39 Best Apps for RV Travel (iOS & Android)

Apps for RV travel can come in handy on the road. From finding a place to stay to documenting your journey, chances are you will find more than one app that fits your needs.

Planning and executing the perfect RV road trip can be a challenge and having the right RV-related apps makes all the difference.

Whether you’re going on a weekend camping trip or you’re full-timing in your rig, there are numerous things to consider when you’re hitting the road in your RV. Where are you going to camp? Will there be internet? Will it rain and keep you trapped inside all weekend?

Whether you’re looking for free dispersed camping options, a place to dump your RV tanks, read campground reviews, connect with other travelers, plan your route, or check the weather there’s a mobile app or two (or three) to help you do just that. 

Keep reading for my list of favorite apps for RVing and travel.

There’s an app for that © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apps for RV travel: Find a place to overnight

Finding a place to stay, of course, is integral to any successful RVing adventure which is why five of the 39 apps deal with finding a place to stay overnight.

Allstays: Allstays lists campgrounds, boondocking spots, BLM land, parks, attractions and more, and it shows them all on a map. You can search near you or along a route or by state and you can have the map show you everything from campgrounds to interstate rest areas to Walmarts, RV dump sites, pretty much anything an RVer needs to find.

Harvest Hosts: More than 5,100 farms, wineries, breweries, and attractions across North America are listed in this subscription service…places where RVers can stay free overnight. The app shows details, gives directions, contact numbers, photos, and reviews from other RVers. Many of the Harvest Hosts offer overnight camping in absolutely beautiful spots.

KOA: KOA is the go-to campground for many RVers. The app lets you see photos of the campground, get an idea of what amenities are available, and read reviews from other RVers who have stayed there. You can also reserve a spot from the app.

Overnight RV Parking/TogoRV: Togo RV is now integrated into Roadtrippers Premium

Cracker Barrel: The Cracker Barrel app shows Cracker Barrel locations near you or on your route, many of which allow free overnight stays in the parking lot for RVers. You can also order take-out meals from restaurants along your route allowing you to have it ready by the time you get there. Cracker barrel is very friendly to RVers usually offering parking even for big rigs.

There’s an app for that © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apps for RV travel – Plan a trip

Whether plotting out a trip or already on the road and looking for a place to stop, these apps help you find the destinations you’ll be seeking out.

iExit: Making a pit stop for food, gas, or a bathroom break is easy when you have the iExit app. Whether you’re looking for well-known franchises like Starbucks and Walmart to convenient amenities like free Wi-Fi and truck or trailer parking, this app has you covered. It locates fuel stops, tells you the average cost per gallon, notes what restaurants and businesses are at that exit.

Yelp: Yelp can help you find restaurants, bakeries, donut shops. Pick a location and see what’s near you.

Here’s a hint: Always look for places with the best reviews, four or five stars.

Roadtrippers: This app helps you find fun and interesting things to see along your travel route. You can filter it however you want but the app covers just about every region in the country and makes some great suggestions for off-the-beaten-path exploration. Read the reviews from others who have been there and you’ll find some fun places to stop.

Waze: Waze is a community-driven travel app that shows you the shortest possible route to your destination. Like Google Maps, Waze makes real-time adjustments for traffic jams and other obstacles—but Waze is often more accurate since it caters specifically to drivers.

Yes, you may have GPS built into our RV. But Waze is hands down the best app I have found to not only navigate us to where we need to be but to show us in almost real-time things like traffic backups, speed traps, road construction, debris on the road, and other important information about what’s ahead. It’s updated by users like you who are up ahead and you’re encouraged to report issues you encounter for those behind you.

GasBuddy: GasBuddy is an app specifically designed to find nearby gas stations and save money on gas. Use it to find the cheapest gas in your area and filter gas stations by amenities like car washes, restaurants, and bathrooms.

It’s the app you want to have if you’re serious about finding the cheapest gas around. Information comes from users like you, so you have the most up-to-date prices.

There’s an app for that © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apps for RV travel – Connect with a physician while on the road

Health care should always be a priority when you’re on the road. These apps can connect you with a physician via smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Keep in mind of course there will be costs/insurance involved.

Teladoc connects you with a board-certified doctor 24/7/ via phone or video. Teladoc physicians can diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication, for many medical issues, including sore throat and stuffy nose, cold and flu symptoms, and respiratory infection. The app is free for iOS and Android with costs for connecting with a doc dependent on insurance and other factors.

Doctor On Demand allows users to connect face-to-face with a doctor through video on your smartphone or tablet. Doctor On Demand works with or without insurance and is available at reduced rates through many major health plans and large employers. Providers are licensed and board-certified. The app is free for iOS and Android with costs for connecting with a doctor dependent on insurance and other factors.

MDLive offers virtual doctor visits with board-certified physicians from wherever you are, whenever you want. Users can schedule a non-emergency appointment at a time and day that’s convenient or have an on-demand visit in around 15 minutes. The app is free for iOS and Android though there are costs for connecting with a doc dependent on insurance and other factors.

Apps for RV travel – Keep track of your family and friends

Keeping track of family members and friends you might be traveling with is important. Likewise, if you’re traveling solo, you want to make sure others know where you are located while on the road. These apps take the idea of staying connected to a whole new, safer level.

Life360 sets up small circles of friends to automatically share information such as location and arrival. You can create custom circles, too, like if a group is going on a hike or exploring and wants to keep track of each other for a short time. The app allows for chatting and sending private messages to other users. It’s free for Android and iOS.

MamaBear Family Safety: MamaBear Family Safety is designed for parents to monitor their kids’ location. But since it allows users to get updates and messages, it can easily be oriented towards RVing. For example, you could use it to check in with family back home and keep them updated as to your location without having to text or call or check-in. The app even has a panic button that can be activated if needed.

For parents, the app has a social media monitor that allows Mom and Dad to see what the kids are doing on social media. It even can be set to show their teen’s driving habits to know if they are speeding. But RVers could use those features so friends and family back home could follow their social media posts and see whether they are on the road or camped somewhere.

Apps for RV travel – Summer Safety

With the brunt of RVing during the summer it’s important to remember the elements presented by Mother Nature during the warmest time of the year. These apps help you practice even better summer safety.

OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helps you take precautions against outdoor heat while working or playing. It features a real-time heat index and hourly forecasts, specific to your location. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Waterlogged app makes sure you stay hydrated. The app tracks your water intake with minimal effort and can send reminders of when it’s time to drink water. The app is free for iOS and Android with in-app purchases for premium features.

EPA’s SunWise UV Index app provides a daily and hourly forecast of the expected intensity of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun as well as sun safety tips to help you plan your outdoor activities. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Apps for RV travel – Get help in the kitchen

I suppose you could technically dine out for every single meal you have while on the road but that doesn’t seem especially economical or super healthy. Be sure to check out these steady flows of recipes tailored to RVing as well as resources for great-tasting dishes.

Tasty Meal Planner & Cookbook offers more than 3,000 recipes right at your fingertips. The app features an innovative search tool that allows you to filter by ingredients, cuisine, and social occasion you’re in the mood for. There are even videos to help you figure it all out. The app is free for iOS and Android.

NYT Cooking browses and searches thousands of recipes from The New York Times. Recipes feature photography and easy-to-follow instructions. It sets up your own personal recipe box. Mark recipes you’ve cooked, rate recipes, and leave notes. The app is free for iOS and Android with premium features available for purchase.

Food Network Kitchen includes more than 80,000 recipes and step-by-step cooking classes. Choose from more than 50 live classes each week taught by your favorite Food Network stars, culinary experts, award-winning chefs, and surprise celebrity guests. The app is free for iOS and Android.

There’s an app for that © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apps for RV travel – Connect with nature

Use your smartphone or tablet to (ironically) connect with nature.

Audubon Bird Guide is an app that helps you get outside and get your birdwatching on. It covers 810 species using photos instead of drawings, includes range maps, has a good selection of audio recordings including alternate calls and regional variations, and slightly more descriptive text including habitat, range, and nesting information. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Sky Guide shows a detailed picture of the heavenly bodies above as well as what’s over the horizon and on the other side of the world. The app points out constellations and their exact locations so you can look up at the real sky and find everything. The app is $2.99.

iNaturalist app helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over 400,000 scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature when you document what you’ve seen. The app is free for iOS and Android.

There’s an app for that © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apps for RV travel – Fishing apps

What’s a great RV trip without doing some fishing? We have three apps for RV travel that will help you.

Fishbrain is currently the number one fishing app serving as a personal fishing log, map, and forecasting tool. Other features explore the most effective baits and you can know exactly what you’ve caught with the app’s species recognition tool. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Fishing Points lets you save and find your favorite fishing locations and trolling paths. There are satellite views from Google Maps or you can use offline mode with nautical charts for boating whether on open seas, lakes, or rivers. The app is free for iOS and Android.

BassForce puts the expertise of the greatest bass anglers of all time right at your fingertips. Just input the conditions for your fishing day and the app’s pros will show you the specific baits that have worked for them under those exact same conditions. The app is free for iOS.

Apps for RV travel – Streaming video apps

With so many TV shows and movies available in so many different services like Netflix, Hulu, and more, keeping track of it all can be a big job—especially if you’re looking for your favorites.

JustWatch Streaming Guide lists streaming services where you can watch movies and TV for free, rent, or buy. There are nearly 40 streaming providers including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go. The app has lots of interest and genre filters and newly added shows and movies for each service. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Yidio Streaming Guide monitors major services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime as well as smaller services, delivering more than 100 in total. When you find a TV show or movie, the app will list the streaming sites that have it available. Choose one and you will be taken to their app or website to buy, rent, or watch. Some shows you can watch in-app. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Apps for RV travel – Improve your sleep

Having trouble sleeping? These apps can monitor how well you sleep—or don’t. This information can be especially useful if working with a physician to address what could be pretty serious problems.

SleepScore app tracks your sleep and shows when you sleep light, deep, and when you wake up. The app uses sonar technology so you only have to have your phone by your bedside for it to work. The app is free for iOS and Android with premium features available for purchase.

Sleep Cycle provides analysis to help you get a good night’s sleep. The app has an intelligent alarm clock designed to gently wake you up while you’re in your lightest sleep phase. It also integrates with Apple Health. The app is free for iOS and Android with premium features available for purchase.

Apps for RV travel – Weather apps

Bad weather can happen anytime. There are several apps for RV travel that will help you prepare for the worst when it comes to the potential devastation that can be brought by Mother Nature.

