While the snowbirds travel to the sunbelt for the winter, there are those that want to enjoy the winter splendor of the north. Those that enjoy winter sports and activities want vacations with snow instead of sand. With newer RV technologies, these trips can be taken longer and are affordable winter vacations that can be taken more often.
This group has become big enough where campgrounds and winter destinations have started to accommodate cold winter vacationers. It also has opened up new avenues of innovations within the RV industry to explore.
There are RVs that are built to withstand the climates of winter. You can also prepare your RV to withstand the temperatures of winter as well. Many materials and products have become available in recent years that have made it easier for winter campers.
In this article, we’re going to explore specific cities that have many different winter attractions within one location.
What We Looked For
For our purposes, a winter hub destination must fulfill the interests of many different people. We believe everything must be a short drive from a central campground location. After the day’s events, having to travel excessively to return to your RV should not be a chore. Especially in winter road conditions.
All activities shouldn’t be more than an hour’s drive from the central campground.
If ski resorts don’t have RV sites available, all-season campgrounds must be close.
A holiday-themed town is a place where there is are year-long attractions or the city as a whole celebrates together in a shared festival.
Ice fishing is available at nearby lakes or streams.
Public parks are open all year for winter activities.
Snowmobiling is available to the public and/or there are guided tours.
Public and private campgrounds are available all year. Water sources may be shut off, so be prepared for dry camping conditions.
1. Flint, Michigan
Flint and Genesee County is a great central location to set up for your winter RV adventures. Within a one hour radius, you can take advantage of everything winter has to offer. Michigan as a whole is known for its great forest scenery, many lakes, and some of the best ski slopes.
Since 1960, Mt. Brighton has been Southeast, Michigan’s most popular winter destination for snow sports enthusiasts. With over 130 acres, they have 25 trails and five ski lifts that range in difficulty. Over the past ten years they have spent millions of dollars updating their facility, making their runs exciting. They have modernized their indoor accommodations with the best resort amenities and tripled their snowmaking capabilities.
Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria.” This German village has become a popular destination for tourism all year. It is also the home of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, which has earned the title of the biggest Christmas store in the world. The store is now 27 acres and celebrates the holiday 361 days out of the year.
This 230-acre area was sold to the state by developers that couldn’t use the land. The dam that was built flooded the area to create the big lake out of the original seven. Seven lakes offer:
- Large and smallmouth bass
- Northern pike
- Yellow perch
- Black crappie
- Channel catfish
There are plenty of state and county parks that are open all year in the Genessee county area. You can check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or Genessee County Parks for a complete list in the area. Many allow sledding, cross-country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing activities.
Snowmobiling in the State of Michigan’s State Parks requires a trail permit. They have an interactive snowmobile trail map website you can use to find the best trails in Michigan. The closest location is about an hour and a half from Flint in Sanilac County. This county is located in the “thumb” of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Despite the winter cold, there are plenty of campgrounds open all year. For family fun, you can hang out with Yogi and his gang at the Frankenmuth Jellystone Park. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has a listing of the winter camping areas that are open. The Holly Recreation Area is closest to Flint.
2. Taos, New Mexico
Taos has been one of the United State’s most desirable art colonies for many generations. It’s also known for its Pueblo Native American culture and world renown ski valley. As a winter destination hub, once you set your jacks down, everything you could ever want is located within this Rocky Mountain haven.
The area has the longest ski season in the state. The resort itself has over 40 different ski trails and six lifts. This 200-acre property receives an average of almost 16 feet of snow every year. The resort is located within the Carson National Forest. You can expect to see some of the most picturesque scenery New Mexico has to offer.
Throughout the year, the resort operates a campground that is open all year long. There are 14 sites with an electric hookup during the winter months. Reservations must be made through their online system. Pets are welcome for no additional charge. Picnic tables and fire pits are included at each campsite.
Celebrating the Yuletide in Taos
Taos has a unique style of welcoming the holiday season with Santa and the sacred Pueblan Deer Dance. During this time, you can enjoy various town-wide celebrations, art festivals, parades, and other holiday events. Out of respect, the Pueblan Nation asks that you not take any pictures or videos during their religious practices.
