Quartzsite, in the past decades, has become a pilgrimage for traveling full-time RVers. The small, eclectic town draws hundreds of thousands during it’s tourist season in January and February. Quartzsite has become the Boondocking Capitol of the world. For some, its a one-and-done event. But for us, we find more cool places to see and things to do that keep our wheels pointed west on I-10.
Also known to rock hounds as the Rock Capitol of the World, each winter we return for a different reason. We congregate with other RVers and attend the RV tent show. The temperatures are perfect and humidity? Well, there is none. This desert town, bouncing from a population of 4000 to close to a million, surely makes for a great exploring adventure!
Located only 20 miles east of California on Interstate 10, as you enter Quartzsite, Arizona, you’ll be greeted by this intriguing sign with camels.
Why camels? Keep reading…
Hi Jolly Monument and Memorial
In town, there’s a small brown historical sign that points the way to his gravesite in the small humble cemetery. Once you arrive, there’s a small kiosk with information tells the short of Hi Jolly’s significance to the region. The Hi Jolly monument has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior. It’s also listed on the Roadside America website.
To make a long story short, Hi Jolly (originally Haji Ali) was a camel jockey hired by the U.S. government in the 1850’s to assist the U.S. Army Camel Corps’ with their Great Camel Experiment to see if camels were better suited to carry cargo through the hot southwest desert than mules and horses.
Oh, and while you’re in town, don’t forget to visit the Quartzsite Museum.
Rock, Mineral and Gem Show
Quartzsite, Arizona seemingly has become the rock collector’s paradise. Everything you need to make artsy rock art and jewelry, look no further. Thousands of rock hounds flock here to get magic rocks of every size and sparkle.
Now, don’t be expecting beautifully displayed juried-show wares and supplies. It’s really nothing more than a huge outdoor desert flea market venue. However, once you get past the sand and dirt, you’re sure to find the perfect gem you may be looking for. The Quartzsite Rock, Mineral and Gem Show is where visitors or vendors can buy, sell, swap and barter their earthly finds. It’s been said that the prices are much cheaper than you’d find at the Tucson shows.
Tyson Wells Flea Market
If you’re looking for something odd or don’t want to pay top dollar in those big box stores, the Tyson Wells Flea Market may just be the place where you can find it. We’ve found tools, kitchen gadgets, flags, bandanas and stupid stuff all on the cheap. There is a few booths that have RV and camping supplies. If you’re up for some awful flea market food, they have that too.
Sports, Vacation & RV Show
Marking over 35 years, this one-week event is held every January when RVers of every demographic make their pilgrimage to Quartzsite. Because of the mild weather and the vastness of free 14-day BLM boondocking, it’s the perfect venue and environment to meet with fellow RVers. The show, itself, is located at the corner of Main Street and Highway 95 in the heart of Quartzsite.
While the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show doesn’t compare to the RV super shows like Hershey or Tampa, it does bring in over 600 vendors of RV components, supplies, campground and RV parks, RV memberships and workkamping opportunities.
The big tent is also loaded with flea market finds like cellphone and electronic gadgets, glass fingernail files, dip mixes and other vendors with non RV junk. If you’re shopping for a new or pre-owned RV, an exclusive RV dealership brings 200 of their travel trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes to sell.
But what if you’re not into buying or even RVing? Let’s go exploring instead!
In 1995, eight year old Celia, passed away from a virus that stricken her. The following year, her parents got permission to construct a small memorial garden to memorialize her short but vivacious life.
Celia’s Rainbow Gardens was originally a small, humble garden but through the years, it’s bloomed into over eight acres of beautiful rock garden with desert plants. It even has a small replica village that has been dedicated to those Quartzsite residents who have passed away.
Though it stemmed from a sad story, it’s a beautiful little piece of paradise to meditate and pay respects to the little girl and those deceased after her.
