Leafy Scenes: 12 of the Best Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

Fall foliage won’t wait and neither should you

Every year, Mother Nature sets the hills ablaze with vibrant hues of red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple. Autumn is a special time of year. The air begins to cool and the leaves start to change color. It’s the season to admire the magic of nature at a slower pace.

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall is a great time to head out in the RV. Crisp days, cool evenings, and an amazing show as the leaves turn vibrant colors! Fall signals the change from summer to winter. It’s the time when we change from the relaxed, carefree attitudes of summer to the more serious and introspective energies of fall.

Did you know: we’ve been calling this season “fall” since the 17th century. Before then it was simply “Harvest” but as more people moved away from agricultural locations, fall became the more common word for this fantastic season (because leaves fell!). Fall and autumn are interchangeable but you’re likely to hear “autumn” more frequently in Britain while “fall” is more common in America.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best time to view the fall foliage is typically late September to late October but timing varies according to region, elevation, and weather.

This autumn, take advantage of cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage by planning a fall drive through some of the country’s most scenic regions. With a dozen routes through the most picturesque states around the country, you’re bound to find a perfect autumn getaway. From coast to coast, these fall road trips offer amazing views and unique things to do.

Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont

The Green Mountain Byway travels from Stowe to Waterbury between mountain ridges. Along the route are Little River, Smugglers Notch, and Waterbury Center state parks, and Mount Mansfield and Putnam state forests. Stowe is a premier four-season resort destination particularly known for its alpine and Nordic recreation, mountain biking, and hiking. Here, the Von Trapp family (of Sound of Music fame) attracted worldwide attention more than 50 years ago. Along with beautiful scenery, a large variety of attractions for all ages and tastes including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and Vermont Ski Museum.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

The Blue Ridge Mountains offer one of the most colorful and longest-running fall leaf seasons. One of the many reasons for this is the varied elevations which show prime fall colors for more than a month. Fall colors begin at the highest elevations in early October and work their way down to the lower elevations in early November.

The Blue Ridge Parkway connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This National Parkway often called “America’s favorite drive” meanders 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It is truly one of the most stunning fall drives in the country. Everyone should complete this trek at least once in their lifetime! While you drive, you’ll pass split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows, and scenic overlooks. Stop along the way at the numerous hiking trails or visit a local farm to grab some autumnal produce.

Heritage Driving Tour near Goshen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heritage Driving Tour, Indiana

The 90-mile Heritage Trail Driving Tour winds through Amish Country taking you down rural highways, country lanes, and charming main streets. Stop in Shipshewana to stroll the shop-lined streets where you’ll find handcrafted items, baked goods, and the Midwest’s largest flea market. Enjoy a delightful Amish meal at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury or Amish Acres in Nappanee.

Cades Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots in the Smoky Mountains National Park and it’s not hard to see why. Visitors can explore hiking trails, historic sites, and an auto tour. During the fall season, Cades Cove comes alive with gorgeous colors and becomes an even more magical place to visit. But be aware that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper especially on weekends. Late October into November is when the gorgeous fall foliage can best be seen in Cades Cove. Be sure to bring your camera when you visit—there are plenty of picture-perfect opportunities throughout Cades Cove!

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway climbs up Parowan Canyon’s white, gold, red, and yellow rock pillars and cliffs, traveling between its two town anchors, Parowan and Panguitch. As you travel this rolling route through varying elevations, note the distinctive combination of colorful scenery and ancient history. For a relaxed afternoon, go fishing in Panguitch Lake from which the byway gets half of its name. As you continue along your way, a section of the route brushes the top of Cedar Breaks National Monument, an amphitheater canyon eroded out of the western edge of the Markagaunt Plateau. Dixie National Forest is home to Brian Head Peak, which reaches 11,315 feet and gives the byway the other half of its namesake.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile journey along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. The landscape is spectacular in the fall with trees transforming into every shade of yellow and red imaginable and piles of crunchy leaves lining the drive like confetti. Skyline Drive’s nearly 70 overlooks give you practically endless opportunities to soak up the scenery.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Fish Lake Scenic Byway (SR-25) bookends Fishlake National Forest, an often-missed oasis featuring three mountain ranges broken up by desert canyons. Fishlake National Forest is a paradise known for its beautiful aspen forests, scenic drives, trails, elk hunting, and mackinaw and rainbow trout fishing. Fish Lake, Utah’s largest natural mountain lake lies in a down-faulted valley (technically known as a graben) at an elevation of 8,843 feet. The 5.5-mile-long lake is one of the most popular fishing resorts in the state attracting as many as 7,000 visitors on summer weekends.

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newfound Gap Scenic Byway, North Carolina and Tennessee

Autumn is both a beautiful and a busy time in the Great Smoky Mountains. The annual show of fall colors attracts huge numbers of sightseers especially during the last three weeks of October.

With more than 130 tree species, many of them deciduous, the Great Smoky Mountains put on quite a show as summer starts to fade. If you’re looking to take a scenic drive through the Smokies, Newfound Gap is the perfect route! As the lowest pass through the mountains, there are plenty of spots along this road to see the gorgeous fall foliage. As you drive along Newfound Gap, you’ll reach an overlook that’s a great place to get some pictures of the views.

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak, and access points along the Appalachian Trail. This national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Gold Rush Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California Highway 49

Throughout its length, the Gold Rush Trail winds through many of the towns that sprung up during the Gold Rush as it twists and climbs past panoramic vistas. Rocky meadows, oaks, and white pines accent the hills while tall firs and ponderosa pine stud higher slopes. The old mining towns along the Trail retain their early architecture and charm—living reminders of the rich history of the Mother Lode. Placerville, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Jackson, San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Murphys all retain their 1850’s flavor.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee

The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala. The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

Fall is a beautiful time of year on the Cherohala Skyway. Cool weather arrives and the changing leaves are spectacular. The leaves begin changing color as early as September in the higher elevations and continue through mid-November in lower elevations. The dogwoods, poplars, and sourwoods are some of the first to transform. The red oaks, hickories, and white oaks change later and often hold their leaves until late fall.

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Tennessee

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a favorite among visitors to Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is a 5.5-mile, one-way loop that includes views of rushing mountain streams and old-growth forests. There are a number of historic log cabins, homes, and buildings that have been preserved along with grist mills. The trail is narrow and winding, so make sure to go slow and take your time exploring the sights. Right before you get to the motor nature trail, take some time for a quick stop at the Noah “Bud” Ogle self-guiding nature trail which offers a walking tour of an authentic mountain farmstead and surrounding hardwood forest.

Worth Pondering…

Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.

—George Eliot

September 2021 RV Manufacturer Recalls

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall and may create a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?

When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality. NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

NHTSA announced 14 recall notices during September 2021. These recalls involved 12 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (3 recalls), Airstream (1 recall), KZRV (1 recall), Space Craft (1 recall), Coach House (1 recall), Escape Trailer (1 recall), Triple E (1 recall), Tiffin (1 recall), Jayco (1 recall), Highland Ridge (1 recall), Starcraft (1 recall), and Newmar (1 recall).

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Coachmen Sportscoach motorhomes. The outdoor cooktop can be stowed with the propane hose connected.

Dealers will move the quick disconnect and install a new shorter LP supply hose, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on October 19, 2021. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-8212. Forest River’s number for this recall is 310-1418.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Coachmen Nova motorhomes. The Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) battery was incorrectly installed inside the vehicle, which can allow hydrogen gas to enter the vehicle.

Dealers will install a battery box to the exterior of the vehicle and vent it, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed October 13, 2021. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-6319 or 1-574-825-6625. Forest River’s number for this recall is 225-1416.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021 Berkshire recreational vehicles. These vehicles may have been manufactured with unsealed 5-AMP and 20-AMP mini-breakers, which could cause a spark in the battery compartment.

Dealers will install sealed mini-breakers, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed October 13, 2021. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-522-1368. Forest River’s number for this recall is 40-1414.

River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Airstream, Inc. (Airstream) is recalling certain 2021 Flying Cloud, Bambi, Caravel, Classic, Globetrotter, and International recreational vehicles, equipped with Winntec model 6020 two-stage propane regulators. The regulator may fail, causing an increase in propane pressure.

