Explore the guide to find some of the best in September 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 September. RVing with Rex selected this list of campgrounds and RV resorts from parks personally visited.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in July and August. Also, check out my recommendations for September 2021 and October 2021.
Toutle River RV Resort, Castle Rock, Washington
Toutle River RV Resort is a 5-star resort built in 2009. Toutle River has some standard features such as a general store, clubhouse, and heated swimming pool as well as unique, exciting amenities you won’t find in other places. They have red cedar barrel saunas, a disc golf course, a jumbo-sized croquet court, and a karaoke pavilion. There’s also a free do-it-yourself smokehouse for jerky and fish as well as an orchard on site with apples, pears, cherries, and plums that guests are welcome to pick.
The park offers 306 full hookup RV sites many offering 6,000 sq. ft. or more and up to 100 feet long. Masonry fire pits and BBQs are located throughout the park and all premium sites feature a fire pit, BBQ, and park-style picnic tables. These are truly beautiful sites. Conveniently located near Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Toutle River RV Resort is located off I-5 at Exit 52, easy-on, easy-off.
JGW RV Park, Redding, California
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.
Vogel State Park, Georgia
Vogel, one of Georgia’s oldest state parks, sits at the base of Blood Mountain inside Chattahoochee National Forest. The park is particularly popular during the autumn months when the Blue Ridge Mountains put on a colorful display of fall foliage. RV campers can choose from 90 campsites with electric hookups.
Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon
New in 2002, Jack’s Landing RV Resort offers 54 RV sites adjacent to Interstate 5 (Exit 58). The nicely landscaped park has paved roads and concrete parking pads. Jack’s Landing is big rig friendly with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range (also back-in sites) and conveniently located 30/50-amp electric service, water, and sewer connections, and cable TV. Paved sites and fairly wide paved streets. Pleasingly landscaped and treed. The main office has restrooms, showers, laundry, a gym, and a small ball court. The only negative is freeway noise.
Rain Spirit RV Resort, Clarkdale, Arizona
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 restrooms/showers, a fitness room, laundry facilities, a recreation room, a library lounge, a pool and spa, and a 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.
Oh! Kentucky Campground & RV Park, Berea, Kentucky
Oh! Kentucky Campground & RV Park is an easy-on, easy-off I-75 at Exit 76. Our pull-through site was in the 75-foot range and level with utilities centrally located. The park offers 71 sites (all pull-through) with 50 and 30-amp electric service, water, and sewer.
The Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is ranked among the top art communities in the U. S. Nestled between the Bluegrass region and the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, Berea offers visitors over 40 arts and crafts shops featuring everything from handmade dulcimers and homemade chocolate to jewelry stores, art galleries, quilt-makers, and even glassblowing studios. Sculptures of mythical beasts, vibrantly painted open hands, and historic architecture are a few of the delights as one wanders the town and college.
iRVin’s RV Park & Campground, Valemount, British Columbia
Big-rig friendly with pull-through sites in the 70-foot range, iRVin’s RV Park & Campground is a 5-star park with full-service sites including water, sewer, and electric power (choice of 30 or 50 amps). The park is nestled in the Robson Valley with a 360-degree mountain view, a quiet place where deer wander by occasionally. Wi-Fi worked well from our site (#27). No problem locating the satellite. iRVin’s is conveniently located one mile north of Valemount on Highway 5 en route to Alaska and an hour from Mount Robson and Jasper National Park.
Cedar Pass Campground, Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Located near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the Cedar Pass Campground has 96-level sites with scenic views of the badlands formations. Enjoy stunning sunsets, incredible night skies, and breathtaking sunrises from the comfort of your RV. Camping in Cedar Pass Campground is limited to 14 days. The campground is open year-round with limited availability in the winter season. Due to fire danger, campfires are not permitted in this campground, and the collection of wood is prohibited. However, camp stoves or contained charcoal grills can be used in campgrounds and picnic areas.
Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas
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. Tennis courts. Adult fitness center overlooking the creek.
While staying in the park, make it a point to see the “Club” section, a unique approach to the RV lifestyle. You’ll want to make this resort a repeat stop on your RVing agenda. On I-10, Exit 501 (Highway 1338), turn left, and scoot down a few hundred yards to the park on the left.
Wahweep RV Park and Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona
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.
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.
If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in September
Live for each second without hesitation.
Elton John certainly hasn’t wasted any time in his decades-long career. He’s one of the bestselling artists of all time with more than 300 million records sold worldwide across an impressive 31 albums—including seven consecutive No. 1 albums in the U.S.
Along with his music, John is famous for his flamboyant style; he has done more for crystal-covered costumes and oversized glasses than arguably any other person alive. Today, in his mid-70s, the Rocket Man is still going strong. He plans to stop touring in 2023 but has no intentions of slowing down. As he explained to CBS News, “I want to do something different with the rest of my life.”
September always feels like a reset. Summer isn’t technically over until later in the month but unofficially… we feel the shift. The temperatures are cooling and the days are growing shorter.
That doesn’t mean that the excitement of summer travel has to abruptly end. In fact, September is actually the best time to visit many popular destinations especially national parks. The shoulder season brings fewer crowds and lower temps with more accessibility and, in some cases, a display of early fall colors.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in July and August. Also, check out my recommendations for September 2021 and October 2021.
Mingus Mountain Scenic Road
Traveling from Prescott to Jerome, you start a mile high, finish a mile high, and climb a mountain in the middle. This central Arizona route rises from the expanse of the Prescott Valley abruptly to the heavily vegetated Black Hills. In Yeager Canyon, the road is visually and physically enclosed by vegetation and canyon walls. Descending from the top of Mingus Mountain to the Verde Valley there are spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim, San Francisco Peaks, and the red sandstone cliffs of the red rocks. This scenic road makes a smooth transition into the history of the mining area as it meets the Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood Historic Road.
Experience the magic on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The misty blue hills beckon. The road twists and turns along the spine of a billion-year-old mountain range and in the fall months the beauty of the drive is magnified tenfold by the blaze of autumn leaves. They call the Blue Ridge Parkway “America’s Favorite Drive,” a roadway of mountain vistas, history, and recreation.
Tracing the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains chains, the 469-mile ridgetop route is known for its unspoiled setting and its easy access to wildlife and nature. There are countless scenic overlooks, campgrounds, and not a single stop sign. Busy in the fall, the parkway is famous for its splash of autumn colors. Stop for homemade blackberry cobbler at the historic Mabry Mill (milepost 176).
Eight National Park Service campgrounds are located along the parkway. None have hookups although most can accommodate larger-size RVs. Many neighboring communities have private campgrounds with full RV hookups and amenities. Especially in the fall, it’s a good idea to make campsite reservations. In addition, check driving routes before heading out to ensure a safe match for driving conditions and RV size. The website blueridgeparkway.org lists all 26 tunnels and their maximum height.
Explore Georgia’s Only Bavarian Village
Step back in time in Alpine Helen, known for its Oktoberfest celebrations and shops, restaurants, and hotels with Bavarian-inspired buildings.
Alpine Helen’s Oktoberfest celebrations have been going on for more than 50 years involving multiple weeks of traditional dancing, food, and, of course, beer from September to November. Held in the city’s riverside Festhalle, the permanent home of the festivities, the celebration is the longest-running of its kind in the United States.