Drive Weather app illustrates the National Weather Service’s forecast shows weather along your route at the expected time you will be at each point on your trip. Drive Weather also compares weather on different routes allowing drivers to add stops and interactively change departure time to find the safest time to travel. The app is available for Android and iOS.

NOAA Weather Radar Live provides weather forecasts with features including a radar overlay that shows areas of rain, snow, and mixed precipitation in high resolution and vivid colors. Set your device to received alerts from the app whenever severe weather is on the way. The app is free for iOS and Android.

The Storm Radar app brings you up-to-date high-definition radar provided by NOAA. In fact, Storm Radar lets you view weather patterns up to six hours ahead of time. Allow the app to send you notifications and you won’t even have to keep checking the app for bad weather that might be on the way. The app is free for iOS and Android.

The Weather Radar app from AccuWeather goes beyond your local forecast to provide a daily snapshot of the UV index, visibility, allergy, precipitation, and air quality reports, all the information can be accessed directly via the app. Look ahead 15 days to ensure you’re prepared for any weather or use the app’s MinuteCast feature for hyper current and local forecasts. The app is free for iOS and Android.

There’s an app for that © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apps for RV travel – Petcare on the road

With so many RVers traveling with their pets, I would be remiss to not include two apps that can be useful for RVing with four-legged friends.

Pet First Aid from the American Red Cross is a first aid guide and knowledge base for owners of dogs and cats. The app provides instant access to simple first aid lessons, step-by-step guides, and how-to videos. There’s also a section for vet contact details. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Rover: Dog Sitters & Walkers is often called a Uber for dog sitters. It helps you find dog sitters near you all of whom have been vetted for trustworthiness and the service is covered by insurance. Book a pet sitter for boarding, house sitting, and doggy daycare. Sitters can use the app to provide photo updates and notifications to pet owners. The app itself is free for iOS and Android.

Apps for RV travel – Document your journey

When it’s all said and done, you may want to document your story for your records—or to share with others.

Driftr: Social Travel Platform app supports photos and videos and encourages sharing reviews and travel advice. Create your own travel blog instantly. Quickly and easily find the best places to stay, attractions, places to eat anywhere in the while taking advantage of exclusive offers. It’s helpful in planning a trip as well. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Day One Journal lets you create an entry with just one click or use one of the numerous templates. You can add data like location, weather, the music you are listening to, and more. Plus, you can embed photos and videos or even draw. And to make sure you stay consistent, you can set notifications to remind you that it’s time to journal. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Worth Pondering…

You don’t need to have all the answers. What you need to do is be curious and open-minded enough to learn.

—David Fialkow, co-founder of General Catalyst

Stargazing Kit for Camping and RVing

One of the best things about camping is getting away from city lights and gazing into the night sky. I’ve made a list of things that’ll make it even more enjoyable in this stargazing kit for campers.

With more than 200 Dark Sky Places there are plenty of places to catch a glimpse of the majesty and wonder of the stars. Astrological adventures and stargazing trips are a great way to explore natural phenomena in the night sky whether you’re planning around a supermoon or a meteor shower. 

For millennia, humanity has gazed upon the heavens searching for the answer to the universe. Although the constant movement of stars was the easiest to record, other events like the movements of neighboring planets and eclipses were also predicted and charted. Astronomy has always focused on the observations of its heavenly bodies.

Astronomy is the study of the planets, moon, stars, sun, galaxies, gas, dust, comets, and any other non-Earthly phenomena and bodies. NASA defines it simply as “the study of the planets, stars and space.”

With so many stars in the sky and a universe so vast, stargazing helps put life (and all of our problems) into perspective! It’s one of the biggest perks of camping when you have an open sky filled with stars above you.

Of course, all you need to stargaze is a clear sky and a craned neck. But to really soak in the heavens and enjoy your time outside at night, it helps to be comfortable. It’s also nice to know what you’re looking at and to see things even better.

Along the Bush Highway, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the way, I have written:

You should check those out, too.

Alrighty, let’s just jump right into this. The sooner we get through the items, the sooner you can plan your stargazing adventure.

1. Yoga mat

Um, I want to look at stars, not do yoga. I hear ya! But a quality yoga mat is better than any picnic blanket you’ll find. With their thick padding, you can lay down anywhere and comfortably gaze up at the stars.

It’s light and easy to carry with its strap. And it’s not a problem if it gets wet. Just be sure to let it air dry before you store it. 

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Travel blanket and pillow

Look for a soft blanket made of microfiber fleece with waterproof backing. Some even come with a small inflatable pillow which means you can use the pillow and blanket at the same time.

Both the blanket and pillow zip up into a little bag. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, and, most importantly, very cozy!

Instead of sitting in a folding chair or camp chair where you have to crane your neck upward for hours to watch the stars, a more comfortable option is to spread out a warm, soft blanket. A good choice, the Lumberlander Camp Blanket from Duluth Trading Company will help you get comfortable on the ground. For a water-resistant option to keep the dampness of the ground from seeping in as the night goes on, REI’s Camp Blanket works perfectly.

3. Comfy, warm clothes

The travel blanket is really nice but you’ll also want to wear some warm, comfy clothes. There are obviously so many different options to choose from. But, obviously, any comfy, warm clothes will do.

I recommend a long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt to keep the bugs off your arms. A hoodie is great too.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Bug spray

Some of the best stargazing spots are the ones that offer unobstructed views of the night sky with little to no light pollution like Big Bend National Park in Texas, Cosmic Campground in New Mexico, and Death Valley National Park in California. This means going away from the city into wide open spaces that are the perfect hangout spot for bugs—and nothing ruins the idyllic outdoor experience quite like being plagued and bitten by bugs or mosquitoes.

So, before you head out, make sure to use a long-lasting bug repellent that is effective and safe to use. Coleman SkinSmart DEET-free insect repellent spray is non-greasy, works on bugs like mosquitoes and ticks, and lasts for up to eight hours.

Stinkin’ mosquitos can ruin stargazing faster than a shooting star. I have two recommendations for bug spray. The first is a DEET-free botanical formula called Buzz Away Extreme. It’s perfect for those who want to use a natural repellent against mosquitos and ticks.

For those who are more concerned about ultimate protection and less about chemicals, there is Off! Deep Woods Bug Spray. It has 25 percent DEET and repels mosquitos, ticks, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers.

5. Backyard guide to the night sky

Good ol’ National Geographic created this excellent guide that lives up to its name. It provides essential information that’s easily understood and organized logically. 

It starts with the easiest constellations and then explains how to star-hop across the night sky to find others nearby. You’ll learn about black holes, solar flares, supernovas, and more.

It’s really a great guide for the whole family. A must-have in your stargazing for campers kit!

Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Guide to the stars map

Purchasing a star map can be extremely helpful; you see what exactly it is you are looking at in the sky. 

This is a neat little gadget to play with. This map helps you find constellations visible to you based on the time and date and where you are.

It’s designed for beginners, so don’t worry if it sounds difficult to use. It’s not!

7. Using Star Charts and Wheels

Star wheels, also called planispheres, are circular maps of the stars designed to show what stars are viewable in the sky on any date and time. Ideal for people who are just starting out, planispheres use a star chart in the shape of a circle to provide a clear and easily maneuvered view of the brightest constellations, stars, and deep sky objects visible from a specific latitude.

Crystal River, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Red flashlight

In order to read your stars map, you’re going to need a flashlight. But you don’t want to use a standard bright flashlight. Your eyes will have to keep adjusting to the darkness if you do.

Instead, you want to use a red flashlight. You’ll be able to see what you need to see without affecting your night vision. The added perk is red lights don’t disturb animals so you may spot some nocturnal wildlife while stargazing. 

9. SkyView Lite App

For those of you who don’t want to mess with a stars map (even though it’s fun), there’s a great modern option. SkyView Lite is a cool augmented reality app that outlines the constellations and names the planets on your iPhone.

You simply point your device’s camera at the sky and it’ll tell you what you’re looking at. It’s really neat, and one of the few times you’ll ever hear me encouraging people to use their phones while camping.

If you have an Android, look into using Star Walk2. And if you REALLY want to explore all the available apps, Space.com has a full review post for you to explore.

10. Beginner astronomy binoculars

Telescopes are bulky and hard to use. So, they’re not ideal for camping unless you’re an avid astronomy hobbyist. Celestron 7X50 beginning astronomy binoculars are a much more practical option for most people.

While the magnification won’t really compare to a telescope, they do give you a closer look with nice details and a sharp image. They come at a great price (under $50) especially relative to their highly-rated value.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Fuel and hydration

Those of us who have pulled an all-nighter know the importance of caffeine and hydration for staying awake. This is even more important if you are spending a night outside stargazing. In fact, the Milky Way is most visible from 3 a.m. to sunrise in the summer months and from late evening to overnight hours during the fall. InstaFuel chai, coffee latte, and matcha powders from Laird Superfood—sipped from a travel coffee mug or insulated bottle like Yeti’s 46-ounce Rambler—are easy on-the-go options for a late night caffeine fix.

12. Backpack with cooler compartment

Now that you have everything your need for stargazing, you need something to keep it all in. Plus, some snacks, of course!

A large Matein backpack has plenty of room for your guidebook, binoculars, flashlight, map, bug spray, and possibly you can even fit your pillow and blanket pouch or at least clip it onto it. 

Best of all, it has an insulated compartment for a few snacks and drinks. Now you’ll have everything you need for stargazing while camping. It comes in a few different patterns, too.

Worth Pondering…

I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly—or ever—gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe.

—Brian Greene

The Otherworldly Wonderland of Rocks: Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument is recognized by its whimsical rock gardens with pinnacles that reach hundreds of feet skyward. This is the homeland of the Chiricahua Apache who relied on the natural resources in the area as far back as the 1400s.

A Wonderland of Rocks is waiting for you to explore at Chiricahua National Monument. The 8-mile paved scenic drive and 17-miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds, and inhabitants of this 12,025 acre site.

About 120 miles east of Tucson, Arizona lies a sea of monolithic wonders forged in volcanic fury. Here, thousands of rocky hoodoos twist skyward under a vivid blanket of stars. The Martian-like landscape is crawling with rare creatures and abstract natural phenomena unlike any you’ve ever seen.

The Chiricahua Mountains stand shoulder to shoulder rising over 6,000 feet in silent solidarity from the surrounding Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Driving south from Willcox, Arizona, Highway 186 is sun-faded and snaked with cracks. Beyond barbwire fences, cattle graze on what grass they can find. A solitary pickup passes us, heading to town.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We are entering Chiricahua National Monument named for the Chiricahua Mountains, homeland of the Chiricahua Apache people who lived here for generations.

