Quartzsite Bumming & Day-Tripping To Parker & Lake Havasu, AZ
Since we left our last spot and I finally (phew!!) finished my boondocking post series, we’ve been parked on BLM just outside of Quartzsite, AZ. Interestingly enough Quartzsite was the very first place we boondocked, just over a month into our travels back in early 2010. At the time I was super nervous and had very little info about this whole boondocking thing, but this turned out to be the perfect place to try it.
Seriously, if you’ve always wanted to try boondocking, but have always been too worried to try there is no easier place than Quartzsite, AZ.
There are no less than 9 different boondocking areas here, several of which are semi-managed areas with BLM hosts (that’ll be happy to help you out) as well as dump/water. There are hundreds of other boondockers out here, lots of flat/firm ground and super easy access. You’ll have plenty of company, and there’s more than enough space for you to find more remote spots with no company if you prefer too.
We’re in an old-time favorite area of ours near Dome Rock just west of town. This time of year the “big RV show” has already passed, many of the hundreds of temporary vendors have dispersed from town and the boondocking spots have thinned out. Only the “core” of Quartzsite is left, but we still like it here for all it’s quirks and wierdness, plus it’s a super-convenient spot to day-trip to nearby towns. And that’s what we’ve spent our time on.
So, here’s bringing you up to date on our week….
Parker Desert Bar
One of the things that’s always been on my “list” of things to do around here is the solar-powered Desert Bar ~3.5 miles down a lonely dirt road just north of Parker, AZ. Built at the site of a copper mining camp in 1975, it’s a bumpy, dusty drive to get there via either an “easy way” or a”crazy 4WD way” on the back-side (for those nutty enough to try it).
The bar is totally over-priced and touristy, but it’s a fun little outing nonetheless. There’s some decent burgers on the menu and a few cold/adult beverages (only Coors and Bud cans for beer, unfortunately). It’s not fancy, but it’s out in the boonies, has some neat Western decor, hosts good, live music bands (they were rocking!) and is totally solar powered which IS rather cool. I wouldn’t call it amazing, but it’s an interesting and fun enough place to spend the afternoon with some buddies.
Note/ The Desert Bar is only open Sat/Sun from 12-6 and only in season (check their website before you go). Dog and kid-friendly spot. If coming by regular car make sure to take the “easy way” listed here.
Lake Havasu City
I’ve always been leery about visiting Lake Havasu City, not because it isn’t a nice town, but because I’d heard so much about it being a “tourist” destination that I thought it really wouldn’t appeal to me. It’s a popular boating area, is rather famous for the London Bridge and is a well-known “party destination” during Spring Break. Being mostly nature-lovers I couldn’t really see what appeal the place might have for us? So, part of me wanted to see it, part of me didn’t.
Interestingly enough it was a complete tourist-trap that finally hooked us to go. Through my Google-efforts I learned that Lake Havasu has a Lighthouse Club that’s built no less than eighteen, 1/3-scale replicas of real lighthouses on the shores of Lake Havasu. Actual lighthouse minatures that you can go right up to and visit!! Yeah, total kitsch tourist-trap but NOW you’ve got my attention (what can I say, we all have our weaknesses). With that little gem in my backpocket I arranged a day-trip which would take us to a secluded cove hike, the lighthouses (obviously) and finish with a microbrew visit.
We started bright and early with our hike. My chosen trail was this 4-mile round-trip to Solitude Cove, which sounded enticingly private. We got into the wash at ~8:30AM and completed a lovely, lonely walk to a beautifully calm, deep blue cove. Perfect! Polly got to swim, something she’s been dying to do for months and we enjoyed complete solitude for the entire outing.
Once back in the car we motored over the famous London Bridge (yes, it’s the actual London Bridge transported brick for brick from England in 1968) and onto the Island where most of the lighthouses are located.
Oh yeah, now you’re talking my kind of geek!
We only saw a small portion of all eighteen (you can download the complete map HERE), but I have to admit they were super cute. Each lighthouse has a plaque with info on it’s “big brother” counterpart and is reproduced in exact detail in mini size. Pretty darn cool!
We finished our day with lunch at Mudshark Brewery. Totally respectable microbrew (the Belgian Style White Ale was particularly tasty) and very reasonable at under $20 for beer and meal together. Of course it was at this point that I realized I had lost my wallet (aaaaargggghhh!), but that’s a topic best left to another blog post (I’ve got much to write on the subject).