Revelers dress in traditional attire, lederhosen, and dirndls while dancing to the polka. Find out for yourself what makes this tradition so unique by planning your trip to the event!
If you’re not visiting during Oktoberfest (51st annual; September 8-October 30, 2022), you can still enjoy seasonal tubing through operators like Helen Tubing & Waterpark and Cool River Tubing. Ride the thrilling Georgia Mountain Coaster down the mountain or see the forest at nearby state parks like Smithgall Woods and Unicoi.
There are also restaurants serving traditional German fares like Hofer’s known for pastries and sandwiches. The Troll Tavern has the best patio in town with burgers and bratwursts.
For a drink, head to the Alpine Brew Deck which has a menu of craft beer and wine as well as live music and river views. Habersham Winery is the closest winery to town and offers tastings.
Hit All Five of Utah’s National Parks
Plan a road trip to visit “The Mighty Five,” an unforgettable journey through Utah’s colorful Canyon Country. Utah is home to five remarkable National Parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. To see all of them on a road trip, start from Zion if you’re coming from the west or Arches if you’re coming from the east. On this beautiful drive, you’ll pass alien-like rock formations, sheer cliffs, and graceful arches. Note that in the summer, afternoon temperatures can be extremely hot.
Skyline Drive, Virginia
Stretching 105 miles across Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive offers 75 overlooks, picnic areas, and trails, best enjoyed during peak foliage from late September to mid-November. If you’re making a day trip of it, pick one of the 30-mile stretches such as Front Royal to Thornton Gap where you can stop at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center.
Hiking enthusiasts can head to Mary’s Rock for 360-degree views or enjoy a more leisurely lookout by driving to Pinnacles Overlook perched at 3,320 feet. The area offers numerous wineries such as Little Washington Winery and Quievremont Vineyard and Winery where you can enjoy the views while nibbling on cheese and sipping wine.
Fredericksburg—known for its historic German charm and stone buildings—sits in the heart of Texas wine country. The city is a year-round destination: Oktoberfest is a no-brainer in the fall but the holidays make Fredericksburg look like a gingerbread village.
Many Fredericksburg RV parks and campgrounds are within minutes of historic Main Street and major attractions while others are located in nearby municipal and state parks. Choose from Fredericksburg RV Park, The Vineyards of Fredericksburg RV Park, Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Oakwood RV Resort, and Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.
Then, meander the wine route—with more than 50 local wineries—check out the farm stands, learn about the city’s pioneer history, and shop and dine along Main Street. After dark, nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park while the one-of-a-kind Luckenbach General Store, Bar & Dancehall hosts a nightly picker’s circle.
Drink in the wine and sunshine in the Okanagan
Imagine a valley floor filled with a 170-mile-long lake, wildlife including bighorn sheep, cougars, and rattlesnakes, rainfall of fewer than 12 inches a year but with the greatest concentration of wineries and orchards, you can imagine. The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape-growing region and boasts more than 130 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals.
Add to this the Okanagan’s natural beauty (it’s a hallowed summer-vacation spot for Western Canadians), its wide range of non-wine-related things for the whole family to do—from riding the century-old Kettle Valley Steam Railway and swimming in those pristine lakes to biking and hiking and its lush orchards selling juicy peaches and cherries on the roadside—and you’ve got a wine-country experience like no other.
Home to the Miraculous Staircase
When the Loretto Chapel (Santa Fe, New Mexico) was completed in 1878 there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.
Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena (devotional prayer) to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself having come in answer to the sisters’ prayers.
The stairway’s carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction.
Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including Unsolved Mysteries and the television movie titled The Staircase.
The nearby Cathedral of St. Francis is also worth a stop as are the Spanish Mission attractions.
The Corning Museum of Glass
The glass collections at this offbeat museum in upstate New York are intriguing but it’s the striking 100,000-square-foot Contemporary Art + Design Wing that has visitors planning a trip to the Finger Lakes for more than just wine and waterfalls. Live glass-blowing demos are available daily and current exhibitions include Fire and Vine, the history of glass and wine from the grapes of Romans to bacchanal experiences in modern culture. Fire and Vine: The Story of Glass and Wine is scheduled to open in 2022.
In addition to the museum’s ongoing Innovation Center and the Jerome and Lucille Strauss Study Gallery with objects spanning 3,500 years of glass making across the world. Stay for the make-your-own-glass projects available to everyone.
Panoramic Ocean Views & Gilded Age Mansions
The Cliff Walk along the eastern shore of Newport is famous as a public access walk that combines the natural beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport’s gilded age. Wildflowers, birds, and geology all add to this delightful walk. What makes Cliff Walk unique is that it is a National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District.
In 1975 the walk was designated as a National Recreation Trail—the 65th in the nation and first in New England. The walk runs 3.5 miles and about two-thirds of the walk is in easy walking condition. Parts of the southern half of the walk are a rough trail over the natural and rugged New England rocky shoreline. Walkers need to be especially careful and alert in these challenging areas.
We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.
Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce who ranched in the area described the canyon that bears his name as “a hell of a place to lose a cow”. But the rest of the world knows the canyon as a vast wonderland of brilliant-colored spires, rising like sentinels into the clear sky above.
Contrary to what its name suggests, Bryce is not one canyon but a series of natural bowls filled with hoodoos (tall columns of rocks) carved into the edge of a high plateau. This otherworldly geology is enough of a reason to visit, but it’s not the only one. Far from major cities and in the higher elevations of the American Southwest, Bryce offers dark skies for stargazing and lots of wildlife.
Home to the largest concentration of hoodoos on Earth, Bryce Canyon is one of the most-visited national parks in the United States. More than two million people visit Bryce each year with most staying at least one full day, if not longer. No matter how long you stay, some planning will help you make the most of your visit.
Here are 5 things to know before visiting Bryce Canyon National Park.
1. Each Season Has Its Pros and Cons
The best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is between June and September when temperatures are between the high 60s and low 80s. Because of the pleasant weather, this is also the high season. If you’re planning on visiting during this time plan in advance and prepare to encounter crowds. In July and August, you can expect frequent thunderstorms, but they don’t last long.
The shoulder seasons of May and October are a bit cooler—reaching freezing temperatures at night but still pleasant during the day.
If you don’t mind colder temperatures and want to visit during a quieter time you visit in April or November. Temperatures during this time are lower but still pleasant during the day—generally in the 50s during the day and at times reaching the high 60s but below freezing at night.
Bryce is beautiful in the middle of winter when it is covered with snow and you might find yourself alone there. The restaurant and the lodge are closed, however, so if you visit during this time, make sure you have a place to stay and eat outside the park.
2. There Are a Variety of Accommodation Options
You have a choice of two national park campgrounds both with ample space for RVs and tents; no electrical, water, or sewer hookups. North Campground has 99 sites all available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Loop A of this campground is open year-round. Sunset Campground provides 100 sites available April-October with peak-season reservations through recreation.gov.
For those not traveling with an RV, the best place to stay in the park is the historic Lodge at Bryce Canyon built in 1925 between Sunset and Sunrise Points. The restaurant at the lodge is also the best place to eat. You should book a room at the lodge in advance, up to a month ahead at the very least.
