Good Sam Releases 2022 Top Rated Parks

Assessment of the top rated RV parks and resorts

Searching for that perfect camping experience? Search no more. Good Sam has released its newly minted list of top-rated RV parks and resorts. For 2022, a total of 157 Good Sam Parks scored flawless 10/10★/10 ratings based on the Good Sam evaluation system, a three-number rating of a campground’s amenities, cleanliness, and environment/visual appearance.

Each category is rated on a scale of one to 10, and a star is added for exceptionally clean restrooms. These parks are listed by state and province along with other helpful RV-related content in their 2022 edition of the Good Sam Campground & Coupon Guide.

Having visited 33 of these top parks, I concur with the majority of the 2022 Good Sam’s ratings and present my Top 20 RV Parks and Resorts for 2021 in two categories: My Top RV Parks that Received a Perfect Rating by Good Sam and My Top RV Parks Not Receiving a Perfect Rating by Good Sam.

My Top RV Parks that Received a Perfect Rating by Good Sam

ALABAMA

All About Relaxing RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All About Relaxing RV Park, Theodore

This park has 41 pull-through and back-in RV sites with 30- and 50-amp hookups. The pet-friendly, RV park features several amenities such as high-end restrooms, showers, a modern laundry facility, barbecue grills, a swimming pool, and an on-site dog park near a beautiful pavilion.

The park is conveniently located off Interstate 10, less than 20 miles west of downtown Mobile. Nearby attractions include Bellingham Gardens and Home, a 65-acre garden with year-round blooms; Battleship Memorial Park which includes the U.S.S. Alabama and the U.S.S. Drum, a submarine; and the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the first Catholic parish on the Gulf 3oast, established in 1703.

ARIZONA

Vista del Sol RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vista Del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City

This area has needed a new 5-star RV resort and in November 2015 a new Roberts resort opened with paved streets. The 88 wide concrete sites are terraced by both back-ins and pull-ins in the 65-foot range with paved sites and patios. The pull-in sites face to the west-northwest with views of the hills and mountains as well as Bullhead City, Laughlin, and the Colorado River.

Related Article: Campgrounds and RV Resorts Can’t-Wait To Go Back To

Resort services include Wi-Fi, two pools, one spa, fitness room, billiards/game room, daily activities, Doggie Park, gated entry, and clubhouse with commercial kitchen and serving area for groups.

Canyon Vista RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon

Canyon Vistas RV Resort is nestled at the base of the Superstition Mountains in the Gold Canyon area southeast of Phoenix. Enjoy a morning walk or bike ride or keep in shape at the state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Meet your friends for a round of golf at the pitch and putt course followed by a cool drink on the covered veranda. Go hiking, boating, and horseback riding in the nearby mountains. Other amenities include ceramics, wood carving, lapidary, pickleball, computer lab and classes, quilting and sewing room, pools and spas, tennis courts, and pet area.

Rincon West RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rincon West RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona

Situated near the beautiful Tucson Mountains, Rincon Country West has 1100 spaces, including deluxe, pull-through RV sites, and a train depot. Amenities include full hookups with 30/50 amp electric, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, gated entry, private mailboxes, gated entry, laundry, showers, heated pool and spas, exercise room, woodworking shop, pottery room, lapidary room, card room, arts and crafts and sewing rooms, billiard room, tennis, pickleball, shuffleboard, and bocce ball.

Eagle View RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eagle View RV Resort, Fort McDowell, Arizona

Eagle View RV Resort is far enough away from the hustle of Phoenix and Scottsdale but still close to numerous attractions. The resort has 150 full hookup sites with beautiful views of Four Peaks, part of the Mazatzal mountain range. Amenities include a swimming pool, dog run, fitness center, complimentary pastries and coffee in the mornings, and a clubhouse with an HDTV, pool table, computer room, and library.

If you feel like trying your hand at blackjack or poker, Fort McDowell Casino is less than a mile up the road. The park is also a short drive from the city of Fountain Hills which is home to golf courses and one of the largest fountains in the world.

Sundance 1 RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sundance 1 RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona

Sundance 1 RV Resort is a 55+ Active Adult Community in Casa Grande. This Family Owned Park was established in 1998 and has grown to become one of the most popular RV destination resorts in Arizona. The park has 750+ sites that make up a community of park model homes and full hookup RV sites.

The average lot size is 40-feet wide by 50-feet deep. The park has 13 pull-through sites for daily and weekly stays only. Each site has 30/50-amp electric availability. Available activities include pickleball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, billiards, wood carving, quilting/sewing, ceramics, photography, and stained glass.

CALIFORNIA

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort, Borrego Springs

Nestled within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course provide 163 spacious RV sites. Try your hand at tennis or challenge yourself to a game of pickleball. Relax your muscles with a soothing massage or a soak in their hot mineral baths or go for a round of golf at their 9-hole championship course.

Related Article: Good Sam Releases 2021 Top Rated Parks

The resort offers large pads with ample space and privacy between sites along with double pedestals between each RV site allowing you to plug in and camp from either side. Big rig-friendly, the resort offers 90 spacious pull-through sites 35 feet wide and 70 premium back-in sites averaging 40 feet by 80 feet.

The RV Park at Rolling Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The RV Park at Rolling Hills, Corning

The RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino is an easy-on, easy-off (I-5; Exit 628) 96-space RV park with long pull-through sites (up to 75 feet in length) with 30/50 amp electric service, water, and sewer conveniently located. All spaces are pull-through. Wi-Fi access is available over most of the park. The RV Park is within an easy walk of the Casino and golf course. Laundry facilities are available nearby at the Traveler’s Clubhouse. The site is safe and secure with a 24-hour patrol.

Indian Waters RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indian Waters RV Resort & Cottages, Indio

Indian Waters RV Resort is located in the Coachella Valley city of Indio, an area that includes the desert cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta. Recently renovated, this beautiful property has added cottages, a second pool, lighted pickleball courts, 50 amp electric and city sewer service to all sites, resurfacing of roads and sites, enhanced Wi-Fi, and a complete make-over for the clubhouse. 

With 274 full-service sites, the Indian Waters RV Resort offers two distinct landscaping themes for its concrete-level sites: grass and desert landscape. The typical RV site is approximately 35 feet wide and 60 feet deep with two concrete pads, one for your RV and one for your toad/tow vehicle.

Jackson Rancheria Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jackson Rancheria Casino RV Park, Jackson

New in 2008, Jackson Rancheria RV Resort is part of a casino complex. Big-rig friendly 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Wide, paved interior roads with wide concrete sites. Back-in sites over 55 feet with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range.

Amenities include walking trails and dog parks, heated pools and spas, and laundry facilities. We would return in a heartbeat. Reservations over a weekend are required well in advance. Jackson Rancheria is conveniently located in the heart of Gold Country.

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala

A new facility, Pala Casino RV Resort offers 100 full-service sites with grass lawns and picnic tables. Site selection includes 30 feet x 55 feet back-in sites, 30 feet x 60 feet luxury sites with barbecue grills, and 30 feet x 70 feet pull-through sites.

Amenities include 20/30/50 amp power, water, and sewer hook-ups, free Wi-Fi, cable TV, restrooms and showers, heated swimming pool, two spas, fenced dog park, and 24-hour security patrol. Pala Casino RV Resort received top marks from Good Sam in every category including facilities, restrooms and showers, and visual appearance. The resort is located on SR-76, 6 miles east of I-15.

JGW RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

JGW RV Park, Redding

Our home base while touring the Redding area was JGW RV Park, a big-rig friendly resort located 9 miles south of Redding on the Sacramento River. This beautiful 5-star RV park offers 75 sites with water, sewer, and 30/50-amp electric service centrally located. The majority of pull-through sites are back-to-back and side-to-side. Our site backed onto the Sacramento River. Interior roads are paved and in good condition with concrete pads.

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pechanga Casino RV Resort, Temecula

Award-winning wineries and scenic hiking and biking trails await you at Pechanga Casino. The newly expanded Pechanga RV Resort is a perfect destination to enjoy all the Temecula Valley has to offer. Providing a combination of scenic beauty and access to world-class dining, gaming, spa facilities, and golf, the Pechanga RV Resort offers 210 spacious sites that easily accommodate big rigs.

Related Article: Announcing the Absolutely Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for 2022

The RV Resort welcomes you with a clubhouse, pool, ample picnic areas, renovated dog park featuring soft eco-friendly turf with views of the Journey at Pechanga golf course and the surrounding hills. Pechanga RV Resort includes 22 buddy sites that allow friends to park next to each other and share a gazebo and picnic tables. Presidential sites bring you privacy with estate-style fencing along with an oversized picnic area with outdoor pergolas and propane BBQs. And every site is Internet-friendly with wireless access available.

GEORGIA

Coastal Georgia RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick

Coastal Georgia RV Resorts offer 105 spacious sites, all 35 feet wide with lengths ranging from 60 to 70 feet. Most sites are pull-through with full hookups including 30 and 50 amp service and tables. The Resort’s roads are all paved. Fire rings are available at the Pavilion. Amenities include a game room, conference room, two bathhouses, two laundromats, a dock, and a store where you can find RV supplies as well as LP gas.

NEVADA

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas RV Resort

Las Vegas RV Resort is a 378 site RV park restricted to guests 18 years of age or older with a great location a short distance from the action of ‘The Strip’. The resort offers full hook-ups with back-in and pull-through sites available. Amenities include free Wi-Fi throughout the resort, pool and spa, fitness center, laundry facilities, pet area, picnic tables at every site, and 24-hour patrol.

OREGON

Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville

Seven Feathers RV Resort is situated on 23 acres of well-maintained lawns and landscaping. All sites have level, concrete pads, and patios. Whether you choose to relax on your patio, enjoy the heated pool and hot tub, work out in the fitness room, shop in the Gift Boutique, meet friends in the Gathering Room, or take part in the nightlife of the Seven Feathers Casino—you can expect an enjoyable stay. The RV resort offers 182 full hookup sites with 30/50 amp electric including 102 pull-through sites and 78 back-in sites, six log cabins, and three yurts.

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort, Salem

With a combination of 24 back-in sites (35 feet long x 20 feet wide) and 115 pull-through sites (75 feet long x 14 feet wide) available year-round even the biggest rigs will have no issue finding a suitable spot. All sites include electric (20, 30, and 50 amp), water, sewer, wired and wireless Internet, and coax television hookups along with a picnic table. Park amenities include a fitness room, seasonal pool, and year-round spa, laundry facility, secure showers/bathrooms, and library. The resort is located a short distance off Interstate 5 at Exit 258.

TENNESSEE

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville

Two Rivers Landing is a luxury RV Resort nestled along the banks of the beautiful French Broad River. A 5-star resort with 25 riverfronts (drive-in sites) and 30 river views (back-in sites), Two Rivers Landing offers 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV conveniently located centrally. Interior roads are paved; individual sites are concrete, 70 feet in length, and 22 feet wide. All sites are surrounded by beautiful landscaping. This is resort living at its best.

TEXAS

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville

This upscale resort makes for a perfect home base to explore the Texas Hill Country. All sites are paved, have a paved patio, and offer satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and instant-on phone. Relax around the two heated swimming pools/spas. While staying in the park, check out the “Club” section, a unique approach to the RV lifestyle. You’ll definitely want to make this resort a repeat stop on your RVing agenda.

Bentsen Palm Village © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, Mission

Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is one of the most unique RV Resorts in South Texas and is part of the 2,600-acre Master Planned Community of Bentsen Palm Development. Bentsen Palm Village is located in South Mission at the entrance to World Birding Center headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Bentsen Palm Village offers over 250 large pull-through and back-in sites, full hookups, rental cabins and casitas, and native landscaping. Super Sites offer a 10×12 storage building that can be locked and secured.

Related Article: A Dozen Spectacular RV Parks for Winter Camping

Katy Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy

Katy Lake RV Resort is situated on 18 acres surrounding a 6-acre lake nestled in the heart of West Houston. Katy Lake offers lake-view drive-in and back-in sites 45 feet in length. Other site types include pull-through (65 feet), premium pull-through (85 feet), and covered.

Amenities include 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, cable TV, Wi-Fi, activity center, exercise room, dog park/dog washing station, walking/jogging trail, walk-in pool with hot tub, concrete streets, sites, and patios.

Jamaica Beach RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston

Jamaica Beach RV Resort is across the street from the beach on Galveston Island with wide-open views of the Gulf. The park offers 181 pull-through sites with full hookups, concrete pads, a picnic table at every site, and all-inclusive amenities like a 700-foot-long lazy river. Other park amenities include a relaxing beach pool, family pool, indoor infinity hot tub, outdoor hot tub, splash pad, three laundry facilities, three shower houses, and pickleball courts.

My Top RV Parks Not Receiving a Perfect Rating by Good Sam

ALABAMA

Bella Terra RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bella Terra RV Resort, Foley

This upscale resort on the Gulf Coast isn’t short on luxury. Expect to find an upscale Class A motorcoach ownership resort with paved interior roads. Lot sizes range from 3,500 to 4,500 square feet with paved pads approximately 16 feet x 75 feet and a paved patio. Select from pull-in facing the nine-acre lake pull-through, or back-in sites. Cable TV, Wi-Fi, telephone, and 200 amp service capability. Amenities include a 6,000 sq. ft. clubhouse and zero-entry infinity pool with a Jacuzzi and patio overlooking the lake. Inside you will discover a theater room, fitness center, dry sauna, pedicure/massage room, and lounge/bar area.

Lake Osprey RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Elberta

A new destination luxury RV resort, Lake Osprey is located near the sugar-sand beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast. The resort offers 147 RV sites located within a nature preserve next to Soldiers Creek Golf Club. Each RV lot has an extra-long 16-foot x 75-foot concrete pad, a lighted pedestal, and a lake or courtyard view. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and laundry.

Wind Creek at Atmore RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wind Creek at Atmore RV Park, Atmore

Wind Creek at Atmore RV Park is a new RV park conveniently located on the casino property. All 28 sites are 75-foot pull-through RV stations with 30 and 50 amp power, water, and sewer. Wi-Fi service is available at the site. Clubhouse amenities include restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. Shuttle service is provided to and from the casino resort with access to the gaming floor, bowling alley, movie theater, arcade, pool/hot tub, spa, fitness center, and six dining options. The casino and RV park are conveniently located off I-65 at Exit 21.

ARIZONA

Wahweep RV Park and Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wahweep RV Park and Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page

Centrally located at Wahweap Marina, the campsites are about one-quarter mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. This RV park/campground is a great place to enjoy the off-season solitude of Lake Powell. 

The campground offers 139 sites with 30 and 50 amp service, water, and sewer. Sites accommodate up to 45 feet. The season is an ideal time to visit nearby attractions including Rainbow Bridge, Antelope Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, and Horseshoe Bend. 

Sonoran Desert RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend

After a day of rolling through the dramatic and diverse Sonoran Desert, you can roll your rig right into this oasis in the desert. It’s so convenient with the easy-on/easy-off access from both I-8 and SR-85. Formerly, Gila Bend KOA, the campground was built for RVers by RVers and it shows! You’ll find roomy, 100-foot full-hookup pull-through sites throughout the park—all big rig friendly. Relax by the heated pool or just soak up the desert views and dark evening skies from your site. Fido will love the 4,000-square-foot Canine Corral with three separate corrals (two with grassy areas).

Related Article: The Best RV Camping January 2022

Amenities include Wi-Fi throughout the park, laundry facility, putting green, heated pool, and recreation hall Ranch House with 2,500 sq. ft. veranda that’s perfect for savoring a brilliant sunset at day’s end. 

Rain Spirit RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rain Spirit RV Resort, Clarkdale

Overlooking Tuzigoot National Monument and Verde River, Rain Spirit RV Resort is a new park with 63 full-service sites including 30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, and the Internet. Amenities include private restroom/showers, fitness room, laundry facilities, recreation room, library lounge, pool and spa, and dog run. This 5-star resort is a great home base from which to explore the historic town of Jerome, Sedona Red Rock Country, Old Town Cottonwood, and book an excursion on the Verde Valley Railway.

Tucson/Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucson/Lazydays KOA, Tucson

Tucson/Lazydays KOA Resort features citrus trees throughout the park and offers pull-through RV sites with full 30/50-amp hookups, grassy luxury sites, and new RV sites with a patio and fireplace. Whether you want to relax by one of the two pools, soak in the hot tubs, play a round on the nine-hole putting green, or join in the activities, this park has something for everyone to enjoy.

Two solar shade structures allow guests to camp under a structure that produces solar energy. The structures shade more than two acres of the campground giving visitors room to park RVs on 30 covered sites. Other campground amenities include a bar and grill, meeting rooms, fitness center, three off-leash dog parks, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Lazydays, a full-service RV dealership with a service department is located next door.

