Best Winter Camping That Isn’t Wintery? (US edition)
July 20, 2022 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I want to beat the winter blues by planning a hiking/camping trip somewhere sunny in Feb 2023. What are your top suggestions?

Last year I hiked the Trans Catalina Trail which was truly the unicorn of winter hiking for the following reasons
- many hours of sunshine each day
- mostly mild to warm weather
- easy to get to (from LAX, no car rental needed)
- easy logistics with campsites and backpacking/being able to gear up as needed after my flight
- no bears :)
- made me feel strong and powerful for what I had accomplished (despite the blisters and bailing early!)
- I loved hiking a good chunk of the day and then just hanging out and reading my kindle until bed
- the camaraderie of everyone who was in the same itinerary was nice, without feeling overbearing like a group tour might-

I don’t think I’ll get quite so lucky by hitting all of the above points, but I’m hoping to get at least some.

My top priorities are:
- somewhere I can move my body all day in the sun and camp. (Yes, I could go sit outside all day no matter where I am, but it just won’t happen as reasonably if I’m not camping (car camping or backpacking). )
- would like to camp or backpack for 2-4 nights
- hiking or other physical activities nearby
- prefer to stay in the USA
- if there are dangerous animals, I want a fairly “simple” solution to deal with them. Ex- if in bear country, make it be some of the gentler bears, I’d of course have a bear bag/canister, but would also appreciate if it was a less trafficked area they didn’t ambush as much. If there are many snakes around, hopefully not too many, or perhaps they are rattle snakes that at least let me know I’m about to be bit.
- want water available at the campsite (filtering stream or spring is fine, just don’t want to have to carry in)

Bonus points:
- easy flight from RDU (I don’t mind getting a rental car and driving up to 3 hours on arrival, but if I can avoid a rental that would help my wallet a lot)

Other considerations:
- I have a place I could stay in Marco Island, Florida as a sort of base camp. I would likely drive down from NC which would mean I’d have a car, but would not want to drive too much more in addition to the 12-13 I would have already driven.
- I’m a solo female traveler but that doesn’t usually worry me too much in travel planning
- I’d love to go to Hawaii but won’t at this time as the local population has asked people to not travel right now given the heavy impact on the islands.
- I’m open to tour groups (especially women only) but I like that when I hike alone I can’t be too slow or late or take too many breaks. Whatever I’m doing is what I’m meant to be doing. That’s hard to replicate in groups
- I don’t mind it getting cold (30’s-50’s) at night as long as I still get lots of sunshine and the daytime isn’t cold (65-85)
- I’m also open to staying in hotels/hostels with private rooms if there is a US version of a European walking tour that you know of (previously mentioned ones seem to be in the Nothern half of the US and not meeting my warm weather requirements!)

Places I’ve considered but would like feedback/tips for:
- Florida keys (is there camping? Would it just be a buggy swampy mess where I get eaten by an alligator?)
- Joshua tree- worth it for a few days? Or should I plan on doing more parks as well?
- Big Bend seemed a bit logistically fraught/too much driving.
- segment hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail in NC- unfortunately I think I want something at least a bit warmer
- Any great short (15-30 miles) trails you know?
posted by raccoon409 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: South Florida is very nice that time of year, being one of the few parts of the US where sunshine and daytime temps above 65° F are pretty much guaranteed in February. It's also still the dry season, so less rain and humidity. There's lots of good camping in the Everglades, Big Cypress, and the Keys. The hiking may or may not be to your taste. While there are interesting landscapes including wet prairie, cypress stands, hardwood hammocks, and pinelands, it can get a little boring if you like topography. A lot of the longer trails in the Everglades and Big Cypress are more like rustic roads rather than dedicated hiking paths. I wouldn't go to the Keys if you're looking for multi-hour hikes. However, if you're into paddling there are tons of great kayak/camping opportunities in the Everglades and the Keys. You'd want a rental car to make things easy regardless of where you go, but everything's pretty accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale.

Temperature-wise this may be borderline, but you could do some nice long hikes into the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Although it'll be chilly up top (average high temps on the South Rim in February range from mid 40s to around 50°F) it'll be much warmer down at the bottom around Phantom Ranch, averaging mid-60s for highs. The South Rim is about a 4 hour drive from Phoenix (and a bit more than that from Vegas).
posted by theory at 10:26 PM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Death Valley seems like a good fit, and you could combine with Joshua Tree or Moab. Fly into Vegas, relatively short drive. Also a number of hiking options just outside Vegas. I had planned to do this exact trip but decided against it last year due to COVID uncertainty. It will require a rental car, but car rentals from Vegas seem relatively cheap and plentiful (at least, when I looked this up several months ago).
posted by coffeecat at 10:35 PM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a great experience solo backpacking in Joshua Tree a few years back (April 2018). I did it semi-car camping style, where I would hike out from my car, sleep overnight, then hike back, move my car, and hike out again. This let me get more water/adjust my gear each day. (It definitely does get cold at night).

If you do backpacking in Joshua Tree (there are 3-4 days of exploring there, easy), brush up on your wilderness navigation. The desert doesn’t hold trails as well as other biomes, especially for low-traffic hikes. Same for first aid—lots of sharp plants that can stab you if your mind wanders at the wrong time. Hasn’t happened to me, but it did to multiple other companions on desert hikes.
posted by itesser at 5:59 AM on July 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Florida Trail! My impression is that it is like the NC Mountains to Sea Trail in that some parts are more developed and more roady while other parts are more remote, so I bet you could find a section that would meet your needs.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:00 AM on July 21, 2022

Response by poster: For a variety of reasons my trip likely won’t happen, but I really loved the suggestions of paddling in Florida, especially as I found some good options not too far from Marco Island (found an outfitter to take care of logistics (more expensive than if I did it on my own, but also I don’t know how to navigate for boating activities)

Joshua tree also looks like a great option for car camping. Because of the cost of a flight plus a rental it would likely necessitate getting a friend on board to join me but still a good option!

Because of having a potential job change come up I likely won’t do any of these trips this year, but it’s been truly a joy to even consider them and put the plans in my back pocket for another year.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:39 PM on December 16, 2022

« Older Was yelled at in a borderline abusive manner. Not...   |   A taste for blood? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments