How to Get to the RTR, Rubber Tramp Rendezvous


With the RTR quickly approaching many of you are beginning to think about how to travel to Quartzsite and the RTR. It’s actually a question I get pretty often, “What’s the best route and what should I see and what should I avoid.” I want to  answer some of your questions in this blog post. The route you choose will depend a great deal on when you are coming and the weather forecast. For example, if you’re traveling in December or January and storms are projected, you might do something very different than if you travel in November and the weather is perfect. So I’ll break this post down by two different routes by two different time frames the first will be traveling in the winter with potentially bad weather, the other will be traveling in November with mainly the possibility of good weather.

Thi shot was takn in Arches, NP.
This shot was taken in Arches, NP.

If you are traveling in December or January

If you’re traveling as late as December or January there is a real potential for storms and very cold weather. My advice is that wherever you’re coming from you take the lowest and most southern route and try to avoid them. If you’re coming from the East Coast I suggest you drop all the way straight down from wherever you are and take Interstate 10 or even Interstate 8 across the country and then once you’re in Arizona continue on them up to Quartzsite. I do not recommend that you take Interstate 40 or any other further north Interstates because of the potential for snow storms and cold.

If you’re coming from the mountain states or the Pacific Northwest,  you probably know that country very well and I can’t tell you anything. You already know the potential is for the passes to be hit by a snowstorm and suddenly to be closed  leaving you stranded for days at a time while you wait for the weather to clear. If you are coming from  Southern California, take either Interstate 8 or 10 across California  and into Quartzsite. You might want to take I-8 and stop in Algodones, Mexico  for prescription drugs, glasses or dental work along the way.

The most important thing is DO NOT take I-40 through Flagstaff if there is any potential for cold or snowstorms! That whole section of freeway can be shut down at any time by snow in winter! The only reason to go that way is if you are installing solar and want the best prices, then you may want to stop at Northern Arizona Wind and Sun in Flagstaff  to buy your components at great prices.

Just an average drive in Utah.
Just an average drive in Utah.

Traveling in November with good weather

It’s probably a little late to be posting this, I should have done it earlier, but I hope it’s still helpful. If you’re traveling in November my suggestion to everyone is to travel further north and to spend some time in Utah. That’s especially true if you’ve never been there before. I believe Utah is not just one of the most beautiful places in the country, but on the entire planet–and November is the best time to visit it!!

There are other places along your route that will be pretty but in November it’s becoming very risky that you’ll run into bad weather. For example if you were coming from the north west you would pass through the Rocky Mountains which has some of the most beautiful places anywhere. But the potential for snow storms and being stuck are very high in the mountain passes. Worse the potential for running in the cold is almost a certainty. There may be an exceptional year where it is not very cold but most years in November you can expect the High Country to be cold.

This isn’t a Park of any kind, just typical scenery in Utah.

So I don’t really suggest you do a lot of exploring in November around the country but instead limit yourself to Utah. For example, both Zion NP and Moab are generally nice in November. Some of the high country can be cold and snowy so be very careful there. For example, Bryce Canyon NP is at 8000 feet and it will be cold there-I’d avoid it unless you are certain the weather is good.

Here’s why Utah is best explored in November:

  1. The primary reason you should plan to visit Utah in November is because it is gorgeous. If you’ve never been there almost nothing can prepare you for the stunning beauty of its Red Rock country. I grew up in Alaska all my life so I was accustomed to beautiful country but when I drove into Arches National Park for my first time I literally wept because I’ve never seen anything quite so starkly beautiful. You owe it to yourself to take the time to explore the five National Parks of Utah on your way to the RTR in November. You won’t regret it.
  2. The next reason to come to Utah in November is that the crowds are gone. Utah is so popular worldwide with tourists that it is packed during the summer. Everywhere you go there are tour buses full of  Japanese, German and Italian speaking people from all around the world. Plus, it’s a main destination for adventurous people from all over the country for mountain biking, Jeep and ATVing, climbing, rafting and just exploring the majestic beauty of the Red Rock country. All of these things are world-class, so people travel from all around the world in the summer to enjoy them. Fortunately, by November the crowds are gone and you’ll have the place all to yourself! Traffic won’t be an issue, you can still rent bikes, Jeeps and ATVs and everything else you would do before–you just won’t need to fight the crowds.
  3. Another major reason to come now is that the weather will have cooled off. Utah is very hot in the summer, but by November it will be cool and shouldn’t be cold yet. For the most part, the Red Rock country is all reasonably comfortable in November.
  4. The fourth reason Utah is best  visited in November is that the Cottonwood trees (which are abundant in some of the National Parks) will be turning a beautiful yellow which contrasts against the Red Rock behind them and is truly stunning. It’s worth coming in November if for no other reason to see that yellow colors against the Red Rock.   Zion NP  in particular is full of cottonwoods and even some Oaks and so by November 1st they’re all in full fall colors and it’s just stunningly beautiful against the Zion walls.
  5. My main reason is that you can drive your car into Zion National Park and not take the shuttle. It’s one of the most beautiful places anywhere on the planet and  because of that it has extreme crowds and traffic. It’s so bad that all summer you cannot drive your personal vehicle into Zion Valley, you must take a shuttle bus from outside into the valley which greatly complicates your experience in Zion. For example if you’re going to walk the Narrows up to Wall Street and enjoy that hike you must haul all your water gear onto the bus with you and up to the end of the road. Or, if you are a climber you have to carry all your climbing gear on the bus, climb, then get back on the bus later and go out.
  6. It’s much easier to get Backcountry Permits. If you are a Backpacker all of the Backcountry in Zion requires a permit but in the summer it is so popular those permits become very difficult to get. In fact some places are so popular they have put in a lottery system and only a few people a day get to go into Backcountry routes. But by November 1st all of those things have ended you don’t have to take the shuttle and you can drive your car in and park and climb or walk or hike. The backcountry still requires a permit but it’s very easy to get
Capital Reef NP

So for all these reasons, Utah (and particularly Zion) is best explored in November.

To help you explore Utah I’m including maps at the very bottom of the post with a suggested itinerary and driving routes.  The whole state is so spectacular that the  drive between places can be nearly as beautiful as the places themselves. I’ve driven through canyons in Utah and thought “This whole Canyon should be a National Park!” and yet it can’t be because it’s just a canyon in the road. State Highway 12 is among of the most beautiful drives anywhere in America, you really should drive it and be stunned by its beauty, and yet you probably never heard of it! That’s why I’m including these maps and itinerary.  More info on the drive here:

I hope the maps help you to see and appreciate the beauty of Utah and if you’re coming to Arizona for the RTR or to spend the winter, it really behooves you to stop and enjoy it!  I believe you’ll be very very glad you did.

Usually I am in Arizona by November 1st. But this year I’m waiting to go to a family reunion in Oregon and I won’t get there until  the first week of December. But you should consider going early anyway because it’s such a great place to be and you can meet other tribe members. To connect with them, I suggest you join my forum. As we start to gather in November we’ll start a thread on the Forum about where they are and where they’re meeting. By following that thread, you’ll know who’s there and where they are. Post your location and you’ll get an invitation to come and join them.

So there you have it a route to get to Utah to and then to Arizona and enjoy some of the prettiest parts of this country and treat yourself to a new stunning spectacle.

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I've been a full-time VanDweller since 1995 and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again! Check out Homes On Wheels Alliance (HOWA), our nonprofit that I co-founded. HOWA is dedicated to helping nomads in need.

53 Comments on “How to Get to the RTR, Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

  1. If you do the Utah thing, be aware that SR-12 between Torrey and Boulder (UT) summits at about 8,000 feet. There are steep grades in both directions. Check weather and road conditions before heading that way. You’d want to avoid snow and ice.

    If you’re coming from the West Coast, you might want to hit Joshua Tree NP before crossing into AZ. I-10 to Palm Springs, north then east on highway 62 to the town of Joshua Tree, and into the park. Then out the south side of the park, back to I-10 and on to Quartzsite.

    The the grocery stores in Quartzsite are small with little selection (though the General Store has an excellent butcher), so stock up before you get there. Your last chances for large markets are Blythe from the west, Parker from the North, Buckeye or Wickenburg from the east and Yuma from the south.