Overall we had an awesome day and found more depth to this town than I originally imagined. There’s plenty of remote hiking, lots of biking & walking tours and places even us nature-lovers can call our own. Plus there’s a decent selection of eateries in town. There’s still too much of a tourist vibe to make this an all-time favorite for us, but we enjoyed it and will definitely come back to the area for more hiking/exploration in the future.
Note/ All the hiking trails I looked at in Lake Havasu were dog friendly (most are on State Park or BLM land). The lighthouses are all dog-friendly too, as is Mudshark Brewery (very spacious covered outdoor seating area to hang with doggie).
Bumming Around Q
The rest of our time has been spent bumming around Q. We managed to spend a lovely afternoon with our RV buddy Sassy’s On Da Road who, by the by, taught us a fabulous new way to refill small propane tanks from a larger tank -> what a money saver!! (See this video on how to do this). But otherwise we have just been total social hermit slobs, which is the complete opposite of what we usually do here.
Mostly we’ve just relaxed & hiked around our superb boondocking spot, which is perfectly fine with us. We’re planning to move on shortly to new destinations, as yet unknown, but likely somewhere south of here. I’ve got at least 2-3 brand new sightseeing spots in mind, plus at least one brand new (for us) boondocking location.
The only firm plan we currently have in our future is a month in San Diego (we snagged a last-minute cancellation and will be getting there end of Feb) so we’re just planning to bum around the desert until that time.
See ya at the next spot!
- Social, Crazy Diverse – Quartzsite, AZ
- 8 Tips For Shopping & Boondocking At Quartzsite, AZ
- The Biggest RV Gathering On Earth! Quartzsite, AZ
- Boondocking Site Review – Dome Rock, Quartzsite, AZ
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Jenny Waters says
Solitude Cove looks gorgeous. It actually all sounds good, except for the wallet-losing part. I’m looking forward to your San Diego posts, too. And now you’ve made me thirsty. I love Belgian ales. 🙂
Yeah losing the wallet was a bummer, although it has a happy ending. More on that coming…
Wow, what a great resource for I also wish your blog was in printed form so could easily reference but as long as I have Internet, I’m good to go. Thanks for sharing it all with us.
Maybe ONE day I’ll get some of all this stuff into a book. It’s a big under-taking tho’
Yep, I agree that Solitude Cove looks great. No way to drive a small motorhome up there huh?? But then again, there probably wouldn’t be much solitude if you could!
Kinda surprised that you like Quartzsite enough to return there. We’re only into our first season of exploring Arizona and it seems that there are a lot better choices. But, as they say, each to their own!
I don’t know what it is about Q, but we’ve always felt comfortable here. Maybe some of it is nostalgia since it was our very first boondocking spot? Either way we’ve been back here almost every year we’ve passed through AZ. I like this crazy, dusty town.
Oh and no, no vehicle access at all to Solitude Cove. It’s a boat-in campsite so it’s accessible from the water, but the only way to access from land is the 2-mile hike down the wash.
Mary Hone says
We have boondocked a couple of times outide Havasu, and we kinda liked it. We like Q much better, but it was fun for a change. And yes, the Desert bar, what a hoot that place is.
We briefly thought about taking “the beast” up there. I’d researched all the boondocking sites and had a pretty good idea of where to go. In the end we just did a day trip and I was happy with that. Many of the boondocking sites we saw were pretty crowded. Maybe next time we’ll stay in the area.
Marcia GB in MA says
What a great post! Just jam packed with all sorts of interesting info and those lovely pictures to boot. The full moon rising in particular really spoke to me. That’s one you need to enlarge and frame.
It was tricky capturing that moon. In the end I had to take 2 exposures (one for the moon, one for the foreground) and combine them in Photoshop. Wish the final pic was sharper, but I was happy with the result.
There are a couple of nice trails at SARA Park (one with a slot) just south of Lake Havasu City. Also, some trails to the north of town.
Didn’t know about Solitude Cove; will have to check it out next time.
Solitude Cove seems to be one of the lesser known hikes in the area. Not sure how/if it gets more crowded later in the day, but early AM when we went, we were completely alone. It’s an unmarked wash (no trail markers or anything), but if you download the maps in the link it’s pretty easy to figure out.
Looks like you guys had a great time in the desert and Solitude Cove which we have not heard about while we were there.
Nothing beats a desert sunset and your last pic is fabulous.
When those desert sunsets go crazy, they go real crazy. I love catching the reflections off “the beast”
Been a long time since I boondocked north of Havasu but never explored the town itself. Glad to know there are natural areas to access in the area. Q makes a nice central base. You do get around.