Dealers will inspect and replace the regulator, as necessary, and test the propane system for leaks, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed October 26, 2021. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-877-596-6505 or 1-937-596-6111 ext. 7401 or 7411.

Rain Spirit RV Park, Cottonwood, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


KZRV, L.P. (KZRV) is recalling certain 2018-2022 Camplite, Confluence, Connect, Connect SE, Connect Lite, Durango, Durango Gold, Durango Half Ton, Durango Sport, Durango 1500, Quicksilver, Sonic, Sonic X, Sportsmen, Sportsmen FW, Sportsmen LE, Sportsmen SE, Sportsmen Sportster, Sportster, SportTrek, SportTrek Touring, Spree, Stratus, Venom, and Venom V Series recreational vehicles, equipped with Winntec model 6020 two-stage propane regulators. The regulator may fail, causing an increase in propane pressure.

Dealers will replace the regulator and pigtail hoses, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed October 26, 2021. Owners may contact KZRV customer service at 1-800-768-4016 ext. 154 or 153. KZRV’s number for this recall is KZ-2021-05.

Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Space Craft

Space Craft MFG (Space Craft) is recalling certain 2019-2021 travel, fifth-wheel, and semi-trailers (see recall report for specific model numbers). The adhesive that bonds the vented portion of the window may fail.

Space Craft will inspect the windows, and replace the vent if necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed in September 2021. Owners may contact Space Craft customer service at 1-660-463-7520.

Destiny RV Resort, Goodyear, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coach House

Coach House, Inc. (Coach House) is recalling certain 2019-2022 Platinum II and 2022 Platinum recreational vehicles. The adhesive that bonds the vented portion of the window may fail.

On behalf of Coach House, Lippert will send owners an inspection tool with instructions to inspect the window. Affected windows will be replaced by Lippert, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed September 30, 2021. Owners may contact Coach House customer service at 1-800-235-0984.

The Lakes Golf and RV Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Escape Trailer

Escape Trailer (Escape Trailer) is recalling certain 2019 E17A, E17B, E19, E21C, E21NE, and E5.0 recreational trailers. The adhesive that bonds the vented portion of the window may fail.

Dealers will inspect the windows, and replace the vent if necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed September 6, 2021. Owners may contact Escape Trailer customer service at 1-604-703-1650.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Triple E

Triple E Recreational Vehicles (Triple E) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Unity U24IB, U24TB, U24RL, Wonder W24RL, and W24RTB vehicles. The 12-volt wire for the illuminated assist handle is routed too close to the refrigerator exhaust, which could melt the wire and blow the fuse.

Dealers will install foil tape over the 12-volt wire, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed in September 2021. Owners may contact Triple E customer service at 1-877-992-9906. Triple E’s number for this recall is CA#9949-1.

New Green Acres RV Park, Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. (Tiffin) is recalling certain 2018-2022 Allegro Breeze, Allegro Red, Allegro, Allegro Bus, Phaeton, and 2018-2021 Zephyr recreational vehicles. The sofa seat belts may not have been installed correctly, which could result in unsecured passengers. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 210, “Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages.”

Dealers will inspect and repair the seat belts as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed October 31, 2021. Owners may contact Tiffin customer service at 1-256-356-8661. Tiffin’s number for this recall is TIF-118.

Clinton-Knoxville North KOA, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2018-2021 Jayco Eagle, Talon, 2020 Eagle HT, 2021 Jay Feather, Jay Flight Bungalow, Jay Flight Octane, North Point, Octane Super Lite, Pinnacle, White Hawk, 2021-2022 Jay Flights SLX, Jay Flight, and 2017-2021 Seismic recreational vehicles equipped with Winntec model 6020 two-stage propane regulators. The regulator may fail, causing an increase in propane pressure.

Dealers will replace the regulator, and test the propane system for leaks, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 1, 2021. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267.

Sea Breeze RV Park, Poetland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highland Ridge

Highland Ridge RV (Highland Ridge) is recalling certain 2021 Mesa Ridge Limited, Mesa Ridge Lite, Open Range Light, Open Range Ultra Lite, Silverstar Limited, Silverstar Lite, 2021-2022 Olympia, and Open Range recreational vehicles, equipped with Winntec model 6020 two-stage propane regulators. The regulator may fail, causing an increase in propane pressure.

Dealers will replace the regulator and test the propane system for leaks, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 1, 2021. Owners may contact Highland Ridge customer service at 1-260-768-7771.

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Starcraft RV (Starcraft) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Starcraft Autumn Ridge Outfitter, 2021 Super Lite, and Telluride recreational vehicles, equipped with Winntec model 6020 two-stage propane regulators. The regulator may fail, causing an increase in propane pressure.

Dealers will replace the regulator and test the propane system for leaks, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 1, 2021. Owners may contact Starcraft customer service at 1-800-283-8267.

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2019-2021 London Aire, Dutch Star, Essex, King Aire, Mountain Aire, 2020-2021 Ventana, and 2021 New Aire recreational vehicles. The instrument cluster may intermittently go blank while the vehicle is in motion.

Dealers will update the control module software, and reroute and secure the ductwork, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on November 8, 2021. Owners may contact Newmar’s customer service at 1-800-731-8300.

Please Note: This is the 32nd in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

Finding Fall Color along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Beyond

Check out these leaf-peeping tips for a spectacular fall visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Tens of thousands of people visit the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Georgia each year to see the beautiful fall foliage and autumn colors. The Blue Ridge Mountains offer one of the most colorful and longest-running fall leaf seasons in the world.

One of the many reasons for this is the varied elevations which show prime fall colors for more than a month. Fall colors begin at the highest elevations in early October and work their way down to the lower elevations in early November.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When will the Parkway leaves stop producing chlorophyll and change to their wardrobe of fall colors? If you’re wondering when the peak Blue Ridge Parkway Fall leaf season will be this year, you’re not alone. It’s usually in October which is often the busiest month along the Parkway. But there are many factors that influence the timing and intensity of the color including when and how much rain falls, how late in the season the sun shines with intense heat, and how cool the nights are. So your best bet to see peak autumn color is to incorporate as many of these elements into your trip as possible.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elevation: Travel a longer section of the Parkway to see a variety of elevations. Leaves change color at higher, cooler elevations first. The elevation along the Parkway ranges from over 6,000 feet at Richland Balsam in North Carolina to just under 650 feet at the James River in Virginia. You can also continue into Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks on either end of the Parkway for additional opportunities to view fall color. Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the state high point of Tennessee and Mount Mitchell, located along the Parkway at Milepost 355 is the state high point for North Carolina and either would be a good choice.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aspect: Which direction a slope face determines its temperature and the type of plants that grow there. Leaves change color first on cooler, wetter north-facing slopes and later on warmer, south-facing slopes. View a variety of aspects to see different plants and different phases of color change.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance: Since overlooks with distant views reveal a variety of elevations and aspects you are more likely to see leaf color. Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the state high point of Tennessee, and Mount Mitchell, with access at Parkway at Milepost 355, is the state high point for North Carolina; either would provide a long-distance view. But many Parkway overlooks also provide long-range views, so there are lots of options besides the tallest peak in the state.

The bottom line is, don’t expect to pick one spot on one day on the Parkway and see the perfect combination of colors—instead, travel a longer distance and you’re likely to meet all the criteria above and see a variety of stages of color change.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here, then, is the general progression:

  • Leaves at the highest elevations (Clingmans Dome, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, and Waterrock Knob) change from late September to early October
  • Mid-October provides good color along most of the Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park including Boone and Blowing Rock in North Carolina and Wytheville and Fancy Gap in Virginia
  • Next, the lower elevations provide good color (Pisgah National Forest, Linville Gorge, Nantahala Gorge, and Maggie Valley in North Carolina and Roanoke, Lynchburg, Lexington, Waynesboro, and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia)
  • The lowest elevations (Asheville, Brevard, Waynesville, Cherokee, Gatlinburg, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure) provide the final color display if the weather has cooperated and there are still leaves on the trees
Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2021 Fall Color Forecast for the Blue Ridge Parkway, by week

September 27-October 7: At the highest elevations, close to 6,000 feet there is some color but it’s often very spotty and muted. The views from these locations will be mostly green since the areas viewed are lower elevations. Areas that turn early in this date and elevation range include Graveyard Fields (Milepost 418.8) and Rough Ridge Trail (Milepost 302.8).

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

October 1-10: Peak time for areas above 5,000 feet. This would include Clingmans Dome, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Waterrock Knob (Milepost 451.2), and Graveyard fields (the first location on the Parkway to turn) and higher elevations of The Blue Ridge Parkway (between Asheville and Cherokee) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

October 10 – 20: Peak time for elevations from 4,000-5,000 feet. This would include almost all Blue Ridge Parkway locations and the majority of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well. Included in this elevation are the Boone and Blowing Rock areas.

October 18-26: Peak time for lower elevations, from 3,000-4,000 feet. This would include places like Pisgah National Forest which includes Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls, Dill Falls, Wildcat Falls, and many other waterfalls.  Other areas include Linville Gorge (Milepost 316.4), Nantahala Gorge, Maggie Valley (Milepost 455.5), and Cataloochee Valley.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

October 24-31: Peak time for elevations from 2,000 feet-3,000 feet. This would include The cities of Asheville, Brevard, Waynesville, Cherokee, and many others. Places of interest include Dupont State Forest and Biltmore Estate, and Cades Cove.

October 26-November 8: Peak time for remaining elevations including Gatlinburg (Tennessee), Chimney Rock (North Carolina), and remaining lower elevation mountains. This includes Chimney Rock (State Park) as well, a great place to see fall color.

Please note: These timeframes are estimates based on prior years and current weather and soil conditions. Actual peak times may vary some from this forecast.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Information and Trip Planning

The Parkway’s unique features such as limited sight distances, blind curves, and elevation changes offer driving challenges, especially for recreational vehicles. Stay alert and watch for other motorists, wildlife, and bicyclists.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping: Be sure to make advance camping reservations. The Parkway’s eight campgrounds were built years ago and do not currently offer RV hookups. Most Parkway campgrounds have at least some sites that will accommodate sizeable recreational vehicles. There are many private campgrounds in communities available just off the Parkway with full RV hookups and amenities.

Tunnels: Know the height of your RV in comparison to the heights of the 26 tunnels along the Parkway. The top of each tunnel is curved with the maximum height above the center line and the minimum height at the road shoulder.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parkway Detour: From May 2021 to spring 2022, a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Expect a closure by Roanoke due to a serious slope failure there. The National Park Service will be completing repairs on the Roanoke River Bridge at Milepost 114 and also repairing a road hazard at Milepost 127.9 that was caused by heavy rains and landslides. As a result, the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed from Milepost 112.2 (Route 24 near Vinton) to Milepost 136 (Route 221 on Bent Mountain) for through-travelers. You can take US 221 around the closure from Parkway Milepost 135.9 to Milepost 106 (about a 27-mile detour).

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular destination for vacationers who RV. Nothing beats a beautiful, wooded drive in your home-away-from-home!

Worth Pondering…

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
Take me home, country roads.

—John Denver

I’m going to Cajun Country!

Most travelers come to southern Louisiana expecting to find gumbo, accordions, and maybe a few gators. But the mix is far richer.

The southwestern region of Louisiana is officially called Acadiana but most people find themselves saying, “I’m going to Cajun country.” I was drawn to the region’s heritage and hoped to eat Cajun food, listen to zydeco, and maybe head out on the bayou. What I didn’t expect: soul-stirring natural beauty and a unique community with a layered history that continues to thrive and adapt.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I set off for Lafayette Parish which welcomes roughly 3 million people each year. Here, in the center of Acadiana which showcases the region’s fiddle-and-accordion-driven music and cultural events like the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles (October 8-10, 2021).

Whether you’re coming for the weekend or planning an extended stay, the “Happiest City in America” has numerous family-friendly things to do. From foodies, history and cultural buffs, and geocachers to the more adventurous outdoor activities, Lafayette has the perfect experience waiting for you.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lafayette Parish is surrounded by wetlands, so there’s no better way to experience the area than by boat. Hop aboard a swamp tour via airboat or rent a kayak. It’s also a birding paradise. Visit Bayou Vermilion, Lake Martin, or Avery Island with binoculars in hand. Admire the plant life on the Lafayette Azalea Trail or Avery Island’s Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre complex with azaleas, camellias, and even wildlife. And don’t forget your camera!

Lafayette is known as “The Hub City” because of its proximity to major roadways heading north, south, east, and west that lead locals and visitors to explore smaller towns. Though Lafayette is the largest city in the region, a great portion of its rich culture here is driven by surrounding communities, the gems that makeup Acadiana, a 22-parish (county) region.

Cracklins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canadians make up the largest group of international visitors which makes sense. The word Cajun is an Anglicization of Acadien, the French Catholic ethnic group that in the 18th century was expelled from eastern Canada (largely Nova Scotia) by the British in what became known as Le Grand Dérangement, or the Great Upheaval. Thousands ended up on the bayous of Catholic, French-speaking Louisiana.

Boudin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lafayette Parish has received countless awards for its culinary scene including Southern Living’s Tastiest Town in the South. Where else can you tour a rice plantation, a crawfish farm, a meat market, and a chile pepper growing facility before enjoying a dish that combines them all? Avery Island’s Tabasco Experience is perhaps the best-known foodie attraction. And the area also has its own Boudin Trail (What is boudin? Rice, pork, and spices in a smoked sausage casing, served in links or in boudin balls which are deep-fried cousins of the iconic Cajun delicacy). Don’t miss the opportunity to chow down on dishes like crawfish etouffee, cracklins, and gumbo. The Lafayette area also has both down-home eateries that have been here for decades and new restaurants with modern interpretations of the traditional cuisine.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My first stop was Breaux Bridge, the “Crawfish Capital of the World.” Nestled along the banks of the slow-rolling Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge is a gorgeous historic town with world-class restaurants and a thriving Cajun music and folk art scene. Conveniently located just off I-10 at Exit 109, nine miles east of Lafayette, Breaux Bridge is a great place to stop off for a meal and an even better place to camp at a local RV park (see below) and stay awhile.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bridge itself isn’t much to see (though you can’t miss it)—it’s a tall, slightly rusty metal drawbridge that spans the Teche (pronounced “tesh”). The downtown stretch of Bridge Street, though, is adorable. Antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants span several blocks; strolling the length of the strip can easily fill an afternoon.

Cafe Des Amis at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaux Bridge is the gateway to authentic Cajun culture in south Louisiana with traditional Cajun and funky Zydeco music, world-famous cuisine, and a rich history filled with interesting stories. Breaux Bridge is home to the world-famous Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival every May (May 6-8, 2022) where thousands converge on the little city to pay homage to Louisiana’s famous crustacean.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside of Breaux Bridge is the gorgeous Lake Martin, a wildlife-filled preserve and rookery that’s protected and administrated by the Nature Conservancy. You can drive or walk along the edge of the lake and see alligators, egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, nutria, and many more critters of various sizes hiding among the bald cypress and water lilies. There are several tour operators offering boat tours: Champagne’s Swamp Tours dock right at the entrance to Rookery Road and offer an eco-friendly tour experience. You can also rent canoes and kayaks and take your own trip around the lake.

Atchafalaya Basin Natural Heritage Area Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just a bit further out of town, in the neighboring hamlet of Henderson, you’ll find access to one of the largest swamp ecosystems in the United States, the Atchafalaya Basin. McGee’s Landing Basin Swamp Tours take you into the basin for a look at some of the plants and wildlife that thrive in its murky waters, including the aforementioned gators and wading birds. And it goes without saying, the fishing’s great here and in Lake Martin. They don’t call Louisiana the Sportsman’s Paradise for nothing.