CALIFORNIA

Red Bluff KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Bluff KOA, Red Bluff

Big-rig friendly, Red Bluff KOA (formerly Durango RV Resort) is a 5-star resort located on the Sacramento River. Most sites are pull-through, 70-90 feet in length, and 30-35 feet wide. In addition, there are 11 riverfront sites and 21 water-feature spaces (fountains); these sites have utilities on both sides of the concrete pads enabling fifth wheels and travel trailers to back onto the sites and motorhomes to drive forward maximizing the view and water features. In addition, there are a number of buddy sites.

The park is well laid out and designed. Utilities including 20/30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV (63 channels) are centrally located. Interior roads are paved. Easy-on, easy-off, the park is located on I-5, Exit 649 (Highway 36/Antelope Boulevard).

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

Bakersfield River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California

New in 2007, big-rig friendly Bakersfield River Run RV Park is a well-maintained facility with 123 sites including 31 pull-through and 46 river view (back-in) sites, wide paved streets, compacted gravel/sand sites, concrete patios, and a large grassy area. 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV (60 channels) are centrally located. Wi-Fi internet works well from our site (#50) and no problem locating satellite.

Back-in sites to the Kern River are 65 footers. The park also has a recreation room with a fitness center, pool with spa, computer work stations, and laundry facilities. Ample shopping including Costco located nearby. Treat yourself to some amazing food at Benji’s Basque Restaurant, conveniently located two blocks from River Run RV Park.

GEORGIA

CreekFire RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

CreekFire RV Resort, Savannah

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, bocce ball, and full shower and laundry facilities.

IDAHO

Ambassador RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell

Ambassador RV Resort is a 5-star resort that is easy-on, easy-off (I-84 at Exit 29) with 188 full-service sites, pool, spa, sauna, and 5,000 square foot recreation hall. Features 30-foot x 85-foot short term pull-through sites, 35-foot x 75-foot long term pull-through sites, 45-foot x 60-foot back-in sites, and wide-paved streets. Pets are welcome if friendly and the owner is well trained.

Located near Idaho’s wine country and convenient to the Boise metro area, the Ambassador is the perfect home base for all your activities.

LOUISIANA

Cajun Palms RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. A full-service resort, Cajun Palms features numerous traditional as well as high-tech amenities. Accommodations consist of over 300 deluxe RV sites and 25 cabins. RV sites have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp, 70+ channels of digital cable, and on-site water and sewer. Easy-on, easy-off Interstate 10 (Exit 115) at Henderson (near Breaux Bridge).

Reunion Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reunion Lake RV Resort, Ponchatoula

Reunion Lake RV Resort is a gated resort with top-rated facilities and service and all-concrete roadways. Built around a scenic lake the park offers an adult pool with a swim-up bar, poolside cabanas, a lazy river with a tiki bar, giant hot tub, fitness center, family pool, basketball and pickleball courts, fenced-in dog park. Our Premium pull-through site will accommodate any size rig.

Read Next: 10 RV Parks across America that are One Step above the Rest

Worth Pondering…

For all of us have our loved places; all of us have laid claim to parts of the earth; and all of us, whether we know it or not, is in some measure the products of our sense of place.

—Alan Gussow

Saguaro National Park: 11 Planning Tips

Some planning tips for visiting Saguaro National Park

To make the most of your visit to Saguaro National Park, we’ve compiled these 10 tips, in no particular order. The park is open 24 hours a day via walking or bicycling and 7 a.m. to sunset in the Tucson Mountain District (West) and 7 a.m. to sunset in the Rincon Mountain District, 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day).

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Plan Ahead: Since the park is open year-round and located in a desert it’s important to consider weather conditions. While daytime temperatures in the winter range from the low-50s to the high-70s, summertime temperatures rise to the mid-80s to low-100s. The busiest times in the park are November through March.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Two parks in One: Saguaro National Park is composed of two distinct districts: The Rincon Mountain District and the Tucson Mountain District. The Tucson Mountain District lies on the west side of Tucson, Arizona, while the Rincon Mountain District lies on the east side of town. Both districts were formed to protect and exhibit forests of their namesake plant: the saguaro cactus.

Related: Reach for the Sky: Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Drink Up: The Sonoran Desert climate is dry whatever season and it’s important to stay hydrated. Be sure to bring along plenty of water when Saguaro. Park rangers suggest one quart of water per hour of hiking during hot weather. Water refilling stations are found at both visitor centers. Also, bring along some sports drinks and salty snacks with you to replenish your electrolytes.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Go for a Hike: With more than 165 miles of hiking trails in the park’s two districts, there are ample opportunities for hiking. Numerous hiking trailheads are located along the Cactus Forest Scenic Loop Drive in the Rincon Mountain District and throughout the Tucson Mountain District. Stop at a visitor center and map out your hike before setting off on the trails.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Go for a Drive: In the Rincon Mountain District the eight-mile Cactus Forest Scenic Loop Drive features several trailheads, pullouts, and incredible views along the way. The unpaved, graded dirt/gravel Scenic Bajada Loop Drive takes you into the Tucson Mountain District’s foothills with scenic pullouts, picnic areas, and trailheads along its six-mile loop.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Go for a Ride: The same loop drives that are great for driving are also terrific for biking. In addition, two trails in the Rincon Mountain District are open to bicycles—the new 2.8-mile Hope Camp Trail and the 2.5-mile Cactus Forest Trail. All trails in the Tucson Mountain District are off-limits for bicycling.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Mount Up: Horseback riding is possible within Saguaro National Park and if you don’t have your own horse, there are a few local outfitters who can take you to experience the park from the saddle. A guided ride will also help make sure that you stay on the trails where horses are permitted.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Watch for Wildlife: The varied landscapes of Saguaro National Park provide ideal homes to numerous species of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Watch for roadrunners (beep beep!), cactus wrens, Gila woodpeckers, desert tortoise, horned lizards, Gila monsters, kangaroo rats, coyotes, collared peccaries, and much more.

Related: A Southern Gem: 14 Reasons to Visit Tucson

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Ancient Artwork: Ancient petroglyphs are found throughout the American Southwest including Saguaro National Park. Take a walk along the Signal Hill Trail in the Tucson Mountain District and you’ll find a hill covered with dozens of petroglyphs that date 800 years. And of course, look but don’t touch to help preserve these ancient pieces of art.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Live the Nightlife: When the sun goes down, the park’s nightlife comes alive. The park rangers offer numerous evening programs to experience it all. Reservations advised.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Spend a Day at the Museum: Just outside the park (Tucson Mountain District), the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a terrific place to learn all about the area. A regional showcase for native plants and animals, the museum’s 98 acres includes a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium—and 85 percent of the experience is outside. The park’s hours vary seasonally.

Read Next: Now is the Time to Explore Southern Arizona’s Gorgeous State Parks

Worth Pondering…

This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaros standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.

—Dorothy B. Hughes

How to Reduce Moisture and Condensation in Your RV

A helpful guide to avoiding moisture damage in your RV

Ah, winter. It’s so cozy and warm when you’re cuddled up inside your RV, especially when the outside temps are frigid. Well, that cozy feeling is sure to cool when you begin to notice water droplets forming on the inside of your RV windows. That’s excess humidity and it is not your friend!

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High humidity can cause damage to your RV. When the warm, moist air from inside your rig hits the cold window glass, moisture forms. If that moisture builds up, the water droplets form little rivers of wetness that will run into the windowsill and from there into the wall. Most RVs are constructed with a lot of wood and humidity can cause that wood to warp, expand, and lose structural integrity over time. 

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another serious issue with humidity is mold. Mold spores in the air will be able to attach to surfaces in the RV. This can cause health problems such as increasing issues with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illnesses.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide for Winter Camping

Here are simple RV hacks and tricks to help cut down on the humidity inside your RV this winter.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooking

I always think of humidity as being caused by the areas we travel to and weather patterns but that is only part of it. We cause humidity while cooking, showering, and even breathing. Luckily, there are a few ways to reduce humidity. However, I do recommend first making sure moisture is not getting in the RV from the weather.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Minimize cooking time on your RV stovetop. When you do cook on the stovetop, be sure to use the exhaust fan on its medium or high speed and crank open a nearby window. Cover foods as they cook as much as possible to avoid steam from escaping directly into the RV.