3. You’ll need To Drive a While to Get There
Bryce Canyon National Park is about 270 miles (a 4-hour drive) from Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. No matter what direction you are coming from, you’ll need to get to U.S. Route 89, then take the Utah Scenic Byway 12 east, and finally head south on Utah State Route 63.
You’ll be driving for hours in the middle of nowhere, passing through small towns that seem to have been forgotten by time. You’ll also drive through some of the most beautiful, otherworldly parts of the Southwest.
Pro Tip: Combine your trip to Bryce Canyon with a trip to Zion National Park, 72 miles south of Bryce. About 14 miles before the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park, stop at Red Canyon for a short walk among red-rock hoodoos. Alternately, plan to combine your visit to Bryce Canyon with a trip to less crowded Capitol Reef National Park over Scenic Byway 12, an All-American Road.
4. Stop at the Visitor Center before Exploring the Park
Your first stop at any national park should be the visitor center where you can learn about the geology, flora, fauna, and history of Bryce Canyon. Visit the museum and the hands-on exhibits to learn how the iconic hoodoos were formed and about the different layers of life in and around Bryce Canyon from fossils to current wildlife. At the visitor center, you can pick up a map of the park and find out what ranger programs are being offered.
If you are visiting between April and October and staying outside the park leave your car and take the free shuttle to the visitor center.
Pro Tip: Fill up your reusable water bottle at the visitor center. If you didn’t bring one, it’s worth buying one at the gift shop since you can fill it up at all the trailheads and viewpoints.
The park offers daily ranger programs from guided rim walks to geology talks to evening programs at the lodge and the campgrounds. Check out the ranger programs board at the visitor center if you’re interested. While for most programs you can just show up, a few require that participants sign up in advance.
…a strange world of colossal shafts and buttes of rock, magnificently sculptured, standing isolated and aloof, dark, weird, lonely.
How safe is an RV in a lightning storm? That’s a loaded question and one I’m here to answer. There are many myths about RVs and lightning. What’s important is that we’re all armed and ready to do what’s legitimately called for in a lightning storm when we’re in an RV.
Preparedness is everything where safety is concerned, so let’s get right to it starting with the most basic.
What is lightning?
According to the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, lighting is defined as “a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air, or the ground”.
In short, lightning is an extremely powerful electrical discharge that occurs during a thunderstorm. When lightning strikes the air becomes extremely hot—and when I say “extremely hot” I mean around 50,000 degrees F—far hotter than even the surface of the sun!
The thunder you hear is the heated air the lightning is passing through expanding quickly. Effectively, it’s like the boom generated by a supersonic plane.
Lightning can occur between clouds (cloud to cloud), from cloud to air, or from cloud to ground. Cloud to the ground is the type of lighting we’re most concerned about as it’s the most dangerous to us while we’re in our RVs.
Now let’s get into how safe an RV is in a lightning storm.
How safe is an RV in a lightning storm?
There’s no getting around it—lightning storms can be extremely dangerous. If you’re in an RV, the key to your safety depends on the materials your rig is made of and the actions you take.
First, if your RV’s frame or roof—or the entire skin/outer structure—is made of metal/aluminum/steel you should be safe from lightning when you’re inside. Your electronics may take a hit unless you’ve disconnected them but the people inside the rig should be safe. And the good news is that many if not most modern RVs do have a metal frame.
If your rig has a roof made of aluminum or steel you’ll likely be safe inside your RV in a lightning storm. And if your RV roof is made of fiberglass but the frame of the rig is made of steel you’ll still be well protected.
If your RV is made entirely of other materials like wood or all-fiberglass then you’ll be safer inside your tow vehicle/toad. Contrary to popular belief, metal doesn’t attract lightning but it is very much capable of reducing its destructive impact by channeling it away and toward the ground.
And when metal forms a “cage” of sorts, it offers even more protection. More on that in just a moment. First, another note about metal.
Is it true that lightning only strikes metal?
Nope, that’s a myth. Lightning isn’t drawn to metal and it certainly doesn’t only strike metal. In fact, experts with the National Weather Service agree that metal has no bearing on the attraction of lightning.
In fact, the height of an object, the shape of an object (pointy), and isolation are the three primary factors that determine where lightning is most likely to strike. We’ve heard of lightning striking trees, for example. That’s because they tend to be all three things: tall, pointy, and isolated from other tall objects.
What is a Faraday Cage?
So, the metal “cage” structure of cars provides particular protection against lightning due to a concept known as the “Faraday Cage”. This would also be true of any RV with a metal frame/“cage” but not all RVs are built in this way. So, if your rig doesn’t have steel/aluminum framework you should seek shelter elsewhere immediately.
Essentially, the Faraday Cage refers to the fact that a car is a large metal cage that conducts the lightning AROUND the outside metal instead of THROUGH the inside of the car. This isn’t new information. This goes all the way back to Benjamin Franklin in the mid-1700s. The principle was refined by a scientist named Michael Faraday in 1836 thus the name “Faraday Cage”.
The first takeaway here is clear: the protection offered by the Faraday Cage effect is the reason you’re safe inside a car during a lightning storm. Again, the same would apply to an RV with a metal frame or roof but if you’re camping in an RV made of other materials such as only wood and fiberglass, seek shelter elsewhere in a lightning storm.
However, the second important thing to remember is that the presence of the Faraday Cage doesn’t mean that the vehicle can’t be struck by lightning or impacted by lightning. It means that you’re safe INSIDE the vehicle (so long as you’re not in contact and/or close proximity to any metal connected to that outer “cage”).
If you’re outside of a vehicle that has been struck, DO NOT touch the vehicle. The people inside are safe. But if you touch the vehicle, you may not be. If the strike has just occurred and the metal is still electrified you could be shocked if you walk up to the vehicle or touch it.
What should I do if I’m inside my RV in a lightning storm?
How safe your RV is in a lightning storm will largely depend on what you do. There are several protective actions you can take if you’re inside your RV during a storm.
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is something you can do right now and that is to learn something about the construction of your RV so that you’ll know when the time comes whether you’re safe to remain inside your rig or whether you need to take shelter in your toad/tow car.
Here are several other actions you can take to increase your safety in a lightning storm:
Move away from trees
Always move away from trees. This is very important. Not only can trees or branches fall onto your RV in windy storm conditions but trees are tall and pointy and sometimes isolated. You may recall that these are the three most likely factors to attract a lightning strike.
You don’t want to be near trees in your RV during a lightning storm. Even if you’re taking shelter in a car, move that car away from trees. While you may be perfectly safe from the lightning itself inside a car or RV, you’re not safe from falling trees. And being crushed is likely no more fun than being electrocuted!
Move away from water
Water isn’t safe in a lightning storm. Lightning strikes the water with some regularity. And water conducts electricity. This is why it’s particularly important to know the weather forecast before you head out on the water in a boat, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or another vessel. It is unsafe to be on the water in a lightning storm.
If your RV is parked on the beach, lakeside, or riverside, move your RV up to a parking area or other safe location. Just remember to look around for flag poles, light poles, trees, and other tall, pointy structures, and stay away from them as well.
Unplug your RV from electrical outlet
In preparation for a lightning storm, one of the first things you’ll want to do is disconnect your RV from any electrical outlet. DISCONNECT the RV from the electrical outlet before the storm comes close.
The reason for this is to protect your RV’s electrical system and the electrical/electronic components connected to it from potentially damaging surges caused by lightning striking nearby. So, if possible, unplug appliances and disconnect or shut down electronics.
