Here’s the Scoop: Sunday Is National Ice Cream Day!

Every ice cream lover’s favorite holiday is coming July 21

National Ice Cream Day falls on the third Sunday in July each year. This year, that’s Sunday, July 21.

Get the scoop on National Ice Cream Day

It’s the one day set aside to honor everything cool, sweet, and creamy. And it’s celebrated every year on the third Sunday in July.

In fact, National Ice Cream Day celebrates its 40th anniversary this year as one of America’s most popular summertime traditions!

It was President Ronald Reagan who in 1984 officially declared July as National Ice Cream Month and established National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in July.

This year, join millions of Americans who will be celebrating National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, July 21, 2024—in honor of the popular treat that’s guaranteed to lift you up and cool you down on even the hottest summer day.

Blue Bell ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2024 National Ice Cream Day deals and freebies

Every year, national chains celebrate the day with cool deals and freebies.

As always, this year watch for special deals from your local Carvel, Baskin-Robbins, Diary Queen, Cold Stone Creamery, Godiva, Dippin’ Dots as well as supermarkets and fast-food restaurants that will be advertising related promotions to celebrate the day.

Ice cream fun facts

Why is National Ice Cream Day celebrated in the U.S.? Um … why not?

Fact is, the U.S. enjoys a whopping 48 pints of ice cream per person every year on average making Americans the No. 1 ice cream consumers worldwide.

The top five ice cream flavors enjoyed by Americans? That would be vanilla at 27.8 percent followed by chocolate (14.3 percent), strawberry (3.3 percent), chocolate chip (3.3 percent), and butter pecan (2.8 percent).

Here are some more ice cream fun facts to amaze your friends this National Ice Cream Day.

Blue Bell ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It wasn’t until Italian explorer Marco Polo returned from the Far East (with a recipe that mostly resembled sherbet) that Europeans got their first taste of what we now known as ice cream.

From Italy, ice cream made its way across Europe—and, eventually, colonial America—where official records show that President George Washington allocated a total of $200 on ice cream purchases during the hot summer of 1790.

Thomas Jefferson was the first known American to write down a recipe for ice cream. Though the common claim that Thomas Jefferson introduced the beloved frozen treat to America has been debunked it is true that the third President was the first known American to write down a recipe for ice cream.

A well-known foodie and wine enthusiast, Jefferson is thought to have first tasted ice cream during his time as minister to France between 1784 and 1789 starting a love affair that would last the rest of his life. That includes his time in the White House where it was offered to guests on at least six different occasions during his presidency. According to accounts from those visitors, Jefferson was fond of serving the delicacy inside of a crust or pastry. 

The actual recipe which may have come from Jefferson’s French butler and has been preserved in the Library of Congress calls for “2 bottles of good cream and 6 yolks of eggs” in addition to half a pound of sugar. It also instructs anyone following the recipe to “take it off and strain (the results) thro’ a towel” among other sage advice.

Ice cream isn’t the only food Jefferson helped make famous in America. He’s also credited with helping to popularize French fries, tomatoes, and macaroni and cheese—achievements that some food-lovers may consider as momentous as his time in the White House.

In the late 19th century, America’s soda shops bowed to pressure from local churches who demanded that the newly-popular ice cream soda not be served on Sundays. As the story goes they simply removed the soda from the recipe and called it (you guessed it) the ice cream sundae.

During the St. Louis World Fair in 1904, a vendor ran out of ice cream cups to serve visitors but quickly enlisted the help of a neighboring vendor who provided rolled-up waffles to serve as makeshift cups. And—the ice cream cone was born!

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to celebrate National Ice Cream Day

That’s easy. Watch for giant store chains such as Carvel and Dairy Queen offering free giveaways or other special offers in honor of the day. Or just head out for your favorite supermarket, neighborhood gelato shop, or ice cream vendor. Buy it by the cup, in a cone, or place a heaping scoop of ice cream on your favorite pie for pie a la mode.

Get creative with toppings such as sprinkles, maraschino cherries, syrups, and nuts. 

You can also celebrate National Ice Cream Day in style by gathering friends and family for a “build your own ice cream sundae” party with all the fixings.

I have a few helpful articles on ice cream:

Blue Bell ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Waffle Berry ala Mode

Ingredients

1/2 cup strawberry topping
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
4 frozen waffles, toasted
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
whipped cream
4 whole strawberries for garnish

Instructions

1. Gently toss 1/4 cup strawberry topping with berries; set aside.
2. Place waffle on serving plate. Spoon 1/2 cup berry mixture on waffle, top with a scoop of ice cream, 1 tablespoon topping, and whipped cream.
3. Garnish with additional strawberry.
Makes 4 servings

Ice cream is like a good friend. Sweet, nostalgic, ready on the freezer shelf whenever you need it! And it will never abandon you and when it’s the only dessert that will satisfy a cool, creamy craving, the frozen aisle is pretty close to paradise.

Worth Pondering…

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

—Howard Johnson

Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip from Shenandoah to Great Smoky

Take a cruise on America’s favorite drive through these three national park sites linked together. Buckle up and get ready to experience America’s Favorite Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Stretching from Virginia to North Carolina, the parkway enables you to experience history, breathtaking nature, and a vibrant music scene. Some of the National Park Service’s best East Coast sights can be found along the way from Shenandoah National Park to the parkway itself to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park

Start your Blue Ridge experience in beautiful Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Just 75 miles from the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah feels a world away. With beautiful chestnut and red oak forests, abundant wildlife and panoramic views, this park exemplifies the best of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Take a scenic drive, hike to a waterfall, learn about the area’s history, and more on your visit.

Don’t forget to make reservations at one of the park’s lodges or campgrounds. There are three lodging options along Skyline Drive: Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge, and Lewis Mountain Cabins.

Plan your next trip to Shenandoah National Park with these resources:

  • The Complete Guide to Shenandoah National Park
  • The Ultimate Guide to Shenandoah National Park
  • Escape to the Blue Ridge: Shenandoah National Park
Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Milepost 85.9: Peaks of Otter

It’s time to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Get ready for jaw-dropping views and some of the prettiest landscapes the East Coast has to offer. Your first stop is Peaks of Otter at Milepost 85.9. You’ll want to make reservations at the historic Peaks of Otter Lodge in advance because once you get here, you won’t want to leave. Since the 1800s, tourists have been coming to this part of the country to get away from it all.

If you don’t plan to spend the night at the lodge or campground, be sure to stop in the lodge’s restaurant for a meal overlooking the lake. After you’ve fueled up, stretch those car (or RV) weary legs by heading out on a hike. Grab your fishing pole (with a valid fishing license) and stroll the mile loop around Abbott Lake.

Or, take a walk back in time on the 1.1-mile, one-way trail to Johnson Farm. Built in the 1850s, you can see living history demonstrations there today to see what life was like during the 19th century in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roanoke Area

Roanoke, Virginia, is an excellent place to base your exploration of the surrounding area. Start in downtown Roanoke where charming boutiques abound. Don’t miss breakfast at one of the city’s favorite classic Southern eateries, The Roanoker Restaurant. The made-from-scratch biscuits are a big deal.

Learn more about the area’s Black history with a visit to Historic Smithfield, a slave-owning plantation dating back to 1774. Then, head to the Booker T. Washington National Monument, home of the famous educator, author, and orator.

In Floyd, Virgina you can’t miss a stop at the Floyd Country Store. Floyd’s has everything you would expect to find at an old-fashioned country store from rolling pins to vintage toys. After perusing the wares, stop in the café for favorites like East Carolina-style pulled smoked pork barbecue. Leave room for dessert at the soda fountain. But perhaps the best experience at the Floyd Country Store is the chance to hear authentic Appalachian music. Check the schedule for live music and dance performances.

Next, head to the spectacular Natural Bridge State Park and adjacent Natural Bridge Historic Hotel & Conference Center. Thirty stories of naturally carved rock create a mind-boggling bridge to walk under on the Cedar Creek Nature Trail. Then, head to the Caverns at Natural Bridge to descend more than 34 stories into the Earth. Afterwards, stop for a meal in the historic hotel’s dining room.

Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Milepost 176: Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill is a can’t-miss stop for photography lovers and history buffs alike. Whether flanked by spring flowers, verdant green summer trees, golden autumn leaves, or blanketed in freshly fallen snow, this historic mill makes for some breathtaking photographs. Built in the early 1900s, this grist and sawmill has been restored by the National Park Service so in addition to getting stunning photos, you can watch live milling demonstrations and learn about the mill’s history.

Sunday afternoons are the time to visit Mabry Mill. First, stop in the restaurant for all day Appalachian breakfast. Then, head outside for a taste of old-time music. This weekend concert tradition has been going on for decades.

Milepost 213: Blue Ridge Music Center

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably begun to guess that music is a vital part of Blue Ridge culture. The Blue Ridge Music Center celebrates this region’s vibrant musical heritage. From string bands to ballads to bluegrass, the sound of the fiddle, guitar, and banjo will engulf you at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Start at the visitor center and museum where you’ll learn the history and diversity of America’s music. Don’t miss the daily outdoor concerts in the breezeway or if you’re lucky enough to visit on the weekend take a seat in the center’s 3,000-seat amphitheater for a one-of-a-kind performance.

Discover more music from Appalachia along with traditional crafts when you explore the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area’s music and craft trails from Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Milepost 304.4: Linn Cove Viaduct

It’s time to stretch your legs at one of the Parkway’s most famous sights, the Linn Cove Viaduct. This stunning bridge is more than just beautiful. It was the last part of the Parkway to be built and an engineering marvel. Stopping on the bridge for pictures is dangerous so park at the Visitor Center and head out to one of several overlooks for stunning views.

Or, if you want to get some exercise and see more of the area, lace up your boots and hit the Tanawha Trail. There are many great viewpoints to see the Viaduct from here as well as views of the surrounding wilderness. The trail is 13.5 miles so hike as far as you like before continuing your drive.

Milepost 316: Linville Falls

Linville Gorge was called the river of many cliffs by Cherokee Indians and when you get to Linville Falls you’ll see why. This stunning waterfall tumbles into the 2,000-foot gorge. This is a great area to stop for a picnic or if you’re up for a hike head out on the trails for a better look at the waterfall.

Erwins View Trail will provide four different overlooks on the 1.6-mile roundtrip hike. Although short, some sections of the hike are steep. If you’re not up for elevation gain turn around after the first overlook. For those looking for a strenuous hike, the Linville Gorge Trail will take you steeply down into the gorge. It’s a difficult 1.4-mile roundtrip trek.

While in McDowell County don’t forget to experience the charm of Little Switzerland, Marion and Old Fort. Here you can chase waterfalls, mountain bike miles of Blue Ridge trails, kayak in Lake James State Park, or stroll through downtown. Although this spot is idyllic throughout the summer, autumn is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. 

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Milepost 364.5: Craggy Gardens

From the Visitor Center, two short and beautiful trails will give you an up-close and personal taste of the country you’re driving through. The Craggy Gardens Trail is a 0.8-mile loop through beautiful rhododendrons (which bloom April through June), hardwood forests, and blueberry patches. The Craggy Pinnacle Trail is a 0.7-mile hike, located at a mile above sea level that yields 360-degree breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Asheville, North Carolina

This eclectic, artsy town is home to a thriving foodie scene and a bourgeoning craft beer presence. The stunning Biltmore Mansion (as in, Vanderbilt) could keep you occupied for several days itself but ensure you have time to poke around the galleries and art studios of the River Arts District.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Milepost 451.2: Waterrock Knob

You’ve reached the highest elevation visitor center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water as you’re over a mile high in elevation. Hike the 1.2-mile roundtrip trail up Waterrock Knob to reach the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,273 feet—you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world.

Don’t leave just yet. This visitor center is the perfect place to watch the sunset, so sit back, relax and get ready for a North Carolina treat.

The Waterrock Knob area is dotted with charming small towns, unique attractions, and outdoor adventures you won’t find anywhere else. Discover an incredible culinary scene in Waynesville. Then head to Canton on a craft beer and spirit trail. At the end of the day you’ll appreciate uncrowded Maggie Valley with lodging options from remodeled vintage roadside motels to private cabins and bed and breakfasts.

Here are a few links that may help you prepare for your next RV trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Farm museum at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited park for good reason: it’s huge, encompassing two states. If you have the time I suggest visiting all the areas of the park for the full experience but if you just have a few days check out the Cataloochee and Oconaluftee areas of the park on the North Carolina side.

Cataloochee Valley is open seasonally and includes a preserved historic community to explore and lots of wildlife. Elk are prevalent in this area of the park.

The park’s main southern entrance is located at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Here, you can tour more pioneer era historic buildings at the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill.

Farther down Newfound Gap Road, find a trailhead to hike part of the famous Appalachian Trail and summit Charlies Bunion, an 8-mile round-trip climb with stunning views.

Exit the national park at the Gatlinburg entrance.

Plan your next trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with these resources:

Worth Pondering…

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

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

—John Denver

The ULTIMATE GUIDE to Dispersed RV Camping

How to find some of the country’s best campsites—and stay for free or almost free

We all know about overnight places to stop like Walmart and Cracker Barrel or Harvest Hosts but there are lots of other places where RVers can stop, places along the highway where pets are welcome and you can find just about anything you need for an overnight stay.

Camping can be expensive. Especially if you are spending more travel time in outdoor spaces. Or, perhaps you’re living and working from your RV. 

RV parks and campgrounds can also be crowded and noisy. It can sometimes feel like the opposite experience you are seeking by getting away from civilization and into nature. 

That may be why you are looking for cheap or free RV camping sites and that’s why I’m here to help. I’ll introduce you to boondocking in off-the-beaten-path campsites and then show you how to find them.

Dispersed camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scoring a great campsite doesn’t always require scrambling for an online reservation months in advance. Instead, look to the millions of acres of public land across the U.S. where you can camp outside of designated campgrounds for free. This kind of camping is widely known as dispersed camping or boondocking and it’s accessible on many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or United States Forest Service (USFS) lands.

If you’ve never stayed overnight outside of a campground or RV park, the idea of foregoing a picnic table, firepit, bathroom, RV hookups, dumpsters, and friendly camp hosts can be intimidating. Plus you need to find where you can legally camp. But the rewards are well worth it: not only do you save money but dispersed sites often offer more privacy amid some of the country’s most stunning scenery. Wondering where to start? Here’s everything you need to know to plan an RV boondocking adventure. 

Although dispersed campsites are located just about everywhere in the U. S. they’re mostly a hidden gem because so few people utilize them—or even know how. Dispersed camping is often used interchangeably with the terms boondocking and dry camping and refers to camping in undeveloped, free campsites without any hookups.

For all its benefits, though, there are some important things to know about dispersed camping. Having this knowledge ahead of time will ensure you have a fun and safe dispersed camping trip. Plus, you’ll see that it’s not nearly as intimidating as it may initially seem.

But first let’s define dispersed camping.

Dispersed camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is dispersed camping?

The US Forest Service defines dispersed camping as “camping anywhere in the National Forest outside of a designated campground.” In other words, it’s camping in primitive, first-come, first-served campsites. Dispersed camping also means there are no camp hosts or services and very limited—if any—facilities, such as toilets, fire rings, or picnic tables. 

This is exactly why RVs are perfect for dispersed camping. Although the campsites themselves are primitive, RVs are self-contained. With modern comforts including bathrooms and kitchens, RVs make it so that you don’t need to rely on amenities typically associated with developed campgrounds and RV parks.

While dispersed camping requires you to be more adept, the tradeoff comes with several benefits: there’s no stress of reserving a campsite, pressure to check-in or out at certain times, and best of all, it’s totally free.

Dispersed camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finding a dispersed campsite

Boondocking opens up a whole new world of camping options but having so many choices can be overwhelming. First, think about your goals and narrow your search. Do you want to be near water or close to a trailhead so you can tag a bucket-list climb? Maybe you want to be close to bike trails or cell service or at a site with shady trees?

