Quartzsite connoisseur, Frank Poole, goes beyond cheap BLM to reveal where to dump tanks, fill fresh, fetch mail, and grab groceries. He also demystifies the opportunities of Los Algodones, Mexico, takes us off-roading, and warns of five “Q” hazards to avoid.
I initially came down to Quartzsite for the warmer climate. I also wanted to find a new winter location. A few of my friends from Oregon went down there during the winter to ride their buggies, so I went to ride with them on the trails.
For the last two years, I have stayed in Quartzsite to save money. I had a massive drop in income so I pretty much had to stay put given the high cost of fuel. During the winter I pretty much just camp in Quartzsite and hang out.
I’ll move around if needed but, once I’m unloaded and set up, I stay put. When dumping my tanks (once a week), I leave my campsite set up so no one will take my spot. Most folks in Quartzsite are respectful, so it’s not really a problem unless it is vacant.
For my first article on Quartsite, “Winter Camping In Quartzsite for $180“, I revealed where to camp for cheap at the “Q”. For this follow-up story, I share some of my best Quartzsite tips and tricks to make a winter here safer, cheaper, and more enjoyable.
Tip 1: Look Out For Rock Boundaries
RVers have been coming down the “Q” for many years. Although it’s not officially sanctioned, some RVers have marked off their “spot” with rock boundaries.
Technically, all Quartsite BLM is first come, first serve, so no claim to a spot is officially recognized. That stated, I usually try to find a non-marked spot. It is getting harder as more “claim” spots, but there’s still plenty of open BLM land for campers.
Tip 2: Watch For Nearby Roads and Washes
When you pick out a camping spot, also be aware of the roads and traffic. Typically the wind is blowing out of the southwest going to the northeast, so parking along the east side of the road with heavy traffic can be dusty.
This point was made in my first article, but it bears repeating; do not park in a wash. That way you won’t be surprised by a flash flood, though I haven’t seen one here yet.
Tip 3: Campfires Are Permitted
Campfires are allowed everywhere that I know of because there is nothing to burn in the desert. It can get windy so common sense applies.
You can buy fire wood in town for about $5 to $7 per bundle. The price depends upon the type of wood; pine which burns quickly to juniper/cedar that doesn’t. After a few tries you get to know which place to buy from.
Tip 4: Bring Your Own Power Sources
Quartzsite Long Term (LTVA) and Short Term (STVA) BLM areas are dry camping only. There are no electrical hookups unless you go to a paid private campground in town. In the BLM areas, you need to be self-contained and should bring the power sources you need.
I have a solar panel system on my truck camper. It is sunny here most of the time, but the sun is lower in the winter. As a result, the solar charge is not as strong as it is in the summer.
I also have a Honda EU2000i portable gas generator. I believe the official generator hours are from 6:00am to 10:00pm. Most generators cut off around 9:00pm.
Hopefully, you are far enough away from other RVs that generator noise is not an issue. Unless folks are running loud contractor generators, you don’t hear them too much. Keep in mind that sound carries out in the desert.
Tip 5: Free Versus Paid Dump Stations
There are a few private dump stations that charge a fee. Typically it is $15 and well worth it during the busy times of January and February. In peak season, the lines at the free dumps in La Posa South LTVA can get long.
Above: La Posa South Dump Station, included with LTVA
RV Pit Stop is probably the most obvious one stop shop for dumping tanks, filling water, getting propane, etc. Even though they are convenient, my advice is to read the online reviews before you go. Also be aware that some private dump stations in Quartzsite don’t have water or trash.
I use Patties RV Park and Propane (for propane) and then La Posa South LTVA (when the lines are manageable). At the La Posa South LTVA area you can dump your tanks, trash, and fill fresh water.
Tip 6: How To Get Mail
The Quartzsite Post Office is not RVer friendly. Apparently they only accept General Delivery for 30 days and then return it. General Delivery pick-ups are at certain times of the day and there are long lines during those times. They shut the window down at the end of the day regardless of the line.
