounding Cle Elum area. Spend a weekend on the river at Twentynine Pines and see all that southern Washington has to offer.
Winter camping in Wisconsin
When in Wisconsin, do as the Wisconsinites do. Winter camping in Wisconsin provides an unforgettable midwest experience of tried-and-true cold-weather traditions, from ice fishing to snowmobiling to skijoring (skiing with your dog). To really test yourself, opt for a snowshoe- or ski-in snow camping adventure—or, of course, you can always curl up in your RV.
Featured campground: Blue Mound State Park
This popular destination is a great option for free winter camping in Wisconsin. Choose from tent and RV sites, or book a cabin or tent cabin. Spend the day cross-country skiing or head to one of the observation towers for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape. Need a reprieve from the cold? Head underground for a tour of the nearby Cave of the Mounds, open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Winter camping in Arizona
Alright, we’ll throw you a bone. While northern Arizona is breathtakingly beautiful (ever heard of a little something called the Grand Canyon?) you can always opt for the warmer climes in the south. The state receives 211 days of sunshine per year, with 296 if you count partly-cloudy days. With odds like this, it’s no wonder winter camping in Arizona is so popular with snowbirds and campers looking to cure the winter blues.
Featured campground: Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
This refuge has it all: big skies, starry nights, saguaro cacti, and mountain backdrops. If you’re looking for free winter camping in Arizona, look no further than these primitive campsites. As with any other dispersed site, you’ll need to bring in your own water and pack out all trash (and always practice Leave No Trace). But we think the mild weather and incredible wildlife more than make up for it.
Winter camping in Pennsylvania
New Englanders know how to handle their cold weather, and this certainly applies to winter camping. You’ll find many year-round campgrounds in Pennsylvania with plenty to keep you entertained, whether you’re passing through on your way to the city or making a special trip with the family.
Featured campground: Whispering Pines Camping Estates
Get that summer camp feel in the winter at this Whispering Pines, a campground known for its family-friendly atmosphere. They host events such as bingo and “paint and sip” parties, and offer pet-friendly cabins if you and Fido don’t want to brave the cold. Nearby you’ll find frozen icefalls, vineyards, and other activities to keep you entertained, whether you prefer to stay indoors or enjoy a snowy adventure.
Feeling inspired to try your own winter camping adventure? Download The Dyrt today and get everything you need for the perfect trip.