Again, if you’re inside an RV with a metal roof or metal frame, or if you take shelter in your tow vehicle or elsewhere, you’ll be safe. But to avoid damaging your RV’s electronics, you’ll want to be as disconnected as possible.
Bring in awnings and bring down antennas
Antennae are the tall, pointy, isolated lightning attractors I warned you about earlier. Bring them in ahead of the storm and store them safely. Awnings should never be left out in inclement weather, anyway… since wind or heavy rain can easily damage them.
Stay in the center of the RV away from windows and doors
During the storm remain in the center of your RV as far away from windows and doors as practical. Doors and windows are the least safe zones of your RV and staying away from them mean you’re safer.
This is due to two things: (1) window and door frames are almost always metal and as such are a point for you to come into contact with electricity from a lightning strike and (2) high winds from the storm could hurl objects into/through the windows potentially injuring you.
Keep your family, pets included, in the center of the rig until the storm passes.
Stay abreast of weather information using a smart phone or Emergency Weather Radio
The ability to stay informed of the storm’s arrival and passage is critical. Your smartphone may be capable of delivering that information to you via apps like Storm Shield or NOAA Weather Radar Live (look for the “Clime: NAA Weather Radar Live” app in your device’s app store) can keep you abreast of important information. However, if a cell tower is rendered incapable of offering you a connection or if you’re simply not in an area where you have good cell service your smartphone won’t be useful.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to travel with (or even to have at home) an emergency weather radio. Some are able to operate on batteries and/or by crank and will give you access to AM radio stations and emergency broadcasts.
Drive to a stronger shelter
And finally, if you’re not safe where you are, you need to drive to a stronger shelter. If you can get to a department store or any type of public building to take shelter, you’ll be increasing your safety and that of your family members.
Surely this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway—never, ever leave pets in your RV if you take shelter in another building. Even if pets aren’t typically allowed in a grocery store where you’re taking temporary shelter, for example, bring your pets with you but be sure to keep them leashed or caged (depending on the pet), and keep complete control of your pets at all times inside the building.
In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
Don’t forget these snacks for your next outdoor adventure
In a world of constant notifications, emails, texts, and phone calls, a camping trip can do wonders to help you disconnect. From hiking to spending quality time with friends and family, a single camping trip can be the perfect mind and body reset to help you feel relaxed, refreshed, and recharged.
But a health-boosting camping trip goes far beyond the planned activities—what you eat matters too! In this article, I’m sharing our favorite healthy camping snacks to help you come back from your outdoor adventure feeling better than ever.
The summer months are great for hiking, biking, backpacking, kayaking, camping, and many other outdoor activities. You’ll need the right attire and equipment but it’s also always good to pack water and a snack even on short excursions. And not just any snack but something that will give you the energy and strength to keep going. Here are the 17 best portable snacks to fuel your outdoor adventure. (And please remember to carry out whatever you carry in!)
You’ll want protein to power your outdoor activities and cheese is a great way to get some on the go. Prepackaged cheese like those little Babybel wheels are easy to pack and unwrap anywhere and anytime or you could go with the stick varieties—they’re not just for kids’ lunches anymore! Want to get classy while camping? You can safely pack a hard cheese like aged cheddar, gouda, or Gruyère in a resealable container.
No need to worry about your bananas getting brown or your peach getting bruised when you pack a stash of dried fruit. Plenty of options—from raisins and cranberries to mango, apricots, and berries—are available at the grocery store and they contain the same amount of nutrients as the fresh kind.
CLIF, RXBAR, Larabar, and numerous other brands all make energy or protein bars that are specifically designed to fuel you with various levels and combinations of protein, carbs, calories, and nutrients. When browsing the bar aisle, be sure to read the ingredient list; the more ingredients you recognize, the better.
Well of course I’m not against fresh fruit. Dried fruit may be a little more portable but there’s no reason you shouldn’t pack a fresh apple, orange, watermelon (pieces, not a whole one), grapes (try freezing them!), or other juicy fruit for your outing. Even more delicate fruit would work—just pack it tightly in an airtight container.
I’m not talking ultra-processed, chemical-packed “jerky” like Slim Jims but quality jerky that’s high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. It’s meat without the heat and most jerky varieties have a long shelf life and come in resealable packages that are perfect for on-the-go snacking. If you have a food dehydrator you can even make your jerky out of everything from beef, turkey, and venison to wild boar, ostrich, and alligator.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are both high in protein and easy to pack in your pack. Peanuts and almonds have the most protein in the nut category (9.5 grams and 7 grams, respectively, per ¼-cup serving) and pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (9 grams and 6 grams, respectively, per 1-ounce serving) have the highest amounts among snackable seeds.
This isn’t just my crazy idea—eating olives on outdoor adventures really is a thing. In fact, some recreation stores (and grocery stores!) even sell bagged olives for bites on the go. Olives contain antioxidants and healthy fats and if you pair them with cheese, you can really class up your excursion.
Popcorn contains some protein (3 grams per ounce) and fiber (3.5 grams) and it will satisfy your hunger cravings without filling you up or slowing you down. Don’t go for the bagged varieties containing artificial ingredients—pop your own at home and put it in an airtight container to protect it from getting squished. Or pop it over a campfire!
For a quick dose of carbs without a lot of calories pull out the pretzels and snack away. The bit of sprinkled salt will also help replace your body’s sodium which is a critical electrolyte lost when sweating. You can even use pretzels to scoop hummus and other healthy dips.
Raw Sliced Roots
Thinly sliced raw root veggies—like sweet potato, kohlrabi, broccoli, and carrots, to name a few—can be a nice, hydrating change of pace. They provide way more nutritional value than most snacks plus they are refreshing and tasty. Another take: Cut a variety into matchsticks and mixed for a veggie trail mix. And add in some raw sweet onion slices which have the added benefit of warding off yellow-spotted lizards.
Tortillas are a very versatile trail food with numerous advantages. They pack easily and don’t get smashed up like bread. Wraps are less messy than sandwiches. They pair well with dips like hummus or peanut butter. Heck, you can even eat them by themselves for some quick carbs.
How do you maintain carb intake without carting around a loaf of squished bread? Tortillas, my friend! They’re flat, delicious, and also flat—perfect for knapsack packing. Premade wraps—PB&J, ham and cheese, smoked salmon, whatever. In a pinch, tear off pieces of tortilla to eat plain as you go. But I’d recommend taking some refried beans along to slather—it’s a great trail-side comfort food.
Okay, technically I’m cheating here as my list already contains the trail mix ingredients of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and candy. But how could I leave off trail mix which is the quintessential on-the-go source of energy? I can’t, because I love my trail mix.
While not creative inherently, trail mixes have taken an evolutionary leap from former camping days. No longer simply peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms; oh no, we’re talking pecans, pistachios, hemp hearts, dried pineapple, and pumpkin seeds. It’s not just filler anymore, folks. These days you can make a whole meal out of this once-humble offering.
Low in calories but high in protein (not to mention heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids), tuna can be a fantastic food for the trail, mountain, and water adventures. Not only is it good for you but it also has a long shelf life. And if opening a can and mixing up some tuna sounds like too much work on the go, you can even buy pre-mixed pouches in the store.