Driving down the monument’s main road, I glimpse green and shady Bonita Canyon Campground at the base of a redrock wall. This is my first view of the area’s stone columns and pinnacles. The Apache reportedly called this region, The Land of Standing-Up Rocks.

Twenty-seven million years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions rapidly covered 1,200 square miles with ash. The hot ash deposits (tuff) compressed into rock—welded tuff—and as it cooled, it contracted and cracked allowing wind, water, and freeze/thaw cycles to erode these towering cylindrical shapes.

Dubbed the The Land of Standing-Up Rocks by the Apache, Chiricahua’s iconic rhyolite pillars earned it national monument status back in 1924. These otherworldly oddities—reminiscent of the orange-hued hoodoos of Utah’s Bryce Canyon—number in the thousand and were formed millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption 1,000 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens. Adding to the mystique, Chiricahua is one of Arizona’s sky islands, a prodigious mountain range that emerges from the desert like a hazy mirage.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unique geological features of sky islands result in some pretty unpredictable climate conditions; think t-shirts at the lower elevations and winter coats closer to the highest peaks. And as the elevation changes, so do the ecological communities.

Located at the convergence of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Madres, the Sonoran Desert, and the Chihuahuan Desert, Chiricahua is home to five world biomes that range from deserts and grasslands to chaparral, deciduous, and coniferous forests. It’s basically the Grand Central Station of ecosystems and it’s teeming with innumerable desert-dwelling critters and creepy crawlies.

Here’s how to best experience the starry skies, ancient lava flows, and wildlife of this Southwestern dreamscape.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise through Bonita Canyon

Seeing the best of Chiricahua doesn’t necessarily mean lacing up your hiking boots: Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive serves as the perfect gateway to adventure. This eight-mile drive provides access to scenic pullouts, trailheads, and Bonita Canyon Campground. Enjoy the scenic drive as it rambles through cypress, oak, and pine forests and climbs to Massai Point where you’ll gaze over a sea of trippy hoodoos, distant mountain ranges, and surrounding valleys from a 6,880-foot vantage.

Be sure to stretch your legs along the paved half-mile Massai Nature Trail. The path is outfitted with informative signs about the natural history of the area so you can depart Chiricahua with some impressive facts that give context to your photos. Oh, if you want to catch a sunset, this is the place.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be wowed under a blanket of stars

Unparalleled sunsets are a highlight in Chiricahua but that little ball of fire dropping behind distant mountain ranges is just the opening act. Chiricahua is a premier destination for astronomy tourism and it wows with spellbinding views of the crystal-clear night sky.

In 2021, Chiricahua added International Dark Sky Park status to its resume making it the 12th such stargazing destination in Arizona. Definitely stay up past your bedtime for a chance to glimpse the Milky Way in all its glory.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore hidden grottoes and towering volcanic rocks

Overall, there are 17 miles of day-use hiking trails snaking through the monument ranging from easily accessed to knee-shaking. For a panoramic view, Sugarloaf Mountain should be first on your list. The 1.8-mile moderate hike rises 7,310 feet above canyons to one of the highest points in the monument. It winds through carved tunnels and culminates at a fire lookout that offers far-reaching views in every direction.

Echo Canyon Loop is your best bet for stellar photo ops. Spanning 3.3 miles and best hiked counterclockwise (trust me on this one), Echo Canyon Loop leads you through rock pinnacles and popular areas of the monument including the grottoes and through the narrow rock wall corridors known as Wall Street.

The ultimate physical test has to be The Big Loop. Landing at the top of the list of the most strenuous trails in the monument, the 9.5-mile loop twists through mazes of rhyolite formations and it’s peppered with scenic outlooks which make the trek through those elevation changes worth the sweat. Tackling the Big Loop gets you up close and personal with the monument’s most notable (and aptly named) geologic formations like Camel’s Head, Kissing Rock, and Big Balanced Rock.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Encounter some truly wild wildlife

From falcons and finches to swallows and swifts, southeastern Arizona is renowned for its avian diversity. In fact, close to 200 bird species have been documented throughout the monument. Each year, thousands of migrating birds funnel through Chiricahua highlighted by massive migrations between mid-April and mid-May.

Far from simply a birder’s paradise, Chiricahua is one of the northern hemisphere’s most biologically diverse areas. Javelina, black bear, jaguar, ocelot, whitetail deer, and the white-nosed coati (the cuter cousin of the common raccoon) are among the 71 species of mammals in the monument.

There are also 46 species of reptiles—including the western box turtle and venomous banded rattlesnake—and eight amphibian species including the smirking, striped tiger salamander that inhabits Chiricahua’s wetland areas.

Like the fauna, the flora in Chiricahua abounds. Experts cite that 1,000 plant species flourish throughout the monument including an eye-popping, sinus-destroying superbloom of desert wildflowers. For the best wildflower peeping, plan your trip for late spring or early summer.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Things to know before you go

Chiricahua’s busiest months are March and April but ultimately the best time to visit is between March and June or from October to November. Just remember as a rule to expect the unexpected. In Chiricahua, weather events like unpredictable thunderstorms are common in the summer monsoon season and snowstorms are a normal occurrence during winter months.

Road tripping in? Campers and RVers are allowed inside the monument boundary and in the campground but all vehicles longer than 24 feet are prohibited on Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive. The closest services are in Sunizona and Wilcox, 24 miles and 34 miles away, respectively. That’s a long way to walk for gas—especially with ocelots watching—so fuel up before you enter and keep an eye on the gauge.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping

Bonita Campground is the only area where camping is permitted in the monument. It has 26 individual sites and they go fast. Reserve campsites through recreation.gov. Vehicle length limit is 29 feet. The campground is equipped with flush toilets and running water but that’s about it. There are no hookups, showers, or laundry facilities and cell service is nonexistent.

Chiricahua does have a visitor center and a bookstore, but it’s not a big-box grocery store by any means. Some food items are stocked but you probably won’t see any spirulina-dusted artisan popcorn on the shelves here. There are no restaurants, either. So bring plenty of provisions and water for your trip and prepare to be awed.

Worth Pondering…

Most travelers hurry too much…the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open … with real inward attention. …you can extract the essence of a place once you know how.

―Lawrence Durrell

How to Go Camping in National Parks: Tips and Tricks for the Best Experience

If you missed National Park Week, you can still celebrate by camping in one of the country’s pristine national parks

Did you know you can camp overnight in many national parks? It’s one of the best ways to enjoy a national park—you can spend a night under the stars far from the noise and traffic of busy cities and enjoy an immersive experience instead of simply passing through.

The National Park Service (NPS) recently commemorated National Park Week which ran April 20-28 this year with a slew of celebrations. If you missed out on the fun, you can still celebrate by visiting a national park and even camping in one. Here is some advice for having the best experience camping at a national park.

Camping at Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to go camping in national parks

1. Reserve a campsite

Not every national park has a campground, but most do. You can find which parks have campsites on the NPS Find a Campground locator.

Once you’ve chosen your desired campground, make sure to reserve a spot. NPS campsites can fill up quickly, so you should always have a reservation before you arrive at the campground.

Some campgrounds are closed during certain times of the year because of weather so spring through fall is generally the best time to camp in a national park.

Keep in mind that the remaining national park free entrance days in 2024 are June 19, August 4, September 28, and November 11—this could be an optimal time to go if you want to avoid park entrance fees but a bad time if you want to avoid crowds.

Camping at Pinnacles National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Do your research

Once you’ve confirmed your reservation, read up on the campsite’s rules and regulations. This information available on the park’s website will let you know whether campfires are allowed (and if so, whether you can buy firewood in the park), if there are food lockers, what sort of bathrooms are available, and whether the site has potable water. This will help you plan what to bring on your camping trip.

You should also research the park itself. Each national park’s website has “plan your visit” and “learn about the park” sections which are great resources to help you prepare. Learn what the park has to offer so you can plan hikes and other excursions and study the flora and fauna so you can identify the native plants and animals you come across while there.

Camping at Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Pack for the weather

The park’s website should also have information on weather patterns so you can get a general overview of what to expect from the conditions when you visit. This will help you guide whether you need rain gear, how insulated your sleeping bag needs to be, what kind of shoes and clothes you should bring, and more. Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray!

Even if you’re camping in the middle of the summer and rain isn’t in the forecast, you should always be prepared with a rain cover for your tent, an extra blanket and a rain jacket.

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Bring food

Some national parks have restaurants on site, but many don’t. Again, do your research before you go to see what options are available within the park you’re visiting. However, in case of unexpected closures, it’s safest to bring your own food.

Nonperishable food is always great for camping but if you have the space, you can bring a cooler and have more options. If campfires or camping stoves are allowed in your campsite, you can cook something over the fire or bring packaged backpacking food and reheat it in minutes.

5. Be prepared for wild animals

If your food looks or smells enticing to you, it’ll be even more so to the animals in the parks. Make sure you keep all food safely stored—some sites have food lockers and in others you’ll want to bring a bear box.

Never keep food in your tent and make sure to clean up your food and wash all plates and utensils immediately after eating. Dispose of any trash in designated garbage bins and clear everything out before you leave your campsite.

Camping at Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Leave no trace

This is one of the most important elements of visiting any natural area but especially in a national park. These areas are beautiful, diverse environments and it’s important to protect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy and for the good of the ecosystem. Furthermore, national parks are protected by law and causing any harm to them could leave you subject to a pricey fine.

To keep them safe, follow the seven basic principles of Leave No Trace which are:

  • Plan ahead and prepare: If you know where you’re going and what the rules and regulations are, you are less likely to cause accidental harm to an area.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Never go off trail in a national park, as you can disturb the environment. Even if an off-limits area seems like plain dirt, you may actually be looking at something like cryptobiotic soil crusts, which are full of biotic organisms that hold the soil together and prevent harmful erosion. Make sure you stay within designated areas at all times.
  • Dispose of waste properly: Waste can attract animals causing dangerous situations for them or you. Additionally, garbage and other waste can pollute the local environment causing additional harm to animals and nature and making the park experience less enjoyable for others.
  • Leave what you find: While it may be tempting to pluck flowers for scrapbooking or take home a giant stick, these things are all essential parts of their respective ecosystems. Leave them where they are to avoid affecting the environment and to allow others to enjoy them.
  • Minimize campfire impacts: Nearly 85 percent of wildfires are caused by humans according to the U.S. Forest Service and unattended campfires are one of the biggest culprits. If you make a campfire, make sure you watch it constantly and keep flammable items far away from it. When you put out the fire, don’t just douse it with water; mix in cool ashes and make sure you see no smoke or glowing coals before you leave.
  • Respect wildlife: While it may be tempting to offer a squirrel your leftover sandwich crusts, it’s best not to feed animals. If you see any, make sure to admire them from a distance. If you bring any pets with you, make sure they are on a leash and stay close to you.
  • Be considerate of others: Don’t be that person that brings a loudspeaker on a hike and don’t stop to take pictures in the middle of the trail if there are people trying to get past you. Be courteous and do your best to stay out of others’ way.
Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. DIG DEEPER: The Ultimate and Complete Guide series

I have written two series of guides on national parks to help you explore these protected areas in greater depth. Each guide helps you plan your adventure and discover the magic of the park.

