Believe it or not, there’s lots of things to do in Quartzsite, Arizona. Considered to be the RV Boondocking Capitol of the world, every winter, this small, eclectic desert town draws hundreds of thousands of RVs to escape the cold and to boondock and camp with friends. But, there’s so much more to do in Quartzsite that you don’t want to miss during your pilgrimage to Quartzsite.
Because of desert southwest’s mild weather and vastness of free 14-day BLM boondocking, it’s the perfect time and place to meet up with friends. But it’s not just about gathering in the desert, stargazing and campfires.
There’s a plethora of history and outdoor activities that will keep you busy while camping on BLM land to ride out the winter.
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10 Fun Things to Do in Quartzsite, AZ
Bouncing from a population of 4000 to close to a million, Quartzsite surely makes for a great exploring and outdoor adventures!
Also known to rock hounds as the Rock Capitol of the World, each winter we, as full-time RVers, return for a totally different reason.
The temperatures are almost perfect in the winter months. And the humidity? Well, there is none. So, as an RV, you won’t have to worry too much about excessive condensation in your RV than in other parts of the country.
Located only 20 miles east of California on Interstate 10, as you enter Quartzsite Arizona, you’ll be greeted by an intriguing sign with camels.
Camels? But, they’re not desert camels you’re thinking!
Hi Jolly Monument and Memorial
In the center of Quartzsite, there’s a small brown historical sign that points the way to Hi Jolly’s gravesite.
In the small humble cemetery, there’s a small information kiosk about Hi Jolly and why he’s hailed famous in Quartzsite.
But since you’re not in Quartzsite yet, you’re probably wondering who is this Hi Jolly anyways. And what does he have to do with camels anyway?
Long story short, Hi Jolly (originally Haji Ali) was a Syrian camel jockey hired by the U.S. government in the 1850’s to assist the U.S. Army Camel Corps’.
Brought over from Syria with his herd of camels, his job was to see if camels were better suited to carry cargo through the hot southwest desert than mules and horses in the Great Camel Experiment.
Unfortunately, due to a bunch of logistics involved and timing of the Civil War, the government’s pet project was put out to pasture…in the desert.
Anyway, Hi Jolly was reined a hero from the locals. When he passed away, they memorialized him by having him buried in Quartzsite Arizona in 1935.
Today, 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. It’s located at 245 Kofa Avenue in Quartzsite.
Don’t forget to visit the Quartzsite Museum to learn more about the history of Quartzsite, itself.
Rock, Mineral and Gem Show
Quartzsite is a rock collector’s paradise. Thousands of rock hounds flock here to get magic rocks of every size and sparkle. Everything you need or wish to have to create artsy rock art and unique jewelry, look no further.
However, don’t be expecting beautifully displayed juried-show wares and supplies. It’s really nothing more than a huge outdoor desert flea market venue. But, 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. We’ve been told 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, old or cheap, the Tyson Wells Flea Market may just be the place where you can find it. We’ve found tools, kitchen gadgets, flags, blanket throws, clothes bandanas and stupid stuff all on the cheap which is why Quartzsite is attractive to nomads and those down on their luck.
Though, there are a few RV supplies and camping accessories too.
And, no flea market adventure is complete without a visit to Beer Belly’s Adult Daycare. Their outdoor patio has a bar to order up whatever suits your imbibing wishes and lots of umbrella tables to cop a squat to listen to the local talent.
Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show
Marking over 35 years, the one-week event is held every January. RVers of every demographic make their pilgrimage to Quartzsite.
The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show is located at the corner of Main Street and Highway 95 in the heart of downtown. Seriously, you can’t miss it. Just look for the giant tent and lots of RVs arranged in an outdoor showroom.
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 practically every category. From RV components, motorhome and camper supplies, campground and RV parks, RV memberships and workkamping opportunities, there’s enough to fill your day, two or three.
Some big tent vendors also have cellphone and electronic gadgets, glass fingernail files, dip mixes and other vendors with non-RV junk.
However, if you’re in the market for an RV, there’s an exclusive RV dealership that brings in 200 new and pre-owned travel trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes.
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In 1995, eight year old Celia, passed away from a virus that stricken her. The following year, her parents wanted to honor their daughter. So, they 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, the garden has blossomed over eight acres of beautiful rock garden with desert plants. It also now includes a small replica village that has been dedicated to those Quartzsite residents who are long gone.
Though it stemmed from a sad story, it’s a beautiful little piece of paradise for visitors 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 Fish and Wildlife National Wildlife Refuge is situated quietly in the Sonoran Desert. KOFA is located about 19 miles north of Quartzsite off Highway 95, you’ll turn onto a seven-mile dirt road. There is lots of great boondocking and camping in designated areas. And, there’s also a great hike up into KOFA’s Palm Canyon.
As you’re driving towards the canyon on the dirt road, keep an eye out for an amazing work of art off to the right. It’s a hand-constructed labyrinth. Having been there for many years, no one really knows how the perfectly organized 60′ foot stone spiral circle got there. Please do not disturb it or allow your children to interfere with it’s intent and beauty.
