Winter RV Camping Must-Have: Heated Water Hose

The winter camping season is upon us and it’s time to get prepared for the freezing cold temperatures. One of the best things you can invest in for winter camping adventures is a heated RV water hose.

I hate that first hard freeze of winter. If I’m lucky enough to get a warning, I fill my freshwater tank and disconnect from the RV park water connection. It’s such a hassle! But I can avoid it and stay warm inside with a heated RV water hose. This is a winter RV camping must-have for any RVer.

A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost over $100 depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes and related issues.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A heated water hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Made with food-grade materials, a heated RV water hose comes in several lengths. Rated for use in temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit, plug it into a 110-volt outlet at the utility pedestal. It stays on to prevent a frozen water hose. The material remains flexible down to -20 degrees, making it easy to coil and store. A 25-foot hose typically uses about 2.5 kWh of electricity daily and will cost about 25¢ daily to keep water flowing to your RV in the coldest of temperatures.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How heated RV water hoses work

Heated water hoses have long heat strips that run along their length. These prevent water from freezing when it travels through the tube. These hoses need to be plugged into electrical outlets to function and they have a variety of sizes and energy requirements.

Heated water hoses are an essential piece of gear for anyone who plans to use their RV in cold areas. You always need to be sure that your sinks, showers, and toilets are working when you’re living in an RV.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Important things to know about heated water hoses

When you’re looking at buying a heated hose for your RV there are a few things you should know. Overall these hoses are pretty simple pieces of equipment but there are a couple of little quirks and tips you should know before you look into getting one for yourself.

Before I get to anything else, it’s important to recognize that these hoses aren’t an unnecessary product or something that only luxury rigs need. Frozen hoses and pipes can cause serious damage to RVs that can affect them in the long and short term.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Certainly, it’s won’t be fun if your water supply freezes. You won’t be able to use water for the kitchen or bathroom and you can forget about having a hot shower. But much worse damage can happen if you don’t have the right equipment and properly maintain it.

If the pipes, holding tanks, or hoses in your RV freeze with water inside them, the ice can expand and cause permanent damage to the infrastructure of your RV. Burst pipes, flooding, and leaking are nothing to take lightly and they are not easy to fix.

But if you’re careful and choose a quality heated water hose you can prevent these problems before they start. Let’s look at some of the requirements for heated hoses and what you can do to keep them in good shape.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make outlets available

First of all, you will need an electrical outlet to use a heated water hose. They run on electricity after all, so they won’t be able to do their jobs if they’re not connected to a power source. There is a range of different heated water hoses but they require access to a standard-issue 110-volt electrical connection.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose the appropriate hose length

I mentioned earlier that heated hoses come in a variety of lengths. This range of options can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the camping areas you visit. A hose that’s too long can be awkward to set up and maneuver. They’re also more likely to get tangled in knots or get in the way at your campsite.

On the other hand, hoses that are too short can be dangerous to mess with. If you have to stretch your hose out to reach the water outlet, you’ll be putting a strain on it that can damage the hose material and heat strips. Leaks are much more likely to pop up if you’re using a hose that’s too short. Further, your water hose may not reach the utility box, period.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To resolve this, it’s sometimes best to buy more than one length of heated hose. Having a couple of options will help you choose the best one for your situation plus you’ll have a backup if one of them becomes non-functional. If you are winter camping in one site for the entire season it may be best to delay the purchase of a heated hose until you arrive at your camping site. This way you will be certain of the hose length you require.

Be aware that having a heated hose does not ensure that the rest of your water system will be safe from subzero temperatures. You may need to take additional precautions to prevent freezing and damage in the other parts of your water system.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The water tap and metal connections on either end of the water hose are often vulnerable as are the holding tanks for your freshwater and wastewater. If the RV has an enclosed underbelly with a heating system, that will prevent freezing in most cases. You can also apply heat tape to the vulnerable areas to keep them protected and warm.

Your entire water system has to stay in a liquid form to do its job. Heated hoses are great but they still can’t do everything. Help them out by adding protection to all the pieces of your winter waterworks.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Store your heated hose when not in use

Heated hoses are vital parts of the winter kit in your RV. As such, you need to keep them in good condition and maintain them throughout the year. So when the weather starts to warm up, don’t just pitch the hose into a storage bay.

Most heated hoses come with packaging and storage cases for when they’re not in use. Carefully coil the hose when spring arrives and store it in its case. If you take good care of your heated water hose you’ll be able to use it for many more winters.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

The Ultimate Guide to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on Earth

Before visiting the New River Gorge for the first time, I’ll admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I knew it was in West Virginia coal country and I knew that it had a famous bridge over a river. And that was about it!

But this just meant that each discovery—of an amazing view or adorable town or interesting tidbit of history—was both surprising and exciting. I love to be surprised by destinations and the New River Gorge is certainly delivered.

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

Despite its name and although it was only recently designated as a national park, New River Gorge is anything but—this incredible gorge, similar to the Grand Canyon or Columbia River Gorge of the west has been carved out over the eons by the soft but persistent power of flowing water. Along with the mighty New River itself, this West Virginia wilderness encompasses a vast and vivid 70,000-acre stretch of countryside and offers a huge array of both lands- and water-based recreational opportunities. 

Tucked into south-central West Virginia, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (which was upgraded from National River status at the end of 2020) is located about an hour from Charleston, West Virginia, and close to small towns such as Beckley, Beaver, and Hinton. It’s also only a short distance from the Virginia border and towns in that state like Roanoke. 

New River Gorge is characterized by its carved-out river canyon which is populated with beautiful Appalachian greenery that paints the rolling hills that spread out from the water. As in most parts of the Appalachian Mountains weather can be unpredictable and quick to change but generally, you can expect temperatures between the 20s and 40s in winter, 30 and 70 in spring and fall, and pleasant summers that range from 50-80 degrees. Precipitation can occur year-round but the wettest month is July.

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

History of the Park

According to the National Park Service, the origins of the New River are almost as old as the Appalachian Mountains themselves. During the birth of the Appalachians 500 million years ago the North American and African plates collided forcing the earth up and forming mountains.

An ancient river, the Teays (once much larger, but then broken up by glacial action) drained from the steep edges of this new range and over time it got faster and bigger cutting through the mountains.

That process has continued until today and this section of the ancient river has now sliced through 1,500 feet of rock to create the picturesque canyon that still contains powerful waters. All of this history might make it the second-oldest river on the planet.

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

Before Europeans arrived in the area in the 1600s, Indigenous peoples had been living there for at least 11,000 years, according to archeological evidence. Those native groups are the ancestors of the Cherokee and Shawnee peoples who fought the White settlers for over 150 years but were forced off their land by the early 1800s.

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

Because the New River had cut through so much rock during its history seams of good-quality coal were easy to access. The industry prospered and the area was connected to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1873 to facilitate the moving of mined coal. Soon, towns and settlements followed and for almost 50 years mining was a primary business with at least one mine surviving into the 1960s. Today, rail yards, bridge piers, the ruins of coal mining towns, coke ovens, rusted mine cars, and other remnants of the industry can still be found throughout the park.

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

New River Gorge Bridge history

Before 1977, if you wanted to cross the New River Gorge, you had to drive down into the canyon, cross a railroad bridge, and then drive back up again on the other side. The crossing could take up to an hour on narrow, twisting mountain roads.

This crossing time was reduced to less than two minutes once the New River Gorge Bridge was completed in 1977. Today, it carries US-19 across the gorge, 876 feet above the New River.

The bridge is a modern architectural marvel; when it was completed, it was the longest single-span arch bridge in the world spanning 3,030 feet (today it’s still the third-longest bridge of its kind).

You can learn a bit about the bridge and its history in a video at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and there’s also a boardwalk trail there that offers up some excellent vantage points of the bridge. (Just note that the lower observation deck does include lots of stairs.)

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

It all started with the Fayette Station Road, originally called the Gentry Road which was 1909. The bridge below the main arch bridge is the Tunney Hunsacker Bridge (often referred to as “the little bridge” by visitors.) It was the first bridge for cars to cross the New River Gorge. At the time that was the area’s engineering marvel.

In the 1960s, construction began on Route 19 also known as Corridor L. It needed to cross the New River Gorge and the only question was how. The answer was to build what was then the largest arch bridge in the world. Construction began in 1974 and was completed 3 years later in 1977. 

The bridge is a structure of amazing statistics:

  • 3,030 feet long
  • 876 feet high
  • 70 feet wide
  • 88 million pounds of U.S. Cor-Ten steel and American cement

Opened and dedicated on October 22, 1977, the span has since become an iconic symbol of West Virginia.

More on New River Gorge: BASE-Jump Off This Bridge on Bridge Day

The bridge is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a national landmark in engineering and is celebrated on the third Saturday in October each year at Bridge Day when the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic and people BASE jump off the side.

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

White water rafting and rock climbing

New River Gorge is called by frequent visitors has long been a haven for outdoor recreationists from across the country. With 53 miles of undammed whitewater, there’s plenty of room for experienced water sports lovers including a 13-mile section of the Lower New River that has lots of class IV and V rapids (the most technically difficult and dangerous).

In the 1990s, rafting boomed in popularity with as many as thirty companies guiding tours along the park’s 53 miles of free-flowing whitewater. One of the most popular stretches is the “Lower New,” a 13-mile gauntlet of Class IV to V rapids. Seasoned companies like Adventures on the Gorge run a number of more relaxed, family-friendly outings as well.

It’s not all about the water at the gorge, though. The sandstone walls at New River Gorge National Park ranging between 30 feet and 120 feet in height feature over 1,400 routes for climbers. New River Climbing School hosts daily climbing and rappelling courses for the rock curious looking to try their hand at sending the gnar (A rock climbing term used to describe climbing a route without falling or resting on the rope).

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

Plus, The New’s Arrowhead section boasts 12.8 miles of Boy Scout–built mountain biking trails perfect for beginner to intermediate riders. Bike rentals (and local craft brews) are available at Arrowhead Bike Farm.

New River’s rugged canyon has been well-known as a world-class rock climbing and water sports destination since it was designated a national river in 1978 but there are other popular activities there, too.

Due to warmer waters than are typically found in the region as well as 12 public-access points in the park, it’s a well-known fishing destination for smallmouth bass, walleye, carp, and other native and non-native game fish.

Detailed maps show the specific areas where hunting is allowed in the park. In general, hunting is not permitted in safety zones near public areas and the Grandview section. Hunting permits, rules, and seasons are all governed by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

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

Go hiking in the New River Gorge

Within New River Gorge National Park there are about 100 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging. Most of the trails are fairly short but many can be connected if you’re looking for a longer hike.

More on New River Gorge: New River Gorge National River: A River Runs Through It

Since the park stretches along 53 miles of the river there are several different sections with trails. The most popular trails in the New River Gorge include:

  • Endless Wall Trail: This Fayetteville trail is one of the most popular in the park offering up excellent views of the gorge and the “Endless Wall” which is an area popular with rock climbers. You can do this hike as a 2-mile out-and-back from the Fern Creek parking area to Diamond Point or you can do it in a 2.7-mile loop—but if you do the whole loop, note that you’ll have to walk a half-mile back to your car along a road.
  • Long Point Trail: The other popular Fayetteville trail is the 3.2-mile Long Point Trail which leads out to a rocky outcrop that overlooks the New River Gorge Bridge. The trail is pretty tame until the last 0.3 miles when it gets a bit steep and filled with roots to climb over.
  • Grandview Rim Trail: This 3.2-mile trail in the southern part of the park connects the Main Overlook at Grandview with Turkey Spur offering up some of the most stunning views of a horseshoe bend in the New River.
  • Sandstone Falls Boardwalk and Island Loop Trail: Head down to the southern part of the park to visit Sandstone Falls, a 1500-foot-wide waterfall on the New River. A 0.25-mile boardwalk offers up great views and connects to the half-mile Island Loop Trail just below the falls.
New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic drives at New River Gorge

Visiting New River Gorge National Park and Preserve by vehicle is an up-and-down experience. While some roads travel along the rim and some along the river, others wind up and down between the two. Vistas along the rim offer views of the sandstone walls of the gorge and the river below. At the bottom of the gorge along the river, there is relatively little flat land but it provides an opportunity to view the New River and its plants and animals.

Encircling the heart of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the scenic drive is an estimated three-hour trip. The 83-mile route includes interstates, divided highways, and two-lane roads. The scenic drive is an opportunity to experience the park—its gorge and its river. Along the way are broad vistas as well as small glimpses of both the past and the present. Two park visitor centers, Canyon Rim and Sandstone supplement the tour with the interpretation of the natural and historic resources of the park.

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

Camping

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve provide opportunities for primitive camping only. Camping areas are located along the river. These primitive camping areas have no drinking water or hookups and limited restroom facilities. All sites are managed on a first-come, first-served basis, and reservations are not accepted. There are NO FEES for camping.
Stays are limited to 14 days in the same area. Developed campgrounds are available at state parks and private campgrounds throughout the surrounding area.

From the tantalizing glow of evening fireflies to the famous steel arc of the New River Bridge and the exhilarating splash of chilly river water below, there are a thousand reasons to smile about the New River Gorge National Park and Reserve.

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

Fact Box

Size: 46,766 acres

Date established: December 27, 2020 (designated by President Jimmy Carter as a National River on November 10, 1978)

Location: Southern West Virginia

Park Elevation: 702 feet to 3,970 feet, average is 2,267 feet 

Park entrance fee: Fee-free park

Recreational visits (2021): 1,682,720

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

Fun Facts

The New River flows north as it winds its way through the Appalachian Plateau in West Virginia.

More on New River Gorge: New River Gorge: America’s Newest National Park

New River Gorge National Park is home to 1,383 different species of plants, 65 species of mammals, 40 species of reptiles, 50 species of amphibians, 89 species of fish, and countless migratory birds.

Worth Pondering…

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

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West Virginia, mountain momma

—John Denver

Outside the Mighty 5

Recommendations for extended adventuring around each of Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks

Utah’s much more than The Mighty 5. Sure, its famous national parks—Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park—are must-sees but spectacular scenes don’t end at the parks’ boundaries. 

Just beyond their star-studded borders, you’ll find equally-impressive red-rock slot canyons, sandstone cliffs, and limestone plateaus. What these less-popular locales lack in national designation they make up for with easy access, peaceful meandering, and uninterrupted wilderness delight. 

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Famous: Capitol Reef National Park

Nearby fave: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is phenomenal whether you’re traveling along Scenic Byway 12 or on Highway 89. This area boasts a mixture of colorful sandstone cliffs soaring above narrow slot canyons, picturesque washes, and seemingly endless Slickrock. This area is also remote with fewer services than national parks so ensure you’re prepared to keep yourself safe.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The monument is a geologic sampler with a huge variety of formations, features, and world-class paleontological sites. A geological formation spanning eons of time, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, and canyons. It is divided into three distinct sections: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante.

Hike highlights include Lower Calf Creek Falls and Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons.

Get more tips for visiting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Famous: Zion National Park

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby fave: Sand Hollow State Park and Quail Creek State Park

Zion National Park is one of Utah’s Mighty Five national parks and (for good reason) many people travel to the state to see its natural wonders but Utah Dixie offers so much more for outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounding St. George are four superb state parks—Sand Hollow, Quail Creek, Gunlock, and Snow Canyon—all offering gorgeous scenery and plenty of ways to enjoy nature including hiking, camping, fishing, boating, photography, cliff diving, and swimming.

Quail Creek State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sand Hollow State Park offers a wide range of recreation opportunities. With its warm, blue waters and red sandstone landscape, it is one of the most popular parks because it has so much to offer. Boat and fish on Sand Hollow Reservoir, and explore and ride the dunes of Sand Mountain Recreation Area on an off-highway vehicle, RV, or tent camp in the modern campground.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just minutes away from Sand Hollow, Quail Creek State Park offers another reservoir for swimming but in a completely different landscape. The picturesque mountain background with a rocky landscape and blue water gives this reservoir a breathtaking view. Quail Lake, a sprawling 600-acre lake in the Quail Creek State Park, fills a valley northeast of St. George. After a fun day, settle into the park’s campground on the western shore. It offers 23 campsites with shaded tables, modern restrooms, tent sites, and pull-through and back-in sites for RVs up to 35 feet in length.

Get more tips for visiting Sand Hollow State Park

Get more tips for visiting Quail Creek State Park

Red Rock Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Famous: Bryce Canyon National Park

Nearby fave: Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest

“Stumbled upon.” “By accident.” “Surprised by.” That’s how some visitors happen to find Red Canyon. As Bryce Canyon’s lesser-known neighbor road travelers encounter Red Canyon en route to the national park and stun them when Scenic Byway 12 runs directly through two red-rock arch tunnels.

Red Rock Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The winding highway displays orange-red pinnacles, spires, columns, and hoodoos. These limestone and sandstone formations line the road making it easy for drivers to stop for photo ops. But for those looking to stay longer, Red Canyon offers camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and off-roading.

Anchored by the town of Panguitch, Red Canyon makes up a small part of Dixie National Forest’s 170-mile wide nature preserve.

Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Famous: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park

Nearby fave: Dead Horse Point State Park

Oh, the views! The panorama from Dead Horse Point State Park is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. Driving to each of the park’s many overlooks reveals a completely different perspective into Utah’s vast canyon country. The park is a slender peninsula of land extending off the massive plateau that is home to Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district.

Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park sits above the beautiful White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park and offers views of Moab, the La Sal Mountains to the south, and the Colorado River 2,000 feet below. The area got its name from its use as a natural horse corral around the turn of the century. According to legend, some horses died of exposure on the plateau.

A visitor center and art gallery provide a good primer to the park’s geology and key features visible from the many overlooks. The visitor center parking lot also serves as an excellent starting point to access the 16.6 miles of non-motorized single-track mountain biking and eight miles of hiking trails that sprawl across the park.

Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reserve a campsite or yurt at any one of Dead Horse Point State Park campgrounds. Take in the spectacular star show from this International Dark Sky Park.

Get more tips for visiting Dead Horse Point State Park

Worth Pondering…

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.”

—Jack Kerouac

Fountain of Youth: The Restorative Power of RVing

Here are the top 10 health benefits you can expect from RV travel

The Fountain of Youth possesses the power to restore the youth of anyone who drinks from or bathes in its waters… or at least that’s what legend would have you believe. Is there any truth to it? Perhaps, if you travel in an RV!

But one thing’s for sure: For thousands of years, people have searched in vain for a way to recapture their glory days.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote about mythical restorative water in Ethiopia in the 5th century B.C., the modern legend of the Fountain of Youth stems from stories told by the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean about the mythical land of Bimini. According to these old stories, the waters in Bimini had magical restorative powers. Some believe it was Bimini and the Fountain of Youth that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was searching for when he made his way to what is now Florida in 1513.

Even though Ponce de León was one of the first Europeans to set foot in what would become America, he never did find the Fountain of Youth. Nevertheless, modern-day St. Augustine, Florida—where some believe Ponce de León came ashore—is the home of the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park.

Lake County, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to the park regularly drink the water that flows from the natural spring located there but there is no evidence that it has any restorative effects.

Today, Florida is known as a popular retirement spot for seniors. Many Florida retirees experience a rejuvenation of sorts when they RV to Florida although their newfound energy is most likely the result of less stress, more rest, and good weather—not magic water.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Health benefits of RV travel

RVing is more than just something you do—it’s a lifestyle. RVing is a lifestyle that benefits your health and well-being in many ways. RVers are out on the open road, often in nature, and checking off things on their bucket list. Together, these acts contribute to overall happiness which also positively impacts your health.

Related article: 7 Simple Tips to Live Longer and Healthier

RV travel not only provides great memories but provides great health benefits as well. While all kinds of travel can benefit your well-being there are specific perks that come from traveling in an RV. Here are 10 health benefits you can expect from RV travel.

Bourbon Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV travel lowers your stress levels

Chronic stress makes you irritable, and anxious and decreases your decision-making abilities. RV travel distracts you from real-life stresses. Visiting new places helps you switch off from the daily stresses. It allows you to focus on your new travel experiences and the challenges that go with travel— instead of the things in your life stressing you out. There’s nothing sweeter than RV travel for taking a break from the daily grind.

A whopping 80 percent of vacationing people report they felt a significant reduction of stress after just two days of vacation. Vacation time is linked to happiness and general well-being.

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

If you’re hitting the open road on your timeline and schedule for a vacation, you’re cutting some of those additional, travel-related stressors out entirely. You aren’t rushing to make a flight and in an RV have everything you need.

Traveling in an RV can be a cost-saving experience that helps reduce finance-related stress. For a fraction of the cost of plane tickets, hotels, and destination prices, you can vacation wherever you go with your RV.

Hyannis Harbor Cruise, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. RV travel beats flying

Everyone should experience traveling the country in an RV. There is no other way of travel that compares. You can enjoy the scenic wonders of nature without compromising on comfort no matter where you travel.

There’s no way around it—traveling by air takes a lot out of you, especially long-haul flights. Planes are cramped and uncomfortable and sitting for hours while traveling across multiple time zones can leave you feeling lethargic for days afterward.

Sandhill cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You never look back on your RV trip and say “oh yeah I remember when we were stuck waiting to take off for three and a half hours.”

Getting out the door before you leave in your RV can certainly feel stressful. You worry about whether you’ve packed everything you need or if you’ve unplugged all your small appliances. It’s tempting to think that travel increases stress. In fact, it does just the opposite.

In today’s modern life, it is too easy to become caught up in the minute details. RV travel helps you leave those stressors behind. It encourages your mind to settle and refocus to be in the present.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. RV travel boosts your immune system

RV travel works to keep you healthy by boosting your immune system. By visiting new places you’ll be exposing yourself to new germs. While this can make you want to reach for your hand sanitizer, it’s a great way to help your body build antibodies.

Related article: Camping Benefits Mind and Body…Here Is How

This introduction to new bacteria gets your antibody factory fired up protecting your body from future illness. When you travel, you’re frequently taking in the natural sites and spending time outdoors in nature. It also turns out that fresh air is great for your health, aiding in digestion and improving blood pressure and heart rate.

Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. RV travel helps encourage healthy choices

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

Whether you head out for an occasional road trip or you’re a snowbird or full-timer, RV travel has some particular perks when it comes to staying healthy. What you eat and how you sleep top the list.

When you’re constantly on the go it’s easy to get stuck eating fast food and calorie-rich junk food. Traveling by RV helps you stay healthy by eliminating that need. You can stock your kitchen and reach for healthy foods and fresh produce when you’re hungry. You can even maintain a garden of fresh herbs and produce in your recreational vehicle.

Sleeping in your own bed each night © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A healthy diet works to keep your overall health on track. A meta-analysis of studies following 469,551 participants found that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease with an average reduction in risk of 4 percent for each additional serving per day of fruit and vegetables.  Although all fruits and vegetables contributed to this benefit, green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens were most strongly associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to your travel diet, RV travel allows you to sleep in your own bed every night even as you’re traveling the country. Sleep is a key to good health.

Sleeping in your own bed can help you get the sleep your body needs. You’ll be able to choose your own mattress, your own pillows, and linens that you love. This keeps you comfortable and promotes good-quality sleep. When you travel in your RV, you’ll also be able to stick to your own sleep schedule which can help you get consistent, good-quality sleep.

Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. RV travel boosts confidence

RVing isn’t always easy despite the pretty pictures you see on Instagram. You’re taking a rolling home on wheels to places unknown hopeful that the weather, campground neighbors, and the RV itself cooperates. The prize for triumphing over the obstacles the road throws your way—because trust me, it will—is boosted confidence and a greater belief in yourself and your capabilities. As you take more trips your confidence grows. That increased confidence from RVing carries over into other aspects of your life and you feel better able to tackle other challenges that come your way.

Utah Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. RV travel inspires self discovery

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

Our capacity for learning more about ourselves is limitless. You can glean lessons from everywhere in life especially when you’re on the road and outside your familiar territory or routines. RV travel immerses you in a variety of new experiences. You’ll discover things you never knew you liked. Being exposed to so many new and unfamiliar situations teaches you more about your strengths and weaknesses, too. When you’re on an RV trip you’re opened up to situations that might highlight your fears and insecurities or perhaps bring about a sense of joy and gratitude. RV travel will shape you, shift your perspective, and help you discover the real you.