  2. And how about a stop at Slab City, CA if you’re traveling east from SoCal? Salton Sea is intriguing; see it before it dries up. Traveling west? Check out White Sands, New Mexico….awesome! Southern Utah is my favorite though. Maybe skip Bryce for a warmer month. November for me is Big Sur Coast. Mild temps fog’s gone and so are the touristas. Happy Trails

  3. Wish I could fly out. Then rent car and stay in it. I have never been to round up! What fun.
    I guess no one drives from Duluth,MN that time of year. lol
    Thanks for info Bob,

  4. Thanks for all the info on Utah, Bob. We are planning on being there in April. Maybe we should wait till fall? We want to avoid the big crowds.

  5. The map is labeled wrong I-8 does not go past Casa Grande, AZ. and I-10 runs from Los Angeles, CA. though south Texas(San Antonio, Houston, Baytown) to Jacksonville, FL. I-20 runs from where it splits off of I-10 (around mile marker 188) through DFW and on to where it ends in Florence, SC.

    • Kelly, sorry about that but I’m not trying to give any details with such a large scale maps, I’m assuming you will use Goggle and an Atlas to find your way there. I’m just trying to give a broad impression of routes.

      • Sorry, not meaning to nit pic. But I am a 30+ year truck driver and thats one of my things… directions. Anyway, hope to be out there for the RTR, even if I am not a van dweller yet. I have watched some of your other videos and you have given some tips that have helped my day to day exstitance out here. Thanks

    • If one wants to take I-8 from Casa Grande to avoid the Phoenix metro area, it’s shorter to reconnect to I-10 by turning north at Gila Bend than it is to go north from Yuma.

    • Yes, I-10 runs straight through New Orleans. I live about 2 minutes from the onramp. Handy for evacuating during hurricane season which is thankfully over for this year. Wish I could be there with you all. Definately next year. Peace and love — Sue

  6. Utah looks great, I should definitely try for November travel one year.

    I have loose plans to come to the RTR this year from Canada, in December. I don’t know the best route south along the West Coast. From my research so far it looks like either I5 or the longer coast highway. I’m told that the former can get snow storms and the latter can get major rain and wind storms. I don’t have snow tires.

    What would be my best strategy and route to get from the border to Quartzite? I did plan on stooping by Joshua Tree NP on the way, and am a bit concerned about navigating the megacities traffic of LA and SF.

    • I would roll the coastal route for beauty and weather, as I much prefer rain to snow! When yo get to southern Ca take I 10 into Q, don’t miss Joshua Tree, it has great scenery and boondocking. I’d hit Desert Hot Springs too, but I am a hot springs nut?

    • You know first hand what the rain is like in the PNW, just remember it will be as bad or worse across Washington or Oregon. Winter is not usually a good time to sightsee along the coast. Plus they have high passes where it will be snow. If it were me I’d try eastern Washington/Oregon and then get onto I-84 and I-15. It’s never really high although snow is always a possibility in Salt Lake City.

    • How much time have you got? I’d take the I5 to just past Portland and head over to Lincoln City, drive down the coast to somewhere before San Francisco, then hit the I5 again and go south. The purpose is to avoid Grant’s pass and Mt Shasta where they get a fair amount of snow.

      You will probably get a lot of wind and rain, but probably not snow. I’ve done it on my bike a few times so it shouldn’t be a problem with a vehicle.

      • thanks for this!

        You did this on your bike? Wow! I used to dream of doing that stretch on a bike too, but the damaged knees would not take it, so I had to contend myself with shorter bike camping trips much closer to home.

  7. My daughter bought my home near Cedar City, Utah so I visit the area frequently. I agree with Bob about the beauty of this state; hwy 12 is absolutely gorgeous and a must see.

    As for weather, we usually have at least a light snow storm by now (at about 6000 ft elevation). Winter has been slow in arriving to southern Utah this year and there is still no precipitation in the 10 day forecast. I generally try to be out of here by November 15 at the latest, but may not make it this time. This year I’m having repairs done and am at the mercy of the weather and the mechanic.

    Have had the RTR on the agenda for months now and look forward to seeing everyone again.

    Happy trails,

  8. I have driven south from western Oregon in early January. I headed south on I-5. I look for freezing rain possibilities on I-5 through Douglas county, between Roseburg and Medford. Check the weather at the pass on the border between Oregon and California for snow and chain requirements. Once you get to Redding temperatures warm 10 degrees.