When possible use the microwave as an alternative to stovetop cooking. Use the microwave along with the vent. Once the food is removed, quickly close the microwave rather than let the steam escape into the galley.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get outside. Cook outside as much as possible. Use your gas grill or campfire to heat delicious meals without adding more humidity to the inside air.

Convection cooking. If you have a convection oven, use it instead of the propane oven which can produce steam.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heating

Electric is best since propane produces humidity. A heat pump is one option for heating an RV. It’s not a perfect solution in every situation but it is good to have on board. A heat pump uses electricity to warm up the interior of the RV. As the name suggests, it uses a pump to move warmth from one place to another. In this case, it absorbs heat from outside the RV and pushes it inside through the ventilation system.

Related Article: Winter is Here: What to Do with Your RV?

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are limits to what a heat pump can do. They’re great when it’s chilly but not when it’s freezing cold. This is because they draw warmth from the outside air. The critical point varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but from our experience about 34 degrees Fahrenheit is the point at which an RV heat pump stops working. There’s just not enough heat in the outside air for it to extract.

A second option is a portable electric space heater. If you’re plugged into a reliable power source electric heaters are a great supplement to your RV furnace. They help to save propane and lower your energy bill depending on the electric costs in your location. 

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If your RV features a fireplace, use it instead of the furnace.

Take proper precautions for insulating your rig so that drafts are not an issue. It will help you stay warmer.

Dress for success. Consider dressing in layers so that you can keep comfortable even in cooler indoor temperatures.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other considerations

Take shorter showers. Hot showers put lots of excess humidity into your RV interior. Consider using the campground showers, if available. If you do shower inside your RV, keep it brief. Run the exhaust fans and crack open a window to help release the extra moisture to the outside.

Related Article: How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in your RV?

Some folks swear by running a fan with one window opened slightly. Proponents claim that the fan helps circulate the air and helps humid air escape more readily.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dehumidifier choices

Cold and wet is bad. Not just for you, but for your RV, too. All that heat in one confined space can lead to humidity and condensation which can cause mold in your walls.

When winter camping it’s advisable to use several dehumidifiers in the RV (bathroom and kitchen are particular problem areas)

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moisture absorbers such as DampRid will help reduce damaging condensation. Applications for RVs include disposable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), refillable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), hi-capacity absorbers (4-pound tub), and hanging absorbers (14-ounce hanging bag).

DampRid’s crystals absorb excess moisture in the air to create and maintain the optimal humidity level in your RV.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These tips are easy to follow and will play a huge role in cutting down moisture and prolonging the life of your RV. With one less thing to worry about, you can hit the open roads without a care.

Read Next: 6 Great Tips for RV Beginners

Worth Pondering…

I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.

—Jamaica Kincaid

15 Amazing Places to Discover in Phoenix

Explore my list of fun things to see and do in the Phoenix metro area

Phoenix has its buttoned-up business side (it is home to the state capitol, after all). But that doesn’t mean you need an expense account to enjoy everything the greater Phoenix metro has to offer. Scattered across the Valley of the Sun are dozens of museums, regional and state parks, trails, and historic sites. If you’re looking to explore the Phoenix area, these are the fifteen best places to discover.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, Gilbert

Stroll 110 acres of greenery, ranging from marshland and riparian habitats to upland vegetation areas. Over 4.5 miles of trails weave through the park with interpretive panels on wildlife and vegetation throughout. Viewing blinds have been established at various locations near the edge of several ponds. Approximately 298 species of birds have been identified on the site. A floating boardwalk crossing the northern end of the lake allows visitors a close-up view of the fish and ducks on the water. Additional educational areas include an ethnobotanical garden, a paleontology dig site, a hummingbird, and a butterfly garden. 

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also at the preserve: the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory where you can see comets, meteors, planets, and the sun Just be sure to check the hours—the trails are generally open from dawn to dusk, but the observatory operates separately.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Papago Park, Phoenix

Looking for great outdoor recreation just minutes from downtown? Take a hike around the red butte formations in Papago Park including the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, cast a line in seven acres of stocked fishing lagoons, or enjoy a round at Papago Golf Course.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trails in Papago Park are typically smooth with little elevation gain providing easy access for walking, hiking, mountain biking, or trail running. The park is split into east and west sides by Galvin Parkway.

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

Discover the tranquil beauty of 50,000 desert plants nestled amid the red rocks of the Papago Buttes. The Desert Botanical Garden offers the world’s finest collection of arid plants from deserts of the world in a unique outdoor setting. Stroll through five thematic trails to explore plants, including towering cactus, alluring succulents, and brilliant desert wildflowers.

Related: Absolutely Best Road Trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy specialized tours, special events, seasonal exhibits, concerts, family activities, Gertrude’s restaurant, Patio Café, and the Garden’s gift and plant shop. It’s pretty dazzling year-round but the flowering spring season is the busiest and most colorful.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Located on the Valley’s east side, this 3,648-acre park is located at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. The park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Along with the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support the hanging gardens of Rock Daisy.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park offers a campground with 73 individual sites. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a dump station, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and a fire ring.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apache Trail

Named after the Apache Indians who once used the route, the Apache Trail (AZ 88) links Apache Junction at the eastern edge of the Greater Phoenix area with Theodore Roosevelt Lake through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. The scenic byway was designated in 1998 and is approximately 39 miles long, winding in and out of some of the most awe-inspiring country in Arizona—or for that matter, in the West.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This mostly unpaved road winds past magnificent scenery of twisted igneous mountains with dense forests of saguaro and several deep blue lakes. The road though has been mostly closed since late 2019 because of landslips and other damage associated with the Woodbury Fire. The worst affected is the steepest section just west of Fish Creek; the only part still open to vehicular traffic is the (paved) 18 miles from Apache Junction to Tortilla Flat.

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cave Creek Regional Park

This 2,922-acre park north of Phoenix sits in the upper Sonoran Desert and ranges in elevation from 2,000 feet to 3,060 feet. Cave Creek Regional Park offers over 11-miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Related: Top 10 Day Trips From Phoenix

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park trails range in length from 0.2 miles to 5.8 miles and range in difficulty from easy to difficult. If you are looking for an easy, relatively short hike the Slate Trail is recommended. If you are looking for a longer, more difficult hike, try the 5.8-mile Go John Trail. Cave Creek Regional Park offers a campground with 55 campsites for tent or RV camping. The average site size is 40 feet; however, pull-through sites may accommodate up to a 60-foot RV with water and electrical hookups, a picnic table, a barbecue fire ring, and a nearby dump station.

Wildlife World Zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park, Litchfield Park

Located in the West Valley, Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park is home to Arizona’s largest collection of exotic animals with 600 different species. Visitors can feed giraffes, parrots, and stingrays. See wildlife on the new Log flume ride, African Safari Train, Australian Boat Ride, Wildlife Skyride, or exotic Merry-Go-Round. Dine with Sharks at Dillon’s Barbecue Restaurant and Flamingo Lounge.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Nestled in the lower Verde River basin, the 21,099-acre park is a desert jewel in the northeast Valley. Elevations in the park rise to 3,000 feet along the western boundary at the base of the McDowell Mountains. Visitors enjoy a full program schedule, over 50 miles of multi-use trails, and spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

McDowell Mountain Regional Park offers 76 individual sites for tent or RV camping. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a dump station, a picnic table, and a barbecue fire ring.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goldfield Ghost Town

Established in 1893, Goldfield was a mining town with saloons, a boarding house, general store, blacksmith shop, brewery, meat market, and a schoolhouse. The grade of ore dropped at the end of the 1890s and the town was all but deserted. The town came back to life from 1910 to 1926.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, visitors can tour the historic Mammoth Gold Mine, visit the Goldfield Museum, pan for gold, take a ride on Arizona’s only narrow gauge train, explore the shops and historic building, eat at the Mammoth Steakhouse and Saloon, and witness an old west gunfight performed by the Goldfield Gunfighters.

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake was formed by the Stewart Mountain Dam which was completed in 1930. It was the last of the reservoirs to be built on the Salt River. Saguaro Lake has more than 22 miles of shoreline creating a great environment for boating, kayaking, sailing, skiing, jet skiing, fishing, and camping. 

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Discover canyon-walled Saguaro Lake aboard The Desert Belle. Relax in air-conditioned comfort on one of her 80 minute narrated cruises and see Arizona wildlife, towering canyon walls, and dramatic desert vistas. Live music cruises, wine, and live music cruises, craft beer, and live music cruises are also available.