Port Aransas, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. RV travel helps combat depression

People suffering from depression often avoid things that can bring pleasure which only makes depression worse. RV travel is a form of behavioral activation—a behavior therapy strategy where you increase your engagement in rewarding activities especially when you are feeling depressed. RV travel offers a change of pace and place that can leave a positive long-lasting effect on your psyche. While curing severe depression is no easy road, getting out and enjoying RV adventures can play a transformative role in helping ease depression.

Related article: Unplug & Recharge

Smoky Mountains, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. RV travel can lead to a longer life

You’re in charge of your destiny when it comes to traveling in your RV. See a roadside attraction that’s off your planned route? Go ahead and take that detour.

Having a strong sense of control over your circumstances reduces the risk of dying by 13 percent, according to a study reported by The Atlantic.

Life on the road can be everything and anything you want it to be.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. RV travel helps you reinvent yourself

A long stretch of road can teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.

—Patrick Rothfuss

RV travel can help you re-evaluate and reinvent your life. Travel has the ability to expand your mind in a way you never realized was possible.

Moreover, the valuable lessons that you learn along the way broaden your perspective making you more aware and open to new ideas. Different is not better or worse, it’s just different. But being confronted with these differences helps to re-evaluate your own principles and values and, sometimes, change them.

Related article: The Power of Mindfulness

RV travel and interacting with the world around you, I found a new passion for life.

Frances Beidler Forest, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. RV travel offers undeniable health benefits

A wealth of health benefits can be found in embracing the RV lifestyle. RV travel does more than allow you to see the country; it allows you to live a longer and healthier life.

Worth Pondering…

I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.

—Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Show Me the Weird

Say goodbye to boring road trips

One of the reasons people travel in RVs is to see things. They see epic places like The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. On the way to the big stuff, there are plenty of small sites that capture the public’s attention, too, like the World’s Largest Roadrunner, historical markers, and that corny attraction in Mitchell, South Dakota.

With wanderlust and weirdness in mind, we road-tripped across the country and found the oddest, most wonderful, and most puzzling roadside attractions where we least expected. Better stock up on boudin and pork cracklins, kolache and doughnuts, and other snack foods: there are going to be many, many detours in your future.

Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Basically Everything in Roswell

Is it fair to call an entire town a roadside attraction? Probably not! But the sheer number of alien-related stuff populating the streets of Roswell makes it unavoidable. There are makeshift spaceships you can tour. Straight-up UFO “museums.” A fake-ass alien autopsy site. Gift shops galore. If there are actual aliens tucked away in Roswell, they pulled the ingenious move of hiding in plain sight, surrounded by every kind of gaudy, over-the-top kitsch as possible. Well played Martians.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mother of All Tourist Traps

One of (if not the) the most prominent tourist traps has to be Wall Drug. You can’t miss it: Not only because it’s massive, but because you’ll see hundreds of hand-painted signs across multiple states, luring tourists in with the promise of free ice water and $.05 coffee (the ice water’s great, the coffee not so much).

Related article: 10 Unusual Roadside Attractions to Stop For

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And even if you wish to avoid it, you kind of can’t: At the intersection of East and West, North and South, it’s one of the last places to get gas for a while, regardless of where you’re going. Just grab a “where the heck is Wall Drug” bumper sticker, eat a donut, and soak in the Americana.

Prehistoric sculpture © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monsters in the Desert

Something prehistoric. Something mythical. Something otherworldly. Here, in the middle of the desert, is a magical array of free-standing sculptures that will astound you. Imagine driving along Borrego Springs Road and something catches your attention—a dark form in the desert landscape. You spy a horse as it rears off to the side of the road. You look again and it is big, but it doesn’t seem to be moving. Then you look again and you realize it is a huge sculpture that has captured your attention.

Prehistoric sculptors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then, rising out of the flat desert landscape, an elephant appears. Alarmingly close by, a T-Rex bears its maw chasing a saber-tooth tiger. From the corners of your eyes, these large structures can be deceptively realistic. This is not a mirage but the gifts of visionary benefactor Dennis Avery (now deceased) and the craft of artist/welder Ricardo Breceda.

Related article: 12 Must-See Roadside Attractions for the Perfect Road Trip

Hole N” The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hole N” The Rock

You’re driving down US Highway 191 south of Moab, thinking vaguely of finding a place to pull over and stretch, maybe get some snacks, when you see, in the distance: a massive red rock face with blazing white detailing. You drive closer. “HOLE N” THE ROCK”.

Hole N” The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is it … literally a hole in the rock? It is, kinda, yes. Hole N” The Rock is a 5,000-square-foot home carved into the rock where you’ll also find a trading post, general store, art collection, and petting zoo—camels, zebras, albino raccoons. You are wondering whether you can feed them, yes you can.

“WE ARE NOT YOUR DESTINATION:” explains/yells the Hole N” The Rock website, “WE ARE AN AMAZING STOP ALONG THE WAY.”

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. Yerxa’s pueblo is a four-story, 5,000-square-foot structure. It has 160 windows, 65 doors, 30 rooflines, and 35 rooms. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he used re-purposed materials and a little ingenuity to build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

World’s Only Corn Palace

This corn crazed prairie town in South Dakota is home to the high school sports teams the Kernels, local radio station KORN, and the “architectural showplace of the world” known as the Mitchell Corn Palace. Its czarist-Russia exterior and intricate murals are made entirely out of local corn and grains (it’s refurbished annually), and the onion domes and minarets make it the world’s only corn palace, but would the world really need more than one of these?

Related article: Blow Your Mind at the Weirdest Roadside Attractions across America

World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One Really Big Nut

One of the largest pistachio tree grooves in New Mexico, PistachioLand is a destination that can be enjoyed by all ages. Located in the Tularosa Basin outside of Alamogordo it’s an easy day trips from Las Cruces and can be combined with a visit to White Sands National Park.

PistachioLand is the home of the World’s Largest Pistachio, Pistachio Tree Ranch, McGinn’s Country Store, and Arena Blanca Winery.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lost Dutchman

Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum is the keeper and purveyor of the colorful tales of bygone days, both true and mythical. Located on the Apache Trail (Arizona Highway 88), the museum is comprised of numerous outdoor structures including the Apacheland Barn and the Elvis Chapel, the last surviving structures from Apacheland Movie Ranch, a huge working 20-stamp gold mill, a historical model railroad, Western storefronts, an exhibit hall and gift shop/bookstore, and nature trail.

World’s Largest Roadrunner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An Encounter with the World’s Largest Roadrunner

The Roadrunner is the official state bird of New Mexico. A giant recycled roadrunner—20 feet tall and 40 feet long—has been an icon of Las Cruces ever since artist Olin Calk built it in 1993. It was made exclusively of items salvaged from the landfill.

Related article: Wacky and Fun Roadside Attractions across America

In early 2001, Olin stripped off the old junk, replaced it with new junk, and moved the roadrunner to a rest stop along Interstate 10, just west of the city. Signs around the sculpture warned of rattlesnakes, but when we stopped by to visit people were blissfully trudging out to the big bird anyway, to pose for snapshots or examine the junk (We did, too).

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

The 12 Most Charming Small Towns in Arizona

From intriguing artists’ colonies and former ghost towns to historical centers and mountain communities, Arizona’s best small towns never fail to impress

Arizona is filled with incredibly beautiful places. The Grand Canyon remains the most majestic and well-known natural phenomenon in the state or, arguably, the entire country. You’ll also find towering San Francisco Peaks, ponderosa pine forests, Saguaro National Park, and the Sonoran Desert. Maricopa County has the vibrant cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale while Tucson offers the University of Arizona and breathtaking gardens teaming with an array of cacti species. You can even see snow as well as ski and snowboarding at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff.

Outside the major metropolitan areas are a slew of charming small towns, creative communities, and former mining hubs. Of course, you’re familiar with Sedona. Though, many travelers haven’t heard of Bisbee, Carefree, and Holbrook. That’s why I’ve rounded up 12 tiny and mid-size treasures across the Grand Canyon State that should be on your radar.