Tabasco factory and museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The McIlhenny Company still operates at its original home on Avery Island which is a must-do when visiting Acadiana. Built on a salt dome, it’s a mysteriously beautiful place where the red chile peppers grow, the factory hums, and abundant wildlife can be seen in Jungle Gardens. Tour the history and production of TABASCO Sauce including TABASCO Museum, Blending and Bottling, TABASCO Country Store, and 1868! Restaurant, a casual eatery serving spicy, authentic Cajun favorites and other classic favorites seasoned with TABASCO Sauce. Experience the natural beauty and tranquility of Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre semitropical garden on Avery Island. Enjoy the gently rolling landscape, botanical treasures, and abundant wildlife. Attractions range from beautiful flowers to birds to a 900-year-old Buddha, a magnificent centuries-old statue on the grounds. Thousands of snowy egrets nest in Bird City.

Where to Stay

Cajun Palms RV Resort

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson

New in 2009 with paved streets, Cajun Palms offers long pull-through sites that range in length from 55 to 75 feet. Not to be ignored are the back-ins to the lake in the 55-60 foot range. Pull through and back-in sites have 20 feet of space between each concrete pad. Easy-on, easy-off Interstate 10 (Exit 115) at Henderson (near Breaux Bridge).

Poche’s RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge

Poche’s RV Park is a pleasant and unique location with excellent fishing and birding. RV sites are located on several sides of a pond overlooking the water. Sites are concrete and level and separated by grass. Picnic tables are located at every site with fire rings at every other site. During our last visit, the interior road was in rough driving condition. Top tip: The owners also have a great little Cajun market with a really good restaurant a mile or so away on the road to Breaux Bridge. 

Frog City RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frog City RV Park, Duson

Frog City RV Park opened in 2006. The park is located just off I-10 in Duson, a small town 10 miles west of Lafayette and deep in the beautiful Cajun countryside. With 62 spacious RV sites, Frog City offers Wi-Fi, cable TV, pull-through sites, a swimming pool, coin-operated laundry, and private hot showers that are sparkling clean. Guests receive a unique welcome package upon arrival.

Worth Pondering…

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou.

—Lyrics and recording by Hank Williams, Sr., 1954

Absolutely Best Road Trips from Austin

Texas lends itself well to adventure

With many vacation-based flights on hold, you’ll want to cure your cabin fever with a road trip to one of the many quirky and quaint destinations that are just a short drive away. Take in scenic views of the Texas Hill Country with a glass of Texas wine, eat at the oldest and most revered of BBQ joints, or feed a few bucks into the jukebox at a haunted honky-tonk bar. Here are eight road trip-worthy destinations—now all you have to do is to choose your adventure. 

Gruene Hall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Distance from Austin: 48 mile

Greune (pronounced “green”) is technically a historic district within New Braunfels but worth a visit all on its own. Established by German farmers in 1845, Gruene had its cotton economy destroyed by boll weevils and became a ghost town before it was rediscovered in 1975. The tiny town is best experienced by a stroll through the main square of the Gruene Historic District. You’ll find live music every day at Gruene Hall, Texas’s oldest dance hall, Southern-style lunch at The Gristmill, and wine at The Grapevine with plenty of outdoor seating and fire pits. And, there are around a dozen locally-owned shops and boutiques.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio

Distance from Austin: 80 miles

Centrally located on Alamo Plaza in downtown San Antonio, the Alamo features interactive tours and exhibits and hosts reenactments of the Texas Revolution. The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a San Antonio treasure and the largest urban ecosystem in the US. Tucked below street level and only steps from the Alamo, it provides a serene and pleasant way to navigate the city.

San Antonio has always been a buzzing cultural hub. Head to Pearl, a massive mixed-use space built using the historic structure of the former Pearl Brewery, to shop, grab a bite, or just hang out at one of the green spaces. Find your food fix with the San Antonio Food Trails. Think specialty tacos, the finest smoked brisket, and smooth and salty margaritas to start.

Black’s BBQ © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Distance from Austin: 33 miles

A short trip to this flavor-packed smoke town should be on any foodie’s bucket list. Dubbed the “BBQ Capital of Texas,” Lockhart is easily one of the most legendary barbecue destinations in the world. Kreuz Market is enormous and stuck in time in the best way, just don’t ask for a fork or sauce for your ribs. Go to the Original Black’s Barbecue for melt-in-your-mouth brisket and to Smitty’s Market for juicy, coarse-ground sausage with just the right snap.

But there’s a lot more to Lockhart than just smoked meats. Immerse yourself in Lockhart’s cowboy-town history with a visit to the Caldwell County Jail Museum before sitting for a spell in the historic Dr. Eugene Clark Library. Golfers can look out on the rugged Texas scenery while enjoying a round of golf at the Lockhart State Park Golf Course which also offers an on-site swimming pool, camping sites, and fishing hole.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Distance from Austin: 80 miles

Fredericksburg maintains a small-town feel while having lots of things to see and do. With its unique German heritage, thriving wineries, and shopping, it’s the perfect getaway. The historic buildings along Main Street are home to over 100 shops. Influenced by the town’s heritage, German and German-inspired food options abound. Fredericksburg and the surrounding regions are at the heart of Central Texas wine country. This area is particularly beautiful in the springtime, with gorgeous wildflowers erupting from the otherwise green landscape.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guadalupe River State Park

Distance from Austin: 80 miles

Guadalupe River State Park is a great spot for a scenic adventure in the Great Outdoors. Many folks come here to swim but the park is more than a great swimming hole with beautiful scenery and colorful history. On the river, you can swim, fish, tube, and canoe. In the dog days of summer, you’ll want to beat the heat and kayak or canoe the Guadalupe River which boasts the 5 mile Guadalupe River State Park Paddling Trail. While on land, you can camp, hike, ride mountain bikes or horses, picnic, geocache, and bird watching. Explore 13 miles of hike and bike trails. Trails range from the 2.86-mile Painted Bunting Trail to the .26-mile Barred Owl Trail, which leads you to a scenic overlook of the river. Camping is the way to go, here with 85 campsites offering amenities like picnic tables, outdoor grills, fire pits, and water, and electricity.

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Grange

Distance from Austin: 65 miles

Etched in the eroded headstones in the city cemetery and the cemeteries at the nearby “painted churches”—quaint little chapels with exquisite, spangled interiors—are the names of German and Czech immigrants who flocked to the town starting in the 1840s. With its rich heritage, it’s no surprise that La Grange is the hub for celebrating the Czech culture in Texas. Over 80 percent of the Czech Moravian families that settled in Texas at some time lived in Fayette County before they spread out across the state. For starters, Czech out the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. Vitáme Vás is the Czech equivalent of “howdy”, and you’ll certainly feel welcome.

Kolaches at Weikel’s Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Czech immigrants incorporated different aspects of their culture into the town, perhaps the most apparent being the architecture of the buildings standing in the town square. In the center of the Square sits Fayette County Courthouse, the fourth structure to house county business since 1838. The settlers also introduced a town favorite treat—the kolache! The best spot to grab a kolache is Weikel’s Bakery

Texas Waco Museum, Waco © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Distance from Austin: 102 miles

Founded in 1968, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum is the official hall of fame, museum, and archives for the Texas Rangers, the oldest law enforcement agency in the United States and a symbol of the American West. While in Waco, take a tour of the Dr. Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute, a place that serves up history, nostalgia, and Waco’s favorite authentic soda fountain drinks. Most people agree: there’s nothing like a cold Dr. Pepper float on a hot summer day especially when enjoyed in the ambiance of a classic 1950’s soda fountain. Waco Mammoth National Monument sits within 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River. Surrounded by oak, mesquite, and cedar trees, the site provides a glimpse into the lives and habitat of Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age animals.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Washington County

Distance from Austin: 90 miles

Have you seen those iconic photos of a lone live oak tree on a small rise overlooking an endless field of bluebonnets? It may well have been snapped in Washington County. With old courthouse squares alive with shops and cafes, frequent town festivals, and historic Texas-independence sites, you can’t get more small-town Texas than this. No town is more than 40 miles from the region’s main center, Brenham, home of Blue Bell ice cream. The self-guided tours conclude with $1 scoops from the parlor. In addition to regular favorites, the creamery also serves special flavors like Cookies ’n Cream and Pecan Pralines ’n Cream and the newest flavor to temp your taste buds, Fudge Brownie Decadence.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas is a state mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.