Related: When you need to get out of the Phoenix Heat, Cool off with These Getaways

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert at the base of the Superstition Mountains 40 miles east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron. Depending on the year’s rainfall, you might be treated to a carpet of desert wildflowers in the spring but there are plenty of beautiful desert plants to see year-round. Enjoy a week of camping and experience native wildlife including mule deer, coyote, javelin, and jackrabbit.

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Tank Mountains Regional Park

Nearly 30,000 acres make this the largest regional park in Maricopa County. Most of the park is made up of the rugged and beautiful White Tank Mountains on the Valley’s west side. The range, deeply serrated with ridges and canyons, rises sharply from its base to peak at over 4,000 feet.

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers approximately 30 miles of shared-use trails ranging in length from 0.9 miles to 7.9 miles and difficulty from easy to strenuous. The park offers 40 individual sites for tent or RV camping. Most sites have a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, a fire ring, and a nearby dump station.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Superstition Mountain Museum

Hikers, horseback riders, photographers, and tourists come to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the Superstition Mountains now preserved in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, many are curious about the history and mystery of this intriguing area and visit the museum comprised of a central 4,900-square-foot exhibit hall and Museum Shop and numerous outdoor structures and exhibitions including the Apacheland Barn and the Elvis Chapel, the last surviving structures from Apacheland Movie Ranch, a huge 20-stamp gold mill, a mountain man camp, Western storefronts, and a labeled Nature Walk.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

One of the most scenic water recreation areas in the Valley of the Sun, this northwest Valley park is a recreationist’s dream. Lake Pleasant is a water reservoir and is part of the Central Arizona Project waterway system bringing water from the Lower Colorado River into central and southern Arizona. 

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake water levels can fluctuate throughout the course of the year with the water typically reaching its highest level in the spring (March/April) and its lowest in the fall (October/November).  This 23,362-acre park offers many activities, such as camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.

San Tan Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Tan Mountain Regional Park

Consisting of over 10,000 acres, the southeast Valley park is a fine example of the lower Sonoran Desert. San Tan Mountain Regional Park ranges in elevation from about 1,400 feet to over 2,500 feet. The park offers over eight miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Park trails range in length from 1.1 miles to over 5 miles and range in difficulty from easy to strenuous.

Read Next: A Southern Gem: 14 Reasons to Visit Tucson

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert,

I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy.

The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.

I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, the sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night.

I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Winter Listicle: Experience Winter Wonderlands in National Parks

The days are shorter, but the possibilities are endless to enjoy national parks in the winter season

Winter is the perfect time for some creatures to hibernate and RVers to explore a magical season in the national parks. The serenity of fresh powder sprinkled over pine trees and the silence of the winter air are just a few of the wonders of winter.
So pack a canteen of hot cocoa, put on your coziest mittens, and get ready to explore the parks during this season in a variety of favorite ways. Be sure to do some trip planning before you embark on your journey—be prepared and be safe.

Winter Play

A little cold only adds to the fun outdoor adventures you can have during winter. Grab your ice skates, snowshoes, or cross country skis and feel like you’re gliding through a snow globe.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

The stark white of freshly fallen snow, red rocks, blue sky, and evergreen trees—some say Bryce Canyon is even more beautiful in winter! Here at 8,000 feet, the scenery changes dramatically in the colder months, providing unique opportunities to see the park and requiring a very different packing list.

Related Article: Best National Parks to Visit this Winter

In addition to daily activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival (February 19-21, 2022) is a popular annual event.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Vehicle access is limited to one mile from the Southwest and Northwest Entrances approximately November through May. Beyond the plowed roads to the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and Loomis Plaza, the entire park is snow-covered.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Southwest Area (6,700-10,457 feet) offers steep slopes and sweeping vistas just beyond the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center which offers the only services between November and early May.

The Manzanita Lake Area (5,800-7,200 feet) consists of gentle slopes and scenic lakes. It offers the easiest routes for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the park.

Wildlife watching: Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter Wildlife Watching

Winter provides an amazing opportunity to see new seasons of animals and enjoy the wonders of animal life at every part of the year.

Wildlife watching: Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to stay safe when watching wildlife is to give animals room to move. Parks provide a unique opportunity to view animals’ natural behavior in the wild. In general, animals react to your presence when you are too close. If you’re close enough for a selfie, you’re definitely too close. Use binoculars or a zoom lens and move back if wildlife approaches you. Let wildlife be wild and observe safely from a distance.

Related Article: National Parks at their Spectacular Best in Winter

Wildlife watching: Rocky Mountain sheep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Enjoy one of the world’s most famous national parks enveloped in winter magic. See the dramatic beauty of the canyon, dusted with snow, and maybe even mule deer, bald eagles, elk, condors, or ravens as an extra treat.
Colder temperatures, shorter days, and snow bring a slower pace to one of the nation’s most visited national parks. Winter visitors find paths less traveled throughout the park. Those prepared for ice and snow will find the Bright Angel Trail a bit quieter and scenic drives less congested.

Pack your jacket and winter gloves, avoid the crowds, and experience a Grand Canyon winter wonderland,

Bird watching: Roseate spoonbill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Birds are on the move this winter. Located on the Central Flyway, a major bird migration route, Padre Island National Seashore provides a chance to spot flying feathered travelers from more than 380 species of birds.

Bird watching: Great blue heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You never know what you may see when you join a volunteer-led birding guide on a tour of the park—the magnificent grasslands, the beach filled with shorebirds, and the long, shallow, hypersaline lagoon of the Laguna Madre. Each habitat abounds with a rich variety of birds. Your guide will take you to some significant birding locations within these habitats including one that would otherwise be inaccessible to the public.

Carlsbad National Park

Winter Escape

Not a fan of the wintery blues? Head south as a snowbird and enjoy warm weather year-round.

Related Article: National Parks that are Beautiful & Empty in Winter

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Regardless of the snow and cold temps above, the cave is always a temperate 56-57 degrees.

The most popular route, the Big Room, is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. This 1.25-mile trail is relatively flat and will take about 1.5 hours (on average) to walk.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona is home to America’s largest cacti. The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of Tucson. Here you have a chance to see these enormous cacti, silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park’s two districts offer more than 165 miles of hiking trails. A hike at Saguaro National Park can be a stroll on a short interpretive nature trail or a day-long wilderness trek. Both districts of Saguaro National Park offer a variety of hiking trails. 

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t wait for the snow to melt. Plan an incredible trip to a national park. Always be sure to check specific parks websites for safety tips, road closure information, and general advice before planning your trip.

Read Next: 7 National Parks You Should Have on Your Radar This Winter

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

Three Southwest Towns You Need To Visit This Winter

Instead of driving on snowy and dangerous icy roads this winter, take your RV south for the season.

These towns in Arizona and New Mexico have some amazing attractions as well as RV nearby RV parks and campgrounds.

Quartsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite, Arizona

Travel through this dusty outpost between April and November and you might wonder why this wide spot along Interstate 10 is such a popular snowbird destination for RVers. But visit in January and you’ll quickly see why: it morphs into a non-stop social event for RVing snowbirds.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dozens of inexpensive Quartzsite RV parks have room for seasonal guests and short-term visitors alike. Tens of thousands of snowbirds boondock at one of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) designed visitor areas that surround Quartzsite. A long-term permit allows snowbirds to stay at a BLM-designated Long Term Visitor Area for $180 between September 15 and April 15 (a total of 7 months), or for any length of time between those two dates.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The LTVA short-visit permit ($40) allows the use of BLM-designated LTVAs for any 14-consecutive-day period from September 15th to April 15th The only caveat? You’ll go without hookups. The only “amenities” are beautiful desert sunsets with wide-open views of the surrounding area.

Related Article: Most Beautiful Towns in the Southwest

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite RV Show is the largest gathering of RVs and RVers on Earth. 2022 dates are January 22-30. Endless flea market shopping opportunities and RV club social events galore give you plenty to do.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Not to be confused with the California city of the same name, Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico is a peaceful city along the Pecos River. This town is the gateway to Carlsbad Caverns National Park with more than 100 underground caves.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park consists of a network of cave passages filled with stalagmites, stalactites, and other formations. The largest chamber, “The Big Room” is 8.2 acres and the largest accessible cave chamber in North America.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most people like to explore at their own pace on the Self-Guided Tours, but if you prefer having a guide with more information, consider taking one of their ranger-led tours. You can enter the caves by hiking down the steep 1.25-mile Natural Entrance Trail, or by simply taking an elevator down into the caves.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Camping in the Southwest

The national park doesn’t allow overnight camping, but there are lots of RV parks and campgrounds in the area.