Celery, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes…they’re all full of vitamins, minerals, and water which you’ll definitely want a lot of. Most veggies are about 90 percent water so you might want to put a damp paper towel in the bag or container. If you’ve brought a bunch and don’t want them crunched, try packing them in your cooking gear.
There are two factors that limit outdoor foods: perishability and space. Fortunately, nearly every food out there can be dehydrated and though it doesn’t always improve the food it does negate those two elements. It can also be done cheaply without a professional-grade dehydrator if you’re crafty and willing to put the work in.
Pepperoni starts out as ground pork, beef, or a mixture of the two. Producers then add paprika which helps give the sausage its characteristic deep red hue as well as garlic and other aromatics like fennel seeds to up the flavor factor. Once it’s packaged into sausages, the mixture is aged for several days before being smoked and dried.
This versatile ingredient presents a whole world of possibilities just waiting to be discovered.
Fruit and Veggie Chips
The chip is a perfect vessel for trail snacking—non-perishable, delicious, and simple. But greasy chips mid-hike is asking for trouble. There are healthy alternatives with all those benefits; try dried or baked fruit and veggie chips. Countless recipes are available in hundreds of creative flavorings and varieties.
Truthfully, staying on top of your diet can be life or death, so carefully consider what you’re taking along. If you’re used to hiking with potato chips and oreos, try some of these alternatives instead — you may be surprised how much it improves your adventure.
I hope you dance because…
Time is a wheel.
Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along.
Tell me, who wants to look back on their years and wonder where their years have gone.
—Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers, I Hope You Dance
Discover America’s scenic byways on your next road trip adventure
There are few things as classically American as a good-old-fashioned road trip. But that’s what happens when your country doesn’t have a robust rail system: come vacation time, your family hits the open road. It was, after all, John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley who noted that “Every American hungers to move.”
There is something romantic about hitting the open road, a journey that is both physical and emotional. The great thing about a road trip compared to any other type of travel is that we don’t always know what’s going to happen on the way. Sort of like the journey of life, no?
With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the country, how do you choose where to travel?
In much the same way Congress set aside lands to be protected as national parks, the Department of Transportation has designated a network of spectacular drives that are protected as part of America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of America’s Byways collection, a road must-have features that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States and be unique and important enough to be destinations unto themselves.
Without further ado, here are 10 of the most scenic and culturally significant byways in America for your next road trip adventure.
Creole Nature Trail All-American Road
Designation: All-American Road (1996/2002)
Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural, Natural
Length: 180 miles
Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, Cajun culture, and more can be experienced as you travel along the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.” Download the free personal tour app (search “creole” in your app store.) Once on the trail, open the app and make sure your location is enabled. It’s like having a personal tour guide in the vehicle with you!
Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, this route is often called a “museum without walls.” The byway winds through the evergreen-covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.
Explore the story-filled regions that connect New York’s historic water of Lake Champlain and Lake George with the Champlain Canal and Hudson River to the south and the Chambly Canal to the Richelieu and St. Lawrence Rivers of Quebec to the north.
Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)
Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic
Location: North Carolina, Tennessee
Length: 41 miles
The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Appalachian Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage, as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. Popular stops along and near the Skyway include Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Lake, and many Cherokee sites. This byway in particular is known for its fall colors.
Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. This All-American Road connects US-89 near Panguitch on the west with SR-24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points but it far and away the best.
The beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest surrounds this route as it encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Winding through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians, you will find vistas atop Brasstown Bald that are jaw-dropping and the cooling mists of waterfalls are plentiful. Everywhere scenic wonders fill this region. Colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, and dazzling fall colors are some of what you will see. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream.
From the northern boundary of St. Johns County, the Byway bisects the seaside luxury and golf mecca known as Ponte Vedra Beach, and weaves through America’s oldest city, St. Augustine; finally ending at the terminus of Flagler County at a seaside park named for a true folk hero, the Gamble Rogers Memorial Park on Flagler Beach, the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway connects State Parks, National Monuments, stunning beaches, nature trails, boating, fishing, preserves, estuaries and all of America’s diverse people.
Scenic Byway 143 – Utah’s Patchwork Parkway
Designation: All-American Road (2002)
Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic
Length: 123 miles
Very few routes in the U.S. exhibit a 4,500-foot elevation change that crosses six major life zones in 51 miles. The route skirts lava flow only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. This topmost rise of the geological “Grand Staircase” showcases the 2,000-foot-deep Cedar Breaks amphitheater with its vibrant hues of pink, orange, red, and other coral colors carved from the Claron Formation.
Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
Designation: National Scenic Byway (1996)
Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic
Location: South Dakota
Length: 70 miles
This byway winds around spiraling “pig-tail” shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles, and over pristine, pine-clad mountains. Highlights include Mount Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle’s Eye, and Cathedral Spires rock formations. Forming a figure-eight route, the byway travels through Custer State Park, the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and the Black Elk National Wilderness Area. Highways 16A, 244, 89, and 87 combine to create the route.
The marvelous range of sights in Utah attracts many campers every year and with good reason
The freedom and solitude of RV travel has vaulted this form of recreation to new heights of popularity and with cutting-edge rental platforms on the market, there’s no better time to set out on your very own RV adventure than the present.
When it comes to destinations, the spacious highways and spectacular natural beauty of Utah make it a perfect match for an extended RV road trip. There are a huge number of RV trips in Utah just waiting to be had! From deserts to snow-capped mountains, from red sandstone arches to endless blue skies, there’s beauty and adventure high and low, attracting hikers, nature lovers, and plain old sightseers alike.
While there’s no shortage of gorgeous attractions to see across the Beehive State, check out the list below for some must-visit highlights during your adventure.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Utah is no stranger to incredible natural beauty but if you only have time for one national park during your RV trip, make sure it’s Bryce Canyon. Officially established in 1928, this preserve contains the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos, a jagged rock spear formed by erosion.
The park is a true paradise for hikers equipped with a wide array of options ranging from the 1.5-mile Queen’s Garden Loop Trail to the challenging 8.2-mile Fairyland Loop. Not a huge fan of outdoor adventure? No worries—the park is equipped with spectacular vista points like Sunrise Point and Sunset Point with each spot offering a world-class view with minimal amounts of walking required.
Bryce Canyon is home to two campgrounds both of which are open to RV traffic. North Campground offers 49 RV-only sites and Sunset Campground offers 50, though there are no hookups.
True wilderness is a hard thing to find nowadays—a retreat from civilization into a place that is seemingly untouched by man may seem like a fairy tale. But that is exactly what Zion National Park can offer.
It may be one of Utah’s most famous tourist attractions but visitors will soon discover it’s popular for good reason. Zion has many hiking trails that allow you to experience what the wilderness is truly like. More populated trails are perfect for beginners who still want to see the beauty of the West. And beauty there is! Sandstone cliffs swirled with reds, pinks, and creams reach high into the sky making a wonderful contrast against the bright blue horizon. The narrow slot canyons are a wondrous sight and the unique desert plants and animals will keep you enthralled in the environment.
What’s the best part of a visit to Zion National Park, you ask? You never have to leave the beautiful surroundings! The park has three campgrounds, two of which are located right in Zion Canyon. South campground has primitive sites available and Watchman Campground has sites with electric hookups available.