—John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Savannah: Sweetheart of the South

There’s no shortage of things to see and do during your visit to Savannah

Savannah is the South’s sweetheart—from her cobblestone streets underfoot to her thin veils of Spanish moss-draped on the live oaks from above. She’s been sweeping folks off their feet since 1733 when General James Oglethorpe and his 120 passengers aboard the Anne first anchored along the Savannah River.

Madison Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As America’s first planned city, Savannah was designed to be pedestrian-friendly, laid out in grids with wide streets blended with public squares and parks; 22 of the 24 original squares still exist today.

During the Civil War, Savannah was one of the few towns left standing in wake of Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” and was given as a Christmas present to Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Lafayette Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic preservation saved many of the iconic buildings that the city is known for today. Savannah also has thrived from connections with literature and film, namely Forrest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Today, Savannah is a charming city that combines history, art, architecture, dining, and boutiques. There’s truly something here for everyone.

Life has always played out on the streets and in the squares in Savannah. Temperate year-round and walkable with cobblestones and oak-lined squares is a rarity in the US. Gas-lit paths line Savannah’s river of the same name which empties after 15 miles into wide, sandy beaches around Tybee Island. Gracious neoclassical mansions along the herringbone pavements provide an open-air gallery that’s free to admire.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walkthrough the 22 park-like historic squares in downtown Savannah, each with unique elements and stories. Don’t miss Chippewa Square, best known as the site of the bench scene from the movie Forrest Gump.

Start your Savannah adventure at an award-winning, much-lauded Southern bakery. Back in the Day Bakery makes things the old-fashioned way and owners Cheryl and Griffith Day include lots of love baked in their time-tested Southern recipes. They have received many awards throughout the years including being nominated in 2015 for a James Beard Award in the category of Outstanding Bakers. Cheryl and Griffith currently have several best-selling cookbooks including The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love, and The Artisan Kitchen. Located at 2409 Bull Street, Back in the Day Bakery is best known for its down-home biscuits, jams, and cobblers along with their famous chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and lavender shortbread cookies.

Forsyth Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With breakfast in hand take a leisurely walk up Bull Street to Forsyth Park for a selfie at the most iconic (and most photographed) fountain in Savannah. The largest park in the historic district of Savannah, Forsyth Park covers 30 acres of land just south of Gaston Street and north of Park Avenue. For locals and tourists, Forsyth Park is a hub of social interaction. Concerts, recreation sports, people watching, sunbathing, reading, and relaxing can all be seen in Forsyth Park depending on when you visit. Be sure to plan an hour to check out Forsyth Park.

Old Town Trolley Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It may sound somewhat touristy, but the best way to see Savannah’s historic district, especially for first-timers, is aboard a trolley tour. Two favorites are Old Savannah Tours and Old Town Trolley Tours of Savannah. These tours are hop-on, hop-off, allowing you to see most of the historic area in a short amount of time.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’d like to explore while eating, and who wouldn’t consider a food tour. The Savannah Taste Experience offers a variety of tours including one through the historic downtown area (First Squares Food Tour) and another off-the-beaten-path tour through Savannah’s east side (Famous & Secret East Side Food Tour) including a stop at Cha Bella, a Farm to Table restaurant, and Leopold’s Ice Cream. Both tours provide tastings at multiple establishments with enough food to satisfy your lunch cravings.

City Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter what you do for lunch, afterward, head to Leopold’s named one of the top 10 ice cream parlors in the world. Leopold’s Ice Cream was founded in 1919 by three brothers from Greece. They learned the art of candy and dessert from an uncle who had already settled in America. The brothers perfected their secret formulas and created the now world-famous Leopold’s VeriBest ice cream. Their ice cream is made one batch at a time using local ingredients like Savannah Bee Company honey. With a full soda fountain menu and more than 28 flavors available at any given time, they have a scoop of premium handmade ice cream just for you. Leopold’s is located at 212 E. Broughton Street.

Historic River Street © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The next stop is the uneven cobblestone streets of the Savannah Riverfront for a little shopping and sightseeing. A must-see is the new Plant Riverside District with jaw-dropping shops, restaurants, and hotels. The site’s original 1912 power plant has been restored with the preservation of historic characteristics such as the iconic twin smokestacks and brick exterior and redeveloped with hotel rooms and mixed-use space. Flanking on either side are two new buildings also featuring hotel rooms, restaurants, lounges, and meeting space. Along its shoreline, over a quarter-mile of riverwalk has been created.

Fresh pralines at River Street Sweets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The aroma of fresh pralines greets you at the door of the original River Street Sweets along with a free sample rolled out on a giant marble slab. Located on East River Street, the nostalgically decorated candy shop’s gourmet Southern treats—like hand-stretched peanut brittle, glazed pecans, and saltwater taffy—are made in-store and shipped all over the world. Alternately visit the Savannah Candy Kitchen with a location at City Market and River Street.

Waving Girl statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah was and still is a port town; a Savannah Riverboat Cruise is a great way to learn about the history and enjoy the water during a leisurely ride. The riverboat tours leave the dock next to the exact location where General Oglethrope first landed on the riverfront and head upriver to the Port of Savanna and then turn back under the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge and past the historic riverfront. The tours continue downriver passing the world-famous Waving Girl through the shipyards and just past the tip of Hutchinson Island and Old Fort Jackson (If you take the 3:30 p.m. tour you can also see them shoot the cannon at Old Fort Jackson). The boat then circles back upriver to arrive gently back at the dock.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prominent in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Bonaventure (which means “good fortune”) is the final resting place for several of Savannah’s most famous residents including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken and lyricist Johnny Mercer. This large cemetery on the banks of the placid Wilmington River is home to massive moss-draped oaks that stand guard over rows of elegant statuary and headstones. Spanish moss-draped trees make it a favorite spot of photographers. Free self-guided tours and free guided tours by Bonaventure Historical Society volunteers, every second Sunday, at 2 pm, 2:30 pm, and 3 pm.

Lafayette Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tybee Island, often referred to as Savannah’s Beach offers visitors a place for all seasons with sandy beaches, great fishing, and rich history at every turn. River’s End Campground is a fantastic home base for exploring it all. River’s End offers full hook-up sites including water, 30 or 50 amp electrical service, standard cable, and sewer. The length and width of the sites vary. Not all sites can accommodate large rigs. The campground is approximately one-half mile from the beach and 15 miles from historic downtown Savannah.

Creek Fire RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 20 minutes west of Historic Savannah, Creek Fire is a new RV resort conveniently located ½ mile west of Interstate 95 at Exit 94. The park offers 105 RV sites, all suitable for big rigs. Site options include back-in and pull-through, gravel, and concrete. Interior roads are asphalt. Each site offers 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, and sewer centrally located. The park is adding 100+ new sites, two new pool features, a rally building, a pool bar, and restaurant, a market, and a gym. Resort amenities include canoe, kayak, and boat rentals; a 1-mile nature trail around the lake, a tennis/pickleball court, a bocce ball, and a full shower and laundry facilities. CreekFire RV Resort opened in October 2017 with 105 sites, two park models, and seven cabins. Two years after opening, CreekFire was already expanding with another 100 RV sites planned.

Forrest Gump © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With so much to see and do in and around Savannah, one visit simply isn’t enough. Fortunately, that same Southern hospitality is ready to welcome visitors back again and again.

Worth Pondering…

Savannah is a lovely pastel dream of tight cobbled streets. There are legendary scenes to rival any dreamed up by Tennessee Williams.

—Rosemary Daniell

Why Fall Is the Best Time to Visit these 10 National Parks

All the awe. None of the crowds.

America’s national parks continued to dominate the travel sphere this summer, offering the pandemic-weary a respite from cabin fever through the magic of actual cabins and reminding RV-newbies and seasoned road-trippers alike that they really are America’s Best Idea.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another great idea! Hit the parks in the fall when the colors change, the temps cool down, and the tourists all but vanish. There’s all that foliage to enjoy, of course—but that’s just the beginning. Elk begin to rut, fog descends upon the valleys, and salmon fling themselves upstream as nature transforms into the most vibrant time of the year.