Las Cruces and the Organ Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces is less than an hour from the Texas border in southeastern New Mexico. The town sits in the shadow of the Organ Mountains and is a short drive from the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Las Cruces Farmers and Craft Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Organ Mountains are a steep, angular mountain range with rocky spires that jut majestically above the Chihuahuan Desert floor to an elevation of 9,000 feet. This picturesque area of rocky peaks, narrow canyons, and open woodlands ranges from Chihuahuan Desert habitat to ponderosa pine in the highest elevations.  Located adjacent to and on the east side of Las Cruces, this area provides opportunities for photography, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dripping Springs Natural Area is also close to Las Cruces with easy hiking trails among huge rock spires. White Sands National Monument is less than an hour away with huge sand dunes that you can hike or sled down.

Related Article: Five National Parks to Visit on the Ultimate Southwestern Desert Road Trip

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step back in time and visit Old Mesilla, one of the oldest and most unique settlements of southern New Mexico. Pancho Villa and Billy the Kid walked the streets. The famous trial of Billy the Kid was held here. Today Mesilla is a part of living history. Great care has been given to preserving the original adobe buildings and the beautiful plaza. People from all over the world stop to experience the history, art, architecture, quaint shopping, and unique dining that Mesilla has to offer.

Las Cruces Mainstreet Downtown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll also want to stop and browse the town’s huge year-round Farmers and Crafts Market. Their famous downtown market includes over 300 local farmers, artists, bakers, and vendors selling fresh produce and handmade artisan goods.

Related Article: Stay Warm This Winter in these Unique Towns in the American Southwest

You’ll find numerous RV parks and campgrounds are in the area including a nearby state park and a BLM campground.

Worth Pondering…

May the joy of today, bring forth happiness for tomorrow—and may the cold northern air stay up north!

How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in your RV?

CO poisoning is entirely preventable. Protect yourself and your family by learning the symptoms of CO poisoning and how to prevent it.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that you don’t expect to encounter when traveling the great outdoors. However, some of your RV appliances emit carbon monoxide which can be dangerous to your health. It’s important to be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to reduce your exposure while enjoying your RV.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust especially at an RV rally © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carbon monoxide is created when any fuel is burned such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, wood, and coal. It is extremely serious when combustion by-products are not vented outside. Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States each year in homes and RVs. It is important to identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and to know how you can prevent it from leaking in your RV.

Some of these risks are located inside your RV but many surround your RV at camp. Be mindful of things that emit carbon monoxide not only in your RV but around it. Including your neighbors’ equipment! The first rule in how to detect carbon monoxide in your RV is to be aware of the sources of carbon dioxide.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In RVs, carbon monoxide gas usually results from:

  • Exhaust leaks from either a vehicle engine or a generator
  • Improper use of portable gas-powered heaters
  • Someone else’s vehicle or generator when camping in close quarters
Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to detect carbon monoxide in your RV? You can’t. Humans cannot detect carbon monoxide. It is odorless and colorless, which is why it’s called the quiet killer. We must rely on sensors to detect carbon monoxide.

If your RV is not already outfitted with a carbon monoxide detector, you must install one right away. It can save your life. These are as essential as smoke detectors. You can purchase a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector designed for use in RVs.

Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust especially when boondocking © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure you test the detector every time you use the RV and replace the carbon monoxide detector batteries at least once a year. A good time to do this is when you change clocks for daylight savings time or at the beginning of a new camping season.

Related: The Ultimate Guide for Winter Camping

If the detector senses an unsafe amount of carbon monoxide, it will sound the alarm. The alarm is much louder than the beep that warns of a low battery.

Don’t forget about your pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though humans can’t detect carbon monoxide, we certainly show symptoms of it. If you are aware of these symptoms, you can realize there’s a serious problem more quickly.  Besides the detector, the symptoms are another way to detect carbon monoxide in your RV. These symptoms progress fast—Do not try to “shake them off”!

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include:

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Muscular twitching
  • Intense headache
  • Throbbing in the temples
  • Weakness and sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
Be aware of your neighbor’s exhaust especially at an RV rally © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And don’t forget about your pets! Despite their superior sense of smell, dogs and other pets cannot detect carbon monoxide either. They will be affected much more quickly than humans due to their smaller size.

Related: The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

If you or anyone else experiences any of these, get to fresh air immediately. If the symptoms persist you need to seek medical attention. Shut off the vehicle or power the generator down and do not operate it until it has been inspected and repaired by a professional.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exposure to carbon monoxide is a huge health hazard and can cause death. It is important to stay vigilant and to be aware of the risk at all times. Take precautions and follow these prevention tips to reduce exposure and keep you and your family safe:

  • Inspect your RV’s chassis and generator exhaust system regularly
  • Yellow flames in propane-burning appliances usually indicate a lack of oxygen and should be checked by a qualified technician
  • Park your RV so that the exhaust may easily dissipate away from the vehicle
  • Never sleep with a generator running
  • Always have a window open when operating a gas-burning appliance or generator
  • Keep any windows and vents closed if in close proximity to a running vehicle or generator
  • Never use range burners or ovens to heat your RV
  • When cooking with the range, use the range fan and keep a nearby window cracked open
  • Be aware of your neighbor’s setup and make sure they are not directing any exhaust your way
Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Follow all directions and warnings if using gas-powered heaters.

Related: 12 Simple RV Maintenance Tips

Don’t take safety for granted while RVing.

Since we’re talking safety…

Read Next: RV Emergency Kit Essentials

Worth Pondering…

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

The Best RV Camping January 2022

Explore the guide to find some of the best in January camping across America

But where should you park your RV? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Here are 10 of the top locations to explore in January. RVing with Rex selected this list of 5 star RV resorts from parks personally visited.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in November and December. Also, check out my recommendations from January 2021.

Rincon West RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rincon West RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona

Situated near the beautiful Tucson Mountains, Rincon Country West has 1100 spaces, including deluxe, pull-through RV sites, and a train depot. Amenities include full hookups with 30/50 amp electric, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, gated entry, private mailboxes, gated entry, laundry, showers, heated pool and spas, exercise room, woodworking shop, pottery room, lapidary room, card room, arts and crafts and sewing rooms, billiard room, tennis, pickleball, shuffleboard, and bocce ball.

Belle Terra RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bella Terra RV Resort, Foley, Alabama

This upscale resort on the Gulf Coast isn’t short on luxury. Expect to find an upscale Class A motorcoach ownership resort with paved interior roads. Daily, weekly, and monthly stays are welcome. Lot sizes range from 3,500 to 4,500 square feet with paved pads approximately 16 feet x 75 feet and a paved patio. Select from pull-in facing the nine-acre lake pull-through, or back-in sites. Cable TV, Wi-Fi, telephone, and 200 amp service capability.

Bella Terra RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once settled in, consider the 6,000 sq. ft. clubhouse and zero-entry infinity pool with a Jacuzzi and patio overlooking the lake. Inside you will discover the great room with large screen TV, movie theater room, fitness center, dry sauna, pedicure/massage room, and lounge/bar area. The resort has its own lake stocked with fish for catch-and-release fishing and fenced-in dog parks with ample space for your furry friends to run freely. Plus, the resort is located minutes from the white sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast.

Related: Campgrounds and RV Resorts Can’t-Wait To Go Back To

Palm Canyon Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Located within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Palm Canyon campground has approximately 120 campsites and 6 group campsites. There are 51 RV campsites with full hookups. Each campsite has a table, fire ring, and grill. Several campsites also have shade structures. Campground amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, showers, RV dump station, group camping, and hike/biking camping.

Palm Canyon Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Canyon campground is just a few miles from the town of Borrego Springs. It is also located next to popular hiking trails (including the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail) and about a mile from the Visitor Center. Outdoor activities include biking, hiking, photography, picnicking, exploring historic sites, OHVing, and wildflower and wildlife viewing.

Frog City RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana

Established in 2006, Frog City RV Park is located just off I-10 in Duson (Exit 92), a little town just 10 miles west of Lafayette and deep in the beautiful Cajun countryside. With 62 spacious pull-through sites, Frog City offers paved interior roads, 50/30 amp electric service, water, sewer, Wi-Fi, cable TV, swimming pool, dog walk areas, coin-operated laundry, and private hot showers.