Use this list to plan an upcoming winter getaway or save it for inspiration later down the line.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona

Without question, the most famous town in all of Arizona, Sedona—which you might remember from my article, RV Travel Bucket List—is an enchanting spot with photogenic red rocks, world-class hiking, and a deeply spiritual side. Test your fitness on the popular 3.9-mile Devil’s Bridge Trail, take a pilgrimage to an energy vortex, book a stress-melting massage, and shop for crystals at the New Age shops downtown.

Where to stay: Dead Horse Ranch State Park or Verde Valley RV and Camping Resort

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee

A close second to Sedona in the natural beauty department (though, in fairness, some firmly believe Bisbee deserves the coveted top slot), this picturesque former mining town in the Mule Mountains of southern Arizona brims with 19th-century architecture including colorful Victorian houses and creative flair. Step back into the past at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. Since numerous artists call present-day Bisbee home, there are galleries and hip boutiques galore.

Where to stay: Desert Oasis RV Park and Campground

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jerome

The gold, silver, and copper boom of the 1920s turned Jerome into a rather debaucherous place—hence its moniker “the Wickedest City in the West”—with bars, bordellos, and unscrupulous behavior. Like so many mining towns, it was later abandoned. Then in 1967, Jerome earned National Historic Landmark status. Today, tourists flock to this notoriously haunted destination to visit spooky sights. Feeling brave enough for a ghost tour?

Where to stay: Rain Spirit RV Resort

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone

A trip to Tombstone is sort of like stepping into a Wild West-era live-action play where characters wearing period costumes walk the dirt roads and talk in all sorts of old-timey jargon. Add to that you’ll find shops that sell frontier memorabilia, western-themed restaurants, and saloons. Staged brawls and duels are also part of the shtick. Speaking of, be sure to stop by the O.K. Corral to watch a reenactment of the famous 1881 shootout.

Where to stay: Tombstone RV Park and Campground

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams

Set along the iconic Route 66, Williams is a great home base for road trippers and travelers keen to explore the wonders of the Grand Canyon (the Grand Canyon Railway departs from the historic Williams Depot). The town itself has a wonderfully retro feel with motor lodges, classic cars, diners, soda fountains, shops selling all manner of nostalgic Americana items and a gas station museum.

Where to stay: Grand Canyon RV Park

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tubac

An easy 45-minute drive south of Tucson, the small community of Tubac entices shoppers with the promise of southwestern decor—especially colorful pottery—as well as jewelry, art, and leather goods. If you want to bring a piece of Arizona back home with you, this is the place to buy it. Famished with browsing the more than 100 shops and galleries? Chow down delicious local fare. And don’t leave without visiting the oldest Spanish fort in the state.

Where to stay: De Anza RV Resort

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carefree

Sometimes a name says it all. Such is the case with Carefree. We genuinely can’t think of a better place to kick back. Situated just over 30 minutes north of Scottsdale, this Maricopa County town with a population of 3,360 people has an endearingly relaxed vibe and tons of leisure activities, from hitting the links and tennis to spa sessions and strolling along Easy Street. Carefree also lays claim to the largest sundial in the U.S. Be sure to bring your walking shoes so you can hike at Cave Creek Regional Park or head out to Bartlett Lake

Where to stay: Cave Creek Regional Park

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camp Verde

A tight-knit community of friendly locals who welcome visitors like old friends, Camp Verde, located 86 miles north of Phoenix in Yavapai County, is an ideal destination for those seeking outdoor adventure. It’s a super laid-back spot with rural charm where you can truly unwind. Pastoral pastimes include farm tours, horseback riding, hiking, biking, birdwatching, camping, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Camp Verde even hosts an annual corn festival in July. Don’t forget to visit the Montezuma Castle National Monument and the Out of Africa Wildlife Park.

Where to stay: Distant Drum RV Resort, Verde Ranch RV Resort, or Verde River RV Resort and Cottages

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cottonwood

Part river town, part wine trail, and part historic hub: Cottonwood offers a fun and lively scene that sets it apart from the arid desert to the south and the soaring mountains to the north. Although it might be best known as a gateway to the nearby red rocks of Sedona, Cottonwood has plenty of charms of its own.

 They start with the quaint Old Town district and branch out to the banks of the lushly green Verde River. Because the Old Town area is relatively small and compact, the restaurants and tasting rooms are wonderfully walkable. On-street parking is available and convenient parking lots are sprinkled throughout the area.

Where to stay: Dead Horse Ranch State Park or Verde Valley RV and Camping Resort

Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prescott

The former territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott is one of those little out-the-way places that are a one-third resort town, one-third hipster getaway, and one-third small town Americana. Cozy yet adventurous, Prescott offers coffee shops and eateries, arts and crafts, and abundant nature you might not expect in Arizona. The desert atmosphere remains, but things are green and growing.

Modern Prescott has the advantage of not being very modern. Banners proclaim Prescott as “Everyone’s Home Town.” You won’t find high rises, but the downtown businesses clustered around the 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse and its plaza are thriving. Holbrook

Where to stay: Point of Rocks RV Campground

Holbrook © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holbrook

Located at the convergence of Interstate 40, U.S. Highway 180, and State Highway 77, this roadside town feels more like a real place than a ghost town like other destinations on the Mother Road. Wander out to the nearby Petrified Forest National Park for some gorgeous hiking and check out the Agate House, a ruin that demonstrates the ancient Puebloan practice of using petrified wood as a building material. Spend the night in the very cool Wigwam Motel. The motel is composed of fifteen individual concrete teepees. A big attraction is the gorgeous vintage cars that decorate the grounds.

Where to stay: OK RV Park

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Globe

In the foothills of the Pinal Mountains, sits the former mining camp known as Globe. Founded in 1876 and incorporated in 1907, this lovely town is brimming with century-old buildings, cottages, and hillside houses. The Besh-ba-Gowah Archeological Park features stunning partially restored ruins of a Salado pueblo along with an accompanying museum. The historic downtown area is perfect for strolls and shopping for antiques while the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is a great spot to explore and experience the talent of some incredible artists.

Where to stay: Apache Gold RV Park

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

The Truth about RVs

Untold stories behind Indiana’s RV boom

“You’re not going to buy an RV and drive it off the lot and have no hassles”

Elkhart, Indiana is to recreational vehicles what Detroit once was to automobiles. Four out of every five RVs in the U.S. roll-out of Elkhart, an area dominated by three major players the way Detroit was once dominated by Ford, Chrysler, and GM: Thor Industries, Forest River (owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway), and Winnebago Industries. Unlike Detroit, however, Elkhart is union-free in a so-called “right-to-work” state. And unlike Detroit in past decades Elkhart has been ravaged by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The result, as documented October 19, 2022, by the Indianapolis Star in a 15,000-word, four-part, multi-media series is an industry riddled with broken bodies and a record number of recalled RVs even as the major manufacturers all have been posting unsurpassed revenues and profit margins.

Down the road in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockdowns that confined Americans to their homes in 2020 created a record demand for recreational vehicles, much of it from first-time buyers who were looking for a safe way to travel. But COVID also decimated the ranks of RV factory workers even as they were being pushed to increase production.

Already strenuous jobs suddenly required even more from workers whose earnings are largely dependent on how many RVs they push out the door. Several compared it to a football practice that lasts eight hours or more leaving a body battered at the end of every day. 

Newmar factory tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV workers say they were frequently allowed—and sometimes pressured—to show up while sick or injured to meet the demand for a luxury product, according to IndyStar interviews with two dozen current and former workers and several family members. Some faced steep pay cuts for missing work due to COVID. Others were fired. 

As factories became COVID-19 hotspots, companies raked in record profits. Manufacturers shipped out 48 percent more RVs in 2021 than the year before the pandemic.

Inside the factories where those RVs were made, workers shared stories about the human cost behind the record profits.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From plywood and junk parts to luxury coaches

The RV industry in Elkhart County began with a man who built a travel trailer using plywood and junkyard parts for his family during the Great Depression. Milo Miller began building more trailers that he sold from a rented shed at a Mishawaka lumber yard, RV historian Al Hesselbart wrote in RV Capital of the World: A Fun-filled Indiana History. Other business-minded Hoosiers followed suit launching the first RV factories in the state. Those few factories turned into a few dozen then several hundred from RV manufacturers to parts suppliers, transporters, and repair shops.