Palm Canyon at KOFA
Want to get away from the craziness and crowds? KOFA is a beautifully and serene place to work those hiking legs and feet! Short for King of Arizona, KOFA U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Wildlife Refuge is situated quietly in the Sonoran Desert. Located about 19 miles north of Quartzsite off Highway 95, you’ll turn onto a seven-mile dirt road.
About halfway to the trailhead, an amazing work of art off to the right awaits your awe; a hand-constructed labyrinth! Having been there for many years, no one really knows how the 60′ foot stone spiral circle got there.
Once you get to the canyon’s center, you’ll notice a small makeshift sign pointing to the palms in the distance.
The palms are the only major native group of California Fan Palms in Arizona. The hike is a half mile to view the palms and approximately one mile to the head of the canyon. This one-way trail is deemed easy to moderate. You can continue your hike further up the main canyon for those who want to opt for a more strenuous hike.
The great thing about this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge Palm Canyon Trail is its not a high-traffic trail. Try to plan your hike during the afternoon when the sun spotlights the palms. If you’re lucky, you may get a view of Bighorn Sheep, Coyotes and native birds. As with visiting the Sonoran Desert, be on the lookout for Rattlesnakes, spiny plants and scorpions.
KOFA Palm Canyon Trail is open all year. However, be cautious if it rains as the road may wash out. As always, take lots of water, leave no trace and only take pictures.
Quartzsite Rock Alignment & Intaglio
Located north of Quartzsite, there’s a rock alignment that identifies the town aerially for airplanes after their bombing exercises during World War II. Also known as General Patton’s proving ground, Soldiers used large rocks to spell QUARTZSITE to help guide pilots home.
There’s also a big compass and a large ground figure, a Fisherman Intaglio, drawn by Native Americans long ago. This is a great place to take the family because it’s just a short hike.
Who wouldn’t enjoy a little off-roading mixed with an imbibing oddity?
Located in the Buckskin Mountains about five miles north of Parker, Arizona; off the Cienega Springs Road exit on Highway 95. This out-of-the-way watering hole is an overwhelming must when visiting Quartzsite.
Today, the Desert Bar is a must-go for off-roading, dirt road enthusiasts who’s reward is a cold one and vittles while the dust settles. The bar is open from October to April on weekends only from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. Arizona time. You can get sandwiches, brews, play horseshoes and listen to the bands. If you wheel on out there, know that cash is king! Be sure to bring your camera! The chapel is kind of cool!
And speaking of off-roading…
If you’re an adventurer on wheels, the Quartzsite region is for you! There are tons of trails out there for you to take your RZR, quad, adventure motorcycles, or even your e-bikes!
Camping and Boondocking
Lastly, one of the big draws to Quartzsite, especially to RVers, is the vast amount of rocky desert public land to camp or boondock on. You’ll enjoy many seasonal warm days as you go out to hike, bike or explore just as long as you’re back before sunset so you can pop a cold one in your camp chairs to watch a magnificent sunset!
But you’ll want to keep a thick sweatshirt nearby as once that sun says goodbye, cool crisp nights ensue. It’s a perfect time to bring out your propane fire pit (or tons of wood that you can pick up in town for $$), shut off all the lights and chat quietly under the amazing ceiling of stars. Don’t forget though, boondocking allows only 14-day stays at the same location. You’ll need to register and get your permit at each of the boondocking areas like Plamosa Road, Hi Jolly, Dome Rock, just to name a few. You can stay long-term at La Posa for a fee.
But if you prefer the finer RV accommodations, there’s quite a few RV parks located in or near the center of town. There’s something for everyone. You can check them out on Campendium.
So, as you see, a visit to Quartzsite, Arizona, is the perfect place to visit as there’s quite an array of cool places to visit and unique things to do. Whether you stay in an RV park or boondock out in the vast BLM land, you’ll see why it’s the Mecca for RVers. There’s something for everybody!
For more fun stuff about our visits to Quartzsite…
DISCLAIMER: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.