And keep in mind that dispersed campsites come in many flavors from easy-access pull-outs right off the main road to remote sites deep in the backcountry. Zero in on the area and then get an idea of what kind of land is around by using a mapping platform.

The BLM and USFS have thousands of dispersed camping spots across the country. If you know which area you’re going to, start by calling a ranger at the local field office and ask for their advice on great spots to camp. They can also provide current conditions and update on how rugged the access road is.

Use these sites to search for dispersed camping spots:

On those sites you can often see pictures of the area and read comments about the pros and cons. If you are just in need of a place to sleep for the night before continuing on, look at the satellite view in a mapping app and you’ll be able to see existing pull-outs along USFS roads or BLM land. 

Dispersed camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road conditions

Dispersed campsites are often accessed via dirt roads. Road conditions can vary greatly from smooth and passable to downright rugged. Research your destination and consider whether your rig is up to the challenge of getting there or just be sure to pick areas that are more easily accessed. Calling the local field office to ask about this is always a good idea.

Higher-clearance RVs are better for rougher roads and smaller trailers make it easier to turn around in tighter areas. If towing a trailer, you can always unhook it and drive ahead in your tow vehicle to scout the road. Pack traction tire mats in case you encounter sand or mud.

Rules and regulations

The amount of time you’re allowed to camp varies by land manager. The BLM, for example, allows camping for up to 14 days in one spot. Be sure to check the rules ahead of time especially the current fire regulations—summer campfire bans are common.

It’s best to camp on existing sites where the ground is already impacted and has clearly been used for camping many times. When you’re camping or recreating on public land, it’s important to follow Leave No Trace ethics: respect wildlife and plants, pack out trash, follow regulations, and minimize personal impact. Pick up dog poop, use wag bags, or dig a cat hole if you’re in a place that allows it. 

Dispersed camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prep for primitive camping

No hookups? No big deal, but you do need to be prepared. Running the A/C, fridge, lights, and plugs in an RV is electricity intensive. Air conditioning, microwaves, and electric heaters will drain your batteries fast. Consider how much power you need and how long your batteries will last. If you use power sparingly, you should have enough for a few days.

The best practice is to fully charge your batteries and empty gray/black tanks before heading out. Alternatively, using solar panels is a game changer. If you’re in a sunny location, you can easily power your water pump and lights and charge your devices stress-free. 

The other consideration is tank capacity. How large are your freshwater, gray water, and black water tanks? Make sure you know how many days of use you have and bring a portable five-gallon water jug or two—it’s always a good idea to have extra drinking water. Bring a foldable table and chairs to set up a comfortable spot to hang out outdoors. A leveling kit is also great to have so you can get your RV just right if you end up at an uneven site.

Worth Pondering…

Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.

—Hafez, 14th century Persian poet

Arizona Mountain Towns

Arizona mountain towns offer cool, refreshing getaways for summer fun and memories

Experience the rich histories, invigorating forests, and refreshing lakes of Arizona mountain towns. These destinations promise dazzling colors in the fall, snowy winters, and cool summers.

Arizona is famous for wind-swept desert vistas, iconic saguaro cacti reaching toward the sky, and backdrops of glowing, amber-hued sunsets. While the summer sun delivers its warm embrace in the state’s lower elevations, there are equally captivating sights and experiences waiting to be explored across the state’s cooler mountain regions as well. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy these destinations.

After you’ve spent a few days poolside enjoying the sunshine in the Valley, the next stop on any summer vacation is to explore the cooler, higher-elevation communities and parks. Spending time in the 70s and 80s among the ponderosa pines and exploring Arizona’s mountain regions is another great way to revitalize and enjoy this beautiful state.

Here are a few tips for residents and travelers to answer the call of Arizona’s mighty mountain hideaways.

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northern Arizona – Williams

Elevation: 6,765 feet 

Average summer temp: 83 degrees

Midway between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, Williams’ small-town charms invite lingering. This gateway to the Grand Canyon boasts a vibrant historic downtown district, plenty of lodging and dining options, and access to outdoor recreation.

The Williams-Kaibab National Forest Visitor Center housed in a 1901 train depot is a great place to start a trip and learn about the area’s natural and human history. Today, exploring the rest of this town reveals neon signs, soda fountains, and restaurants serving American staples of beef and potatoes in all their various glories. This Arizona mountain town is a wonderful place to snap a few photos of Americana relics or buy some cowboy leather.

Williams is also the pickup point for the Grand Canyon Railway. The train ride takes about two hours and drops you off on the canyon’s South Rim. There are a number of class options including an observation dome and the budget-minded Pullman Class.

You can visit reindeer all year long at Bearizona Wildlife Park. 160 acres of Ponderosa pine forests are filled with North American animals that can be viewed from your car, or by foot. Keep an eye open for wolves, deer, and of course, bears.

Southeastern Arizona – Mt. Graham and Roper Lake

Roper Lake elevation: 3,000 feet

Average summer temp: 98 degrees

Mt. Graham elevation: 10,724 feet 

Average summer temp: 66 degrees

Mt. Graham towers at over 10,700 feet as the pinnacle of the Pinaleño Mountains in Southern Arizona near Safford. As home to the Mt. Graham International Observatory, it’s perhaps best known as a hotspot for stargazing and fans of astronomy. The ideal way to soak in the experience of Mt. Graham is to take the bus tour which starts at the visitor center at Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park Campus. Tours include a scenic drive up Mt. Graham, a lunch near the summit, and a guided tour of the observatories.

Even though it’s a bit warmer than the summit of Mt. Graham, staying at a lakeside campsite or one of the eight air-conditioned cabins at nearby Roper Lake State Park is a great way to end this trip. They’re just steps from the water making them the perfect base from which to explore this area. 

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northern Arizona – Prescott

Elevation: 5,367 feet

Average summer temp: 88 degrees

Nestled at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level among the largest stand of ponderosa pine forests in the U.S., Prescott‘s breathtaking landscapes are complete with granite mountains, lakes, streams, and rolling meadows. With two lakes to choose from, several options for paddling on the water are found in this Arizona mountain town. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards await to help visitors get out and explore. Plan a ride around a full moon and enjoy the glow on the water, peaceful surroundings, and nighttime views.

When not on the lakes activities include horseback riding, golfing, hiking, mountain biking, shopping, or visiting the local breweries and restaurants.

Once the territorial capital of Arizona the City of Prescott is rich with Western history embodied in its world-famous Whiskey Row, abundant historical landmarks, and the World’s Oldest Rodeo.

Sharlot Hall Museum is the perfect place for families to learn the town’s history. Tour historic homes, explore educational exhibits, and wander through the gardens. Kids can complete a scavenger hunt and redeem it at the museum store for a prize.

Step outside of town and explore the beautiful Prescott National Forest. Pack and picnic lunch and take a hike while basking in the fresh wilderness air. The Thumb Butte Trail, just minutes from downtown leads visitors on a two-mile loop with views of the area and interpretive signs. 

There are also two lakes in the area for recreation and fishing. Unique rock formations surround Watson Lake, creating fun channels to kayak through. Alternatively, Lynx Lake is lined by tall pine trees. Both lakes offer onsite kayak and canoe rentals.

For an overnight stay in Prescott, check out the many camping options in Prescott National Forest including RV sites and dispersed camping.

Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northeastern Arizona – Show Low and Fool Hollow Lake

Elevation: 6,349 feet 

Average summer temp: 86 degrees

Show Low, the largest city in the White Mountains traces its name to a card game between two ranchers who needed to decide who would stay and who would go (clearly, the town wasn’t big enough for them both). The one who could show low would win. The main street in town is named Deuce of Clubs—the winning card. The Show Low Historical Museum is a good kick-off to any trip featuring a collection of quirky stuff from locals including quilts, military memorabilia, blacksmithing tools, and barbershop equipment.