Frog City RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The RV park offers convenient adjacent facilities such as Roady’s Lucky Deuces Travel Plaza, with Maw’s Café located inside, and Lucky Deuces Casino. We stayed at Frog City in 2013 and 2019. The park has a friendly and welcoming feel.

Texas Lakeside RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas

Texas Lakeside is a gated 5-star RV resort with long concrete pads, multi-purpose clubhouse, fitness center, tropical pool, stocked fishing lake, and gated entrance. All utilities including 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Our long pull-through site (#78) faced northeast and as a result, our coach was not affected by the afternoon sun. The Wi-Fi signal from our site was excellent. Texas Lakeside recently expanded to include 41 new sites, pull-through, and back-in sites. The resort is located in Port Lavaca off Highway 35, 50 miles north of Rockport.

Related: More Highly Rated Snowbird Resorts, According To RVers

La Quintas Oasis RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Quintas Oasis RV Resort, Yuma, Arizona

Big-rig friendly, La Quintas Oasis RV Resort is a 55+ park with 460 full-service sites. Easy-on easy-off (I-8; Exit 12 on North Frontage Road) the park has wide paved streets. Pull-through sites are in the 70-foot range with ample space. Back-in sites are 60+ feet in length and 35 feet wide. La Quintas Oasis has a heated pool, hot tub, horseshoes, recreation hall, game room, planned activities, shuffleboard, exercise room, pickleball courts, and mini-golf.

Lake City RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake City RV Park, Lake City, Florida

Located at the crossroads of I-75 and I-10, Lake City is a 24-acre RV park with 67 pull-through sites. A pleasant campground with most sites under the live oak and Spanish moss, Lake City are big-rig friendly with sites in the 75-foot range and utilities centrally located. Amenities include complimentary cable TV and Wi-Fi, 24-hour laundry facility, large clubhouse with commercial kitchen, and dog run. Due to low hanging limbs and the draping Spanish moss, not all sites are suitable for high-profile rigs.

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Mississippi

Located on the beach in Waveland, Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands, and the Gulf of Mexico. Buccaneer State Park offers Buccaneer Bay, a 4.5-acre waterpark, Pirate’s Alley Nature Trail, playground, Jackson’s Ridge Disc Golf, activity building, camp store, and Castaway Cove pool. 

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park has 206 premium campsites with full amenities including sewer. In addition to the premium sites, Buccaneer has an additional 70 campsites that are set on a grassy field overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. These Gulf view sites only offer water and electricity, are open on a limited basis, and are only available through the park office. A central dumping station and restrooms are located nearby. Castaway Cove (campground activity pool) is available to all visitors to the Park for a fee. 

Related: 6 Casino RV Resorts Where You Can Stay and Play

Sundance 1 RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sundance 1 RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona

Sundance 1 RV Resort is a 55+ Active Adult Community in Casa Grande. This Family Owned Park was established in 1998 and has grown to become one of the most popular RV destination resorts in Arizona. The park has 750+ sites that make up a community of park model homes and full hookup RV sites. The average lot size is 40-feet wide by 50-feet deep. The park has 13 pull-through sites for daily and weekly stays only. Each site has 30/50-amp electric availability. Available activities include pickleball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, billiards, wood carving, quilting/sewing, ceramics, photography, and stained glass.

Related: Announcing the Absolutely Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for 2022

Rio Bend RV & Golf Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rio Bend RV & Golf Resort, El Centro, California

Rio Bend RV & Golf Resort is a 120-acre resort with world-class facilities, warm weather, and golf in the sunny Imperial Valley. Amenities and activities include golf, fishing, pickleball, shuffleboard, bocce ball, swimming, billiards. The park is located off Interstate 8 at Exit 107.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

The 10 Top Things to Do in Texas

Plan on Texas-sized fun on your next trip to the Lone Star State

As the second-largest state in the U.S., Texas covers an extraordinary amount of the geographical area in the U.S. Measuring approximately 268,597 square miles Texas can fit 15 of the smallest states in its boundaries.

Because of the size of the state, it’s often said that “everything is bigger in Texas”―and it certainly rings true. Texas is home to three of the 10 largest cities in the country: Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. Not only that, but Austin claims the title of being the Live Music Capital of the World.

Mission Conception along the San Antonio Mission Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The dining scene across Texas is also pretty robust thanks to the state’s signature barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine. Plus, with plenty of sun-drenched beaches, wilderness landscapes, and Texan-sized festivals at visitors’ fingertips, there’s truly something for everyone in Texas. Read on to learn more about all of the fun things to do in Texas.

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio

The Mission City’s rich history dates back to 1718 with the establishment of the first of five Spanish Missions along the San Antonio River. In 2015, The World Heritage Committee recognized the five mission complexes as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio is also home to the city’s vibrant River Walk, another not-to-be-missed top attraction. This 15-mile urban waterway in the heart of downtown is an excellent way to explore the city on foot, by bicycle, or on a GO RIO river barge which offers a narrated history of the city and River Walk. Along the way, wander through the historic King William Cultural Arts District and Southtown Arts District to see the museums, boutiques, parks, micro-distilleries, and coffee shops. The waterfront Hotel Emma used to be a brewhouse during the 19th century.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore The Alamo

Built as Mission San Antonio de Valero’s chapel in 1718 and renamed The Alamo in the early 1800s this “Shrine of Texas Liberty” has a long and colorful history. Occupied by five independent nations and serving as the stronghold for five different armies, the former mission is best known for the 1836 Battle of The Alamo. As part of the Texas Revolution, this battle earned Texas independence from Mexico becoming a self-governing republic.

Related Article: 10 of the Best National and State Parks in Texas

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. annexed Texas as the 28th state on December 29, 1845. Today, guests can book a history talk, take a self-guided audio tour, or schedule a guided tour to see the highlights of the renowned mission. Top attractions include the church which is free to visit independently with a timed ticket. Other top-recommended stops are the living history encampment which features hands-on demonstrations showcasing what life was like in the 1830s under Mexican rule and the exhibit hall with its extensive collection of artifacts and historical documents.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country boasts scenic landscapes replete with rolling hills, grasslands, rivers, lakes, charming small towns, and fields covered in numerous varieties of wildflowers such as bluebonnets, buttercups, and Indian paintbrushes. There are also over 50 wineries to explore, each with its own terroir and unique approach to winemaking.

Enchanted Rock in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a longer getaway, take a road trip through the region beginning 32 miles northeast of San Antonio in New Braunfels, looping around clockwise and ending in Austin. Along the way, stop in Utopia where you can book an overnight stay high atop the trees in a magical treehouse at Treehouse Utopia.

Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then, head about 80 miles northeast to historic Fredericksburg. Founded by German immigrants in 1846, this small town retains its unique heritage with German architecture and exhibits and demonstrations at the Pioneer Museum. You’ll even find German cuisine at several local restaurants and biergartens and there’s an annual Oktoberfest in the fall.

Gruene Dance Hall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Braunfels

Situated between San Antonio and Austin, New Braunfels is another Texas Hill Country town that celebrates its German heritage. Stroll through the historic downtown brimming with cafes, coffee shops, boutiques, and museums. There’s also a beautiful green space, Landa Park, just a short distance away.

Related Article: 10 Things You Need To See and Do At Least Once In Texas

Gruene Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, the town hosts many festivals, parades, and street fairs throughout the year including the annual Wurstfest. The German-inspired festivities are held in early November along the Comal River and feature Bavarian-style foods, German and Texas beer, and live music. To learn more about the German history of New Braunfels, be sure to visit the Gruene Historic District.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Austin

As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is known for its eclectic neighborhoods and entertainment districts featuring more than 250 live music venues. The city is also the capital of Texas, so there’s plenty more to explore, including art museums and galleries as well as the State Capitol. The landmark granite Capitol building opened in 1888 and boasts a beautiful 218-foot rotunda. Free guided and self-guided tours are available daily on the Capitol and grounds.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to check out another Texas Historic Landmark, Mount Bonnell at Covert Park. This popular tourist destination since the 1850s features a vantage point overlooking the Colorado River, affording some of the best views of the city. Explore the wildflowers and native plants of Texas in the beautiful gardens at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church (High Hill) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Painted Churches of Fayette County

As German and Czech immigrants arrived in Central Texas, they established a cluster of small communities that has one thing in common: their painted churches. The term “painted” comes from the elaborate faux-finished interiors. Gold-leafed, stone, and polished marble columns and ceilings are (upon closer examination) actually finely-fitted woodwork.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church (Praha) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The terrain between the churches is winding and rolling and contains some of the best country views in the state. The Painted Churches are a sight to be seen. Go inside a plain white steeple church and you will find a European-styled painted church of high gothic windows, tall spires, elaborately painted interiors with brilliant colors, and friezes created by the German and Czech settlers in America.