Arches National Park embodies everything that Utah is famous for—a desert landscape filled with natural beauty. There’s plenty to experience in this “red-rock wonderland”—the most famous, of course, being the arches. There are over 2,000 of these natural stone arches in the park and each one is unique.
You’ll be able to spend your days exploring the trails that wind through the arches, pinnacles, and giant balanced rocks. Ranger programs are available as well to help you get the most out of a visit. There are daily guided walks, hikes, and evening programs that will teach you all about the park and let you take in as much of the beauty as possible.
Devil’s Garden Campground is 18 miles from the entrance to Arches National Park. Being surrounded by the stunning desert throughout your trip certainly helps you appreciate the park even more.
While you’re in the Moab area to visit Arches, don’t forget to see the other major attraction: Canyonlands National Park. At over 337,000 acres, this park dwarfs the more popular Arches to the north and it has a wide variety of wonders for any eager adventurer to explore.
The park is divided into four distinct areas each offering a unique perspective on this stark desert ecosystem. Island in the Sky is a flat-topped mesa while the Needles are tall, sharp spires; the Maze is a seemingly-endless system of crevasses and canyons, and finally, visitors can see where the Colorado and Green rivers intersect at the Colorado Plateau. The park also boasts some original Native American rock paintings inside its iconic Horseshoe Canyon.
Canyonlands offers two developed campgrounds: Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) Campground and The Needles Campground. While both are open to RVs, no hookups are available,
Tucked into the heart of Utah’s south-central desert, Capitol Reef National Park surrounds a wrinkle in the earth’s crust known as the Waterpocket Fold. The Fold’s unique geological features include the Chimney Rock pillar, the Hickman Bridge arch, and the Capitol Reef formation itself which is renowned for its white sandstone domes. Like other Utah national parks, Capitol Reef is an International Dark Sky Park and thus a great place for stargazing.
Capitol Reef National Park is also home to over 2,700 fruit-bearing trees situated in its historic orchards; cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, mulberries, and more are seasonally available for fresh picking.
There is one developed campground open to RV traffic inside Capitol Reef National Park: Fruita Campground. Although there are no hookups, a dump station and potable water are available. Be sure to double-check the size limits as each individual space is different and some of them are quite small.
Established as a protected natural landscape in 1996, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a one-of-a-kind site and certainly worth an RV trip if you’re making your way to Utah. The site is the size of Delaware and the erosion it’s seen over time has made it into what’s basically a giant, natural staircase—one that’s seen more than 200 million years of history. It’s all there for you to walk through and discover yourself!
The Monument is home to two campgrounds: Deer Creek and Calf Creek. Both are small, primitive, and apt to fill up quickly.
You might recognize it from Forrest Gump, Mission: Impossible 2, Back to the Future Part III, or National Lampoon’s Vacation—but chances are, you will recognize it. A Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley is one of the most iconic landscapes anywhere in the world let alone in the state of Utah and it’s well worth passing through and even stopping to discover more.
Monument Valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet framed by scenic clouds casting shadows that graciously roam the desert floor. The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations providing scenery that is simply spellbinding. The fragile pinnacles of rock are surrounded by miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs and trees, and windblown sand all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley.
The View Campground includes 30 RV spots and 30 wilderness campsites which attract outdoor enthusiasts who want to capture the essence of rustic living and dust of authentic Navajo history.
The beautiful Cedar Mesa sandstone monoliths, pinnacles, and other geological features of this enchanting area are often referred to as a miniature Monument Valley. These sandstone sentinels were eroded by wind and water over eons of time.
The 17-mile Valley of the Gods Road stretches between US-163 north of Mexican Hat and Utah Route 261 just below the white-knuckle Moki Dugway. The massive red rock formations are a geology fan’s dream. Hoodoos, spires, buttes, buttresses, forming and collapsing arches, and towers are all visible along the drive.
There are many places to stop along the scenic drive and numerous locations suitable for FREE camping as the valley lies on BLM land and is completely undeveloped. Since hardly anyone seems to pass by, the area provides a much more relaxing and isolated experience than the famous valley (Monument Valley) 30 miles southwest, and without any of the restrictions on hiking or camping.
Natural Bridges National Monument covers a relatively small area in southeastern Utah. It is rather remote and not close to other parks and as a result, is not heavily visited. A nine-mile one-way loop drive connects pull-outs and overlooks with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges with Hopi Indian names—Sipapu (the place of emergence), Kachina (dancer), and Owachomu (rock mounds). Moderate hiking trails, some with metal stairs or wooden ladders, provide closer access to each bridge.
A 13-site campground is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.
Hidden within the mountains above Cedar City is the brilliant geology of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The geologic amphitheater and surrounding areas are home to hiking trails, ancient trees, high elevation camping, and over-the-top views along the “Circle of Painted Cliffs.”
Cedar Breaks’ majestic amphitheater is a three-mile-long cirque made up of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in Southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, the monument sits entirely above 10,000 feet. The Amphitheater is like a naturally formed coliseum that plunges 2,000 feet below taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons. Stunning views are common throughout so keep your camera nearby.
Point Supreme Campground is surrounded by meadows of wildflowers in the summer. At 10,000 feet elevation, it is a comfortable place to camp during the hotter summer months. Point Supreme has 25 campsites and accommodates both tents and RVs. Camping is available from mid-June to mid-September.
Just across the border from Colorado’s Canyon of the Ancients, Hovenweep National Monument is a can’t-miss destination for anyone interested in America’s prehistoric origins. The site includes the ruins of six villages dating back to A.D. 1200 and 1300 and these stunning structures include multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. A true testament to time, Hovenweep National Monument is as educational as it is awe-inspiring!
Hovenweep National Monument hosts a 31-site campground that can accommodate RVs up to 36 feet in length. The campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers more than 1.2 million acres of unparalleled opportunities for land- and water-based recreation. Within the recreation area, Lake Powell is the second largest human-made lake in the United States and is widely recognized as one of the premier boating destinations in the world. Stretching from the beginning of the Grand Canyon at Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is graced with scenic views, unique geology, and evidence of 10,000 years of human history.
In terms of campgrounds, there’s a lot to choose from including many primitive sites operated by National Park Service. These campgrounds do not take reservations and do not have phone numbers. There are also park concessioner-operated campgrounds with full-service sites available. Campgrounds operated by park concessioners include Wahweep RV Park and Campground, Bullfrog RV Park and Campground, Halls Crossing RV Park and Campground, and Antelope Point RV Park.
A 121-mile-long All-American Road, Scenic Byway 12 winds and climbs and twists and turns and descends as it snakes its way through scenic landscapes ranging from the remains of ancient sea beds to one of the world’s highest alpine forests and from astonishing pink and russet stone turrets to open sagebrush flats.
Scenic Byway 12 has two entry points. The southwestern gateway is from U.S. Highway 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch near Bryce Canyon National Park. The northeastern gateway is from Highway 24 in the town of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.
Other major attractions include Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Hell’s Backbone, Hole-in-the-Rock, Cottonwood Canyon, Burr Trail, Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area, and The Hogsback, a narrow ridge barely wider than the two-lane roadway with cliffs falling away on either side.
Mile for mile, few of America’s national scenic byways can compete with the diverse scenery and number of natural attractions along Scenic Byway 12. Recognized as one of the most beautiful drives in America, the byway showcases some of Utah’s uniquely scenic landscape.