As a cool place in the summer, Show Low is also home to Fool Hollow Lake State Park. At the edge of the lake, visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards from J&T’s Wild-Life Outdoors, the concessionaire located near the east boat launch ramp. Rentals are available on the spot but reservations are always a good idea. Watercraft rental is seasonal and is currently only available in summer.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Arizona – Chiricahua National Monument and Coronado National Forest

Elevation: 5,134 feet to 7,310 feet 

Average summer temp: 87 degrees

A Southern Arizona summer escape is Coronado National Forest. Free, dispersed camping is available along Pinery Canyon Road. Some of the spots are right next to Pinery Creek but it’s not always flowing so it’s best to bring ample supplies of water. Fires are permitted but always check local fire restrictions as the area may have burn bans throughout the year. 

For those looking for a more traditional camping experience next to one of Arizona’s most scenic areas nearby Chiricahua National Monument offers 25 developed sites at Bonita Canyon Campground.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Arizona – Bisbee

Elevation: 5,538 feet

Average summer temp: 88 degrees

From its 1877 discovery in the Mule Mountains until the 1970s, Bisbee bustled with mining operations and a wealth of copper. When the mines closed down, artists and free spirits took over the town creating a haven for music, art, history, and architecture. 

To get an overview of the town, start your visit at Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. This interactive museum tells the story of Bisbee’s role in the industrialization of America. Kids love the trucks and gems located on the second floor.

A major attraction in Bisbee is the Queen Mine Tour. A trip into the mine takes families back in time to the late 1800’s. You’ll learn about the dangers, techniques, and lifestyles of mines from this time period. 

When dining with the family, the vintage Dot’s Diner is a fun place to eat a burger and shake. Or try the pizza at Screaming Banshee Pizza. After exploring, a treat at Pussycat Gelato on Main Street is a perfect end to the day.

Worth Pondering…

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.

—Ursala K. Guin

Is Social Media Ruining the National Park Experience?

From feeding wild animals to perilous selfies, tourists risk their lives and the preservation of America’s national parks for fleeting social media fame

It may seem cute and fun for tourists to feed the wildlife at a national park until you realize this isn’t a Disney movie but is, in fact, reality. One woman who decided to feed a grown bull—not in a national park but on a Mexican beach last month—learned the hard way that if you mess with a bull, you may get the horns, literally. The video was posted online, per CBS News.

One Instagram account with nearly half a million followers posted videos of tourists risking their lives to get the picture no one else has to get a temporary sense of fame on social media. The account, TouronsOfYellowstone shares submissions mainly in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park but posted one photo of a tourist in Utah who had to be saved by search and rescue after jumping to a hoodoo rock overlooking the canyon thousands of feet below.

The phrase touron, the combination of tourist and moron describes those who don’t think before they act when it comes to interacting with wildlife in America’s national parks.

Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2022, influencer Katie Sigmund faced criminal charges after hitting golf balls into Grand Canyon National Park. “I was thinking in my head … ‘I can make golf content. Like, it’s such a pretty view. Let me just golf into the Grand Canyon,’” Sigmund said in an interview.

“Dumbest idea,” she added.

After posting the video of golf balls and part of her golf club breaking off and being thrown below Mather Point at the South Rim of the canyon some of Sigmund’s followers reported her to the park. She was handed three federal violation notices and a $285 fine.

Carmen Holbrook has visited many popular scenic spots through the years and says she has seen a few people in national parks get too close to danger for comfort.

“I haven’t seen people hitting golf balls but I have seen people get way too close to the waterfall and they just don’t understand the power and beauty of nature,” Holbrook told the Deseret News. “It becomes so risky.”

Elk in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Park Service mortality dashboard from 2014 to 2019 shows that the top three causes of unintentional deaths are motor vehicle crashes, drowning, and falls. Fifty percent of all deaths inside parks are reportedly unintentional and also occur when the individual is participating in physical activity.

While at Yellowstone National Park, Holbrook said she saw multiple instances of people tempting their fates. In one instance, she witnessed a tourist walk off the guided path even though the signs warned of a thin crust that resembled solid ground.

“I felt like I was going to have a heart attack watching him walk on the crust,” she said. “It’s annoying when people do dangerous things. They think it’s only affecting them when everyone else around them is like, ‘You’re destroying the park and you’re stressing us out. You are doing something so disrespectful.’”

Another occurrence happened when she and other tourists were driving along a river in the park when someone spotted a grizzly bear on the opposite side of the bank.

“Everyone was getting out of their cars and standing across the river which was a small river, probably only like 30-50 feet away from this grizzly bear,” Holbrook emphasized. “It was just so sad, because you do hear all these grizzly bear attacks. There was a runner last year in Yellowstone who was attacked.”

“Why can you not just look from your car? Why do you have to get out and get close and risk your life when you could just still enjoy it the same way, just in the safety of your car?”

Here is some more helpful information on bear safety: You Come Across a Bear. Your Next Move Is Very Important. Do You Know What To Do?

Rocky Mountain Goat in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Social media for those who behave

The power of social media is that it influences—some for good and others for bad. That said, there have been some positive outcomes for America’s breathtaking landscapes in the digital world.

Research by Georgia Tech’s School of Economics looked at different social media outlets tied to national parks in the last decade and found that “parks with high exposure see increases in visitation that are 16 percent to 22 percent larger than parks with less exposure that see little change.”

“Visitation to national parks in the United States has increased by more than 25 percent since 2010 rising from roughly 70 to 90 million annual visitors,” the study added. “Anecdotes suggest that this increase was driven by the advent of social media in the early-to-mid 2010s, generating a new form of exposure for parks and has led to concerns about overcrowding and degradation of environmental quality.”

One account that provides both comedic relief and interesting information regarding the national parks and the wildlife within is the National Park Service’s social media itself.

“We often get referred to as the dad joke,” Matt Turner, the social media specialist for the National Park Service told The Weather Channel. “I’m like, well … you know, I think that fits with the National Park Service personality, maybe of outdoors and going camping and spending time with family.”

“We often kind of say, like safety with a smile,” he added. “As a government agency, we don’t want to say ‘no’ all the time or ‘stop doing that.’”

Bison in Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are a few great articles to help you stay safe in national parks:

Worth Pondering…

I love the term touron. It’s a delicious portmanteau.

—Aspen Daily News

Capitol Reef National Park: 14 Amazing Things to See and Do

In Capitol Reef, pioneer orchards meet wild and unexpected geology. It offers all the recreation, activities, and beauty national parks are known for but often with fewer people than other Utah national parks. Take a scenic hike to a stunning natural bridge, harvest fresh fruit in season, and explore the backcountry.

Capitol Reef often an overlooked national park is full of many wonderful surprises. With an amazing scenic drive, hiking trails that rival those in Zion, rugged, remote areas to explore by 4×4, short, easy slot canyons, historical landmarks, and even delicious pie, this national park is absolutely amazing. In this post, learn about the best things to see and do in Capitol Reef National Park with tips on how to plan your time.

About our experiences in Capitol Reef National Park

On our most recent visit we spent six wonderful days in Capitol Reef. And the longer we were here, the more we wondered why this park is so overlooked. The scenic drives, the hiking trails, and the history of the Fruita district are amazing. But there is so much more to this park.

If you love the idea of leaving the crowds behind and exploring a vast, remote area you have several options. Cathedral Valley with its sandstone monoliths and sweeping desert vistas is a beautiful, unique way to spend a day in Capitol Reef. Or, you can Loop the Fold, another remote driving day along the waterpocket fold.

There are also slot canyons to explore, quiet, low-traffic hiking trails in remote areas of the park and some of the most dramatic landscapes in Utah which you can see right from your car.

I can’t wait to share with you the beauty, the history, and the amazing geology of this national park. And I am looking forward to a return visit this October. Maybe I will see you here!

Note: Scenic Drive will be closed summer 2024 for a rehabilitation project. Get the full details on the National Park Service website.

While in Capitol Reef National Park, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trails, pack out what you bring to the hiking trails, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interesting facts about Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park preserves the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long wrinkle in the Earth’s crust. This wrinkle also called a monocline was formed between 50 and 70 million years ago when movement along a fault line caused upward shifting of the west side relative to the east side. The layers on the west side of the fault were lifted up 7,000 feet higher than the layers on the east.

