Highway through snowy fields with mountains in the background.

Consider a Winter Road Trip

GoCamp’s favorite winter road trips

It is easy to get stuck inside the house when the weather turns cold; instead, take these five winter road trips with a GoCamp camper van rental. There is sooooo much winter fun to be had out there. Resist the couch! Instead, go have an adventure that’ll warm your heart and stoke the fire in your spirit of adventure. That couch will still be there when you get back.

#1: Be the first person up the ski lift in the morning.

Thanks to built-in heaters and good all weather or snow tires, lots of people are increasingly camping in the parking lot of their favorite ski resort. From San Francisco head to Tahoe, from Portland head to Meadows or Timberline, and from Boise try Brundage Mountain or Sun Valley.  

#2: Attend a winter festival in Idaho.

Pick up a van in Boise, Idaho, the perfect launching point for either the McCall Winter Carnival or the Fire and Ice Winterfest in Lava Hot Springs. The Carnival in McCall is known for its elaborate ice sculptures, beer garden, full-blown downtown Mardi Gras parade, snow tubing, gold panning, Dutch oven cook-off and snow golfing. In addition, there are “most unusual beard” and “sexiest legs” (males only) competitions. At the Fire and Ice Winterfest you’ll get to jump into the bone chilling Portneuf River, on a float tube, dressed in your craziest costume!

Photo courtesy of the Fire and Ice Winterfest.

#3: Go whale watching.

Winter is the best time to watch for whales along the coast in Oregon and California because whales are in the process of taking their own vacations. After spending the summer feeding in the food-rich waters of the Arctic, California gray whales swim south along the coast to the bays of Baja California, where they mate and nurse their young. This annual migration is impressive; it is estimated that 25,000 California gray whales migrate each year. In San Diego, consider viewing from the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma Peninsula, where the 40- to 50-foot mammals pass the lighthouse and underwater observatory. Peak commutes occur in mid-January when as many as eight grays migrate per hour.

Checking out routes along the coast. Photo by Shawn Linehan.

#4: Head to Joshua Tree National Park.

While all the other national parks in the west are covered in snow, Joshua Tree National Park shines. Pick up a van in Los Angeles and head to this magical land in the Mojave desert. In January expect an average high of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and an average low of about 37 degrees. That’s a lot warmer than most places in the US in the middle of winter, and 60 degrees in full sun sounds heavenly. Having no crowds to contend with sounds pretty lovely too.

Camper van parked by a Joshua Tree at Joshua Tree National Park.

#5: Take the Arch Cape Polar Plunge.

A local tradition for over 50 years, on New Year’s Day, participants of all ages meet at the south end of Arch Cape and run into the frigid waves of the Pacific – no matter what the weather. In previous years, there have been Polar Plunges on Neahkahnie Beach in Manzanita and at the south end of Arch Cape. Brrrr! Run right back to your cozy camper van when you are done! For event details, ask a local in Cannon Beach or Manzanita.