We’ve actually done very little travel this year…less than 200 miles from where we spent Christmas LOL. But we do try and get around, even if it’s only within our limited area.
I laughed out loud when I saw your shot of Bennie. I like your photography.
I see that you’re heading south from Quartzsite. If you find yourself in my neck of the woods feel free to rattle my cage via email as I have no phone service here (blehhh… AT&T). I’m at Imperial Dam LTVA until at least the 18th of Feb. I’ve made three posts about it on my blog and will eventually post a campground report. Perhaps you’ve been here in the past.
We’ve actually not yet been to Imperial Dam. Not quite sure where we’ll head next, but I’ll let you know if we land there. Blog reader Doug hangs out there in winter too.
Just a heads-up that I’ve posted my boondocking/dry camping review of the place if you want to see it http://wp.me/P4exdl-xk
Also, someone responding to me about it on IRV2.com mentioned a possible trip here in the fall. I provided a link to your page about climate data in order to help them prepare.
I need to get a sidebar added to my blog with links to my favorite sites. Wheeling.it will be the first link I add when I do. I’m very close to 100 followers now. Woohoo! Hahah.
What an incredibly detailed review Russ! I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but had trouble logging into the required methods and there was no way I could see to add a quick comment with just name/site. Any way to open your comments to more easily post?
I have had my blog set to allow only comments from logged in, registered users. I don’t recall why I set it up that way or even if I did. Those may have been the default settings. I don’t recall.
I’ve opened it up now to anybody who will provide an email address. It is still set so that I must approve each comment before it is added to the blog. I can always set it back if I find I’m getting too much SPAM or garbage.
Thanks for the suggestion.
I think that’s a good move, Russ. It’ll encourage more folks to comment (the easier it is, the more likely folks will do it).
Nina, I have a great free, quiet 14-day site for you and Paul! Hope you can swing by for a few days on your way to San Diego.
Paul & Nina
Another great event in Lake Havasu is the 26th Annual Western Winter Blast Pyrotechnics Show. It is actually this weekend, Feb 12-15. 3 days of fireworks that costs nothing and directly across the Highway 95 from Sara Park is boondocking. It can get crowded but you cannot beat the price
I heard about that. Actually it’s partially the reason we decided not to boondock there (doggie gets super stressed with fireworks), but I’m sure it’s a fabulous show. There were already a ton of RVs set up in that boondocking area when we passed by a few days ago. Looks like a hugely popular event.
John and Pam Wright says
Glad you enjoyed your day visit to Lake Havasu:) We were surprised by how much we enjoyed our stay there. There are so many hikes to the river and we never met anyone on them except for Sara’s Crack which is very popular. The Visitor’s Center had a book of hiking maps for $5.00. We loved having a little private beach at the end of many of the hikes.
Love the sunset photo!!
Getting to the cove at the end of our hike was a neat little treat. I like the fact that many of the water-ending hikes are closed to road vehicles. It keeps them more quiet and remote.
Stephen Agnor says
Nina, Wallets are so old school..Next time try ApplePay or PayPal.
HA! Well when the stores in the boonies all accept it, you bet that’s the way I’ll go. Of course by that point we probably won’t even need a phone. It’ll all be done via chip implants under our skin 😉
Eric Rondeau says
Thanks again for great info & beautiful pictures. What type of camera do you use?
Most of my pics are taken with my pocket camera, a Canon S100. A few of the more artsy ones (e.g. The moon pic and that last sunset shot) are taken with my “big” camera, a Nikon D7000.
Pat & Bill Richards says
Hey Nina. Thank you for all of your Boondocking posts, we have followed and printed off the key points. We are looking forward to even a fraction of the experiences you have shared in the winter of 2016/17 after retirement. The part about being nervous doing it for the first time is so good to hear, it puts us newbies at ease to know even you two had the same trepidations. 🙂
I think it’s totally normal to be nervous in the beginning. You’re taking your precious home into the boonies, which most folks might consider quite nuts. Don’t worry too much though…after a few times it’ll all come naturally.
We will have to go back and revisit Lake Havasu–I’ll say it again, we just need to follow you guys around (at a distance of course :))except I don’t think the cowboy will go for San Diego. Friday we take off for Flagstaff to pick up our solar panels and various other paraphernalia–I am so excited!!!
You’re getting solar panels!! Awesome!! You guys do quite a bit of boondocking so it makes sense. I’m sure the Cowboy, being the super handyman that he is, will be tackling the installation? Can’t wait to hear more on your blog.