Since this upheaval water has been slowly eroding away the sedimentary rock layers forming waterpockets. This erosion is revealing fossils, massive domes, canyons, arches, and monoliths.

The park gets its name from the white domes of Navajo sandstone that resemble the United States Capitol building. Early settlers found the long ridges of the waterpocket fold impassable similar to reefs in the ocean. Put these two together and you get Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef is very long and skinny running in a north-south direction. The park is 60 miles long north to south but only 6 miles wide (average) east to west.

Most visitors spend their time along State Route 24, the main road that cuts through the park. To get to the more remote northern and southern sections of the park you can drive on gravel roads and some of these require a 4WD.

Capitol Reef officially became a national park on December 18, 1971. In 2023, it received 1.3 million visitors making it the 22nd most visited US National Park last year. It is one of five national parks in Utah (collectively called Utah’s Mighty 5). Capitol Reef was the fourth most visited national park in Utah’s Mighty 5 (Zion took first place and Canyonlands took 5th place).

State Route 24 through Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park

1. State Route 24

State Route 24 is the main road that runs through the park. This road runs east-west for 16 miles inside the park boundaries following alongside the Fremont River.

State Route 24 is a very scenic stretch of road. In the east, the road twists and turns along the Fremont River past massive domes and cliffs of white Navajo sandstone. As you approach Fruita the views open up as you drive through a valley filled with orchards and historic buildings along the Fremont River. As you continue to head west towards Torrey you will drive past immense red sandstone mountains, cliffs, and rock formations.

There is no fee to drive on SR 24 so you can tour this part of Capitol Reef without paying a park entrance fee. This “no fee zone” includes several of the other best things to do in Capitol Reef including Sunset and Panorama points, the petroglyphs, and a few hiking trails.

2. Panorama Point

Panorama Point offers beautiful views over State Route 24 as it winds its way through the park. This viewpoint is located just off Highway 24 and it is a quick and easy way to get a spectacular view of Capitol Reef Park.

Getting here: On Utah Route 24 there is a sign marking Panorama Point and Sunset Point. Turn here and it’s a very short drive on a gravel road to the parking lot for Panorama Point. If you continue down this road you will get to Sunset Point and the Goosenecks Overlook.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Sunset Point

Continue down the gravel access road until it ends at a small parking area. From the parking lot two different trails lead to two different viewpoints (Sunset Point and Goosenecks Overlook).

Sunset Point is an easy 0.8 mile round-trip hike to a gorgeous overlook. Sunset Point gets its name because it is one of the best spots in Capitol Reef to watch the sunset.

4. Goosenecks Overlook

Walk back to the parking lot and then it is just a short uphill walk (0.2 miles round trip) to a viewpoint over the Goosenecks. This is where the Sulphur Creek carved out a canyon, its curving path resembling that of a gooseneck.

Time: Plan on spending 45 minutes to one hour here visiting both Sunset Point and Goosenecks Overlook.

5. See the petroglyphs

You can see rock art figures (petroglyphs) created by ancient Native Americans on the drive along State Route 24. Park in the small parking lot on SR 24 located between the Hickman Bridge trailhead and Fruita. It’s a very short walk to a viewpoint where you can see these figures carved onto the rock wall.

6. Explore historic Fruita

The historic Fruita district is the heart of Capitol Reef National Park. This is where you will find the visitor center, the start of several great hikes, campground, and historic buildings.

In the late 1800s, pioneers began settling in the area. The first landholder was Nels Johnson followed by other members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The settlers planted orchards and grew sorghum for molasses and syrup.

Now, most of the original buildings are gone but you can still see the one-room schoolhouse, the Gifford House and barn, and the orchards which are still maintained by the National Park Service (NPS).

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Have pie at the Gifford Homestead                                                           

The Gifford Homestead, one of the last remaining buildings in historic Fruita sells handmade items made by local craftsmen such as dolls, soap, quilts, jams and jellies, and books. But the big draw is the pie. Stop in for a slice of locally baked fruit pie and ice cream.

The Gifford House Store and Museum is open March 14 (Pi Day) through November 25 daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m with a 45-minute closure from noon to 12:45 pm. The house will be closed November 6, 22, and 23.

8. Go hiking

One of the best things to do in Capitol Reef National Park is to go hiking. The scenic drives are amazing but there’s no better way to explore the canyons and get a bird’s eye view over the park than from the hiking trails.

In the center of the park near Fruita there are 15 day hikes you can do. There are also numerous other hikes in the more remote areas of the park including Cathedral Valley and along Notom-Bullfrog Road.

To help narrow down the long list of day hikes here are some favorites. All hiking distances are round-trip.

Cassidy Arch (3.4 miles, moderate): This is one of the most thrilling trails in Capitol Reef National Park. This short hike features stunning scenery, views over the Grand Wash, and the chance to stand on Cassidy Arch.

Hickman Bridge (1.8 miles, moderate): This is one of the best short hikes to do in Capitol Reef. Walk along the Fremont River and then hike up to a spectacular viewpoint where you can look out over Highway 24. The trail ends at Hickman Bridge, a large, natural arch that is tucked away near the back of the canyon.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Wash (4.8 miles, easy): Hike through a wide canyon similar to the Zion Narrows but without having to walk through a river. This is a long hike if you walk the entire length of the canyon but you can turn around when you are ready. The best part of the hike where the canyon is the narrowest (called The Narrows) is about one mile from the start so this hike could be as short as 2.5 miles.

Cohab Canyon (3.4 miles, strenuous): This short but strenuous hike offers stunning views over Fruita and along Highway 24. This hike is one of the easiest ways to get an aerial view over Fruita.

Chimney Rock Trail (3.6 miles, moderate): After a short and strenuous climb this trail stays relatively flat as it makes a loop along the sandstone mountains. The views of Fruita and the waterpocket fold are spectacular.

Rim Overlook (4.6 miles, strenuous): It’s a tough hike to get to Rim Overlook but what a view! This viewpoint sits on the edge of cliff high above Fruita. From here, you get one of the best views along the waterpocket fold.

Navajo Knobs (9.5 miles, strenuous): First, you’ll hike to the Rim Overlook. The trail continues to the Navajo Knobs where you have 360-degree views arguably one of the best viewpoints in Capitol Reef National Park.

Cathedrals Trail (2.5 miles, easy): This easy hike offers very nice views of the monoliths of Cathedral Valley. The best part of this hike is the first half as you walk alongside this chain of sandstone formations. The trail ends on top of hill where you have panoramic views of Cathedral Valley.

Headquarters Canyon (2.6 miles, easy): This slot canyon hike is short and sweet. It is located in a remote region of Capitol Reef along Notom-Bullfrog Road so there’s a chance you could have it all to yourself.

Burro Wash, Cottonwood Wash, and Sheets Gulch: These three slot canyons are located relatively close to one another on Notom-Bullfrog Road. They range from 7 to 14 miles round-trip and are moderate to strenuous. There could be pools of water in the canyons. If you are looking for a challenging slot canyon these are hikes to consider.

Sulphur Creek: This 5.8-mile one-way hike is typically done point-to-point which requires a having a second vehicle as a shuttle. This is not a maintained trail so route-finding skills and prior hiking experience are necessary. However, this is a great hike to consider if you want to hike through a deep canyon and in a river similar to the Narrows in Zion.

There are also several great backcountry routes in Capitol Reef. Some of these are long day hikes or overnight backpacking trips. Upper Muley Twist Canyon, Lower Muley Twist Canyon, and Halls Creek Narrows fall into this category.

Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

One of the best things to do in the park is to drive the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. This paved road is 7.9 miles long (one way) and takes you past some of the most stunning scenery in the park.

Note: Scenic Drive will be closed summer 2024 for a rehabilitation project. Get the full details on the National Park Service website.

Scenic Drive starts in Fruita and ends at Capitol Gorge Road.

To drive the Scenic Drive you will have to pay a $20 fee. You will pay this at a self-pay station just past the Fruita Campground. The pass is valid for 7 days.