Ice Fishing at Eagle Nest Lake
In late January, anglers from all over the country descend on the Eagle Nest Lake to take part in the ice fishing tournament every year. Participants compete for over $5,000 in prizes, door prizes and raffle drawings. The contest began in 2012 and has drawn bigger crowds each year. New Mexico has an online system where you can buy your fishing license online.
Eagle Nest Lake is home to a number of fish species.
- Rainbow trout
- Brown trout
- Cutthroat trout
- Kokanee salmon
- Smallmouth bass
- Yellow perch
- Common carp
- White sucker
- Channel catfish
- Northern pike
Due to the pike being a threat to the other game fish, and unintentionally introduced to the lake, they ask anglers to keep the pike. Before you head out to Eagle Nest Lake, you can check with the weekly fishing report to see if the lake is open and when the lake was restocked. Since it is a mountain lake, also prepare yourself for mountain winds as well as the cold temperatures.
Taos is surrounded by state parks and protected lands. The bigger ones include Eagle Lake State Park and Cimarron Canyon State Park. There are many great trails for snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, and many other winter activities in this mountain region.
Snowmobiling is allowed in certain areas. There are many snowmobile tours you can take with experts that know the area that have their own equipment. If you want to use your own, the State of New Mexico requires that you purchase a registration decal.
Taos has a lot of winter camping options in the area. Taos Valley RV Park has back-in and pull-through sites available with full hookups. They offer daily, weekly, and monthly rates. Another choice is the Monte Bello RV Park. They are just minutes away from Taos’ city center and many of the other attractions.
You’ll find that a lot of the campgrounds in the area are open during the winter months. Since the area is as popular a destination in winter as it is during the summer months, they keep their gates open. With the cold temperatures, unless your RV is properly insulated, you may want to take advantage of their restrooms and showers to avoid ruining your water lines.
3. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg has been a popular destination in the Smoky Mountains for generations. It’s become a town filled with attractions that appeal to everyone throughout the year. It’s also the location of Dollywood. This theme park was created by Dolly Parton to celebrate the Smoky Mountain culture, people, and the land. Don’t be surprised if you see a celebrity or two on your visit.
Ober Gatlinburg is an all-season theme park. When the snow hits, they offer skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, ice skating, and a Cubbies Snow Zone for kids. The exact season is based on when the snow actually falls, but usually between December and mid-March. They offer at least three ski trails and have a snowmaking machine to keep the powder fresh.
Gatlinburg comes alive during the holiday season. There are many tours you can take to view the light displays across the city. They aren’t at the same elevations either. You can take a street-level trolley tour. For something more scenic, you can walk through Sky Lift Park, across their SkyBridge and get a breath-taking view of the town from high above.
There are holiday-themed concerts, the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and fireworks displays. Many of the area’s attractions celebrate the season in their own way. There are champagne toast and live entertainment events throughout the area. With this being a family-friendly area, there are plenty of events for the kids to participate in.
Fishing in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area is mostly fly fishing in the various mountain streams. The city stocks the streams weekly to keep the fish populations up. Other fishing areas are in Smoky Mountain National Park. Before you grab your rod, make sure you understand all of the rules and regulations of both areas. Some streams are catch and release only.
The biggest public park is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There are some city parks throughout the town that have some children’s fishing streams and sports fields. For all outdoor enthusiasts looking for hiking, snowshoeing, and other wilderness-type activities, the national park has everything you could want.
Snowmobiling does exist in the area. There are tours you can take during the heavier snow periods. The national park does allow it, but you will want to check with the front gate to the park first. The best conditions for snowmobiling are going to be in the highest elevations in the mountains. The ranger service will know which areas are safest and open.
Many of Gatlinburg’s campgrounds stay open all year. One of which is Camping In the Smokies. It’s the oldest campground in the area that dates back to 1965. To make things extra convenient, they have their own trolley stop. This way, you can move about town to all of the things you want to see, without having to move your vehicle.
4. Manchester, Vermont
If you are looking for a perfect little village-type town that reminds you of Hallmark Channel movies, then Manchester is the place to be. You will find an estate built by a descendant of President Lincoln, a quaint New England downtown district, and a farming community all in one place.
This resort is open all year and always has family-friendly activities. In winter, they have three mountains with numerous ski and riding trails available. To handle all of this traffic, they have seven lifts and one T-bar to get you to the trail or slope you are looking for.