Dawn from Camano Island says
Great post, Nina! I admire your skill in finding cool places, especially dog-friendly ones. Last week, Jim & I looked for a place to get Ari in the river up near Parker but didn’t find anything except a place off the levee. Next year, we’ll take her to Solitude Cove–she loves the desert but gets SO dusty & she loves the water. So next year, Ari will be an even happier dog! Happy trails!
There are several other cove hikes in the area too. For example this one looked enticing as well, and was right next door to the one we did:
Also this one is very popular and ok for dogs too. Folks tell me there is just one section where you need to physically lift the dog, but otherwise it’s totally do-able:
Dawn from Camano Island says
I saw the other hike–it looks good too. Oh my gosh! Ari would love to go on a hike & be carried for a bit! Thank you for these links, Nina!
Jodee Gravel says
As a kid I remember seeing the big trucks with the “pieces” of the London Bridge being transported to Lake Havasu. Since then the little town has embraced it’s own “why not” attitude. The lighthouses are a great part of that (which I haven’t seen yet). Thanks for the warning about the beer selection at the Desert Bar 🙁 February is my favorite time at Q, although this year it looks like it’s gotten pretty warm. Safe travels to San Diego.
Yeah Paul was bummed that there was not even one craft(ish) beer on the menu at The Desert Bar. It’s a slim selection, but I guess the bar IS out in the boonies. We ended up drinking a fresh-pressed lemonade (with half the usual sugar) which wasn’t bad.
Oh and yeah…it HAS been unusually hot out here this year. We’re currently hitting mid-80’s at Q which is almost 10 degrees warmer than usual.
Ed Kirkpatrick says
Might I venture a guess that your wallet is back at Solitude Cove where somebody might have gone skinny-dipping? 🙂
Love the blog and follow you every day. We are in Tucson at Catalina State Park waiting to get scheduled for our solar installation with Marvin. Hope to run into you guys some day!
Good guess Ed. Turns out I know exactly where I lost the wallet, but that’s for the next blog post 🙂
CONGRATS on the solar installation! You’ll be in good hands with Marvin. Give him our regards.
Dean-Diane Moxness says
Having recently spent a week at Cattail Cove SP (very nice) & several at Qzite (La Posa South), we can relate. Stops at The Desert Bar (pretty interesting, but what a drive!) and Mudshark with its great food and microbrews were highlights. Thanks for your photos and tips. This is the life!
Cattail Cove looked lovely! As we drove by the other day we both remarked on it. I was actually quite impressed with several of the State Parks around Lake Havasu.
And yes, that drive to The Desert Bar was something else, and we took the “easy way”! I felt like I had gone through a cement mixer by the time we got there.
Gail Docter says
A month in San Diego! Alesmith first, and they’re celebrating some anniversary, so expect special sales of special beers from them! Alpine next, in nearby Alpine, even though Green Flash bought them out recently–great brisket sandwich there. Others may come to me later, but follow them on Facebook/Instagram for announcements. We went to Alesmith for their library sales and got extra special rare beers–and met extra special rare beer folks in line that we’re still friends with! Enjoy, enjoy!!
Awesome!! Paul also has Lost Abbey and Modern Times on his list. We’re definitely adding your recommendation too.
Rich Knickerbocker says
My wife and I just tuned into your site recently. I assume you spend a lot of time putting this together, and we find it interesting and helpful. We retired last year and purchased our first travel trailer (previously tenters). Our son took us out onto BLM land in Moab and we are turned on to boondocking. We’re planning a long (perhaps cross-country) trip later this year, and, again, what you have to say is extremely good training. THANK YOU!
Fabulous! We were backpackers and car campers before we bought “the beast” so we come from the same background. I think you’re going to love boondocking.
I so enjoy your beautiful pictures! Have to put Lake Havasu on the list!
We ended up finding more up there than I imagined. The city itself has alot of urban sprawl, but there is a ton of surprising nature too.
Been a bit of a hermet myself this year.
Spent the whole winter in Quartzsite and have enjoyed a very slow pace.
If I know you……your propably out of Quartzsite if you have posted it here….lol
Hope to see you again sometime.
Sometimes periods of hermitude are a very good thing.
Greg Close says
Thanks for posting the beauty of the Great SW and please try not to stress out too much over those (luscious looking) beers! 🙂
LOL we’ll do our best 🙂
My husband is a total lighthouse fanatic too. Coincidentally, we picked up a pair of lighthouse salt and pepper shakers when we were in Parker two months ago — they’re one of my favorite little knick knacks inside our home on wheels. Now that I know what it’s about I think we’ll have to take a trip up to the Lake Havasu lighthouses ourselves soon…and maybe even try a lighthouse hosting gig up north some time in the future!