As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, “Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.
Only have two days for a quick getaway? These stunning national parks are perfect for a weekend trip.
All over the United States, there are national parks filled with trails, wildlife, and plenty of natural wonders waiting to be explored. Even better: plenty of them can be thoroughly enjoyed throughout a two-day weekend.
From the lush green landscapes of the Smoky Mountains to the desert environment of Arches National Park, odds are, there’s a park that’s close to you (or just a car or RV ride away) that can make for an epic quick getaway.
If you’re thinking about a weekend getaway in the great outdoors, consider one of these eight national parks which are among the best for an in-and-out style vacation. And for even more travel ideas, don’t miss The Ultimate RV Travel Bucket List.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
A weekend getaway to Joshua Tree National Park—which is best if you’re coming from the western U.S. like California, Nevada, or Arizona—can include everything from birding and horseback riding to camping and stargazing. While the park is known for its interesting-looking trees, called Joshua trees, it’s also known for its rocky landscape that beckons rock climbers into the park.
With over 300 miles of hiking trails and 8,000 established rock-climbing routes, there’s something for everyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Just be sure to take a break in the middle of the day so you can stay up late to enjoy the nightly spectacles in the sky from the Milky Way galaxy. The park’s nearly complete darkness allows you to see millions of stars and planets throughout the year.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country. While a little planning is a key to getting into the park on busy days, once you’re in for the weekend, you don’t need to leave. The park allows camping along the South Rim and North Rim and those who want to venture past the edge of the canyon into the depths can take a mule ride (though some limitations do apply and spots fill up months in advance).
Weekend getaways are the most convenient from Arizona, California, and Utah.
One of the coolest national parks in the country is Arches National Park in Utah. The park features more than 2,000 natural rock arches that dot the rugged desert landscape. Camping at the park can be done at Devils Garden Campground from the beginning of March until the end of October. The area offers a tranquil location to lay your head at night and spectacular views to wake up to each morning. Tours via bike, car, and horse are all available daily and allow you to see different sections of the park.
Utah, Colorado, and Nevada are all within a weekend getaway distance to the park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
With ten different camping locations and plenty to offer in the way of activities, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great weekend escape for families or friends traveling together. Trails offer picnic stops where you can munch on a snack or eat lunch near waterfalls. Those who love to fish can do so within the park as long as they have a fishing license for the states of North Carolina or Tennessee. (Fun fact: You can keep up to five of the fish that you catch and be able to cook them for dinner at night.)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is ideal for those living in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
White Sands takes up 275 square miles of breathtaking landscape in southeastern New Mexico. Its most noticeable feature: miles of undulating dunes made of blindingly white gypsum crystals which were formed 10,000 years ago when shallows sea that had existed for millions of years dried up leaving the gypsum behind. Though long a National Monument, White Sands was elevated to park status in December 2019. Four marked trails allow hiking and since gypsum unlike sand reflects the sun’s heat, the dunes are easy on your feet. And if you’re so inclined, you can rent plastic sleds to slide down them.
New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and West Texas are within a weekend getaway distance to the park.
Hidden in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, America’s newest national park attracted over one million visitors last year so clearly, the secret is out. It’s been called the Grand Canyon of the East and this park’s most prominent feature is a wide, fast-flowing whitewater river that snakes through the gorge. Inside, you can hike on any number of different trails, traverse the iconic New River Gorge Bridge, the third-highest bridge in the US, or indulge in a full-on class five whitewater raft trip along the 53 miles of accessible river. Just bring some dry clothes.
New River Gorge National Park is ideal for those living in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
A weekend getaway to Badlands National Park—which is best if you’re coming from the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, or Kansas—can include everything from hiking and horseback riding to camping and stargazing. This bizarre moonscape was created millions of years ago when ash deposits and erosion sculpted sedimentary rock into rippled peaks.
Fossils show that rhinos and camels once roamed here but today these 244,000 acres are home to bison, bobcats, pronghorns, and bighorn sheep. As long as you stay hydrated, the park’s 800,000 annual visitors find the Badlands fascinating to explore. Hikers scale the rocks to take in otherworldly views of the White River Valley and cyclists coast by colorful buttes and grass prairie. At night, the pitch-black sky reveals 7,500 stars and a clear view of the Milky Way; telescopes provide close-ups of moons and planets.
Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The name “Shenandoah” is an American Indian word meaning “Daughter of the Stars.”
Skyline Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States at any time of the year. The picturesque 105-mile road rides the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains where 75 overlooks welcome visitors to take in panoramic views of the Shenandoah wilderness.
Nothing compares to sleeping under the stars and with four campgrounds there’s no better place to do it than Shenandoah National Park.
Just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., Shenandoah is also ideal for those living in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Most popular US national park introduces parking fees, increased camping charges
Great Smoky Mountains National Park—the most-visited national park in the U.S. with 14.1 million visitors in 2021—is instituting fees for parking passes and increasing charges for camping, the park announced last week (August 17, 2022).
Visits to the park have increased 57 percent over the past decade to a record 14.1 million last year and have taken a toll on facilities, the park said in a news release. Additional revenue from the changes would allow the park to address renovations along with law enforcement staffing challenges and services including trail maintenance and trash removal.
These fees are part of a nationwide trend as parks manage record-breaking crowds and seek to generate revenues to support the staffing and facilities required for this increased visitation.
“We take great pride in being the country’s most visited national park,” Cassius Cash, the park’s superintendent, said in a statement. “But that distinction comes with tremendous strain on our infrastructure. Now we will have sustained resources to ensure this sacred place is protected for visitors to enjoy for generations to come.”
Here are details on the new fees at Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as some other national parks to help you plan your next national parks trip.
As part of its “Park it Forward” fundraising and development campaign, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will require any vehicle parking within the park to purchase and display a parking pass beginning March 1, 2023.
The parking fees will be $5 for a day pass, $15 for a weekly pass, and $40 for an annual pass. Passes are good for a single vehicle and do not allow upgrades or transfers. The pass will be valid anywhere within the park for the duration of time paid for. There is currently no cap on the number of passes that will be sold in a given day, week, or season.
Interagency passes (aka America the Beautiful passes) will NOT be accepted instead of the parking tag and will NOT provide a discount for the purchase of the parking tag.
Visitors just passing through the park or stopping for less than 15 minutes will not be required to purchase a pass. “If you want to come by the visitor center and use the bathroom you don’t need a pass,” Cash said in an Associated Press interview. “We are trying to capture the costs of services used not nickel-and-dime every vehicle. If you want to stop at an overlook and take a selfie with the beautiful scenery you can still do that (for free).”
Admission to the park is free and there are no toll charges for driving along its many scenic roadways.
Camping fees throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park will also increase for the first time in a decade. Backcountry camping fees will double to $8 per night with a maximum of $40 per camper. Frontcountry family campsite fees will rise to $30 per night for primitive sites and $36 per night for sites with electrical hookups. Group camps, horse camps, and picnic pavilions fees will increase by 20 percent to 30 percent. Daily rental rates for the Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin in Elkmont will rise to $300 and $200, respectively.
All of the revenue generated by the parking passes and increased camping fees will “directly support operational costs for managing and improving services for visitors including trail maintenance, custodial services, trash removal, and supporting more staffing,” according to the park website.