The Ultimate Guide series of National Parks include:

The Complete Guide series include:

Worth Pondering…

However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure.

—Michael Frome

Bird Spring Migration: Where to Go

Spring means migrating birds are on the move! Find a bird spring migration hotspot near you to see them in all their glory.

The words bird spring migration is enough to bring a gleam to any birder’s eye. Spring birding is legendary. Birds are flaunting their very best and brightest feather colors as they prepare for mating season. Their journeys take them across hundreds and even thousands of miles giving birders a chance to see a wider variety of birds. Though migratory birds can (and do) show up anywhere some spots are better than others.

Things that make an outstanding bird spring migration hotspot include:

  • Resting places before or after water crossings: Areas on the edges of large lakes, gulfs, bays, or oceans draw migrants as they rest in anticipation of their crossing or recover from their extended efforts. Some examples include Magee Marsh and Point Pelee on the shores of Lake Erie.
  • Stands of trees or water in otherwise open spaces: When birds journey across places like the Great Plains, trees or bodies of water become an immediate draw. The same goes for parks in urban places.
  • Food and fresh water: When you’re crossing a desert or a large body of salt water, there’s little food and fresh drinking water to be had. That makes places like the Dry Tortugas a real attraction for migrating birds.

I’ve gathered a list of some of the best bird spring migration hotspots across the United States. Before you go, be sure to research any fees or restrictions. Review recent eBird sightings to see what’s been showing up recently. Once you’re there, chat with other birders and find out where the action is. Finally, remember to be considerate to other birders, natural areas, and the birds.

Western scrub jay at Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bird migration hotspots can be divided into the following five regions:

  • Gulf Coast and Southeast Bird Migration Hotspots
  • West Coast and Southwest Bird Migration Hotspots
  • Rocky Mountains and Great Plains Migratory Birds Hotspots
  • Great Lakes and Midwest Bird Migration Hotspots
  • Northeast and Atlantic Coast Bird Migration Hotspots

Since our travels that coincide with spring migrations center mostly on the Gulf Coast and the Southwest, I will focus on these two regions.

Roseate spoonbills at South Padre Island Birding Center, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Coast and Southeast Bird Migration Hotspots

High Island, Texas

High Island is one of the most active spring bird migration hotspots on the Gulf coast. The whole High Island area is designed to be birder-friendly and is full of different hotspots.

Nearby: Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Smith Point, Sabine Woods

If you need ideas, check out: World Migratory Bird Day: My 12 Favorite Birding Sites in Texas

Dauphin Island, Alabama

Dauphin Island sits just off the the coast of Alabama. It’s one of the first places that migrants make landfall after flying over the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Nearby: Fort Morgan, Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf Island National Seashore

I have a helpful article on Dauphin Island: Marvelous Mobile Bay: Dauphin Island

More on birding the Alabama Gulf Coast: The Ultimate Guide to the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail

Whimbrel at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Padre Island, Texas

This is the place to go for early migrants, since it’s so far south. The best site on the island is the South Padre Island Convention Center trails.

Nearby: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Hugh Ramsey Park, Boca Chica National Wildlife Refuge

Check this out to learn more: Discover Over 500 Bird Species in South Texas

I have an article on a Texas birding trails: World Migratory Day: Texas Birding Trails

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Remote Fort Jefferson is an amazing place to be when a fallout occurs. The only fresh water on the entire island is a small well and since all of the birds need water the well is the place to be!

Nearby: Fort Zachary Taylor (Key West), Bill Baggs Cape State Park, Everglades National Park

Little blue heron at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort De Soto County Park, Florida

The special secret that brings all the birds to this park in spring is the Mulberry bushes! The sweet fruit provides the sugar kick migratory birds need after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. The best spot is the fountain and bushes behind the Ranger’s House at East Beach.

Nearby: Sawgrass Lake Park, Lettuce Lake County Park, Circle B Bar Reserve

Here is another great birding site in Florida: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: Land of the Giants

Sandhill cranes at Whitewater Draw, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

West Coast and Southwest Bird Migration Hotspots

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

This national seashore is large and you’ll need several days to really do it justice. It’s a renowned place to see Pacific Flyway migrants, especially on the outer peninsula that projects 10 miles into the ocean.

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Arizona

Arizona is known as a birder’s paradise and the San Pedro valley in spring helps prove that point. In addition to migrants keep an eye out for area specialties like the elegant trogon.

Nearby: Patagonia Lake State Park, Whitewater Draw, Madera Canyon

Here are some additional resources:

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

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

In winter, the thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes are the draw for birders here. In the spring, as the water dries up, migrating shorebirds take their place, joined by warblers, vireos, and flycatchers.

Nearby: Rio Grande Nature Center, La Joya Wildlife Management Area, Caballo Lake State Park

Here are some helpful resources:

Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, Washington

Migrating shorebirds pass through Grays Harbor in enormous numbers each spring. Look for species like red knots which spend the winter in southern South America then fly all the way north to the Arctic Circle to breed each year.

Nearby: Ocean Shores, Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Pt. Brown Jetty

Gambel’s quail at Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Butterbredt Spring, California

This is the place to go for warbler fans with more than 20 species regularly spotted during migration in late April to early June.

Nearby: Kern River County Park, California City Central Park, Kern River Preserve

With all the diversity to be seen among spring migrators, you might worry about how to make the most of your bird watching travels. My advice is to not stress out by trying to see everything at once but instead focus on one or two areas of travel.

Also, concentrate on several species and see if you can identify them. By comparing the birds you’re seeing to the ones you already know, you can start piecing everything together by color or size and develop birding skills that way.

The great thing about birding is that there’s no governing body to the enjoyment of bird watching.

Great kiskadee at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park/World Birding Center, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gather inspiration for birding and bird photography with these resources: 

Worth Pondering…

I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence―that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.

―Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Mother’s Memoir

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park: More Than 12,000 Years of Continuous Human Habitation

Imagine a place that has seen the human history of our continent from almost the very beginning—a place that has had continuous human habitation for 17,000 years. Imagine a place with sites that carry the story of the past and an ecosystem found nowhere else in the world.
This is Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park.

In the middle of Georgia, ancient mounds are the centerpiece of a preserve that protect one of the oldest and most important cultural sites in the Eastern United States. 

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park is also part of the original homeland of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation whose citizens were forcibly removed and forced to walk over 1,000 miles to Oklahoma. Today, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is the fourth largest tribe in the country with more than 94,000 citizens. Many return to Ocmulgee on pilgrimages or homecomings each year including their current Chief David Hill. 

Ocmulgee is is home to 17,000 years of continuous human history. From 900 to 1100, the original inhabitants of this area maintained a thriving civilization. Mounds were sacred sites built by hand; the Muscogee people hauled at least 10 million baskets full of dirt and clay to build the sacred mounds. The mounds are surrounded by thousands of other cultural sites that remain largely unprotected.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocmulgee was designated a national monument by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 but only 700 acres were protected. In 2019, Ocmulgee was upgraded to National Historic Park status. In 2022, the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative (ONPPI) acquired new land for the park more than doubling its size to 1,700 acres. 

Now, advocates and community leaders are aiming for full-fledged national park status and expanding the park to 70,000 acres. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has joined all efforts from the beginning of the process to create a park and aims to have an equal voice with all partners in the co-management of the final park. The Muscogee Nation has also purchased more than 100 acres of land adjacent to the current site that may soon become part of the national park.  

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“A lot of healing is happening here,” says Tracie Revis, Muscogee citizen and director of advocacy for the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative. Revis was Chief of Staff for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief Hill in Oklahoma. Last year with Chief Hill’s blessing, she made the difficult decision to move from Oklahoma to middle Georgia to focus all of her efforts on the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve.

“This is an exciting moment for us. At Ocmulgee, it won’t be just the park service talking about artifacts. We get to tell our story.”

The National Park Service is slated to finish its three-year feasibility study soon. Congressional leaders in Georgia have already expressed support for Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve. Clark hopes that Georgia’s Congressional leaders will introduce a bill this spring.

“This is our moment,” says Revis. “There has never been a better time to make this happen.”

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Both Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and National Park Service Director Chuck Sams are Native Americans who have expressed support for protecting Indigenous homelands. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is already deeply committed to the park. Ocmulgee also has widespread support from local leaders and the Macon community. Even nearby Robins Air Force Base supports the park. 

Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve would be unique: it would consist of a patchwork of 70,000 acres along the Ocmulgee River that would be co-managed by multiple agencies and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Other national parks have consulted and included Native Americans as co-managers but never has a park east of the Mississippi been co-created by a Native American nation or tribe. Ocmulgee would be the first park in the East—and one of the only parks in the country—to be co-created and co-managed by Indigenous people.

Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve would include the Bond Swamp, a biological hotspot that is home to endangered species and a rare population of black bears in Middle Georgia. The 70,000-acre mosaic of lands would also protect the Ocmulgee River corridor and some of the best hunting and fishing sites in the South. Its dual designation as a national park and preserve would enable hunting to continue which is typically not allowed in national parks. 

Ocmulgee will ultimately be a hub for hundreds of miles of cultural and recreational trails across Middle Georgia and could eventually connect Ocmulgee with the Altamaha River corridor and public lands along Georgia’s coastal plain providing vital ecological and wildlife connectivity.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plans for Ocmulgee also include a Muscogee Creek Cultural Center that will be owned and operated by the Muscogee people. It will celebrate the traditions, dances, and songs that Muscogee survivors have kept alive for centuries.

Revis recalls hearing songs at funerals and a song that her grandmother used to sing to her. Those were songs that were sung by her ancestors on the Trail of Tears. More than 15,000 Indigenous people died along the way. But the survivors held on.