10. Capitol Gorge Road

This short, scenic drive begins where Scenic Drive ends. Capitol Gorge Road is a 2.3 mile gravel road that is suitable for standard vehicles under 27 feet length.

At the end of Scenic Drive the road will fork. Go left to drive Capitol Gorge Road. If you turn right you will drive Pleasant Creek Road, a rougher gravel road that leads to Pleasant Creek, South Draw, and Boulder Mountain.

Capitol Gorge Road is a very pretty scenic drive. This road twists and turns through a canyon and you have wonderful views the entire way. Capitol Gorge Road ends at Capitol Gorge, one of the hiking trails in the park.

11. Pioneer Register

When Mormon settlers passed through this area in the late 18th century and early 19th century they scrawled their names on the canyon walls. This collection of names is called the Pioneer Register. Basically, it is historic graffiti. In this same canyon you can also see American Indian petroglyphs.

Note: Do not write your name or leave any marks on the canyon walls. This area is under surveillance by the national park service and the fine is huge if you get caught writing on the walls.

To get here, you will hike the Capitol Gorge Trail. This trail which enters a wide canyon was the only road through the waterpocket fold until Highway 24 was constructed. It is a 1.5-mile round trip hike to the Pioneer Register although the trail continues through the canyon to The Tanks.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Cathedral Valley

Cathedral Valley is the rugged, remote northern district of Capitol Reef National Park. Few people travel out this way to see this valley and its sandstone monoliths, colorful Bentonite hills, and vast desert scenery. But that’s part of its appeal. If you like the idea of leaving the crowds behind and exploring the backcountry, the Cathedral Valley Loop is an awesome drive to put on your to-do list.

The Cathedral Valley Loop is a 58-mile scenic drive that is located north of the historic Fruita district. There are no paved roads on this loop so you must have a high clearance vehicle and having a 4×4 is strongly recommended.

It takes 4 hours to drive the entire loop but with short detours, overlooks, and adding on one or two short hikes, the Cathedral Valley Loop takes a full day.

13. Loop the Fold

This is another incredibly scenic drive in Capitol Reef National Park. This remote drive loops around the waterpocket fold in the southern part of the park. Like Cathedral Valley, Looping the Fold takes roughly one full day.

On this loop, you will drive down Notom-Bullfrog Road. It starts off as a paved road but eventually turns to gravel; however, it is usually suitable for standard cars (after rainstorms, a 4WD may be necessary). Along Notom-Bullfrog Road you have the option to hike many slot canyons. Headquarters Canyon and Surprise Canyon are two very easy slots to add onto this drive.

The loop continues on Burr Trail Road. You’ll climb up the legendary Burr Trail switchbacks and the higher you go the better the views. Hike out to Strike Valley Overlook where you get panoramic views of Strike Valley and Notom-Bullfrog Road (more information above).

Just beyond the overlook the road becomes paved and you enter Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The drive twists and turns through canyons before arriving in Boulder. Take Utah Highway 12 north to return to Torrey and Capitol Reef National Park. Along the way, you will drive up and over Boulder Mountain which offers more incredible views along the way.

This is another incredible experience to have in Capitol Reef National Park. Since it is so remote, crowd levels are extremely low.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Strike Valley Overlook

This is one of the most unique viewpoints in Capitol Reef National Park.

From this viewpoint, you are looking out over one of the edges of the waterpocket fold. Nearly 150 million years of geologic history can be seen from here. It’s a beautiful, colorful spot as you look out over Navajo and Entrada sandstone, Mancos Shale, Carmel Formation, and numerous other layers of sedimentary rock.

This is a remote viewpoint and getting here can be a little tricky. If you have plans to Loop the Fold you will drive right past this viewpoint. You can also get here by driving Burr Trail Road from Highway 12.

From Burr Trail Road, a 3-mile access road leads to the trailhead. Standard vehicles will only be able to make it a quarter of a mile down this road then you will have to park and walk the rest of the way. High clearance vehicles should be able to make it to the parking area but sometimes 4WD is necessary.

From the parking area, it is a 0.9 mile round-trip walk to the viewpoint. The Upper Muley Twist Canyon hike also starts here.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How much time do you need in Capitol Reef National Park?

Plan to spend at least a few days in the park. With the scenic drives and hiking trails you could easily spend a week here and never run out of things to do.

With half of a day, you can visit the sights along Highway 24 (Panorama and Sunset Points, Goosenecks Overlook, the petroglyphs, and hike Hickman Bridge) and spend some time in Fruita. This works great if you are driving through Capitol Reef on a road trip through Utah.

With one day in Capitol Reef visit the sights along Highway 24 (Panorama and Sunset Points, Goosenecks Overlook, the petroglyphs, and hike Hickman Bridge), visit Fruita, drive Scenic Drive and Capitol Gorge Road, and add on one more hike (Cassidy Arch, Grand Wash, and Cohab Canyon are all great picks).

With two days in Capitol Reef, follow the suggestions above for day 1 and on day 2 you can hike a longer trail, visit Cathedral Valley, or Loop the Fold.

Each additional day you add will give you more time for scenic drives and hike more trails. If you want to visit Cathedral Valley, Loop the Fold, visit the heart of Capitol Reef, and hike a few of the longer trails, I recommend spending a minimum of four days in Capitol Reef.

Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park

The spring and fall months are the best times to visit Capitol Reef National Park. Weather conditions are pleasant and you can avoid the larger crowds that arrive in the summer.

During the summer months expect soaring temperatures and large crowds (although Capitol Reef does not get the legendary crowds like Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Zion).

During the winter months the park is less crowded but temperatures get below freezing and snow is likely. Snow can close the roads and make hiking more difficult.

How to get to Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is located in southern Utah. The closest town is Torrey which has several hotels, RV parks, restaurants, and a grocery store.

Most people visit Capitol Reef National Park when road tripping through Utah’s Mighty 5.

Here are the driving distances and times for nearby destinations:

  • Salt Lake City: 225 miles, 3.5 hours
  • Moab: 144 miles, 2.5 hours
  • Goblin Valley State Park: 68 miles, 1.5 hours
  • Escalante: 75 miles, 1.75 hours
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: 120 miles, 1.25 hours
  • Zion National Park: 182 miles, 3.25 hours
  • Las Vegas: 330 miles, 5 hours
Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to camp

Inside Capitol Reef National Park, Fruita Campground offers 65 reservable sites. Full hookups, or any utilities for that matter, are unavailable. Should you want to stay there, reservations are a must—the earlier the better, as it fills quickly.

If you are up to it, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forests provide other places to camp. Just remember that these are mostly primitive sites.

Torrey offers several RV parks for visitors exploring the area particularly those visiting Capitol Reef National Park. Here are some of the top RV parks in Torrey:

  • Sandcreek RV Park: Located 5 miles west of Capitol Reef National Park, this family-owned park offers full hookup RV sites, tent camping, and cabins. They provide free WiFi and are pet-friendly.
  • Wonderland RV Park: Situated just 3 miles from Capitol Reef, this park offers spacious RV sites with full hookups, tent sites, and log cabins. They provide amenities such as 30/50 amp service, free Wi-Fi, shade trees, and clean restrooms.
  • Thousand Lakes RV Park: Located 6 miles from Capitol Reef, this park offers stunning views of red rock mountains and sagebrush-covered plateaus. They provide amenities like a pool, playground, laundry facilities, and a gift shop.

These RV parks generally offer similar amenities including full hookups, WiFi, and proximity to Capitol Reef National Park. Many are pet-friendly and provide additional facilities like showers, laundry, and picnic areas. Prices and specific amenities may vary so it’s best to check with each park directly for the most up-to-date information and to make reservations especially during peak travel seasons.

Practical information about Capitol Reef National Park

Park hours: Capitol Reef is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

Park fee: $20 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. You will pay this fee to enter Scenic Drive. You do not need to pay this fee if you only visit the sights along Highway 24 or if you drive the Cathedral Valley loop or Loop the Fold.