Parking Tag Basics
Effective March 1, 2023
Valid parking tags will be required for any vehicles parking in the park starting March 1, 2023.
Display of physical parking tags in each vehicle will be required.
Three tag durations will be available for purchase for all vehicle sizes and types:
Daily – $5
Up to 7 Days – $15
Annual – $40
Parking tags will not be refundable, transferable, or upgradable.
Each tag will be valid for a single vehicle.
Parking tags will be available for purchase both online and onsite.
Parking tags will not be required for motorists who pass through the area or who park for less than 15 minutes.
Parking tags will not be location-specific. A parking tag will be required to park in any designated parking spot anywhere within park boundaries.
Many other national parks are implementing fee increases for parking, camping, and facilities access (although few have increased park entrance charges). The National Park Service says these fees are necessary to maintain and improve the infrastructure and to improve staffing to handle the dramatically increased visitation.
During busy summer peak visitation times, popular U.S. parks and certain areas within the parks have been requiring reservations and charging nominal reservation fees of about $2. Yosemite National Park and Arches National Park are among those charging for timed-entry passes. Zion National Park has been charging reservation fees to hike the popular Angels Landing Trail.
Rocky Mountain National Park increased its one-day vehicle entry pass to the park from $25 to $30 this May.
“The fee increase is necessary to improve and maintain high-quality visitor services,” according to the park. “While basic park operations are funded by direct appropriations from Congress, the recreation use fees collected by the park are used to support new projects and the ongoing maintenance of park facilities that directly enhance the visitor experience.”
The park also is increasing camping charges across the board. Winter campground fees will increase from $20 to $30 per night beginning on October 12. Summer campground fees will increase from $30 to $35 per night beginning summer 2023. In addition, group site campground fees will increase by $10 for each tier in group size to $50, $60, and $70.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks announced this month that they will increase camping fees in 2023 and 2024 to fund needed improvements to the camping areas. Standard campsite charges will rise from $22 to $28 in 2023 and $32 in 2024. Prices for other group campsites and stock campsites will see similar 25 percent-30 percent price increases.
It’s not just national parks increasing visitor fees. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas which is also experiencing record visitation has proposed raising its fees. Admission for cars to drive its 13-mile scenic loop will rise from $15 to $20 in 2023 with the annual park pass fee rising from $30 to $50. The Bureau of Land Management which governs the park is also proposing to add a $2 online and on-site reservations fee ($3 by phone). Campground and picnic area reservation fees will rise to $8 online and on-site ($9 by phone).
Over the past year, destinations across the U.S. national park system have faced crowding and traffic issues as record-setting numbers of visitors came to the parks during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to better manage these crowds—and to fund the staff and improvements necessary to provide infrastructure—many parks across the country are instituting new fees and reservation systems.
The new Great Smoky Mountains National Park parking fee should not discourage anyone from visiting as the nominal charge of $5 a day is a bargain considering there are no park entrance fees.
However, the increased parking fee coupled with the increased camping fees and new fees at other national parks signal a trend that visitors should expect higher charges going forward.
However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure.
Hike among high-rise sandstone walls and massive fins on this one-miler that’s a perfect introduction to Arches National Park
Arches should be on everyone’s list of “must-see” national parks. While the park is most well known for having over 2,000 arches including the famous Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch there is more to see than just the arches. Park Avenue is the first stop after entering Arches National Park and is a great way to start your visit.
Park Avenue is a one-mile trail that follows the bottom of a canyon at the feet of some of the park’s gigantic and well-known monoliths. With sandstone walls that rival New York City skyscrapers, this easy, two-mile out-and-back along Park Avenue shows how wind and erosion can create a variety of rock sculptures.
The Three Gossips, the Courthouse Towers, Queen Nefertiti, Queen Victoria Rock, the Organ, and the Tower of Babel are all visible from the road as visitors drive up towards Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch but there is a large difference in experience when walking through them. All of these natural wonders are famous and often photographed.
The Park Avenue Trailhead is located on the Arches Entrance Road 2.5 miles north of the visitors’ center off to the left (north) side of the road. From the parking lot check out the La Sal Mountains in the distance before heading down a paved trail to the Park Avenue overlook. The parking lot has a paved walkway that heads 320 feet to a Viewpoint. From there, a well-worn trail heads down the Avenue and towards the Courthouse Towers Parking Lot.
As you leave the parking area, you’ll follow a wide, paved trail for about 100 yards to a viewpoint of Park Avenue. Many visitors are satisfied with the view from here which is impressive but if you want to understand how this area got the name Park Avenue one has to drop down and walk the Park Avenue trail to feel the immensity of the sandstone monoliths on either side. The real Park Avenue is a wide boulevard in Manhattan Island in New York City with soaring skyscrapers on either side of the avenue.
At the overlook take in the expansive views of the 300- to 400-foot-tall red rock walls that line the wash below. To the right is a deep notch carved into a fin; bulky rock formations sit to the left and Courthouse Towers (an assortment of tall stone columns) rise in the distance. Take the stone steps from the overlook to continue the hike.
After enjoying the view from the Park Avenue overlook descend the rock steps to begin the hike. A “Primitive trail beyond this point” sign sits beside the trail but don’t let that deter you from this well-worn trail.
The easy trail from the Park Avenue overlook descends some well-maintained path to the floor of Park Avenue. Once on the canyon floor, look around in all directions. Beneath your feet are ripples in the rock and above are towering red cliffs, balanced rocks, and tiny holes in the rocks. Desert shrubs and juniper trees are sprinkled in the red sand throughout the canyon. As the trail makes its way to the road, Courthouse Towers comes into view. Once the trail meets the road, turn around and hike back.
It is a one-mile hike down through the sandstone monoliths to the end of Park Avenue. There is another parking area there where groups that have more than one car can park so it becomes a walk-through hike instead of an out-and-back hike. If you only have one car and it’s parking at the Park Avenue viewpoint it will be two miles down and back. Along the way, hikers are treated to great views along the trail of the Courthouse Towers which is composed of formations of The Organ, The Tower of Babel, The Three Gossips, and Sheep Rock.
The Three Gossips may be the best name for a rock formation that I’ve ever heard. What a clever description! One of the things that I like about Arches National Park is that there are so many clever names for the arches and formations. Sheep Rock is a clever name too! That rock looks exactly like a sheep!
Park Avenue is best photographed in the later afternoon for the deep colors on the canyon walls. Morning is an excellent time to photograph, The Organ, Sheep Rock, The Tower of Babel, and The Three Gossips.
This was my very first hike in Arches National Park and even though there are better-known hikes in Arches, this one is a special one for me.
This is a hike that children will enjoy as well as experienced hikers. This stop will only take about an hour to see and complete. I highly recommend to those visiting Arches National Park to take the time to at least stop at the Park Avenue viewpoint.
The massive sandstone towers that make up the western background of Park Avenue are called the Courthouse Towers. Like the prows of enormous ships, these landmarks jut out into the desert below, some of them over 600 feet tall.
The Organ is a smaller monolith just to the south of the Tower of Babel off to the right side of the Arches Entrance Road. The Courthouse Towers parking lot sits off to the west flank of the Organ.
The Tower of Babel
The Tower of Babel is located to the north of the Courthouse Towers standing just above Courthouse Wash, north of the Organ, and beside the Entrance Road.