“We didn’t cease to exist,” says Revis. “We weren’t erased. We are survivors and this is a new day for us,” says Revis. “We are returning home.” 

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience It for Yourself

Ocmulgee Mounds is already a National Historic Park open to the public. Each September, the park hosts an Ocmulgee Indian Celebration. In 2024, the 32nd annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration will take place on September 14-15 from 10 am to 5 pm.

The celebration will feature traditional cultural crafts, storytelling, educational programs, live demonstrations, music, and dance. Native American arts and crafts vendors will be selling their crafts and food with be available for purchase.

Worth Pondering…

This is where it originally started. It’s our history; it’s who we are. So the fire that’s in your heart is also the fire that’s here.

—Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill

The Ultimate Guide to Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park is filled with great hiking, beautiful Navajo sandstone formations, ancient lava rock (basalt), and out-of-this-world views, so come along, as we tour this amazing hidden gem.

On the edges of ecosystems, eras or civilizations, you’ll find some of the most remarkable travel destinations. Snow Canyon State Park is one such place. Located at the edge of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau, Snow Canyon State Park explodes with dramatic geology perfect for your outdoor adventure—and photo opportunities.

Cut by water, sculpted by wind and time, Snow Canyon’s Navajo sandstone cliffs share the same history and geology as Zion National Park to the east. You may find yourself wondering why it isn’t a national park.

As recently as 27,000 years ago lava flows exerted their powerful force reshaping the canyons and creating the park’s distinctive landscapes. The blend of Navajo sandstone cliffs, petrified sand dunes, and broad lava fields make this terrain a fantastic playground for both adventurous travelers and families looking to give kids an outlet to expend some of their boundless energy.

Snow Canyon State Park is one of those state parks often overlooked by people touring Utah. While Utah is obviously known for The Mighty Five and as a prime destination for winter recreation as well, there are also 43 state parks. Many of these parks are just as majestic as the national parks but without the crowds. Also, state parks are generally dog friendly.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where is Snow Canyon State Park?

Snow Canyon State Park is located in southwestern Utah near the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. If you are planning to stay close to the park, the best city to stay in is St. George because it is just an 11-mile drive.

When to visit Snow Canyon State Park

Spring and fall have average high temperatures of 80 degrees and 73 degrees respectively creating a sweet spot for active adventures at Snow Canyon. Summer can get pretty warm with very little shade available but getting out early in the day is ideal. Winter packs mild temps and all activities remain available. 

Despite its name, the park rarely sees snow. (The park is named for Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, Utah pioneers, not the white precipitation.)

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park is about 7,400 acres located within the 62,000 acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The reserve was established to protect the desert tortoise! I wish I would have been able to see one on our visit here. It was created in 1959 and opened to the public in 1962.

It is likely that humans have been using this park for more than 10,000 years based on the artifacts found in the park. The users of the park ranged from Paleoindian mammoth hunters to 19th century settlers.

Why is it called Snow Canyon?

When people hear the word snow they often think of frozen white stuff falling from the sky. While it is possible for Snow Canyon to receive snow, it’s not common.

Snow Canyon was originally called Dixie State Park but was later renamed. The snow in Snow Canyon is in reference to two early Utah leaders, Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.

The park is also known as movie sets for a few Hollywood films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Things to do at Snow Canyon State Park

There are more than 38 miles of hiking trails, excellent biking trails, opportunities for technical climbing, and more than 15 miles of equestrian trails.

Hiking

Hiking is the prime activity in the canyon. As soon as you drive in, you can quickly see why. Gorgeous red and white sandstone streaks together with black lava flows spilling along the canyon floor- create a perfect playground for exploring on foot. Along with slot canyons to enter and lava tubes to explore, the sweeping vistas and overlooks might have you grabbing for your camera. You’ll need more than one day to do a thorough job of exploring the park’s 18 hiking trails

Check out my list of the most popular below. Distances are roundtrip.

Note: Most of these trails do not have shade. Come prepared with water (1 liter per person) and plenty of sun protection (UV clothing, sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses).

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lava Flow Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate, some uneven surfaces

Hike through a jumbled lava field, the vivid remains of a long ago volcanic eruption.

The Lava Flow Trail, also known as the Lava Tubes is a 2.5 mile, family-friendly trail that takes you back in time. The trail takes you past three lava cave entrances. Entering the caves can be a little dangerous as it can get dark and slippery at times. There is a dedicated parking for the trail head.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jenny’s Canyon Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy, level with a few slopes and steps

This is a very short trail with easy access from the road; a great children’s trail that leads to a short, sculpted slot canyon. According to the park brochure, kids enjoy this trail the most due to the geological features and because it’s a slot canyon.

It will take you half an hour to complete the hike but it might take you longer if you decide to take time to admire the Snow Canyon Sand Dunes on your way.

Petrified Dunes Trail

Distance: 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate, some uneven surfaces and steep slopes

This route crosses massive Navajo sandstone outcrops and sand dunes frozen in time.

A favorite of many, this hike takes you to one of the best viewpoints of the park. The trail is relatively well marked but you’ll definitely want to wander around and explore the unique formations in the area. It’s located in the heart of Snow Canyon State Park and one of the most photographed hikes in the canyon due to its unique beauty.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pioneer Names Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy, fairly level with some steps and slopes

This crescent-shaped trail passes pioneer names written in axle grease dating back to 1881.

This trail is accessible from two different parking lots. From the North lot, it is less than a quarter-mile to the end and the southern lot is a little more than a mile long. The hike takes you to a canyon wall that was written on by early pioneers. The axle grease writing has been preserved by an arch that hangs over it and provides a reminder of the early settlers in the area. It’s a sandy trail, so make sure to bring a good pair of shoes.

Butterfly Trail

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate, some steep slopes, steps, and uneven surfaces

Winding along the west side of Petrified Dunes this trail leads to West Canyon Overlook and lava tubes.

You can access this trail from its own parking lot or continue from Petrified Dunes Trail (see above) since they intersect. It is best known for winding along the petrified dunes and leads to several overlooks and lava tubes.

The best time to do it is in spring and fall. Start in the morning to better appreciate the great views. It’s not a family hike since it has plenty of uneven surfaces.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Johnson Canyon Trail

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy, level with some rocky slopes and steps

Leads to a sheltered canyon of willow and cottonwood winding through lava flows and red rocks to an arch spanning 200 feet.

Passing through stream beds, lava flows, and a beautiful canyon this trail is a grand experience. The canyon is more shaded than many of the other hikes making it one of the best hikes for the summer and fall months. It’s a great place to take a rest and enjoy quality time with your family and friends, and it will only take 1 hour to hike it. This trail also has seasonal closures, so check the availability before you plan your trip.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Biking

Besides simply biking the main road through the park, two other bike-friendly trails exist. The first is Whiptail Trail, an out-and-back, paved path that runs from the south entrance and through about two-thirds of the canyon. Delightful for bikers of all experience levels but the last quarter mile is steep. There’s always the option to turnaround before this steep climb.

The second bike path is West Canyon Road. Once a road, as its name suggests, it is a dirt and gravel path. Beefier tires than those of a road bike are needed but you won’t need a high-end mountain bike to enjoy this trail. The road runs four miles up the canyon and takes the west fork at the end of the canyon that will lead you past the Whiterocks Amphitheater at the northern end. This path traverses parts of the park that no other trail will show or lead to.

Access the West Canyon Road at Sand Dunes picnic and parking area for an eight-mile round-trip excursion.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rock Climbing

Well-known for its incredible rock cliffs, you’ll find from short sports clip-ups to mixed multi-pitch routes in Snow Canyon. With more than 7,100 acres available, rock climbing is one of the top outdoor activities to do here. Take a look at these areas and pick your next rock climbing route.

For a full list, visit mountainproject.com.

Johnson Canyon

Ideal for trad climbing, this trail allows you to descend at the dead end of Johnson Canyon. If you go during the week, it is almost always empty so you will have the wall for yourself. These are the coordinations: 37.17970°N / 113.6347°W. You can climb all year long.

Hackberry Wash

At this trail, you can do trad and sport climbing. If, if you are coming from St George this will be the first crag in the park. It is close to Jenny Trail (see above). The best time to climb is spring, fall, and winter. 

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Island of the Sky

This sandstone is located in the middle of Snow Canyon. To reach the top you have ledges, dihedrals, and ramps that will be a huge help. The level of difficulty is moderate and it has an elevation of 3,780 feet. There is no easy pathway in this sandstone, be prepared. You can visit any time of the year. 

Balkan Dome

One of the shortest routes in Snow Canyon but is fun to try. You can reach this part via the Pioneer Names Trail (see above). Everything is covered with sandstone that sometimes makes it harder to climb, so be patient. Is located across the Islands of the Sky and is an ideal route for sport climbing. The best time to go is summer, fall, and spring. 

West Canyon

Probably the most complete trail since you can not only do trad and sport climbing but also hike. This canyon features five routes that range from 5.8 to 5.11c. You can access it via the Three Ponds trail. The coordination is 37.19330°N / 113.6425°W.

Horseback riding

There are several trails open to horseback riding in Snow Canyon: Beck Hill Trail, Chuckwalla Trail, Gila Trail, Lava Flow (only between West Canyon Road and turn-off to White Rocks Trail), Rusty Cliffs, Scout Cave Trail, Red Sands (from West Canyon Road Trail to the west), Toe Trail, West Canyon Road, and the equestrian trail (starting at Johnson’s canyon lot and running parallel to whiptail until the sand dunes lot, from here the trail parallels West Canyon Road).

If you don’t have your own horses, a guided experience is offered by local companies. Take a leisurely stroll with an equestrian friend and soak in the views, floral, and fauna and everything Snow Canyon has to offer the senses.

Petroglyphs

If you hike the Gila Trail to about the halfway mark, trail markers designate petroglyph sites. These illustrations, carved into stone by Native Americans, are delicate historical landmarks and are fun to examine.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyoneering

Canyoneering combines hiking with rappelling allowing exploration into slot canyons and down-climbing through the canyon. It’s a unique outdoor adventure that doesn’t exist in most places but the area has lots of options. Snow Canyon has two canyoneering routes, both of which require an access permit. If you want to explore Island in the Sky or Arch Canyon, secure a permit through the state park’s website or contact a guide company to take you.

Wildlife

Snow Canyon isn’t just famous for its hiking trails, rock climbing walls, and sandstone cliffs but also for its unique wildlife. You can find coyotes, kit foxes, quail and roadrunner, and sometimes tortoises and peregrine falcons in this State Park.

