High-Altitude RVing – How to beat the heat and camp in perfect weather all year

 High-Altitude RVing – How to beat the heat and camp in perfect weather all year

Here’s the view from our campsite at Maggie Gulch, 9800 feet up in the Colorado Rockies.

As another camping season approaches we want to share how you can beat the heat and camp in perfect weather all year. The solution is high-altitude RVing.

Let's face it, summer camping is nice but it also brings 90-degree temperatures and 90% humidity.,

Even in northern climates, it gets very hot during the dog days. 

But by moving about in your RV and using high altitude camping to regulate the heat you experience,  your summer locations can be much more agreeable – and scenic.

Let me show you some examples of how to do this when the temperature rises and some peculiarities of high-altitude RV operation. Much of this information comes from our friend Campskunk, who shared these tips from his deep experience

The goal is to camp in perfect weather!

The goal here is to experience daytime temperatures in the low to mid-'70s, which we have found to generally be the most comfortable camping climate there is.

New Mexico is a great state to begin a summer's travels and by April, you can pretty much always find those sweet seventies.

BONUS: CLICK HERE to read our epic, free post on the blog on where to camp free or very cheap, with lots of boondocking and dispersed camping tips.

The formula to camp in perfect weather: Keep it around 70 degrees!

They'll last close to Memorial Day if you move around a bit. Head north towards the Rockies and Colorado. A good place to be in late May is around Farmington, NM, waiting for the snow to melt and the mountains to open up.

Eventually, when you see the snow line climbing higher on those peaks, you're starting to sweat at lower altitudes and experience those 80 degree days.

Head up the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) into the Colorado high country when the weather is so warm you need the AC on.

Try Haviland Lake, CO for spectacular High-Altitude RVing

Try Haviland Lake at 8100 feet, assuming the snow has melted. Daytime highs in early June will probably be upper 60's to low 70s. Once the holiday crowds dispersed, you should have lots of places to boondock. 

photo of Haviland Lake and High-Altitude RVing
Haviland Lake is a perfect spot for High-Altitude RVing

You have seen Haviland Lake before on every calendar those poor working folks hang in their cubicle as they slave away in dreary office buildings. 

It's a National Forest campground with electricity and water, and online reservations for maybe half the spots.

Take it slow when High-Altitude RVing

We recommend spending about a week and a half there getting acclimated to the altitude. Watch the snowline on the mountains. The elevations will undergo a remarkable transformation. Feet of snow will quickly start melting away and in rapid order, those low 70s at Haviland Lake will start to hit the 80s and you'll know it's time to start climbing again.

You can follow the hummingbirds – who will also be looking for perfect weather.  A good place to stay in the 70s in Mid-June is around Silverton, CO.

Here's the view from a High-Altitude RVing campsite at Maggie Gulch, 9800 feet up in the Colorado Rockies.
Here's the view from a dispersed High-Altitude RVing campsite at Maggie Gulch, 9800 feet up in the Colorado Rockies.

Mineral Creek has great High-Altitude RVing spots to camp in perfect weather!

There are lots of awesome boondocking locations up here. Mineral Creek dispersed camping in the San Juan National Forest is a favorite for many of those chasing perfect weather.

Up there, you'll now be at 9600 feet, and the weather for what will not be full-on summer should be ideal. High temperatures that high will seldom get above 70. Perfect n our books.

At night at altitude, you may need the heater as it will regularly dip into the 40s.

There is a time limit for High-Altitude RVing in dispersed camping spots

The Forest Service will let you stay a maximum of 14 days upon there then, its a simple matter of just moving over to the other side of Silverton, which is BLM land (Bureau of Land Management, another Federal agency) to Maggie Gulch at 9800 feet.

It's time to reset the 14-day clock in another spectacularly beautiful place with near-perfect camping weather.

Anything with yeast or baking powder rises like it's on steroids when you are High-Altitude RVing. My grandma would be proud.
Anything with yeast or baking powder rises like it's on steroids when you're High-Altitude RVing. Campskunk made these and says high altitude camping can make anyone an expert baker.

There are some quirks to being up where the air pressure is 70% of normal – if you make biscuits they'll be things of beauty. 

But your potato chip bags may have popped those air seals as you climbed up to this altitude. Fortunately, the low humidity will keep them from going stale.  The downside is that water boils 20 degrees cooler, so potatoes will take forever to cook. 

Forget about cooking rice. Plus you'll need to add more coffee and boil it longer if you prefer it strong.

Your camper appliances may be affected when you are High-Altitude RVing

RV appliance operation can also be affected by altitude. If you have a  generator,  you may find it has a hard time warming up and running smoothly.