Related article: RV Industry Surges amid Supply Chain Problems and Price Increases

Today, the industry dominates life in this manufacturing region just south of the Michigan border. Roads are typically congested as early as 3 a.m. as workers head to the factories. Restaurants are busy at lunch time when plants typically let workers out.

Across the factories in a county that’s home to blue-collar workers, grueling conditions are a long-accepted way of life. Calling in sick has always been seen as a sign of weakness, workers told IndyStar and many said they fear getting fired for taking too many sick days. 

Newmar Service Center, Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But problems in RV plants have been brewing long before the pandemic. Workers told IndyStar about injuries from lax safety rules and the fast pace, drug use, unfair pay structures, a disciplinary system that punishes workers for taking sick time, a lack of training, and quality issues with products that leave factories. 

Several RV workers said they and others inside the factories needed daily uppers such as energy drinks, Ritalin, or Adderall—even methamphetamine—to keep up with the pace. The most readily available option, energy drinks, can cause heart problems, worsen anxiety, and send workers to emergency rooms when abused.

Still, tens of thousands flock to the industry. Many cycle in and out, beaten down by the work but desperate for the fat paychecks. 

Newmar factory tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A punishing pace takes heavy toll on workers

Abey Bonifield took her first RV job because she needed more money than she could earn cleaning houses. Bonifield worked for multiple RV makers over about six years. Every day, she hit the ground running long before the crack of dawn, sometimes working for 13 hours a shift. She installed windows alone. She hefted appliances half her weight over her head. She pulled a small RV on a dolly by herself.

“I mean, who can wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and work themselves like that?” Bonifield said. “That’s not meant to be.”

She brought home enough to live a middle-class life without a college diploma and raise her two sons. In the process, Bonifield pushed her body past its limit. She worked even when she was sick or injured, sprinting in the summer heat to keep up with relentless production demand. She lived on energy drinks and caffeine pills, consuming an unhealthy amount each day. The faster she worked, the more money she made.

Related article: Forest River Workplace Safety Violations Top $250,000

But the breakneck pace gave her anxiety attacks as she scrambled to finish one RV unit and move on to the next. She stopped the energy drinks and caffeine pills only after developing kidney stones.

“The money is just not worth it,” she said. “Sometimes you can bring home two grand and that’s a lot of money for someone who didn’t finish high school or college. But emotionally dealing with that … no.”

Bonifield left the industry last year. And she doesn’t want to go back.

Newmar factory tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dreams go up in flames

Jenny Doman and her family stood beside a highway exit ramp watching helplessly as bright orange flames engulfed their brand-new RV.

Jenny Doman and her family had purchased the 40-foot-long Heartland Road Warrior, a fifth-wheel trailer and “toy hauler” made by a subsidiary of Thor Industries. The price tag was more than $100,000. Excited to enjoy the new luxury RV, they left their home in Oregon and hit the road for a trip to visit family in Utah.

But they only made it to Montana before flames engulfed their brand-new RV. The fire quickly transformed their dreams of a carefree life in their new home-away-from-home into a nightmare. The fire spread within minutes. Instead of spending the night in their new RV, Doman and her family found themselves standing near a rural Montana highway in the middle of a snowy winter night with nothing but clothes on their backs.

“There goes our fifth wheel, toy hauler, everything in it. Oh my gosh!” Doman said in a video she later posted on YouTube.

Newmar Service Center, Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pandemic drove demand for RVs

The desire to get away from home yet remain isolated introduced a new kind of lifestyle for many people during the pandemic. Recreational vehicles and trailers like Doman’s offered a vacation anywhere with all the comforts of home but not the crowds, costs, or hassles of commercial travel.

The RV industry—one of the biggest manufacturing sectors in Indiana—was quick to capitalize on this new and unprecedented demand. Last year, more RVs were built and sold than ever. Profits also soared to record highs.

Newmar factory tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recalls up, quality down

Recalls became more and more common—in part because parts suppliers are also under pressure to build fast. Defective products that go to multiple manufacturers meant multitudes of recalls.

Recalls jumped even more during the pandemic years.

Related article: THOR Buys Tiffin Motorhomes: What Happens Next?

Since 2020, three of the biggest RV manufacturers in the country have recalled hundreds of thousands of their products, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Companies owned by Thor Industries, the largest RV maker in the country, recalled more than 156,000 RVs this year. Forest River recalled nearly 200,000 RVs this year. Winnebago Industries recalled more than 125,000 RVs this year.

RVMH Hall of Fame, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Among the problems that led to recalls: gas leaks, various electrical issues, increased propane pressure, and poorly installed awnings.

In its statement to IndyStar, Thor Industries said the quality of its units went up even as factories were producing more. The company cited its lower warranty claims for products sold during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic years. But that doesn’t account for the recalls.

Forest River didn’t respond to requests for comment. Winnebago Industries didn’t answer questions about alleged quality issues.

Newmar factory tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shoddy work, unhappy buyers

A Hershey, Pennsylvania-based RVer bought a new 2022 unit valued at more than $100,000, only to have the generator and some other items stop working. After six weeks passed, he had no resort but to call the corporate office as he couldn’t get the manager to return his calls. Finally, he was told his warranty may have expired. After multiple calls, his unit was delivered to him in early June, but alas, not in acceptable condition. As you might expect, he wants a full refund. He’s still waiting.

Others, like John Kucharski, face a steady stream of issues that are not as devastating but add up to far more than just inconveniences. Kucharski, a longtime camper, had spent years saving enough money to buy a brand-new RV. He planned to spend his retirement years traveling the country with his fiancée.

RVMH Hall of Fame, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So in December, he bought a brand new Keystone Cougar, a 40-foot trailer, and paid the full price of $80,000. But problems became apparent as soon as he brought the RV home to Mesa, Arizona.

Among a long list of more than a dozen problems: The slide-outs aren’t sliding out properly. There’s a rip on the kitchen floor. The frame of the back window is bent. The bolts that hold one of the couches together are stripped so the back of the couch falls off. The drawers aren’t opening properly.

RVMH Hall of Fame, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“All these things are fixable and at some point in the trailer’s life will go wrong,” Kucharski said. “But when you buy brand new—and we’re talking about a lot of money … And to get home and see all this shoddy work.”

Related article: Buying an RV

The RV was sitting in a repair shop just three weeks after Kucharski bought it.

By August, a day before Kucharski was about to go on a six-day road trip, he saw the roof was coming off and large air bubbles had formed on its outer layer.

As some problems were fixed, new ones piled up.

Newmar Service Center, Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I don’t even know where to begin. I would be so outrageously angry if I wasn’t so disgusted,” Kucharski said in a scathing email he sent last month to Keystone RV and the dealership.

Keystone RV did not respond to a request for comment.

But no matter how angry he becomes, Kucharski said he knows not much will change.

“Manufacturers and dealers expect consumers to fall in line to buy RVs. So why make them better?” Kucharski said. “You just know you’re going to buy crap.”

Worth Pondering…

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

—Martin Van Buren

America’s Best All-American Roads for your Next Road Trip

Discover America’s All-American roads on your next road trip adventure

There’s nothing quite like packing up your car or recreation vehicle and heading out onto the open road. 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 the America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of the 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 seven of the most scenic All-American Roads for your next road trip adventure.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Designation: All-American Road (1996/2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural, Natural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 180 miles

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Get more tips for visiting Creole Nature Trail

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock All American Road

Designation: All-American Road (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic, Recreation

Location: Arizona

Length: 8 miles

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Get more tips for visiting Red Rock Scenic Byway

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

Designation: All-American Road (1996)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: North Carolina, Virginia

Length: 469 miles

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Get more tips for visiting Blue Ridge Parkway

Lakes to Locks Passage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lakes to Locks Passage

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Recreation

Location: New York

Length: 234 miles

Lakes to Locks Passage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Get more tips for visiting Scenic Byway 12

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway

Designation: All-American Road (2002/2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Recreation, Historic

Location: Florida

Length: 72 miles

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Patchwork Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 143 – Utah’s Patchwork Parkway

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Patchwork Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

October 2022 RV Manufacturer Recalls: 16 Recalls Involving 11 RV Manufactures

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

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

What is a recall?