Although national parks are appealing destinations year-round, a few stand out from the pack in autumn. Fall colors are an obvious draw at some parks but there are also other benefits to traveling in September through November. To help inspire your next fall getaway, check out the autumnal splendor of 10 of my favorite national parks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

The most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains is magnificent in fall. Maples, birches, beeches, hickories, and dogwoods form a tapestry of scarlet, russet, orange, and yellow with sunflowers and asters bloom as well. Savor the spectrum from your car or bike on the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop where, if you’re lucky, you might spot a black bear or two. Drive up to Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest point in Tennessee. Climb the 375-foot ramp to the 45-foot observation tower and be rewarded with 360-degree views.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

Yes, the nation’s newest national park has sublimely colorful scenes every fall, and yes, the photo opportunities are only one reason to visit. Whitewater rafting is another. Fifty-three miles of the wild and wonderful New River run through New River Gorge which became America’s 63rd and newest national park in 2020. Outfitters offer whitewater-rafting trips in the shadow of sandstone cliffs but gawking at the canopy of changing leaves is good enough reason to visit—as is photographing the impressive New River Gorge Bridge. On Bridge Day, October 16 this year, the span is closed to vehicles, and visitors can stroll and marvel at hundreds of skydivers floating 876 feet into the gorge.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

If you love fall foliage but aren’t so much in love with getting out of your car (though I do recommend a hike or two) then Shenandoah is the best national park in America for you. Hit its famous 105-mile Skyline Drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and become enveloped in the very essence of the season as you cruise through—slowly. There are no fewer than 75 scenic overlooks from which you can gaze out over the canopy of reds, oranges, and gold. Early October is when things hit their peak up here. For those who want to stretch a little, pull over around Mile 49 for a gentle hike to the quadruple waterfalls of Rose River Cascades. And the misty vistas and 500 hiking trails are totally tempting.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah

In the summer months, hiking in Arches can feel like slogging through a convection oven with temperatures soaring into the triple digits and nary a tree in sight to provide shade—not to mention that the park teems with so many tourists that they’re often forced to close the park for the day. During fall the heat and the hordes dissipate dramatically. September and October provide maximum high-desert sunshine with comfortable temps in the 60s and 70s so you’ll be well-equipped to explore this whimsical red rock terrain strewn with mighty pinnacles, balanced rocks, and 2,000-plus arches without succumbing to heat exhaustion and/or road rage.

A certified dark sky park, Arches is well suited for stargazing. Stargazing is a year-round activity but fall is a good bet to see meteor showers. The season kicks off with the Draconid meteors (peaking October 8), then the Orionids (October 21), South Taurids (November 4 to 5), North Taurids (November 11 to 12), and finally the Leonids (November 17). The Orionids, in particular, can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. Despite peaking on October 21, they can be seen all month long.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic is a national park where you might not expect fall colors. This quiet northern California Park has pockets of cottonwood, oaks, and sagebrush which together create a vivid palette. Crystal clear Manzanita Lake is one area of the park with bright colors in addition to the ever-present evergreens. Even if you don’t time it right for the fall colors, you’ll still enjoy an iconic view of Lassen Peak. Because the park has several high elevation areas, autumn arrives early as does winter. Your best chance of seeing brilliant foliage is in September and October. As the season progresses, be prepared for temporary road or trail closures due to snow at higher elevations. Don’t be disappointed if you see snow instead of fall colors, though. The geothermal areas of Sulphur Works and the Bumpass Hell Trail are beautiful in different ways.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The downside of being one of the most notable national parks in the country (and world-renown) is that things stay pretty crowded. The Grand Canyon’s 3 million annual visitors swarm the popular South Rim for hikes, mule rides, and unnerving selfies all throughout the summer—yes, even in spite of the heat. But after road trip season screeches to a halt, this natural wonder gets more accessible. September through November sees lower crowd levels and cooler, comfier temps that hit that sweet spot between sweater weather and shorts season. You’ll be able to ride your mule in peace and get a photo of the mile-deep canyon without worrying you might accidentally get bumped off the edge.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

South Dakota’s Badlands is the only national park in the country where you can get psychedelic desert colors at sunrise and the deep, burnished gold of autumn grasses in the afternoon. Hike the quiet trails like the hands-on Notch Trail which weaves through a canyon and up a wooden ladder before culminating in a sweeping prairie vista. Drive through the park and you’ll also see otherworldly rock formations, their pink and yellow hoodoos bathed in warm autumn light with streaks of bright foliage in the backdrop. Or, if you’re up to it, take advantage of the vastly reduced post-summer car traffic and hit the roads by bike.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

One of America’s newer national parks is a place of weather extremes with occasional freezing temperatures in the winter, scorching forecasts in the summer, and wind-swept afternoons in the spring—all of which sounds fine and dandy until you’re rinsing your eyes of gypsum crystals or sweating like a hog. Fall in White Sands National Park is where it’s at: The cottonwood trees are changing color, the crowds have thinned, and the comfortable dry warmth of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin makes it easy to hike through snow-white sand for hours on end or rent a sand sled from the visitor center and embrace your inner child as you careen down the dunes.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park is located in the Midlands region of South Carolina. With a humid subtropical climate, the park experiences mild winters and very warm, wet summers. The park is accessible in all seasons, but is best experienced in the spring and fall when temperatures are at their most comfortable and insects are generally not a problem. September through November is a wonderful time to visit Congaree with average daily temperatures in the 70s with low humidity. Fall colors peak between the end of October and early November. Water levels are ideal at this time of year for taking a paddling trip on Cedar Creek.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah

You’ll love Zion in the fall! The temperatures are milder to enjoy the best Zion hikes, there are fewer people than in summer, and the park looks stunning as beautiful red, yellow, and orange leaves add so much color to its rugged desert landscape. Though the climate in Zion is arid, many trees thrive in the park. Evergreen white pines, ponderosa pines, and Douglas fir are mixed with golden aspens, crimson maples, copper oaks, and yellow cottonwoods. Red and gold accents brighten the desert landscapes, creating ample opportunities for nature photographers.

Zion has a very long fall foliage season due to the variety in elevations. At higher elevations in Zion, you can see trees turning bright by mid-September. The peak season in the park usually lasts from late September to early October. However, at lower elevations, you can enjoy picturesque fall colors as late as mid-November.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bottom Line

The national parks above offer the opportunity to enjoy fall’s splendors without jostling the summer crowds. You may even discover a new favorite sight. No matter what, traveling to any of these national parks in the fall is a captivating way to explore some of America’s most special places.

Worth Pondering…

Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.

—George Eliot

The Top 10 Things to See and Do on Amelia Island

What are you waiting for! Read on and find out about the best things to do in and around Amelia Island.

The southernmost of the Sea Island chain, Amelia Island attracts visitors because of its wide beaches lined with 40-foot, sea-oat-flecked dunes. But there’s more to do than just lay out on the sand.

Envision a nature lover’s retreat, a sportsman’s playground, and foodie’s paradise all coming together on one special barrier island. Here are 10 of the best things to see and do on a visit to Amelia Island.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise the Amelia River

Head down to the dock at Fernandina Harbor Marina and catch a tour offered by Amelia River Cruises. Choose from a variety of cruises along salt marshes, wilderness beaches, and historic riverbanks. Discover wildlife—dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees—narrated by local history and nature experts or with live local musicians on board.

The 2.5-hour trip down the Amelia River and around Amelia and Cumberland Islands is entertaining and educational. Your guide will tell you about the history of the area including how Amelia Island came under the governance of six different nations and about the Carnegie family’s connection to Cumberland Island. Look for wild horses and an array of seabirds as you cruise past beautiful shorelines and unique photo ops.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the Amelia Island Nature Center

Nestled on 1,350 acres at the tip of Amelia Island, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort offers luxurious oceanfront accommodations with amazing views of the Atlantic, resort pools, championship golf, and a full-service spa.

Part of the resort, the Amelia Island Nature Center is open to the public. Once you enter the property, turn left just before the gate to find the nature center. Be sure to say hello to Buddy, the rescued tropical parrot and resident mascot.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The marsh around the resort is a haven for wildlife found in the dunes, grasses, and sandy shores. Keep your eyes open for herons, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, osprey, eagles, and cormorants. During the summer you may also see dolphins and manatees in the marsh.