Millions of people come from across the country to watch leopard lizards, gopher snakes, canyon tree frogs, and sometimes tortoises and peregrine falcons. 

There are thirteen sensitive species protected by law within the park including the Gila Monster which is the only venomous lizard in the United States. The best time to watch the wildlife is at dawn and dusk. You will have plenty of time to go hiking and observe the wildlife since the park opens at 6:00 am and closes at 10:00 pm. 

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping

A night or two under the stars is the perfect escape from a fast-paced lifestyle. Snow Canyon State Park is the ideal place to find those stars and quiet nights. The campsites will have you feeling like you’re camping in the Flintstones’ backyard with views of a cinder cone towering above and petroglyphs etched into rocks. 

There are 29 camping sites at the Snow Canyon State Park; 13 are standard sites with no hookups and 16 are sites with partial hookups that come with water and electricity. Most sites are not big-rig friendly. Group camping is also available. All sites are reservable online through reserveamerica.com.

Final thoughts

Snow Canyon State Park is truly one of the most beautiful places in all of Utah! Southern Utah is a well-known location for outdoor activities and Snow Canyon should be on any outdoor lover’s list whether you visit with friends or family.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snow Canyon State Park FAQ

Is Snow Canyon State Park worth visiting?

Absolutely! It’s one of the most popular parks in Southern Utah and has so many hidden gems like the Petrified Dunes or Lava Tubes that will blow your mind. It’s a great place to try new outdoor activities like hiking, biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and camping. Also, it’s less crowded than Zion National Park or any other National Park located in Utah.

Are dogs and other pets allowed in the park?

If you’re planning a trip with your furry friend, this is going to make you really happy because you’re allowed to bring them with you! However, they must be on a leash around the campground and they can only accompany you to the Whiptail Trail and the West Canyon Rim Trail. Take into consideration that the leash must be a maximum of six-feet long.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Address: 1002 N. Snow Canyon Road, Ivins, UT 84738

Phone: 435-628-2255

Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Directions

From I-15 northbound: Take exit 6 (Bluff Street). Go north on Bluff Street to the intersection with Snow Canyon Parkway. Turn left onto Snow Canyon Parkway and proceed approximately 3.5 miles and turn right onto Snow Canyon Drive. Follow this road to the south entrance of the park.

From I-15 southbound: Take exit 10 (Washington). Turn right off the ramp then an immediate left at the light. Follow this road for approximately 5 miles to the intersection with Bluff Street/ SR-18. Proceed through the light and continue on Snow Canyon Parkway for approximately 3.5 miles and turn right onto Snow Canyon Drive. Follow this road to the south entrance of the park.

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day-use fees:

Utah resident: $10 per vehicle (up to eight people); $5 per vehicle (up to eight people); seniors 65 and older (with UT driver’s license); $5 pedestrian/cyclists (up to four people)

Non-resident:  $15 per vehicle (up to eight people); $5 pedestrian/cyclist (up to four people)

Camping fees:

Non-hookup sites: Standard sites $40 per night; hookup sites (water/electric) $45 per night; extra vehicle fees (one extra vehicle per site permitted) $20 per night

Worth Pondering…

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.

—John Muir

The Most Dangerous Places for Overnight RV Parking + Safety Tips

After a long day of driving, finding yourself in an unfamiliar area without any RV parks in sight means seeking a safe overnight RV parking spot. Finding overnight RV parking is a challenge most RVers face at one time or another. Many RVers are concerned about this especially regarding safety. But generally speaking, you don’t have to worry too much—if you keep a few key things in mind.

RV travel is great because you always get to sleep in your own bed. But unknowingly choosing dangerous places to sleep in your RV could put your life and property at risk. That’s why even if your interior is comfortable you need to consider your overnight parking surroundings. With that in mind, I’ll discuss the top three risky places for RV travelers to park for a night or longer.

The three most dangerous places to park your RV overnight (or longer)

Before we get started, a reminder that there are exceptions to every rule. Please use your own judgment skills as you choose overnight RV parking.

Generally, staying in a dedicated campground or RV park with amenities is your safest overnight parking choice. Some RV parks and resorts even have gated entries to stop animals or trespassers from getting too close to campsites.

You may be on your way to a national parks adventure and you want to save money with a cheap or free overnight parking. We’ve all been there! Although there are many free RV parking options you’ll have to navigate additional hazards once you arrive. 

Let’s review the top three most dangerous places to sleep in your RV from the streets to the wilderness.

Camping in Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dangerous RV parking spot #1: On the street

Overnight street parking in your rig can be risky. In many places, it’s illegal to keep your RV on the street for an entire night. You could end up with a hefty fine or even get your RV towed.

Legality aside, it’s just not a great idea to park on the street if you can avoid it.

Potential thieves might see your RV as an easy target especially if they think it’s empty.

You won’t always have the benefit of security cameras from surrounding buildings either.

Instead of parking on the street, you should head for an RV-friendly parking lot. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see travel trailers and motorhomes with tow vehicles parking overnight at Walmart parking lots. Truck stops are usually filled with truckers at night and can be noisy but are usually safer than street parking.

In 2021, Love’s Travel Stops began the process of expanding its offerings by adding dedicated RV hookups at some of its travel stops. For complete details read Love’s RV Hookups: Comfortable RV Stays at Truck Stops?

You can also try overnight parking at other places like casinos. The national restaurant chain Cracker Barrel is also very RV-friendly. And outdoorsy big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, or Camping World also have large lots that can fit your RV, too! These retail stores usually have well-lit parking lots as well as security cameras. Some even have hookups or dump stations you can use for a small fee (sometimes they’re free, too!).

Dispersed camping at Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dangerous RV parking spot #2: In the wild

Some campers want to save money by boondocking or dry camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the backcountry. The U.S. and Canada have large swathes of public land in national forests where you can park for the night, totally free of charge. But even when you find a good spot, dispersed camping comes with its own hazards.

Wild animals are one of the biggest risks of backcountry RV camping. For instance, if you set up a campsite and decide to cook after a long travel day you might attract scavengers like raccoons, possums, and skunks. Even taking the food inside doesn’t always help because they can still smell the lingering aromas.

In the worst-case RV parking scenarios, you might even attract a bear!

Most bears have trouble getting into a locked RV but that doesn’t stop them from trying. You might sustain major bear damage to your RV siding, doors, and windows. Plus, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when there’s a huge predator at your campsite.

The wild is also a dangerous place to park your RV because you tend to be isolated from other people. Dispersed wild camping can be nice if you’re looking for peace and quiet but if nobody is around things can quickly go south in the event of an emergency. Boondockers tend to camp far away from other people so you won’t be able to call for help if your RV breaks down, a natural disaster strikes, or animal predators give you problems.

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

Dangerous RV parking spot #3: Risky campsites

Another dangerous RV parking choice is risky campsites in geologically active terrain.

Just because RVers stay in an established campground or RV park doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re safe. Some campgrounds are poorly maintained or located in geologic hazard zones. 

Be thoughtful as you select a campground and a specific site for the night. Consider these external factors that may lead to trouble.

Dispersed camping near Scenic Highway 24, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Questions to ask before choosing a campsite

Is your site level?

An unstable campsite can lead to disaster if your vehicle starts rolling or if the ground gives way. That’s because landslides are another potential danger if your site is on a slope or located in a hilly area previously burned by wildfire. One bad rain and your RV could get wiped out.

What do your surroundings look like?

Are there many dead trees in the area? Is the foliage particularly dry or overgrown? These can be fire hazards so you should stay away from potential kindling material. In a wind storm, dead trees can drop branches on top of your RV.

Is there water nearby?

We all love a scenic lake view or the comforting white noise of a nearby river. But bodies of water can flood in heavy rainfall. If your site is too close to the water line you might get trapped in mud or several inches of water. Proper drainage is crucial. Always put some distance between yourself and nearby water sources.

Three tips for keeping your RV (and you) safe

Between the streets, wilderness animals, and geographically risky campsites there are plenty of places that could qualify as the most dangerous places to park your RV for the night.

But in this RV life, sometimes you won’t have much of a choice. For example, your itinerary plans might fall through. Or you may desperately need to save money. In these cases, you might have to spend a few nights in these dangerous locations.

In this case, it’s important for you to protect yourself and your RV from potential harm. Nobody can prepare for every eventuality but there are some things you can do to stay safer.

Camping at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV parking safety tip #1: Buy an RV security system

For starters, invest in a top rated RV security system. This is especially helpful if you spend a lot of time camping on the streets, in rest areas, or in parking lots. Urban areas tend to have higher crime rates so you need to protect your home on wheels.

Most security systems have cameras, alarms, and ways to contact the authorities if there’s a break-in. It’s also a good idea to upgrade the locking mechanisms on your windows. Switch to a keyless RV door lock too.

RV parking safety tip #2: Take precautions against wild animals

Curious animals may visit your campsite if they smell food or other strong scents. It’s hard to deter them completely but you can prevent damage and force them to keep their distance if you take a few precautions such as:

Consider storing your food away from your RV. Bear-proof containers could be a good investment if you frequently go boondocking. You could also place your food in hard-to-reach areas.

Place animal deterrents around your campsite. Most creatures will be too scared to approach you if you have motion-activated lights or foul-smelling deterrents.

Camping in Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV parking safety tip #3: Have backup communication devices

Nowadays most of us rely on our smartphones for everything. And for good reason! Our phones are more powerful than ever and are getting better all the time. But if you want to camp in remote areas, you might not always have a strong cell phone signal.

If something happens while you’re camping in a dangerous place, you’ll need a reliable way to call for help. In this case, you have a few options:

A satellite phone is a good investment. This device communicates via satellites not cell towers. It can connect you to help when no cellular connectivity is present. They’re also quite sturdy so you don’t have to worry about breaking them.

Buy a GPS tracker, satellite messenger device, and subscription. A GPS tracking device and a host of satellite messenger devices and associated subscriptions can let you send status updates with location information and an SOS/distress option that will immediately dispatch emergency crews in the event of a life-threatening emergency. 

Flares, smoke signals, and other non-electronic communication methods can also come in handy. Consider taking a wilderness survival course to learn how to use these methods.

Camping at Smokian RV Park, Soap Lake, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Final thoughts about safer RV parking

Camping in an RV is so much fun because you have endless options for overnight RV parking. But there are certain places like rest stops on highways that you may want to avoid. But if you can’t get to a campground, you always have options. Just keep an eye out for these dangerous places to sleep in your RV, so you can make smarter decisions when you choose a place to park.