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

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

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

NHTSA announced 16 recall notices during October 2022. These recalls involved 11 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (3 recalls), Keystone (2 recalls), Newmar (2 recalls), Jayco, (2 recalls), KZRV (1 recall), Riverside (1 recall), Starcraft (1 recall), Highland Ridge (1 recall), Thor Motor Coach (1 recall), Winnebago (1 recall), and Sunset Park (1 recall).

Wright’s Beach Campground, Penticton, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Salem, Wildwood, and Ozark travel trailers. The fresh water tank may dislodge from the vehicle and fall to the ground when full or overfilled.

Dealers will inspect the fresh water tank for straps. and install straps as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 9, 2022. Owners may contact at Forest River Customer Service at 1-574-534-3167. Forest River’s number for this recall is 72-1559.

Arizona Oasis RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2022-2023 Coachmen Beyond, Galleria, and Nova recreational vehicles, equipped with certain Multiplex Electronic Control Modules (ECM). The ECM software may cause the awning to unintentionally extend or retract when the vehicle is parked.

Dealers will update the Electronic Control Module (ECM), free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a schedule for recall notification. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-4995; Firefly customer service at 1-574-825-4600; or Coachmen customer service at 1-574-825-6319 or 574-825-6225. Forest River’s number for this recall is 225-1538.

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

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023 Prime Time Avenger AVT32BHS travel trailers. The supporting brackets for the rear bunkroom flip-up bunks may not be installed properly, which can cause the bunk to fail.

Dealers will reinstall the brackets, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 16, 2022. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-862-1025. Forest River’s number for this recall is 50-1566.

Clerbrook RV Park, Clermont, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Crossroads Redwood, Dutchmen Voltage, and Yukon trailers. The U-bolts on the axles may have been improperly tightened, causing the bolts to loosen and the axle to slide.

Dealers will tighten the axle spring U-bolts, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 17, 2022. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 22-436. This recall expands NHTSA recall number 21V-015.

Coastal Georgia RV Park, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2021-2023 Alpine, Avalanche, 2020-2023 Fuzion and Impact travel trailers. The hydraulic leveling leg foot pads may become loose and separate from the vehicle.

Dealers will inspect the mounting bolt and reinstall with thread locking adhesive, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 22, 2022. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 22-437.

Terre Haute Campground, Terre Haute, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newmar

Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2020-2023 Super Star motorhomes. The Federal Certification label may indicate the incorrect tire size information for the rear tires. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 120, “Wheels and Rims-Other Than Passenger Cars.”

Newmar will provide new labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on December 6, 2022. Owners may contact Newmar’s customer service at 1-800-731-8300.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newmar

Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2023 Dutch Star motorhomes. The adjustable brake pedal may come into contact with the dash panel, resulting in unintentional brake engagement, which can cause the brakes to overheat and fail.

Dealers will trim the dash panel to add more clearance at the brake pedal and dash panel, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on December 6, 2022. Owners may contact Newmar’s customer service at 1-800-731-8300.

Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023 Seismic and Seismic Luxury trailers. Fuel cap does not fit properly on the filler fuel neck for the cargo fuel tank.

Dealers will inspect and replace filler fuel neck as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 14, 2022. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number to this recall is 9901581.

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

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Jayco Jay Feather, Jay Flight, and Jay Flight SLX travel trailers. The cooktop flame may invert when the stove and furnace are operated at the same time.

Dealers will install sealant and plywood panels to seal the area, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 21, 2022. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9901582.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

KZRV

KZRV, L.P. (KZRV) is recalling certain 2023 Durango travel trailers. The living room slide out window may be missing the emergency exit.

Remedy

Dealers will inspect and install an emergency exit as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed December 8, 2022. Owners may contact KZRV customer service at 1-800-768-4016 ext. 154 or 153. KZRV’s number for this recall is KZ-2022-05.

Spartanburg Northeast/Gaffney KOA, Gaffney, South Carolina, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Riverside

Riverside RV (Riverside) is recalling certain 2023 Riverside Retro, Intrepid and Xplorer travel trailers. The electric retractable awning has a welded seam on the fabric that may separate, potentially allowing the awning to drop beyond normal operation.

Dealers will repair or replace the awnings, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed in October 2022. Owners may contact Riverside customer service at 1-260-499-4511.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Starcraft

Starcraft RV (Starcraft) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Autumn Ridge Outfitter travel trailers. The cooktop flame may invert when the stove and furnace are operated at the same time.

Dealers will install sealant and plywood panels to seal the area, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 21, 2022. Owners may contact Starcraft RV customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Starcraft’s number for this recall is 9902582.

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highland Ridge

Highland Ridge RV (Highland Ridge) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Highland Ridge Olympia, Olympia Sport, Open Range and Open Range Lite travel trailers. The cooktop flame may invert when the stove and furnace are operated at the same time.

Dealers will install sealant and plywood panels to seal the area, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 21, 2022. Owners may contact Highland Ridge customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Highland Ridge’s number for this recall is 9904582.

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

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2023 Magnitude and Omni vehicles. The Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity (OCCC) Label states the incorrect number of seat belts indicating that there are more seat belts available than there actually are. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 120, “Wheels and Rims – Other Than Passenger Cars.”

Dealers will replace the label, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed December 10, 2022. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000281.

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winnebago

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2020-2023 View and Navion vehicles. The LP fuel line is routed near the rear wheel well, which may allow the fuel line to contact the tire and become damaged, resulting in a gas leak.

Dealers will secure the LP line with secondary cable ties, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed December 2, 2022. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-641-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885. Winnebago’s number for this recall is 170.

Tucson/Lazydays KOA, Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sunset Park

Sunset Park & RV Inc. (Sunset Park) is recalling certain 2022 Sunset Park & RV Sun Lite and Rush travel trailers. The welded seam on the fabric may separate, allowing the awning to drop beyond normal operation.

Dealers will inspect and repair, or replace the awning, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed November 17, 2022. Owners may contact Sunset Park at (260)-214-4557. Sunset Park’s number for this recall is 22E-055.

Please Note: This is the 45th in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

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

—Martin Van Buren

The Ultimate Guide to Capitol Reef National Park

Discover the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic wrinkle on earth

I’ve often said that all of southern Utah should be protected as national parkland. The entire region is filled with unusual, ornate, and beautiful geologic formations that take shape, color, and texture to a level that is truly beyond comprehension (unless you are a geologist and if that is the case you already know how special Capitol Reef is). The crown jewel of the park is Waterpocket Fold, the second largest monocline in North America, a feature that is often described as a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust resembling a coral reef turned inside out.

This one-of-a-kind landscape has sustained human life since long before European settlers knew about it. From the ancient Paleo-Indians who roamed here some 12,000 years ago to the more recent Ute and Southern Paiute peoples who were displaced from it, the land we now know as Capitol Reef has a much deeper and richer history than the average visitor knows.

Capitol Reef is perhaps Utah’s most underrated National Park. The park is about 2.5 hours east of Bryce Canyon via the Scenic Byway 12, an All-American Road. Much like Zion, the landscape is centered amid massive red rock cliffs.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated squarely in the desert, Capitol Reef sees less than 10 inches of rain per year though it does experience occasional snowfall during its chilly winter. Daytime temperatures in July and August can climb past the 100 degrees mark but the climate is generally temperate and pleasant with highs in the 40s even in December and January.

Although undeniably remote, Capitol Reef is served by a variety of small gateway towns which offer camping, restaurants, and other attractions to visitors—the closest of which is Torrey. Park-goers can also reach Grover, Teasdale, and Bicknell within a few minutes.

Explore a wrinkle in space-time—or at least in the earth’s surface—at Capitol Reef. Surrounding the geological wonder known as the Waterpocket Fold, the park is known for its fairytale landscape boasting a variety of landmarks like the Chimney Rock pillar, the Hickman Bridge arch, and Cathedral Valley. Capitol Reef National Park is also home to over 2,700 fruit-bearing trees situated in its historic orchards—apples, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, mulberries, and more are seasonally available for fresh picking.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park and its surrounding areas protected under the Bureau of Land Management are full of canyons, ridges, buttes, badlands, and monoliths creating a 387-mile playground for modern-day explorers while serving up prize shots for landscape photographers. Beyond the natural landscape is a rich cultural past spanning more than a thousand years that was cultivated by the Fremont Indians and later, Mormon settlers who pioneered the park during the turn of the 19th century. Between easy-to-access areas surrounded by undeniable beauty, boundless backcountry wilderness to explore, and interesting local history, it is unsurprising that Capitol Reef National Park sees high visitation numbers despite its off-the-beaten-path location.