The key is to get out the manual and make an attitude adjustment on it. Pull the generator access cover and look for a black plastic set screw cap with a line on it pointing to a 0-10,000 foot scale.  Rotating the set screw clockwise until the line in the black plastic cap corresponds to your altitude will make your generator a lot happier.

A propane hot water heater could develop the mechanical equivalent of emphysema at 9800 feet – with the flame popping and going out, requiting much relighting and lean-burn smells.

Alas, this is something that you probably need to leave alone and turn off.

You can heat water on the propane stovetop just fine in a pot. 

photo of Beartooth Plateau, looking down on the snow fields
High-Altitude RVing at Beartooth Pass, looking down on the snowfields.

When it really gets hot down below, head to the Beartooth Pass

There's one more climb you may want to take if the weather gets really hot in late July and August.

Head north towards Montana and the Beartooth Plateau at 10,164 feet.

Up that high, 70 is about the highest you can expect, even when it's 90 a few thousand feet lower.

Again, get acclimated to the high altitudes!

All that altitude does require acclimation.

Ascend gradually and stop for a week or so on your way up through successively higher altitudes. If you climb slowly you won't suffer any adverse altitude sickness consequences, other than shortness of breath with sustained exertion.

Everyone notices that.

You aren't the only species looking for perfect weather!

One other possible downside of high-altitude camping is that you aren't the only species up there.

Bears will almost always be found at altitude in the summer. Practice keeping a clean camp and secure your vehicle, especially at night. 

To be extra cautious, we suggest you never take any food outside the vehicle when you're in bear country.

So that's our suggestion on his high altitude camping and keep you in perfect weather all summer.

Whether you're fulltiming or just hot, head for the mountains and enjoy a break from the oppressive summer weather. 

Get more inside RV travel tips with our Boondocking Guide

ebook boondocking guide

Our Beginner's Guide to Boondocking is an instantly downloadable ebook that gives you a detailed look into our preferred way of RVing and traveling.

Boondocking is camping totally self-contained with no commercial power, water, sewer, or any other on-the-grid service.  We get questions every day of other RVers wondering “How do you do that?”

In this step-by-step guide, we show you exactly how to boondock in your RV! CLICK HERE for more info.

High-Altitude RVing - How to beat the heat and camp in perfect weather all year

RV Lifestyle

10 Comments

  • That weather must be wonderful … Thanks for sharing!

  • More great tips Dr Campskunk! Keep up the great work, we’re counting on you. Bigfoot Dave

  • I would love that weather. Husband Bill, not so much! He likes warmth and sunshine. But I will try this out sometime. BUCKET LIST!

  • Could you pass the biscuits, please? YUM!

  • Campskunk
    Wanted to see Beartooth Pass on way to Alaska in May but it was closed due to snow. I’ll be by that way again about July 23rd. In Victoria,BC at the moment and cool but sunny here. Have any suggestions for boondocking around Astoria, Oregon I’ll be there in a few days Bill 05C190P

    • bill: i pretty much blew by the northern Oregon coast because i was there in August and it was infested with tourists. we day camped at Manzanita and went inland to a nice state forest park to spend the night – Nehalem Falls i think it was. i boondocked across the bridge at Quinault Casino, north of Ocean Shores, WA, which was nice. it’s just a huge parking lot in the dunes overlooking the ocean. water and a dump are at the state park immediately south of the casino.

  • Those biscuits look amazing, Campskunk! Would love to spend some time exploring the Beartooth mtns. When I was there yrs ago, I knew there were bears, but didn’t take it seriously …. Now I’m older & wiser – traded in that pup tent for a RT 🙂

  • Campskunk, if you stay in a national forest like Lake Haviland and you boondock, do you still need reservations? Or can you just drive in, pay the entrance fee and stay?!

    • Lake Haviland is a developed campground with designated numbered campsites, electrical hookups, water, dumpsters, etc., and you can make reservations there. http://www.recreation.gov/recreationalAreaDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&facilityId=235724&agencyCode=70903

      the boondocking is just picking a spot in a national forest where it’s OK to camp in what they call “dispersed camping”. go by the ranger station or look online at the forest service websites for maps that show you where it’s legal. the Motor Vehicle Use Map they have online or give you at the ranger station will have this information.

  • I haven’t tried it yet, but, in addition to the bisquits rising energetically, it’s my understanding that inflated mattresses also respond energetically to high altitudes (lower pressure). Accordingly, if/when we travel to high altitude locations, my plan is to deflate our bed matress so it won’t spontaneously overinflate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the RV Lifestyle community!

Subscribe to the newsletter and get a free Packing List for your next trip + free perks, discounts and exclusive RV travel tips!



Join the RV Lifestyle community!

Subscribe to the newsletter and get a free Packing List for your next trip + free perks, discounts and exclusive RV travel tips!