The nature center offers eco-biking, hiking, bass fishing, and birding adventures on which you can learn about the thriving ecology and delicate balance of the barrier islands. The center offers kayak tours, stand-up paddleboard tours, and eclipse pedalboard (think elliptical with pontoons) tours. You can join a tour or rent equipment and explore on your own.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit the Beach

Ever combed a beach for seashells? How about shark teeth? Searching for shark teeth will give your walk purpose as you stroll down some of the 13 miles of beautiful sandy beachfront on Amelia Island. Head out as the tide begins to recede or just after a storm for the best finds. With five distinct beaches on the island, you’ll be sure to find your perfect toes-in-the-sand, sun-worshipping spot. Choose from Amelia Island State Park, American Beach, Main Beach Park, Peters Point, and Fort Clinch State Park Beach. Lifeguards staff the beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amelia Island State Park

A sanctuary for fishing and bird-watching, Amelia Island State Park protects over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of Amelia Island. Beautiful beaches, salt marshes, and coastal maritime forests provide visitors a glimpse of Real Florida. Visitors can stroll along the beach, look for shells and sharks’ teeth, or watch the wildlife. Anglers can surf fish along the shoreline or wet their lines from the mile-long George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier. Amelia Island is the only Florida state park that offers horseback riding on its beaches!

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park

A pedestrian-only fishing bridge, George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier spans Nassau Sound and provides access to one of the best fishing areas in Northeast Florida. Anglers catch a variety of fish, including whiting, jack, drum, and tarpon. The mile-long bridge is open from 8 a.m. to sunset, 365 days a year. Access to the bridge is through Amelia Island State Park.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore Fort Clinch State Park

History meets nature at Fort Clinch State Park. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or a bit of both, enjoy exploring the natural and historic resources of this park. A row of cannons staring across the St. Mary’s River into Georgia are silent testimony to the strategic importance of Fort Clinch during the Civil War. Visitors can explore the fort’s many rooms, galleries, and grounds, and learn about the life of a Union soldier through living history programs.

The historic fort is only one aspect of this diverse 1,400-acre park. Maritime hammocks with massive arching live oaks provide a striking backdrop for hiking and biking on the park’s many trails. The park is known for its gopher tortoises, painted buntings, and other species of wildlife. Camping, fishing, shelling, and shark-tooth hunting are popular activities.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk the Willow Pond Nature Trail

After seeing historic Fort Clinch and the beautiful sand beaches, take the time to walk the serene Willow Pond Nature Trail. The mile-long trail provides a refreshing break from the warm Florida sunshine. As you start your stroll down the path, you will pass through a forest of historic live oaks with their aerial gardens of resurrection fern, orchids, and Spanish moss. Arriving at a series of breaks in the trees, you suddenly come upon Willow Pond which is actually a collection of coastal depression ponds. Crossing the bridge, you leave the lush green of the palm trees and saw palmettos, trekking the steep incline of the ancient sand dunes until you are surrounded by more live oaks, magnolias, and holly trees. Soon you will finish back where you started.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is a 46,000-acre area with individual park sites to explore. Each park site is unique for an aspect of natural or cultural history. Trails in the Timucuan Preserve take you through shady hammocks and along pristine beaches. The Timucuan Preserve’s Boneyard Beach offers a stunning, stark backdrop for photographers with 30-foot bluffs and huge driftwood trees scattered along the shore. A historic Sea Island cotton plantation, Kingsley Plantation includes the oldest standing plantation house in Florida. Self-guiding, interpretive exhibits can be viewed throughout the grounds.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit the Links

Every golfer’s dream is to enjoy glorious sunshine and gorgeous views while conquering challenging greens and fairways. The courses on Amelia Island offer all this and more. The island offers five golf courses including an 18-hole championship option at The Ritz-Carlton designed by PGA Tour veteran Mark McCumber and World Golf Hall of Famer Gene Littler. Fernandina Beach Golf Club is a reasonably priced public golf course offering 27 holes. The Golf Club of Amelia Island designed by Mark McCumber and Gene Littler offers 18 holes with beautiful vistas and challenging water hazards. Amelia Island Omni Plantation Resort offers two 18-hole golf courses. The Oak Marsh Golf Course designed by Pete Dye is open to the public. The Long Point Golf Course was designed by Tom Fazio and is a members-only course that is also available to resort guests. Amelia River Golf Club is a semi-private club that offers challenging holes for a reasonable fee.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fernandina Beach

Be sure to venture over to Fernandina Beach, a city on the northern part of the island with a 50-block National Historic District. Stroll the charming downtown to see a mix of Queen Anne, Italianate, Gothic Revival, and Victorian architecture and peruse mom-and-pop shops like Fantastic Fudge, popular for its ice cream and fudge with the latter making a sweet Amelia souvenir.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Amelia Island is located in northeastern Florida, 33 miles northeast of Jacksonville and 26 miles southeast of St. Marys, Georgia.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Life at the beach can be busy on Amelia Island if one so chooses. I’d rather swing on the porch with a book, take a nap, and go for a long barefoot walk at the water’s edge. Serious loafing.

—John Grisham, Ode to Amelia Island

10 of the Best Places to Visit in Georgia

With big cities, iconic small towns, picturesque mountains, and a spot on the Atlantic coast, Georgia has a lot more to offer than its peaches

From busy, cosmopolitan cities to a sandy, sun-splashed coastline and majestic mountains, Georgia offer a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else. You will see modern Atlanta with its urban skyline and the biggest aquarium in the world. Georgia’s first city, the historic Savannah, will charm you with historic beauty and magnificent architecture. There are wild horses on Cumberland Island National Seashore, Blue Ridge Mountains, scenic beaches, state parks, water parks, waterfalls, and over 400 Civil War sites. Here are the best places to visit in Georgia.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


From its quaint cobblestone streets shaded by old oaks covered in Spanish moss and surrounded by magnificent antebellum Southern mansions to the white sand beaches on Tybee Island to art galleries and Civil War re-enactments, Savannah is thrilling for all ages and a treat for all the senses.

Take an old trolley to explore the beautiful old city in style, check out City Market for fun during the day as well as night, and explore Savannah River Street to see galleries, cafes, and restaurants, and breathtaking views of the river. And whatever time of the year you visit, there will be some kind of festival to get everyone out on the streets, locals and visitors alike.

Lookout Mountain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lookout Mountain

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Georgia, Lookout Mountain is a wonderful and striking mountain ridge located at the northwest corner of the state. As well as offering truly stunning views and beautiful surroundings it’s also the place where you can view the most states at once. Located 25 miles from three different states, when the skies are clear (and with a good set of binoculars handy) you can see up to seven different states if you try hard enough—visit and see for yourself. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is located near Lookout Mountain.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Located about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta, Macon is the perfect destination for Southern adventure. A pretty city with a rich history, incredible architecture, and music heritage, Macon is “Where Soul Lives”. Hike to the area’s 17,000 years of heritage at Ocmulgee National Monument which includes a reconstructed earthen lodge or strolls the streets and discover the state’s largest collection of African-American art in Tubman Museum. At every landmark, you’ll discover the untold stories of the Civil War. Pay tribute to Macon’s native son, Otis Redding, at his life-size statue.

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island is the largest uninhabited barrier island in Georgia. It is rich in history and boasts ancient maritime forests, 17 miles of untouched beaches, wild horses, and curious tourists. Native American peoples originally inhabited the area, which eventually became a working plantation for a while and then the Carnegie family winter retreat. Cumberland Island is now a national seashore and congressionally designated wilderness.