    I take this route rather than than heading east and then south, because I know it won’t be snowy, and because the warmer nighttime temperatures are easier on me in the van.

    But someday I might experiment with going south on the east side of the mountains.

  9. Oh, and I came east once through Bakersfield and Barstow, to yucca valley, then Palm Springs then Quartzsite.

    The second time I took I-5 all the way to LA then 210 to I-10 to Quartzsite!

    Traffic was dense but steady mostly. Around Pasadena seemed the more congested. It was a Sunday afternoon.

  10. If you’re taking I-10 through El Paso and Las Cruces, I think it’s worth your time to camp at Aguirre Spring National Recreation Area, on the other side of the Organ Mountains from Las Cruces. Take I-25 north to US 70. Look for the signs on the right after the summit. The campground is right up against the base of the Organ Mountains with a view out over White Sands. Only $7 a night.

  11. If you’re driving US 163 southwest from Bluff UT, keep your eyes peeled for the small-ish sign for Valley of the Gods, then slow down and look for the opening in the guardrail. That’s the road. Follow it about 7 miles and you’ll come to one of my favorite free camping spots. There’s a tall tower on the left and a turn on the right to the camping spot. If it’s occupied, and you have a small rig, there are a couple more spots a little farther on, where the road takes a sharp turn. If those spots are also occupied, turn around. The road turns to crap from there. However, that bad road will bring you to the base of Moki Dugway, a switchback dirt road up the face of the escarpment.

    If you continue on US 163, you come to the Mexican Hat rock formation. Turn east at the sign and keep going past the tourist turnouts. You can boondock at the base of the rock.

    If you want to camp at Monument Valley Tribal Park, it’s $20 just to get in. Camping is extra. They won’t let van campers camp in the tent camping parking lot anymore. You have to use the RV spots, which don’t have as cool a view.

    If it fits in your plans, Navajo National Monument is nice. The RV camping spots near the visitor center is nothing to get excited about, but the other campground, for small rigs, is on the edge of the canyon.

    Or if you take US 191 south from Bluff, you can go to Canyon de Chelly. You need to book a tour with a Navajo guide in order to go into the canyon (rather than just looking at it from the rim), but I think it’s worth it. Spider Rock Campground is a good place to stay, and the owner does tours.

  12. I’ve got this page bookmarked and favorited and will be referring back to it!

    Thank you Mush, Bob, Nancy bee, Al for route suggestions and places to see. Looks like I will have an amazing trip this winter after RTR. Looks like I may have to come back year after year. 🙂

    Bob, I’m surprised that you are suggesting the eastern side of the Sierras in winter. Won’t that be really cold and possibly snowy? I won’t have tires that I trust in snow this year and I’m used to driving in rain but not in snow.

    Sorry for the total newbie questions, but how do people check for weather and road conditions on their route? I have mostly traveled in BC so I know how to check for my home province but outside there…

  13. AL,I went up Moki Dugway a couple months ago and it didn’t look as well maintained as when we went up in 2013. More washboard areas and in some places dirt at the edge had fallen away. Maybe it’s just my faulty memory but it also seemed more narrow!

  14. has exactly the information I want to study climates, all in easily-understood charts with clear, simple text. For my learning process, I wanted to study the wind patterns in Quartzsite (which gives results for Blythe, CA), and it works very well. The wind at Quartzsite in the winter camping season is pretty much the same average speed as here in Columbus in April.

  15. My partner and I just left Utah after staying over a month in the state. It is an amazing state! One thing to note is that the crowds are still there in Zion! All of the national parks in the state are over the top beautiful. One area overlooked is the Needles section of Canyonlands, it is incredible and staying right outside the park costs only $5! The Valley of the Gods outside of Bluff is definitely worth the time and camping is free!

  16. Hi Bob – Look forward to seeing you at the RTR or before. I see you’re thinking of a truck camper. How long is your truck bed and do you have a ballpark budget in mind? – Dave

    • Dave, I don’t even have a truck yet, so as of now it’s all just speculation whether I can afford it at all! I want an 8 foot bed but they can be hard to find with a super or crew cab.

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