More information about Capitol Reef National Park

Planning a visit to the U.S. national parks? Visit From Arches to Zion: The Essential Guide to America’s National Parks to learn more about the parks with important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

Worth Pondering…

As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, “Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.”

—Jack Kerouac, On the Road

How to Care For Your RV Slide Toppers

One thing that doesn’t get discussed enough in the world of RVing? RV slide toppers. These handy things are fairly common and yet we rarely hear about their uses, how to care for them, or how to repair them.

RV slide toppers—these RV accessories are very common but rarely discussed. Most RV owners don’t pay their slide toppers much mind at all until the toppers start giving them trouble.

I’m hoping to use this article to help educate RV owners about RV slide toppers. Here, I will discuss what exactly RV slide toppers are as well as the maintenance required to keep them in tip-top shape.

Motorhome with slide toppers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are RV slide toppers?

First, let’s talk briefly about what exactly an RV slide topper is. After all, this isn’t a very useful discussion if you don’t know what we’re discussing. 

Slide toppers are the small awnings you see sticking out over the slides on some RVs. They automatically roll out when the slides are put out and retract when the slides are pulled back in.

Some RVs come standard with these small awnings, others do not. That said, it is possible to add your own aftermarket RV slide toppers, something many RV owners choose to do. 

Motorhome with slide toppers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are slide toppers for?

Now that you know what we’re talking about, you may be wondering what exactly slide toppers are for. The obvious answer is that they help protect your slide roof from leaks. They also do a decent job of keeping debris off the roof and any debris that falls onto the topper tends to slide off easily rather than getting stuck on the flat slideout roof. 

Another major benefit of RV slide toppers? These things can actually help insulate your RV and provide extra shade from bright sunshine. This is awesome because it means cooler summers and warmer winters without using a ton of electricity or propane. 

Travel trailer without slide toppers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The drawbacks of slide toppers

As you can see, there are a few great benefits to having toppers over your slides. That said, these awnings do also have some drawbacks.

For one thing, slide toppers can catch the wind causing annoying flapping noises that can make it hard to sleep. They can also collect rainwater dropping it at random and sometimes at the most inopportune times. There is also the fact that it’s another thing on your RV that you have to maintain. And lastly, it’s annoying that the slide topper must be removed in order to reseal the slide roof underneath. 

Are RV slide toppers necessary?

Overall, even with their negatives, RV slide toppers are pretty nifty but are they a necessity? If your rig didn’t come from the factory with them should you rush out to buy a set right away?

Although RV slide toppers are super nice to have, they are not at all necessary, especially if your RV didn’t come with them in the first place. There are plenty of RVs out on the road without slide toppers that are doing just fine. Just make sure the rooftops of your RV slides outs stay well sealed and you’ll be good to go. 

All that said, I can’t see myself without slide toppers on my motorhome.

Motorhome with slide toppers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Caring for RV slide toppers

If you do have slide toppers, you may be wondering how to care for them. The good news is that they are very easy to care for. Below are my top tips for taking care of your RV slide toppers. 

Clean often

Whether your RV slide toppers were installed aftermarket or came standard with your RV, the first step toward ensuring they last a long while is keeping them clean. Be sure to brush any debris off before retracting the slide awnings so that sticks and other pointy objects don’t damage the fabric.

You’ll also need to clean the fabric every few months with a long-handled brush and some water mixed with dish soap in order to remove dirt and tree sap. This will help them better retain their original color and will help ensure they don’t accumulate mildew or mold. 

Rinse with water and make sure to let the topper dry completely before pulling it in. 

Fifth wheel trailer without slide toppers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pull slide toppers in during strong winds

Strong winds can cause some serious damage to RV slide toppers. Not only will they blow the fabric around—potentially leading to tears—but they can also cause branches to fall from trees something that can damage both the slide toppers and the slides themselves.

Since these are things you certainly don’t want to be dealing with while trying to enjoy a camping trip, I strongly recommend pulling your slides and slide toppers in when high winds roll through.

Not only will this prevent holes and tears in the awning fabric, it’ll also make your rig more aerodynamic making it harder for the wind to push you around as you wait for the storm to pass. 

Note: It also doesn’t hurt to pull the slides in if hail begins to fall.

Check your slide toppers for tears

Even well-taken-care-of slide toppers will begin to tear over time. This is just a part of the aging process and will happen more quickly if you spend considerable time parked in the sun. 

Each time you retract your slide toppers, make sure to do a quick inspection for tears. If you do find a tear, repair it with some awning tape before you pull the slide in as retracting the awning with a tear can actually cause further damage.

Over time, awning fabric starts to wear out making it very easy to tear. For this reason, it’s good to keep a close eye on the fabric especially after a few years of use.

Allow time for the awning fabric to dry

If at all possible, before retracting the slide toppers allow sufficient time for the awning fabric to dry after cleaning and/or rainstorms. This shouldn’t take a long time and it will help protect your RV slide toppers from developing a layer of mold or mildew something that is nearly impossible to get rid of.

Travel trailers without slide toppers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Replace RV slide topper fabric as needed

No matter how well you care for your RV slide toppers, there will come a time when the fabric really does need to be replaced rather than just repaired.

This is a job that a DIYer can likely do with the help of a friend or family member. Better yet, most replacement RV slide topper fabric is thicker and more durable than the topper fabric they use in the RV factories meaning you should get even more life out of your RV slide toppers once you replace the fabric.

There you have it! Everything you need to know to care for your RV slide toppers. Be sure to add these tasks to your RV maintenance list so you can continue to enjoy the benefits of these awesome RV accessories for years to come.

Worth Pondering…

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

—Confucius

The Complete Guide to Custer State Park

Traveling to the Black Hills in South Dakota and wondering what there is to see and do in Custer State Park? In this post, I cover all the main landmarks, hiking trails, and animal sightings that you can experience in Custer—the best things to do in Custer State Park.

Located in the rugged beauty of the Black Hills in South Dakota, Custer State Park emerges as a sanctuary of natural splendor and wildlife diversity. Encompassing over 71,000 acres, this iconic park is a testament to the breathtaking landscapes that define the region’s towering granite peaks, expansive rolling grasslands, and crystal-clear mountain waters.

Established as South Dakota’s first state park in 1912 and named in honor of Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, the park weaves together a rich tapestry of history and untamed wilderness.

Home to a thriving population of wildlife including the iconic bison, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, and more, Custer State Park beckons adventurers with its myriad trails, scenic drives, and the allure of its five pristine lakes. From the annual bison roundup to the historic Peter Norbeck Center, Custer State Park invites visitors to explore its diverse offerings, promising an immersive journey into the heart of one of South Dakota’s most cherished natural treasures.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Features of Custer State Park

Iconic bison herd: Custer State Park is renowned for its resident herd of over 1,500 bison making it one of the largest publicly-owned herds in the world. The annual bison roundup (September 27, 2024) is a notable event attracting thousands of spectators and showcasing the park’s commitment to wildlife conservation.

Scenic drives: The park boasts two famous scenic drives—Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop Road. These routes offer breathtaking views of granite peaks, pristine lakes, and opportunities to witness wildlife including bison.

Diverse wildlife: Beyond bison, the park is home to a variety of wildlife species including prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, mountain goats, coyotes, river otters, pronghorn, cougars, and feral burros. This diversity attracts nature enthusiasts and provides unique opportunities for wildlife observation.

Outdoor recreation: Custer State Park offers a range of outdoor activities from hiking trails to water-based activities in its five picturesque lakes. Visitors can enjoy boating, swimming, and fishing while surrounded by the park’s natural beauty.

Historic contributions: The Park’s history is shaped by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which played a vital role in the 1930s by building roads, campgrounds, and dams. The Peter Norbeck Center, a National Register of Historic Place, showcases the park’s natural history and cultural heritage through exhibits.

Expansive terrain: Covering over 71,000 acres, Custer State Park features diverse landscapes including rolling prairie grasslands and rugged mountains. The varied terrain contributes to the park’s scenic beauty and provides a habitat for its diverse wildlife.

The Needles, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Proximity to attractions: Situated in the Black Hills, the park is near other notable attractions such as Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Badlands National Park offering visitors a chance to explore the broader region.