Only 17.5 miles long, the island is 36,415 acres, more than 16,850 of which are mudflats, marshes, and tidal creeks. The adventure starts on the ferry from St. Mary’s, the only way to get to the island which offers a wonderful view of the diverse habitats. Rent a bike, book a tour with park rangers, or bring a pair of good hiking shoes, as the island is a wonderful place to explore. You can spot wild horses roaming freely, raccoons, wild boars, alligators, white-tailed deer, and many birds. Stop by the ruins of Carnegie Dungeness mansion, which was built in 1884 by Thomas Carnegie and burned in the 1950s.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


A Bavarian-inspired village with alpine charm in spades, Helen has heaps of character and enchanting architecture. Given its Germanic roots, we were hardly shocked to learn that Oktoberfest is hugely popular. Vineyards, breweries, and an array of shops attract year-round travelers. For a sweet treat, stock up on confections at Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen. Speaking of food, the köstlich (German for delicious) and authentic dining scene also deserves a shout-out. Nearby Unicoi State Park offers 53 acres of forested trails, plus numerous campsites and a lake.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Established in 1937 on 401,880 acres of land, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a wild, beautiful place, a breeding ground, and a refuge for migratory birds as well as other wildlife. At its core is the unique Okefenokee swamp, the headwaters of the St Mary’s and Suwannee Rivers, and a habitat for endangered and threatened species such as wood storks, the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snakes, and many wild animals.

There are over 600 plant species in the refuge. Within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, 353,981 acres are designated as National Wilderness Area. As it is one of the largest intact freshwater ecosystems in the world, the RAMSAR Convention has declared the refuge a Wetland of International Importance. There are a number of observation towers and boardwalks throughout the refuge. The peaceful, lush environment is popular for fishing, hunting, hiking, boating, and canoeing.

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocmulgee National Monument

In Macon, visitors will be thrilled to visit The Ocmulgee National Monument. This is the only known example of a spiral mound in North America. Native people built the 20-foot high mound for their use during the 14th through the 16th centuries. There is no park entrance fee to visit the Ocmulgee National Monument and the park is open daily 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. In addition to the mound, there are over 6 miles of hiking trails and a museum that contains over 2,000 artifacts and screens a short movie on the history of the mound.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park

Vogel State Park, located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest, is one of Georgia’s most popular state parks. With miles of easy hiking paths, a 22-acre lake, a mountain-view beach, cottages, campsites, and primitive backpacking sites this much-loved park has something for everyone. Of particular interest during the fall is the drive from the south through Neel Gap. This mountain pass provides guests with a beautiful view of the changing leaves of the Appalachian Mountains. The park also includes a museum where the rich history of the park and area are chronicled.

Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Simons, Georgia

The largest barrier island in the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island lies across the immortalized Marshes of Glynn made famous by poet Sidney Lanier. Moss-draped oaks line the winding island streets creating a picture-perfect image worthy of a Faulkner tale.

St. Simons Island is dotted with exceptional historic sites and attractions from the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum—a working lighthouse built in 1872—to the Bloody Marsh Battle Site where in July 1742, British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions outside Florida.

On the island’s north end, Cannon’s Point Preserve contains middens dating back to 2500 BC. Fort Frederica National Monument which preserves archeological remnants of the local British colony and its defense against Spain and historic Christ Church, Frederica—one of the oldest churches in Georgia with worship held continuously since 1736—is also located on the island’s north end. History buff or not, you won’t want to miss Christ Church’s picturesque and somewhat haunting grounds.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Discover history, culture, and autumn beauty along Georgia’s scenic byways. The 41-mile loop of the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is the only route in the state that’s also designated a National Scenic Byway. Coursing through the mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the route traverses several state highways, including SR-17/75, SR-180, and SR-348. Panoramic views are plentiful, none more spectacular than the one from Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point at 4,784 feet. Visitors can still walk the roughly half-mile, uphill paved path to the observation tower at the summit.

Keep Georgia on your mind as you plan your next RV trip.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

The Wild, Wonderful Waters of New River Gorge! Round Out Your Trip with a Visit to Babcock State Park & Glade Creek Grist Mill!

Almost Heaven awaits you at New River Gorge National Park, Babcock State Park, and Glade Creek Grist Mill

Scenic mountains and breathtaking gorge views await at the nation’s newest national park

Close your eyes and imagine a place with thousands of acres of lush green forests, rushing waters, and cascading waterfalls. Sound too good to be true? Such a place exists and it’s inside the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. Teeming with rarified beauty and endless opportunities for adventure, the New River Gorge is the perfect destination for your next road trip. Mark America’s newest national park on your map, pack up the RV, and hit the road for Almost Heaven awaits you.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The New River Gorge has always been a celebrated landmark in the Mountain State, but now it gets recognition as America’s 63rd national park. From action-packed adventures like whitewater rafting, rock climbing, fishing, rock climbing, and miles of hiking trails to the southern hospitality of nearby mountain towns, the New River Gorge is a hidden gem to discover.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home to the New River which drops 750 feet over 66 miles, adventuresome rafters and kayakers have long been drawn to this whitewater area for its class five rapids. The New River which flows northward through low-cut canyons in the Appalachian Mountains is one of the oldest rivers on the planet. The park encompasses more than 70,000 acres of land along the New River. The rugged mountains were once home to several coal mining camps and some historical artifacts and buildings remain.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easily accessible by Route 19 and I-64, the New River Gorge is one of West Virginia’s most photographed areas. The New River cuts through extensive geological formations. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, kingfishers, great blue herons, beavers, river otters, wild turkeys, and black bears call this park home and you’ll often spot a few along your travels. Hiking trails here take you to spectacular overlooks and through remnants of old coal mining towns.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Begin your experience with a stop at Canyon Rim Visitor Center which is situated on the edge of the gorge for maps, current information, and chats with a park ranger. You can learn about current safety protocols and visit the bookstore. The visitor center features an exhibit room filled with photographs and exhibits on the people, towns, and industry of the gorge. Other displays focus on the recreation and natural history of the area. Visitors can view an 11-minute video to orient themselves to all that makes New River Gorge National Park and Preserve such a special and significant place.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll want to see the New River Gorge Bridge, a highly photographed work of structural art. If you plan your road trip just right, you can visit during Bridge Day a one-day festival (October 16, 2021) where you’ll watch BASE jumpers launch off the 876-foot bridge and parachute down to the New River. New River Gorge is the only national park in the U.S. that permits this extreme activity.

The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve provide incredible outdoor recreation opportunities and stunning landscapes but there are also several nearby West Virginia State Parks waiting to be discovered and explored. In fact, these state parks offer cozy accommodations, mountain adventures, and unparalleled scenic views.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One such state park is Babcock. Located 20 miles southeast of the New River Gorge Bridge, Babcock State Park is home to 4,127 acres of iconic scenery and stunning views. Babcock State Park is best known for the Glade Creek Grist Mill, a fully functional replica of the original Cooper’s Mill that once ground grain on Glade Creek long before Babcock became a state park. Of special interest, the mill was created by combining parts and pieces from three mills that once dotted the state. The basic structure of the mill came from the Stoney Creek Grist Mill which dates back to 1890. After an accidental fire destroyed the Spring Run Grist Mill near Petersburg (Grant County) only the overshot water wheel could be salvaged. Other parts for the mill came from the Onego Grist Mill near Seneca Rocks (Pendleton County).

Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A living monument to the over 500 mills which thrived in West Virginia at the turn of the century, the Glade Creek Grist Mill provides freshly ground cornmeal which park guests may purchase depending on availability and stream conditions. Visitors to the mill may journey back to a time when grinding grain by a rushing stream was a way of life and the groaning mill wheel was music to the miller’s ear.

Other attractions include recreational activities like hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.

Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Babcock is home to 28 cozy cabins tucked away in the woods. Each cabin provides a peaceful retreat to guests accompanied by the tranquil sights and sounds of nature. Several of the cabins are located near the Glade Creek Grist Mill. So close, you can almost hear the mill’s wooden frame churn. Babcock also includes a 52-unit campground if you wish to completely surround yourself in nature.

Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, a

Nature and landscape photographers who wish to fly a drone near the Glade Creek Grist Mill are required to check-in at the park office in advance. The use of drones is permitted but only from 1-3 p.m., daily. Drones may not be flown over buildings or the parking area and must stay a minimum of 20 feet away from the mill.

Start planning your next trip to the area and get ready for one-of-a-kind experiences and lasting memories.

Glade Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, a

Worth Pondering…

Country Roads

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads.

—John Denver