Once you continue on to the Palm Canyon trailhead, there’s a small parking lot for a few cars. There’s also an informational sign that tells visitors and hikers about the desert landscape and habitat.
The 1.3 mile (round trip) Palm Canyon Trail is easy-to-moderate. I highly recommend wearing a pair of good hiking shoes, a hydropack with plenty of water and perhaps a trekking pole or walking stick. Be aware there is a little bit of incline of about 500 feet; oftentimes of loose gravel. So, if you’re a bit out of shape or may not be stable on your feet, you may want to allow yourself a little extra time or sit this one out.
But, once you get to the canyon, you’ll notice a sign pointing up to the palms. The palms are the only major native group of California Fan Palms in Arizona.
The Palm Canyon Trail is a popular hiking trail that offers opportunity for some rock climbing. It’s also great for birdwatching and enjoying some quiet time during the week. The trail is open year-round. And yes, dogs are welcome. However, all pets must be on a leash. The hike, in and out, typically takes about an hour depending on your hiking skill.
Now, super adventurous hikers can continue the hike further up the main canyon. Be aware that it is a more strenuous hike with lots of rock scrambling and possibility of meeting wildlife.
If you’re lucky, you may get a view of Bighorn Sheep, Coyotes and native birds. But also, while visiting the Sonoran Desert, be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, cactus and spiny vegetation, venomous spiders and scorpions.
The great thing about this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge Palm Canyon Trail is its not a high-traffic trail. We do recommend starting your hike during the afternoon when the sun spotlights the palms.
While KOFA Palm Canyon Trail is open all year, be cautious if pursuing a hike right after a heavy rain or monsoon. The road may wash out or have deep standing water.
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 being 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.
This prehistoric earth figure depicts a fisherman suspending a spear over a wavey line, with two fish figures below and a sun and serpent to the upper right and left, respectively.
It is located about 25 miles east of the Colorado River in the foothills of the Plomosa Mountains. While the site is on BLM public land, it has fencing to preserve and protect the artifacts.
To get there, drive on Plomosa Road towards Bouse. There is a historical sign marking the parking area. It’s just a short hike to the geoglyph.
The Desert Bar is 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, off-road watering hole is an overwhelming must-visit when visiting Quartzsite. To us, it’s a one and done. But, it’s something you just have to experience.
Today, the Desert Bar is a must for adventure riders, off-roading, and dirt road enthusiasts who’s reward is a cold one and vittles while the dust settles for the trip back to civilization.
However, before hopping on your dual sport, 4×4 or Jeep, know that the bar is only open from October to April on weekends only from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. Arizona time. But, once you do get to visit, it’s a great place to unwind, enjoy a sandwich or other bar food, brews, play horseshoes and listen to the bands.
Oh and one important thing! If you wheel on out there, know that cash is king! Your credit card is not welcome out there. And be sure to bring your camera! The chapel is kind of cool along some cool old rusty cars and desert art.
Off Roading ATV Trails
If you love adventure on wheels, the Quartzsite desert region and area BLM land is for you! There are tons of off-road trails out there for you to take your adventure motorcycles, Jeeps, 4x4s, RZRs, quads, and even your e-bikes! BE AWARE, there is presence of cactus. And as we know all too well, cactus spines can and will puncture your tires. So be prepared and stay on the trails.
Camping & Boondocking at Quartzite
Lastly, the two biggest draws to Quartzsite for RVers is the vast amount of public land to boondock or camp on and the mild temperatures.
You’ll enjoy many seasonal warm days as you go out to hike, bike or explore just as long as you’re back to enjoy their iconic magnificent sunsets!
But you’ll want to keep a thick sweatshirt close. Once the sun goes over the horizon in the desert, it can get pretty chilly after sunset.
Quartzite is also the perfect place to enjoy warm campfires. But I must caution you, wood is expensive at places in town. It’s also illegal to poach wood on public and BLM land. Our suggestion is to bring a propane fire pit or wood pellet stove.
But don’t worry, you can fill your propane tanks in town. As well, you can take on water and empty your tanks at the Pitstop or Quail Run RV Park. Both are great one stop shops for RVers either coming, going or needing refills and dumps.
Do know, boondocking or camping is allowed only for 14-day stays at the same location. So, if you plan on staying the whole winter, you’ll need to relocate your RV every 2 weeks to a new location at Plamosa Road, Hi Jolly or Dome Rock.
There is also long term camping at La Posa but there’s a small fee. At all locations though, you will need to register for a camping permit to be able to stay on BLM land in or around Quartzsite.
RV Parks with Full Hookups
If you prefer full hookups and RV park amentities or you need to just pull in for an overnight to get your laundry done, take a long shower, flush and fill your tanks, there’s plenty of small RV parks in Quartzsite.
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Wrapping up our best things to do in Quartzite, Arizona
As you see, this sleepy little desert town is quite the unique place to visit as there’s a lot of things things to do in Quartzsite. Whether you stay in an RV park or boondock out on the BLM land, you’ll see why it’s the Mecca for RVers.
Read more about our boondocking experiences at Quartzsite
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