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Padre Island

Situated off the southern tip of Texas on Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, this barrier island is the only tropical island in the state. Perfect for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, South Padre Island boasts more than 300 days of sunshine, 34 miles of white sand beaches, and emerald-tinted waters.

Related Article: Explore the Funky Art Towns and Desert Beauty of West Texas

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top attractions include a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc., a rehabilitation facility for sea turtles that focuses on education and conservation. You can also book a lesson with a master sand sculptor to create your own masterpiece while visiting the Sandcastle Capital of the World.

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On its 50 acres near the convention center, the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center presents a microcosm of the rich habitats that contribute to this very special place. Dune meadows, salt marsh, and intertidal flats are all here along with thickets of native shrubs and trees that are irresistible to migrating birds.

The Strand Historic District, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston

With a year-round warm climate, a trip to the beach is almost a guaranteed fun time. Many beachgoers head to Galveston virtually any time of the year but the summer months are the most enjoyable bringing more visitors than any other time.

Bishop’s Palace, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island is home to some of the best attractions Texas has to offer including Moody Gardens as well as Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park. Galveston also offers numerous unique museums including The Bryan Museum, Texas Seaport Museum, Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, and Galveston Railroad Museum.

Ocean Star Off-shore Drilling Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country, Galveston allows visitors to explore the island’s interesting history by touring one of its popular historic mansions.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corpus Christi

Situated on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Corpus Christi offers miles of beaches, plenty of fresh seafood, and Tex-Mex dining options, and even indoor activities like the Texas State Aquarium in North Beach. The aquarium features 18 exhibits with sea creatures and wildlife that take you from the Caribbean Sea to the jungle and beyond.

Texas State Aquarium © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While in North Beach, you can also visit the USS Lexington on Corpus Christi Bay. This aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943, took part in almost every major operation in the Pacific Theater over 21 months of combat during World War II. While here, you can also take flight as an F-18 pilot in the flight simulator or check out the thrilling feature films at the Joe Jessel 3D Mega Theater.

Related Article: Discover more on a Texas-sized Outdoor Adventure

If you prefer to spend time outdoors, kick back and relax, take a horseback ride along the beach, or go snorkeling or deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas BBQ © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eat Texas Barbecue

With 13 million head of cattle, Texas has nearly double the number of any other state so it should be no surprise that the Lone Star State cooks up the delicious barbecue. Whether you prefer thick slices of brisket or a rack of ribs, barbecue is one of those foods you can’t leave Texas without trying. As you travel through Texas, you’ll likely notice different styles of barbecue from sauce-covered meat in the southern and eastern portions of the state to well-seasoned meat with sauce on the side in the central and western portions. Needless to say, it’s all fantastic.

Black’s Barbecue, Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas is a state of 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

Reservations and Permits Required at Some National Parks in 2022

Several National Parks require reservations or permits in 2022

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to have an epic experience at one of the national parks, you may want to set calendar alerts for some of these dates in 2022.

As some national parks have recorded record visitation, several have introduced reservation and permitting systems in order to control crowds and offer visitors a better experience.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reservations and permits for most of these experiences are made through the National Park Service’s website Recreation.gov.

Here are some of the popular visits and treks that require reservations. Some of these, book up quickly. 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park

The visitation numbers at Arches increased 66 percent over 10 years bringing in an estimated 1,659,702 visitors in 2019. The increase in numbers visiting the park has resulted in entrance line wait times, parking lot congestion, and overcrowding on trails.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To better manage crowds, the park will pilot a new seasonal reservation system for all visits between April 3 through October 3, from 6 am and 5 pm. The reservation costs $2. Visitors will need to show this reservation and a photo ID to enter the park. Reservations are now open.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Angels Landing, Zion National Park

Angels Landing in Zion National Park draws in hikers from around the world for its reputation as a dangerous trail, not for the faint-hearted. The trail climbs 1,488 feet and the last section requires hikers to navigate a narrow section by holding on to chains. 

Related: National Parks Inspire Love of Nature

Since that area often gets bottlenecked, the Utah park announced starting April 1, 2022, you’ll need a permit to access its iconic chained portion of the hike. 

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first seasonal lottery opened on January 3, 2022, for permits from April 1 through May 31.  You’re required to pay a nonrefundable $6 fee to enter the lottery which closes on January 20, 2022. If you are chosen for a permit on January 25, you’ll then pay an additional $3 fee per person listed on the permit. According to the National Park Service (NPS), the fee will help to defray the cost to administer the program as well as for the rangers who will check permits and assist visitors on the trail. 

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you don’t obtain a permit through the initial lottery, you can try to enter a second lottery the day before you plan to hike. The lottery will open each day at 12:01 am. Mountain Time and close at 3 pm. Rangers will draw permits at 4 pm.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granite Park and Sperry Chalet, Glacier National Park

Built-in the spirit of the architecture of Switzerland, there are two historic chalets in Glacier National Park that you can only reach by hiking through the backcountry.

They’re only open for a few months during the summer and book up quickly. In 2022, Granite Park Chalet will open June 28 through September 11. Sperry Chalet will open July 9 through September 11. 

Related: Guide to Adventure Activities in National Parks

Reservations open on January 10, 2022, at 8 am. Mountain time. 

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mt. Whitney, California

The tallest peak in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney has grown in popularity partially due to the fact that the summit can be reached on a day hike. This is a challenging hike and the altitude can make it difficult for even the most experienced hikers. 

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A permit is required to hike Mt. Whitney from May 1 through November 1. 

There are two separate permits available. One requires you to summit as a day hike (midnight to midnight). There are 100 people allowed this permit per day.

The other permit allows you to do it over multiple days as an overnight hike. There are 60 people allowed entry under this permit each day. 

The lottery is open from February 1 through March 15, 2022. The results are announced on March 24. If you don’t get a permit, you can circle back on May 1 at 7 a.m. when they make any unclaimed permits from the lottery available.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park

An epic 50-mile winding road through the heart of Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Highway will require a reservation to enter in 2022. The park has yet to announce an exact date that tickets will be made available but they have indicated that it will be sometime in March. 

Tickets are required from May 27 through September 11, 2022, and are valid for three days after the reserved date. The fee to reserve the ticket is $2. In addition, you’ll have to pay the $35 park entry fee or show your America is Beautiful park pass on the day you enter the park.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park: March 1-31, 2022

During the summer months, typically late May to mid-October, Yosemite National Park rangers put up chains so fearless hikers can summit Half Dome. Rangers permit 300 hikers daily (225 for a day hike, 75 as backpackers).

These permits are in high demand with the preseason lottery opening from March 1-31.

Those who enter can apply for up to six permits and those who enter the lottery receive an email with the results by mid-April.

Related: Why America Needs More National Parks

If you don’t obtain a permit through the initial lottery, you can try to enter a second lottery that opens two days prior to the hiking date and rangers provide notification to those who are selected late that same evening. 

Ongoing Reservations

There are two other locations with ongoing reservations year-round. 

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Wave, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

There are 64 permits available daily to hike the 6-mile roundtrip hike to the Wave. Of those, 48 are available four months in advance and 16 are available the day before you plan to hike.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon National Park

With sometimes more than 300 applications, it can truly be like winning the lottery to snag one of these spots. Still, if you’d like to try your luck, the lottery opens four months in advance. 

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built-in the 1920s, Phantom Ranch is the place to stay if you want to make the long hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and relax a bit before making the trek back out. Phantom Ranch opens its lottery for spots in its cabins and dorms on the 15th of the month, 14 months in advance. So, if you logged in on January 15, 2022, you’d find the lottery available for March 2023 reservations. 

Related: Yes, You Can Avoid Crowds in the National Parks & Here is How

You can access the lottery through the Phantom Ranch website. It’s been even more difficult to land a reservation in recent months as only the cabins have been available due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Worth Pondering…

Hiking a ridge, a meadow, or a river bottom, is as healthy a form of exercise as one can get. Hiking seems to put all the body cells back into rhythm.

—William O. Douglas, Justice, United States Supreme Court