For more on safety, check out:

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

20 Amazing Campgrounds Worth the Road Trip

Sleep under the stars

Camping is great but camping in a one-of-a-kind site with unique features (saltwater pools, sweeping views, horseback riding, we could go on) is even better. The next time you decide to venture into the great outdoors be sure to first consult this list. From campsites nestled in legendary state parks to options located on warm, sandy beaches, here are 20 campgrounds in the worth the road trip.

Shenandoah National Park campgrounds, Virginia

All of the five campgrounds at Shenandoah are open seasonally from early spring until late fall. Reservations are highly recommended on weekends and holidays. 

Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22.1) is the nearest campground for those entering the park from Front Royal in the northern section of the Park. All sites include a place for a tent or RV, a fire ring, and picnic table. Mathews Arm has a combination of reservable and first-come, first-served sites.

Big Meadows Campground (mile 51.2) is centrally-located in the park. All sites include a place for a tent or RV, a fire ring, and a picnic table. All sites at Big Meadows Campground are by reservation only.

Other campgrounds in Shenandoah include Lewis Mountain (mile 57.5) and Loft Mountain (mile 79.5).

Here are some helpful resources:

Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Devil’s Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah

Camping in Arches is only allowed in Devils Garden Campground. The demand for campground sites is extremely heavy and the park service recommends making reservations as early as possible. Reservations can be made up to 6 months before arrival and must be made at least 4 days before you arrive. If you don’t have a reservation, plan on camping outside the park. Between November 1 and February 28, 24 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

By the way, I have a series of posts on Arches:

Potwisha Campground, Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park campgrounds, California

There are fourteen campgrounds in the parks including two that are open during all four seasons. Campsites hold up to six people. Each has a picnic table, fire ring with grill, and a metal food-storage box. Nearly all campgrounds require advance reservations; sites fill quickly.

Except when weather or safety conditions require a closure, Potwisha Campground is open year-round with a four-month advance booking window. The campground sits at 2,100 feet elevation along the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River under an open stand of oaks. Hot and dry weather in the foothills often require fire restrictions in the summer. In the winter, the campground is usually snow-free.

If you need ideas, check out:

Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds, California

The majority of the 500 campsites in the park are available by reservation. 

You can camp among these truck-size boulders at Jumbo Rocks, one of the park’s eight campgrounds. Only two campgrounds (Black Rock and Cottonwood) have water, flush toilets, and dump stations. Cottonwood is especially popular with RVers. At the Hidden Valley and White Tank campgrounds, RVs are limited to a maximum combined length of 25 feet (RV and a towed or towing vehicle); in the other campgrounds, the limit is 35 feet, space permitting.

Here are some articles to help:

Cedar Pass Campground, Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park campgrounds, South Dakota

Badlands National Park offers two campgrounds. The Cedar Pass Campground is a paid campground with 96 sites total, some designated for RV camping with electric hookups. Reservations for the Cedar Pass Campground can be made through contacting the Cedar Pass Lodge online or by phone at 877-386-4383. Sage Creek Campground is a free, first-come first-serve campground with 22 sites and limited to RVs 18 feet in length or less.

Read more:

Cottonwood Campground, Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon de Chelly National Monument camping, Arizona

Cottonwood Campground is managed by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department. Nightly fee with 93 sites available first-come, first-serve. No showers or hookups.

Here are some helpful resources:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park camping, North Carolina and Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park maintains developed frontcountry campgrounds at 10 locations in the park: Abrams Creek Campground, Balsam Mountain Campground, Big Creek Campground, Cades Cove Campground, Cataloochee Campground, Cosby Campground, Deep Creek Campground, Elkmont Campground, Look Rock Campground, and Smokemont Campground. Camping is popular year-round and the park has a variety of options to enjoy camping throughout the year. Cades Cove and Smokemont Campgrounds are open year-round. All other campgrounds are open on a seasonal basis.

If you need ideas, check out:

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

White Tank Mountains Regional Park camping, Arizona

With nearly 30,000 acres, White Tank Mountain Regional Park is the largest park in Maricopa County. White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers 40 individual sites for tent or RV camping.

Most sites have a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45 foot RV and offer water and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, a fire ring, and nearby dump station. All restrooms offer flush toilets and showers.

Read more: A Hiker’s Paradise: White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island camping, Georgia

Park your RV or pitch your tent under the magnificent oaks on the northern tip of Jekyll Island. Located opposite the Clam Creek Picnic Area you are near Driftwood Beach, the fishing pier, and fascinating historic ruins. For your convenience, there are camping supplies and a General Store for those pick-up items and bike rentals so you can explore all that Jekyll Island has to offer.

The Jekyll Island Campground offers 18 wooded acres on the Island’s north end with 206 campsites from tent sites to full hook-up, pull through RV sites with electricity, cable TV, water, and sewerage. Wi-Fi and DSL Internet is free for registered guests.

If you need ideas, check out: Celebrating 75 Years of Jekyll Island State Park: 1947-2022

Mesa Verde National Park camping, Colorado

Spend a night or two in Morefield Campground just four miles from the park entrance. With 267 sites there’s always plenty of space and the campground rarely fills. Each site has a table, bench, and grill. Camping is open to tents and RVs including 15 full-hookup RV sites.
Morefield’s campsites are situated on loop roads that extend through a high grassy canyon filled with Gambel Oak scrub, native flowers, deer, and wild turkeys. Several of the park’s best hikes leave from Morefield and climb to spectacular views of surrounding valleys and mountains.

Here are some articles to help:

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

Dead Horse Point State Park camping, Utah

Nestled within a grove of junipers, Kayenta Campground offers a peaceful, shaded respite from the surrounding desert. All 21 campsites offer lighted shade structures, picnic tables, fire rings, and tent pads. All sites are also equipped with RV electrical hookups (20/30/50 amps). Modern restroom facilities are available and hiking trails lead directly from the campground to various points of interest within the park including the West Rim Trail, East Rim Trail, Wingate Campground, or the Visitor Center.

New in 2018, the Wingate Campground sits atop the mesa with far-reaching views of the area’s mountain ranges and deep canyons. This campground contains 31 campsites, 20 of which have electrical hookups that support RVs or tent campers while 11 are hike-in tent-only sites.  All sites have fire pits, picnic tables under shade shelters, and access to bathrooms with running water and dishwashing sinks.  RV sites will accommodate vehicles up to 56 feet and there is a dump station at the entrance to the campground. The Wingate Campground also holds four yurts. 

Read more:

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park camping, Arizona

Picacho Peak State Park’s campground has a total of 85 electric sites for both tent and RV camping. Sites are suitable for RVs and/or tents. Four sites are handicapped-accessible. No water or sewer hookups are available. Access to all sites is paved. Sites are fairly level and are located in a natural Sonoran Desert setting.

Here are some helpful resources:

Grand Canyon National Park camping, Arizona

Mather Campground is located in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Open year-round, there are 327 sites. Each includes a campfire ring/cooking grate, picnic table, and parking space. There are flush toilets and drinking water throughout the campground. No hookups are available but a dump station is available.

Situated within a picturesque high desert landscape, Trailer Village RV Park park offers paved pull-through full hookup sites designed for vehicles up to 50 feet long. Trailer Village RV Park is open year-round.

The North Rim Campground is open from mid-May 15 through mid-October, weather permitting. The canyon’s rustic and less populated North Rim is home to abundant wildlife, hiking trails, and unparalleled views of this natural wonder. The facility is at an elevation of 8,200 feet with pleasant summer temperatures and frequent afternoon thunderstorms.

Here are some articles to help:

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamo Lake State Park camping, Arizona

Campground A offers 17 basic sites with both back-in and pull-through sites. Campground B has expanded to 42 mixed-amenity sites. Campground F has 15 full-hookup sites. Campground C offers 40 water and electric sites. Dry camping is located in Campgrounds D and E and each site has a picnic table and fire ring.

Read more: Alamo Lake State Park: Fishing, Camping, Wildflowers & More

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park camping, Mississippi

Buccaneer State Park Campground has 206 premium single-family campsites and is located in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks and marshlands on the Gulf Coast. All of the 206 develop campsites have full hookups (water, electric, and sewer). There are also an additional 70 sites (with water and electric) that are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and 25 primitive (first-come, first-serve) sites located in the back of Royal Cay camp area.

Fruita Campground, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

The Fruita Campground is often described as an oasis within the desert. Adjacent to the Fremont River and surrounded by historic orchards this developed campground has 71 sites. Each site has a picnic table and firepit and/or above ground grill but no individual water, sewage, or electrical hookups. There is a RV dump and potable water fill station near the entrance to Loops A and B. Restrooms feature running water and flush toilets but no showers. Accessible sites (non-electric) are located adjacent to restrooms.

Here are some helpful resources:

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park camping, Alabama

Gulf State Park Campground offers 496 full hookup sites with paved pads. All full hookup camping pads are at least ~45 feet (most back-ins) to ~65 feet (most pull-through) long with more than enough room for RVs with pullouts, have picnic tables, and pedestal grill tops There are 11 modern, air-conditioned bathhouses throughout the campground.

Meahler State Park camping, Alabama

Meaher State Park has 61 RV campsites. Each site is paved, roughly 65 feet in length and has 20, 30 and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hookups. You have a grill and picnic table at your site and plenty of space between you and the next guest. The park has 10 improved tent sites with water and 20-amp electrical connections. All tent sites have a grill/fire pit and picnic table available. The campground features an air conditioned/heated main shower house equipped with laundry facilities for overnight campers and a smaller bathhouse equipped with restrooms only.

Read more: Where the Rivers Meet the Sea: Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and Meaher State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park camping, Arizona

The campground has 135 sites and three group camping areas: 68 sites with electric (50/30/20 amp service) and water and the remainder non-hookup sites on paved roads for tents or RVs. Every site has a picnic table and a fire pit with an adjustable grill gate. There are no size restrictions on RVs. Well-mannered pets on leashes are welcome but please pick after your pets.

Goose Island State Park camping, Texas

Choose from 44 campsites by the bay or 57 sites nestled under oak trees, all with water and electricity. Every camping loop has restrooms with showers. Goose Island also has 25 walk-in tent sites without electricity and a group camp for youth groups.

Read more: Life by the Bay: Goose Island State Park

Worth Pondering…

As you go through life, when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

—Yogi Berra

The Grand Circle Tour

11 days, 1,500 miles, 6 National Parks, Monument Valley, adventure towns, lakes in the desert, and something about a Dead Horse Point? Yes, please. Strap your seat belts on for this one.