If you are going to be in Quartzsite for more than 30 days, you can get a PO Box at the post office. I’m not sure about the rates or limits. There are also many private mail services in Quartzsite that are setup to receive mail including USPS, UPS, and Fedex packages. You pay a fee much like the UPS mailbox services.
The zip codes for Quartzsite are 85346 and 85359.
Editor’s Note: For information on General Delivery and other strategies for getting mail and packages on the road, check out Bryan Appleby’s excellent article, “Sending and Receiving Mail on the Road”.
Tip 7: Where To Do Laundry
There are only two laundromats in Quartzsite. There is a main laundromat in town and one just north of the main street. Both are fine.
People are typically at the laundromats in the mornings and then they clear out in the afternoons. I usually have about four to five loads and wander in around 1:00pm or so, after the morning rush is done.
Generally, you can find a washer. You might have a short wait for the dryers. I’m guessing a lot of the big RVs have their own washers and dryers, so getting into a laundromat is not a problem.
It’s weird that the laundromats are not as crowded as you would think. I’m guessing a lot of people just come down for January and then go back home, so they do laundry there.
Tip 8: Cheapest Food and Alcohol Sources
There are two decent town markets that have limited groceries; Roadrunner Market and the General Store. These markets are not like a supermarket, but they have essential food items. I don’t know for certain, but General Store might be closing.
For alcohol, The Big Market is the cheapest. It’s like a hardware store on one side, and has basic essentials for food. It has pretty good beer, wine, and hard liquor on the other side. The Big Market is the cheapest place to buy alcohol in Quartzsite.
The Walmart in Parker is about a 40 minute drive north. I typically go there once a month on payday. There’s a Safeway right across the street.
In Blythe there’s an Albertsons, Rite Aid, and a Smart Final Extra. They are all within walking distance of each other. There is also an ACE Hardware at the west end of Blythe.
Yuma is about an 90-minutes south of Quartzsite. Yuma has markets, an ACE Hardware, Albertsons, and more. Parker City is closer than Yuma. Phoenix, Arizona is approximately two-hours east on I-40.
Tip 9: Recommended Quartzsite Restaurants
There are several go to restaurants in Quartzsite. Silly Al’s Pizza is probably the most popular. Silly Al’s Pizza is a pizza house with tables, a bar, and a stage with karaoke.
I haven’t been to all the restaurants. That said, there are several highly recommended restaurants in Quartzsite according to Yelp reviews including Mountain Quail Cafe (4 stars, 145 reviews), Main Street Eatery (4 stars, 74 reviews), and Heavens Kitchen BBQ (4 stars, 20 reviews).
Tip 10: Where To Get Your Hair Cut
If you’re in Quartzsite for any length of time, you might need a haircut. It’s not easy finding hair cut places since they are seasonal.
I use the haircut place on the east end of Quartzsite next to the gas station. I know that’s vague but, when you’re down there, you’ll see it.
Tip 11: The Best Fuel Prices
The cheapest fuel in Quartzsite is at the east end. It’s not the Chevron, but the ARCO just to the north. There’s also a quick stop station on the east side of main street (next to the haircut place) with better than average fuel prices.
Tip 12: Bring Your Off-Road Buggies
A big draw of Quartzsite are the off-road trails. The new Arizona Peace Trail is spectacular for off-road enthusiasts. It’s a 750-mile loop that’s very nice. If you’re into off-roading, check it out.
The hills next to the Tyson Wash is what I call “the playground” since there are trails all over the place that are fun to explore. There is also a hidden trail restaurant (with no valet parking or food).
If I’m able to get another buggy, I’ll be down there riding. While the mountain ridges look far away, they are actually quite close. You can wind through them and find petroglyphs, see the Colorado River, and explore old mines.
If you are really enthusiastic about off-roading, go to the Desert Bar outside of Parker. There are no passenger car friendly roads to get there. There are criss-crossed trails for your buggy. And it’s has an actual bar. I haven’t been to the Desert Bar yet, but I have it on my buggy list.
There are off-road trails all over Quartzsite, which is good and bad. The good is that you have many trails to choose from and can use these trails to go into town instead of hauling the rig.