Like many national parks, Capitol Reef is divided into separate and very distinct areas— Fruita Rural Historic District, Cathedral Valley, and Waterpocket Fold. I’ve outlined them below, there are three, and included some awesome spots to stop at in each of them. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fruita Rural Historic District

The Fruita Rural Historic District is the most popular area in the park in terms of visitation. The paved Scenic Drive starting near the visitor center travels 20 miles (out and back) through gorgeous slick rock scenery and provides access along the way to many established trails that trot off into the landscape. There is an important cultural history in this area of the park as well. 

The village of Fruita was established along the Fremont River by Mormon pioneers in the late 1800s who found there a rich utopia where they could flourish as the Fremont Indians had many centuries prior. The new settlers planted fruit trees along irrigation lines that were dug by the Fremont culture, trees that remain today. With that, an opportune first stop… 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fruita Orchards

The Fruita Orchards are a popular place during the spring, summer, and fall when parkgoers file into the valley to harvest peaches, apricots, and apples. Anyone is welcome to visit open areas to sample and harvest fruit for a small fee. Healthy snacks for the trail! 

Petroglyphs of the Fremont Culture

Carved into the sandstone formations in Fruita is the Fremont Petroglyphs, chipped rock art depicting animals, people, shapes, and other forms indicative of their hunter/gatherer existence. The petroglyphs can be seen on several large panels east of the park visitor center on UT Highway 24. There is parking, a boardwalk, and viewing platforms making it easy for all to catch a glimpse of the intriguing relics.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hickman Arch

No visit to a Utah national park could be complete without a sandstone arch framing the scenic landscape. The Hickman Bridge is a 133-foot natural bridge with canyon views in all directions. Getting to it is easy with roadside parking on UT 24. The trail to the bridge is a cool 1-mile.

Torrey Log School and Church

The Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS) with the help of local settlers built this one-room log structure in 1898 using natural resources found in the area that included shingles supplied by a local mill and donations of doors and windows from neighboring communities. The structure was used as a school until attendance superseded the space available. The school then evolved into a meeting house for members of the LDS church. The Torrey School and Church are now on the National Register as a historical building. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Gifford House

This rural homestead is a classic example of early 20th-century rural Utah farm homes. It was built by Calvin Pendleton in 1908 who occupied it with his family for eight years. Other private owners followed the Pendleton family until eventually, the land became part of the national park. The homestead sits on 200 acres of land and has seven rooms, a barn, and smokehouse, a garden, rock walls, and a pasture. This homestead is a prized example of earlier times and as such has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gifford House is operated today in partnership with the Capitol Reef Natural History Association and the U.S. National Park Service which operate it as a museum and learning center to preserve and to also raise awareness of Utah’s cultural past.  

Panorama Point

Panorama Point is an easy turn-off from US 24 and offers exactly what the name suggests—panoramic views in all directions. After following a short walk on a paved path to the top of the hill, fantastic views await particularly so at sunset. It is also a fine place to get a sense of the lay of the land.    

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cathedral Valley

The Cathedral Valley area is a backcountry dream where you can get lost in solitude while exploring Utah’s rugged and remote wilderness ecosystems. Not only is the Cathedral Valley area completely stunning but its far-flung location is infrequently visited allowing visitors a respite from crowds found in more accessible areas. There is much to see and do in the Cathedral Valley—driving on primitive roads under big skies, shooting the sunrise at cool formations like the Temple of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, camping and hiking with peace as your guides… it’s amazing out there!  

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glass Mountain

One of the coolest sites in the national park is Glass Mountain, a small formation of exposed gypsum made of selenite crystals. The textured mound looks like it is decorated by broad brush strokes of dirt exposing glassy crystals. You can find it next to the Temple of the Moon monolith and plan for at least 30 minutes to explore it. Even though it is relatively small when compared to other features in the park and climbing on its delicate gem is forbidden it is so unique and interesting that you will probably find yourself doing laps around it spellbound by the incredible textured shapes of the gypsum. 

Gypsum Sinkhole

Five miles from the Cathedral Valley campground is the Gypsum Sinkhole—a 200-foot deep, 50-foot wide chasm that formed when water dissolved the below-ground gypsum foundation allowing the site to cave in. It is astounding to stand over and look down into a depression like this falling so deep into the Earth, a reminder of the forces of nature always at work beneath the planetary surface. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Morrell Cabin

The historic Morrell Cabin and Corral in Cathedral Valley sheds light on how this area has been used during the last century. It was built in the 1920s on Thousand Lake Mountain by a wealthy landowner named Paul Christensen and was moved during the 1930s to its current location in the Cathedral Valley by Lesley Morrell. Locally known as “Les’s Cabin,” it once served as a stop along for cattle ranchers traveling to and from Thousand Lake Mountain where they could eat, sleep, rest, and refuel. The National Park Service purchased the site in 1970. It is listed today on the National Registrar of Historic Places.  

Waterpocket Fold

Waterpocket Fold, the geologic feature, is a 100-mile rocky spine extending from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell. Its technical name is a monocline which citing the Oxford Dictionary is a “bend in rock strata that is otherwise uniformly dipping or horizontal.”

Waterpocket Fold, the area, is the least visited section of the national park. It has few services and few marked trails that are of course highly enticing for backpackers who want to head out into the wilderness to get lost. The Halls Creek Narrows and the Lower Muley Twist Canyon are two of the most popular spots in the park to set off from on a backpacking adventure.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fact Box

Size: 37,711 acres

Date established: December 18, 1971 (designated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a National Monument in 1937) 

Location: South-central Utah

Designation: Certified IDA International Dark Sky Park

Park elevation: 3,687 feet to 11,574 feet, alverag elevation is 6,384 feet 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park entrance fee: $20/vehicle, valid for 7 days

Camping fee: $25

Recreational visits (2021): 1,405,353

How the park got its name: Capitol Reef was given its name for the white domes of Navajo sandstone that resemble the domes of the capitol buildings found throughout the United States and for the rocky cliff formations, the “reef,” which presents a barrier to travel through this rugged terrain just as it does in the sea. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Iconic site in the park: The massive monolith formations found in the Cathedral Valley look like church cathedrals as their name suggests and jump out from the backdrop like the subject of a children’s pop-up book. The 57-mile loop drive taken to get there passes through the San Rafael Swell, an all-terrain environment that takes some commitment (and a high clearance vehicle) to get to. The most well-known “cathedrals” are the 400-foot high Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon, each of which captures beautiful golden light during both sunrise and sunset depending on where you stand.

Accessible adventure: Ancient past meets modern present for auto-tourists along the paved park road (UT 24) and Scenic Drive, two separate roads that wind through the heart of the park in the Fruita Rural Historic District. These roads bring visitors passed rivers, valleys, orchards, historical rural buildings, petroglyphs, and aside formations made of sedimentary rock that is 225 million years old. There are nearly 40 established trails throughout the Fruita area as well as plenty of wildlife-watching opportunities, so keep your eyes peeled and drive safely.

Did you know?

Utah is home to what the state calls “The Mighty 5” —Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef National Parks.

The nearest traffic light to Capitol Reef National Park is 78 miles away.

There is no formal entrance to the national park. Payment is due at the visitor center and you are on your honor. Have honor!

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are 10 sites in Capitol Reef National Park on the National Registrar of Historic Places. 

Capitol Reef is approximately 60 miles long and about 6 miles wide.

Waterpocket Fold is nearly 100 miles long.

Most of Capitol Reef is made of sedimentary strata rock ranging in age from 270 to 80 million years old.  

There are 239 recorded bird species in the national park.

Worth Pondering…

 …of what value are objects of a past people if we don’t allow ourselves to be touched by them. They are alive. They have a voice. They remind us what it means to be human; that it is our nature to survive, to be resourceful, to be attentive to the world we live in.

—Terry Tempest Williams, Exploring the Fremont