Millions of years of erosion have created a spectacular display of cliffs, canyons, arches, natural bridges, red slickrock, hoodos, and mountains that you will experience during your two-week travels.

The canyons, sunsets, trails, colors, and rock formations will keep your camera busy so bring lots of flash memory and batteries. And don’t forget your hiking boots.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day One: Zion National Park

Drive from Las Vegas (168 miles) or Salt Lake City (314 miles) to Springdale, gateway to Zion National Park.

Park Fees: I recommend that you buy the $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Lands Pass that covers entrance fees at lands managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish & Wildlife Service and standard amenity fees (day use fees) at lands managed by the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corps of Engineers.

Hike Canyon Overlook Trail (1 hour, 1 mile round trip)

This short moderate hike on a well-marked trail leads to an overlook offering incredible views of lower Zion Canyon. If you time it right, the sunset will light up the whole canyon. The trailhead is at the parking lot just beyond the east entrance of the tunnel. Cross the road and begin the easy 1 mile hike. This hike is great for people who want to see a beautiful overlook of Zion that don’t necessarily like long hikes and it’s great for kids.

Return back to your accommodations by following State Route 9 back into Springdale.

Check into your campground in or near Zion National Park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day 2: Zion National Park

Stop at the local market to get water and (healthy) snacks for the day. You will want a day pack to carry things in since you will be gone for the entire day.

Explore Zion Canyon (all day)

During the summer months, the shuttle runs from 6:30 am to 11:00 pm. Since parking at the Visitors Center inside the park can be difficult from May-October, riding the shuttle from Springdale is a better option. November through March you can actually drive in the canyon.

Shuttle stops:

  • Court of the Patriarchs (5 minutes, 0.1 mile)
  • Zion Lodge: Emerald Pools trailhead (1-3 hours; lower, 1.2 miles; middle, 2 miles; upper, 3 miles)
  • The Grotto: Angels Landing trailhead (4-5 hours, 5 miles)
  • Weeping Rock: Weeping Rock trail (½ hour, 0.4 mile)
  • Big Bend: View the Angels Landing ridge trail
  • Temple of Sinawava: Riverside trail, gateway to the Narrows (1.5 hours, 2 miles)

Add a little extra adventure and incredible scenery by walking up the Virgin River Narrows a mile or two. You might want to bring an extra pair of shoes and a walking stick. The trail is the river and you are walking on slippery rocks as you go up the Narrows.

Find my complete guide to Zion National Park here.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park

Leave for Bryce Canyon National Park (86 miles). Enjoy the scenic drive through Utah State Route 9 and U.S 89. Pass through historic towns and the beautiful Red Canyon.

At Bryce Canyon, visit some of the scenic overlooks. If you’re looking to relax a little, stay in or near the park. There are three options located inside the park: the North Campground (open year-round), Sunset Campground (high season), and the 114-room Bryce Canyon Lodge which was built from local timber and stone in 1924-25. 

Any non-park related activity—sleeping, eating, shopping, fueling up, or learning about the local history—will almost surely bring you to Ruby’s legendary roadhouse.

For sunset, I recommend Inspiration Point, Paria View, or Sunset Point and plan to arrive one-and-a-half hours before sunset for the best lighting. If you want to see mostly all of Bryce Canyon, drive or take the shuttle on the scenic loop. Its 38 miles (one way) of pure beauty and you will cover many viewpoints.

View points of the Scenic Loop:

  • Swamp Canyon
  • Piracy Pointe
  • Fairview Point
  • Aqua Canyon
  • Natural Bridge
  • Ponderosa Canyon
  • Black Birch Canyon
  • Rainbow Point
  • Yovimpa Point

Check into your campground in or near Bryce Canyon National Park.

Eat at Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill and enjoy great Cowboy Entertainment. Or check out other restaurants in the area.

Find my ultimate guide to Bryce Canyon National Park here.

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

Day 4: Bryce Canyon National Park and Scenic Byway 12

Get up early and see the sun rise over Bryce Canyon. The two most popular viewpoints for sunrise are Sunrise Point and Bryce Point.

Hike the Navajo Loop Trail (1.3 miles round trip)

This is hands-down the greatest way to see the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon from the canyon floor. You start by hiking down Wall Street a narrow canyon with high rock walls on either side.

Drive All American Road Scenic Byway 12 (4 hours)

This drive cuts through a corner of Bryce Canyon National Park and then follows a breathtaking scenic route through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is a good, paved highway but steep in spots. It descends into the Escalante Canyons region and then climbs over Boulder Mountain. From Boulder Mountain you can see the Waterpocket Fold section of Capitol Reef National Park. Stop at scenic turnoffs as time permits. Scenic Byway 12 ends in Torrey near the Capitol Reef National Park entrance.

Highlights of Scenic Byway 12:

  • Mossy Cave, a sneak peak of Bryce (drive past Bryce toward Tropic and there is a pullout on the right; play in the small cave and waterfall down a short half mile path
  • Kodachrome Basin (22 miles from Bryce)
  • Escalante State Park (44 miles from Bryce)
  • Calf Creek Falls (67.6 miles from Bryce)
  • Anasazi Indian Village (80.8 miles from Bryce)

Check into an RV park in Torrey or the 71-site Fruita campground in Capitol Reef National Park.

Check out the restaurants near Capitol Reef too. Torrey is so small that all you need to do is drive down the main road (SR 24) and you’ll see all of the restaurants.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day 5: Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is amazing in its own special way. The formations you see here you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Drive the scenic drive south from the Visitor Center.

The Scenic Drive is a 10 mile mostly paved road with dirt spur roads into Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge that weather permitting are accessible to ordinary passenger vehicles. In every direction the views are fascinating. From the road you can see sheer sandstone cliffs, uniform layers of shale and rocks that have been lifted and folded and carved into shapes that stir the imagination. The Scenic Drive is not a loop, so you must return on the same road. Entrance fees of $5 per vehicle are charged for the Scenic Drive.

Find my ultimate guide to Capitol Reef National Park here.

In the afternoon begin your drive to Moab, Utah’s Adventure Capital (144 miles).

Check into an RV park in Moab or Devils Garden Campground in Arches National Park.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day 6: Arches National Park

In the morning, pack a lunch and plenty of water and drive to Arches National Park to watch the sunrise over the world’s largest concentration of natural stone arches (2,000 and counting). Drive North on U.S. Highway 191 from Moab for 5 miles. The turnoff for Arches will be on the East side of road. For the more adventurous, get up 1 hour before sunrise and hike the 1.5 mile trail to Delicate Arch and watch the sun rise.

Main points of interest:

  • Park Avenue
  • Balanced Rock
  • Windows Section
  • Delicate Arch Viewpoint
  • Devils Garden
  • Landscape Arch

Eat lunch in route.

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

In the afternoon drive to Dead Horse Point State Park and to the scenic overlooks in Canyonlands National Park.

Dead Horse Point State Park offers spectacular vistas with views of Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River. From Arches, drive back to U.S. 191 and head north for about 6 miles to State Route 313 and take the signed turnoff to Dead Horse Point. Follow SR 313 for about 22 miles as it winds to the top of the plateau and then south to Dead Horse Point.

Tour Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District (2-3 hours)

Island in the Sky comprises the northern portion of Canyonlands National Park. From Dead Horse Point, return north on SR 313 for 7 miles to the junction with the Grand View Point Road and then drive the Grand View Road south into Canyonlands. Stop at the Visitors Center to pick up a map and information before continuing to the lookout points.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Main Points-of-interest:

  • Mesa Arch
  • Grandview Point
  • Upheaval Dome
  • Green River Overlook

Return to Devils Garden Campground (Arches National Park) or Moab for the night.

Here are some helpful resources:

Day 7: Moab

Engage in one of Moab’s many adventure activities; whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, horseback riding among the red cliffs, mountain bike the slick rock trails, take a Hummer 4×4 ride over red rock trails or hike to Corona and Bow Tie Arches.

If you need ideas, check out: Moab’s Scenic Byways

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day 8: Monument Valley

Drive to Monument Valley (150 miles)

This is a scenic drive; plan to stop at the historic towns and viewpoints and take some pictures.

Eat lunch en route. Drive to the Visitors Center and sign up for a Navajo guided tour through Monument Valley at Sunset. Check out the amazing overlooks East and West Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. Unique sandstone formations, red mesas and buttes surrounded by desert were used in hundreds of western movies. There is only one hiking path called Wildcat Trail (3.2 miles) that starts at the Visitors Center and loops around West Mitten Butte. At night the stars are absolutely amazing because of the remote area and no city lights.

Check into The View Campground or lodge at Monument Valley and eat dinner.

For more tips on exploring this area, check out these blog posts:

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day 9: Lake Powell

Leave for Lake Powell (132 miles) in the morning. Lake Powell offers one of the most beautiful views of water and red rock cliffs. Take a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge, the largest natural stone bridge in the world. I recommend bringing hiking shoes for the trail to Rainbow Bridge (3 miles round-trip). Click here for more information on boat tours: Eat lunch before the tour in Page, Arizona or pack one for the boat tour.

Check into Wahweep Campground and RV Park centrally located at Wahweap Marina about ¼ mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys from which to choose. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. 

Read more: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Lake Powell and So Much More

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Day 10: Kanab and the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Drive 110 miles to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim has the most spectacular views and is surrounded with forest of Ponderosa Pines. The North Rim averages 1,000 to 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim! Perfect for hiking and great photos! Eat lunch and enjoy the view at the North Rim Lodge. Be aware that that State Highway 67 leading to the North Rim closes from about mid-October to mid-May due to heavy snow.

From here you can drive to Las Vegas (266 miles) for the night or stay in lodging near the Grand Canyon (77 miles).

Points of Interest on North Rim:

  • Point Imperial is often considered the greatest viewpoints on the North Rim. It overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of Grand Canyon and different than other viewpoints.
  • Bright Angel Point, south from the visitor center, can be reached via a 1 mile round trip hike with a grand view of the canyon.
  • Cape Royal (0.6 miles round trip) is a long peninsula extending from the North Rim out over the Grand Canyon. It offers a phenomenal view perhaps the most sweeping view of any Grand Canyon vista. You can see much of it from your vehicle but the best views await those who take the short, easy stroll to the end of the cape.

Check into accommodations near the Grand Canyon.

Day 11

Drive to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, or destination of your choosing. Need ideas?

Worth Pondering…

RVing and imagination—both take you anywhere you want to be.