The bad is, like everything else, 10-percent of the people can ruin it for the other 90-percent. Too many off-road enthusiasts speed around kicking up dust and just generally behave obnoxiously. You also need to be careful not to get lost on all the trails and offshoots.
Tip 13: Cheap Rx, Dental, and Optical in Nearby Los Algodones, Mexico
Los Algodones, Mexico is just across the border and about an hour and a half south of Quartzsite, Arlzona. Many Americans go to Los Algodones, Mexico for optical services, pharmacy prescriptions, and dental work.
The dental, optical, and prescription drug costs in Los Algodones are roughly half to a third of what you’ll pay in the United States. The whole town is one big dental and optical arcade. As someone who is retired and on Social Security, it’s a good option.
In Winterhaven, California, the Quechan Casino offers free camping. A small shuttle bus goes down to the border. You can also park in a parking lot and walk across the border. Just make sure you have your passport to get back across.
Los Algondones is a Mexican tourist town. It’s fun to walk around main street. Most people speak english and are very helpful. Grab a bite to eat, and get a Margarita.
A Rx is required to have a prescription filled. Most dentists in Los Algondones have been trained in the United States, but some have not. If you have a dental appointment, some offices will send a car to pick you up.
Be advised that from about noon on the US Custom lines are 45-minutes or more. It’s best either get back across early or plan on staying until 5:00 or 6:00pm to avoid the lines. After the January RV show in Quartzsite, a lot of people head on down to the border. It will be jammed.
Tip 14: Don’t Miss Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is about 12-miles outside of the town in Palm Canyon. It is basically the same as a STVA. It’s south of Quartzsite and a nice area up against the mountains. I especially recommend the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in the spring when everything is green.
There are California fan palm trees hidden in a crack in the mountain. It’s a short quarter mile hike to up to see them and a rock scramble to get near to them. It’s fun to see.
The turn off for the palm trees is not clearly marked. You have to have a general idea of where to go and then watch closely for the small turn signs. Palms are the main attraction and there are a limited number of spots for RVs. It’s not wide open like the LVTAs.
Tip 15: Five Hazards of Quartzsite
There are five things to be aware of before rolling into Quartzsite for a winter of cheap fun and relaxation.
1. The Jumping Cactus, also known as the Cholla Cactus (Google it), looks pretty, golden, bushy and nice, but it will be painful if you even get near it. Even if you are two to three feet away, it can hurt you.
It’s called Jumping Cactus for a reason. As you get near it, the pressure on the ground can trigger the barbs to fire. I’m told it’s quite painful.
Barbs are hard to pull out. They are like a fish hook – and not the catch and release ones. Several hits and it can be a trip to an emergency room. This especially applies to pets. Noses of dogs are common landing spots.
2. Coyotes are in Quartzsite. Do not feed them. Keep your pets on a rope or leash as the smaller ones make for good appetizers.
I like the coyotes as they howl at night. It’s all quiet and nice and then one howls and they all start in for about two to five minutes. Then there’s complete silence again. I’ve heard that they are just posting – like on Facebook – their pack locations.
3. Snakes are not an issue until weather warms up, which is approximately late March or April. I saw one snake last year in late April.
4. Do not park or camp in washes. Pay attention to the stream/water flows. Small ones flow into bigger ones downhill. It’s not that big of a deal in the winter, but just be aware.
Park on the higher ground. It only rains once or twice during the winter, and they’re brief showers with minimal impact. Usually it’s not a big deal.
5. It can get quite windy at times. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and set up camp accordingly. Be careful with loose canopies, chairs, tables, etc. I finally discovered the importance of adding weight and stakes to canopies when I put them up.
If the wind picks up, I lower the canopy. If it’s really blowing, I it will ‘Furl’ the canopy to one side. Roll it up like a sail on a sailboat. That way you don’t have to take the whole thing down and put it back up. I just lower one side’s legs, release the velcro, and then pull the material towards me – rolling it up/packing it and with several bungee cords. The little red bungees are perfect. Wrap them around the frame and you are good to go.
Other Quartzsite Resources
If you missed it, check out Frank’s first article about Quartsite, “Winter Camping In Quartzsite for $180“.