This resort is so spectacular, Ski Magazine put it in one of their top 10 best resorts for scenery, value, and down-day activities when the slopes are closed due to weather conditions. The property is apart of the Mount Mansfield State Forest. Not only are you going to see great landscapes, but you are helping to support the conservation of protected land.
The festivities of Manchester can be seen and experienced in every inch of the town. You can take a sleigh ride at Billings farm and museum. Enjoy the creative stylings of the antique tractors in the Annual Lighted Tractor Parade. Visit the Christmas Days store, that celebrates the season all year long. Don’t forget to attend the Gala at the Bennington Museum.
Ice Fishing on Lake St. Catherine
About 38 minutes north is Lake St. Catherine. You can find:
- Northern Pike
- Yellow perch
- Black crappie
- Rainbow Smelt
Depths of this glacial lake reach as far as 68 feet. Be mindful of the various fishing season regulations and fishing license details required by the State of Vermont. Don’t forget that the minimum safe ice thickness is at least four inches.
Vermont state parks are open all year. They are great for winter activities like sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling trails. During the off-season, restroom and drinking water won’t be available. Since staff don’t regularly monitor the parks, they ask that you be their “eyes and ears” and respect the integrity of the park.
The closest state park to Manchester for snowmobiling is Woodford State Park. You can visit the Vermont State Park website to learn more about what is available at each park and its regulations. You must register your snowmobile with the state.
Camping in the state parks is allowed, but not for RVs. You must apply for a permit at least three days in advance and you have to hike into the location of your choice. The maximum you can stay is up to three consecutive nights during the off-season. Access is free of charge.
The Vermont Campground Association can assist you with locating a campground throughout the state. Their organization helps campers locate both private and public campgrounds. You can search their database to locate campgrounds that are open during the winter or for other specific topics of interest on an interactive map.
About an hour away is Running Bear Camping Area. They are open all year. They are located off of Interstate 91, off of exit 8. Winter amenities include laundry facilities, full bathhouses, WiFi, and propane refill. Nearby there are skiing and snowmobile trails. They offer full season and dry camping sites during winter. Their off-season runs from October 11 to April 28.
5. Leavenworth, Washington
A little over 100 miles east of Seattle, is the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. It sits within the Cascade Mountains of the State of Washington. This tourist-oriented community officially has a population of about 2,000 people but caters to thousands of travelers throughout the year.
The LWSC has operated since 1928. It currently has 26 kilometers of trails at four different locations in the Cascade Mountain Valley. In 2004, they completed a Nordic ski jumping facility and specialize in the Nordic style of skiing.
Christkindlmarkt in Leavenworth
The holiday season begins during Thanksgiving weekend and wraps up towards the end of January. Their biggest time is the Christmas Lighting Ceremony where they light over half a million lights. St. Nickolaus shares his story with all of the good boys and girls. He presents them with “gold” for those who are deserving. There is music, food, and many festivities to be enjoyed.
After the new year, you can celebrate the Bavarian IceFest with many fun activities. See live ice carving demonstrations, firework displays, and other family-friendly events. The IceFest runs through most of January.
There are many different options for ice fishing in the Leavenworth area. Fish Lake is a popular ice fishing destination in the area. You can catch:
- Brown trout
- Largemouth bass
- Largescale sucker
- Northern pikeminnow
- Rainbow trout
- Redside shiner
- Yellow perch
Read up on Washington’s fishing regulations and licensing procedures before you cast your line. The state is broken up into different regions and there are differences between freshwater and saltwater laws. You don’t want your fishing trip ruined due to a mixup in regulatory confusion.
Leavenworth is between the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Peshastin Pinnacles State Park. WIth your appropriate passes, there are a lot of winter activities you can do. Sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and other fun things that let you explore these parks.
Leavenworth-Chelan State Park is one of the designated Sno-Parks that have designated snowmobile trails. Before you head out, make sure to have your SnoChoice permit in order, so you can enjoy the day.
There are winter camping options in the Leavenworth area. The Leavenworth/Pine Village KOA is open all year. They offer back in, pull through, and now have concrete patio sites available. A public park campground that is very popular is Eightmile Campground within the National Forest. Some of their sites are reservation only, some are not. It’s recommended to call ahead first.