If you’re lighthouse nutters you are going to LOVE the Lake Havasu lighthouses. I thought it was such a neat thing to see. Totally worth it!
Brad Blackburn says
I refill my small tanks but found the device in the video a pain to use so I sold it to a co-worker. I found a better setup following some guys website which I can’t find. Get two female camping bottle to male 1/4 pipe adapters. Screw each one of those into a 1/4″ ball valve. Next use one of those hoses you run small stoves off the large 20lb bottles. Screw it into one side of your ball valve thingy and the other onto the small bottle. You can then put the large tank up high and the small tank down on a scale to see the weight. This is not the website but the same idea if you look farther down the page. he used a copper pipe where I took the other guys idea and used the adapter hose I already had lying around.
Brad Blackburn says
Brad Blackburn says
I found it!!!! 🙂 near the bottom is his improved setup which is what I use.
Thanks for the link and info! I’m always interested in learning new and nifty ways to do support our boondocking lifestyle.
I haven’t been to Lake Havasu since my boating days many years ago. Love seeing what all it offers. Thanks!
Wow, your sunset photo is absolutely amazing! And your moonrise photo, as well. The hike to Solitude Cove and lunch at Mudshark Brewery makes Lake Havasu look mighty appealing.
The hike and brewery were a perfect combo. The day worked out well!
We are currently camped in Lake Havasu and found the same situation with the boondocking spots. We stopped at the BLM office and they said there is more boondocking just north of the airport. We will check it out on our way north to Lake Mead tomorrow. We went to the
Desert Bar yesterday in my Mini Cooper and made it up on the “good” road! It was fun at the bar and worth doing. BTW, they also have Miller Light in a can too. 🙂 The Rockabily Reunion was the past weekend too. We hiked in SARA, and as the reviews said, the trails are not well marked. We got a little lost, but found our way back a different trail than we took to get to the overlook. It’s not a very boondocking solitude area, but it was nice for a change. We also needed to get brake pads and it was convenient to do it here at Joe’s Automotive. We are happy with the price and the service. I’d come back here again for a few days. Love having a water feature in the desert!
Cheers for the feedback Rochelle. All the BLM spots south of Lake Havasu City were very, very busy when we drove through last week. The only one we personally liked was an area around 16-20 miles south which is a bit far from the main action. I gather north of town is similar, but I’d be interested to hear if you find anything more remote.
I just think Lake Havasu is very popular (in general) in winter. The water access is a huge draw in the desert. Nice place, but like you said not much boondocking solitude.
Caroline Beck says
We went to Lake Havasu last winter and had an aluminum skin put on the generator box hubby built in the pickup. Nice little town. Did the whole bridge thing and ate lunch there. Wish I had your info at the time, we could have seen many more things.
We are now boondocking off Oglbiy Road and will be for the next several days. I’ll have to look up day trips to check out.
Definitely make sure you go to the ghost town up the road. Also the flea markets in Yuma are fun, if you’re into that kind of thing. Enjoy!
Norm H. says
Loved, loved, loved your boon docking series. Yes, it should be an e-book. Lake Havasu is special in several ways, to me. First, I have walked on the London Bridge, in London, and in Havasu. Like another poster, I remember the large trucks bringing pieces to the site. A number of years ago my mother and stepfather owned a home there that overlooked the bridge area. We could swim in their pool while enjoying a view of the bridge and the lake. Now, your post makes me want to come back and do some exploring and hiking there as well. Oh, yes, the DW and I are lighthouse nuts as well. Glad you and Paul enjoyed your time there. Happy trails.
What fun memories! Cheers for sharing!
We are staying on the island at Lake Havasu City & loving our visit. One surprise was a car show on the main drag with over 100 unbelievably special classic cars! Free show & special promotion of sliders for $1.25! I ride my bike on 3 mile trail that circles the island everyday or play on lake!
We fully enjoyed our day-trip to Lake Havasu last year and could definitely see ourselves spending some more time there in the future. Lots of other cool winter activities happen over there including the Fireworks and Vintage Trailer event. It’s a happening place!
What a nice place. I found this vlog looking at points of interest as i prepare my solo trip with my dog Gypsy. We’re heading to the Arizona desert to see what its all about after watching YouTube videos about nomads and vandwelling. Thank you for your share. You seem like a sweet couple of humans. I can’t at that much these days. Peace. Olivia.