Visitor center: The modern visitor center opened in 2016 serves as an informative hub offering insights into the park’s wildlife, history, and layout. Visitors can engage with exhibits and a short film to enhance their understanding of Custer State Park.

Annual events: In addition to the bison roundup the park hosts various events and programs including naturalist-led activities, festivals, and educational programs. These events provide visitors with unique opportunities to connect with the park’s natural and cultural offerings.

Preservation efforts: Custer State Park has a history of expansion and preservation with an additional 22,900 acres added in 1964. The park’s ongoing efforts focus on maintaining ecological balance and preserving the natural beauty that defines this South Dakota gem.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History

Established in 1912, Custer State Park located in the Black Hills of South Dakota holds a storied history as the state’s first and largest state park. The park’s origins trace back to a collection of sixteen sections of land which were later consolidated into one expansive block due to the challenges posed by the rugged terrain.

The 1930s saw a transformative period for the park, as the CCC played a pivotal role in constructing miles of roads, campgrounds, and dams. These efforts laid the foundation for the park’s growth and facilitated water recreation activities.

In 1964, an additional 22,900 acres were added further expanding its boundaries. Notably, the park is home to a herd of over 1,500 bison and the annual bison roundup initiated in 1965 has become a celebrated event drawing thousands of spectators. Today, Custer State Park stands as a testament to conservation efforts offering visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, wildlife diversity, and a rich tapestry of historical significance.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Importance of conservation and recreation for Custer State Park

Custer State Park holds a dual significance as a vital hub for both conservation and recreation. On the conservation front, the park’s expansive 71,000 acres serve as a haven for diverse wildlife playing a crucial role in the preservation of ecosystems unique to the Black Hills region.

The resident herd of over 1,500 bison alongside prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, elk, and various other species underscores the park’s commitment to biodiversity. The annual bison roundup not only captivates visitors but also stands as a carefully orchestrated conservation effort, ensuring the ecological balance of the park.

Additionally, Custer State Park’s historical role in the 1930s with the CCC constructing essential infrastructure exemplifies a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Simultaneously, the park’s recreational offerings from scenic drives like Needles Highway to hiking trails and water-based activities provide a dynamic and immersive experience for visitors.

Beyond its natural allure, Custer State Park’s proximity to other iconic attractions such as Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park positions it as a cornerstone for tourism fostering an appreciation for the region’s natural beauty.

Needles Highway, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Diverse vegetation and unique plant species

Ponderosa pine forests: Custer State Park is characterized by extensive stands of ponderosa pine forests contributing to the park’s scenic beauty and providing habitat for various wildlife species.

Aspen groves: Aspen groves dot the landscape especially in areas with higher elevations. These groves contribute to the park’s diverse and visually striking vegetation.

Prairie grasslands: The Park features expansive prairie grasslands showcasing a mix of native grass species that play a crucial role in maintaining the park’s ecosystem and supporting its diverse wildlife.

Wildflowers: Throughout the park, a vibrant display of wildflowers adds splashes of color to the landscape. These include species like lupine, fireweed, Indian paintbrush, and various others creating a visually appealing and ecologically significant environment.

Ferns and mosses: In shaded and moist areas, ferns and mosses thrive adding to the diversity of plant life within the park. These species are often found along streambanks and in the vicinity of the park’s lakes.

Black Hills spruce: This native evergreen species is part of the diverse forest composition contributing to the park’s unique plant community. The Black Hills spruce is well-adapted to the region’s climate and soil conditions.

Chokecherry and Saskatoon serviceberry: These shrub species are found throughout the park and are important for both wildlife and traditional uses. Chokecherries, in particular, are a vital food source for various bird species.

Alder thickets: Along waterways and in moist areas, alder thickets thrive. These dense shrub communities provide habitat for a variety of birds and small mammals.

Rocky Mountain juniper: Scattered throughout the park, the Rocky Mountain juniper is a hardy evergreen species that adds to the park’s diverse vegetation particularly in rocky or higher elevation areas.

Custer State Park’s diverse vegetation not only enhances its natural beauty but also plays a critical role in supporting the varied wildlife species that call the park home. The combination of forests, grasslands, and unique plant communities creates a rich tapestry of ecosystems within this South Dakota treasure.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fauna

Bison: Custer State Park is renowned for its resident herd of over 1,500 bison making it one of the largest publicly-owned herds in the world. The annual bison roundup (September 27, 2024) is a spectacle that showcases the park’s commitment to wildlife management and conservation.

Prairie dogs: The Park is home to thriving prairie dog towns where these social rodents create intricate burrow systems. Their presence contributes to the park’s unique prairie ecosystem and provides a critical food source for various predators.

Bighorn sheep: Custer State Park supports a population of bighorn sheep with these iconic mammals often spotted on the rugged mountainous terrain. The park’s varied landscapes offer suitable habitats for their survival.

Elk: Elk can be found throughout the park especially in areas with a mix of forests and meadows. Their presence adds to the diversity of large herbivores in the region.

Pronghorns, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mule deer: The Park is home to mule deer which are often seen in grassland and forested areas. These agile herbivores contribute to the park’s overall biodiversity.

White-tailed deer: White-tailed deer are prevalent in Custer State Park utilizing the diverse habitats including woodlands and open grasslands. Their adaptability to different environments makes them a common sight for park visitors.

Mountain goats: Adapted to the rocky terrain, mountain goats find suitable habitats in the park’s higher elevations. Their presence adds to the alpine character of certain areas within the park.

Coyotes: Thriving in a variety of environments including prairies and woodlands, coyotes are common in Custer State Park. They play a role in controlling rodent populations and contribute to the park’s ecological balance.

River otters: In aquatic habitats such as lakes and streams, river otters are active residents. Their playful behavior and sleek presence add to the diversity of wildlife experiences in the park.

Pronghorns: These swift and agile antelope-like mammals can be spotted in the park’s open grasslands. Their unique adaptations make them well-suited to the prairie environments of Custer State Park.

Cougars: Though elusive and rarely seen, cougars inhabit the park’s forests and rocky landscapes. Their presence as a top predator contributes to the park’s overall ecosystem dynamics.

Feral burros: Not native to the region, feral burros are a charming addition to the park’s fauna. Known for approaching vehicles in search of food, they add a unique and sometimes amusing element to the visitor experience.

Custer State Park’s diverse fauna is a testament to the park’s commitment to wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. The mix of large herbivores, predators, and smaller mammals creates a balanced and thriving ecosystem offering visitors a chance to witness the wonders of the Black Hills’ natural biodiversity.

Needles Highway, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Activities in Custer State Park for visitors

1. Scenic drives

Visitors to Custer State Park can embark on unforgettable scenic drives such as the renowned Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop Road. Needles Highway winds through impressive granite spires providing breathtaking views and opportunities to witness the park’s diverse wildlife. Wildlife Loop Road offers a leisurely drive through key habitats allowing visitors to observe bison herds, prairie dog towns, and a variety of other animals.

2. Hiking trails

The park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails catering to various skill levels. Trails like the Little Devils Tower offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape while Sylvan Lake Shore Trail provides a scenic lakeside stroll. Hiking enthusiasts can explore the diverse ecosystems from dense forests to open meadows offering a close encounter with the park’s natural beauty.

3. Wildlife viewing

Custer State Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The park’s vast landscapes offer ample opportunities for wildlife observation with bison, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, elk, and a myriad of bird species calling the park home. Wildlife Loop Road is especially popular for its accessibility and the likelihood of spotting iconic animals in their natural habitats.

Burros, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Fishing

The park’s five picturesque lakes including Sylvan Lake and Stockade Lake provide excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers can cast their lines for a variety of fish species creating a serene and rewarding experience surrounded by the park’s scenic beauty. Fishing is permitted and regulations ensure the sustainability of the aquatic ecosystems.

5. Boating and swimming

Visitors seeking water-based activities can enjoy boating and swimming in the park’s lakes. Sylvan Lake with its clear waters and scenic surroundings is a popular spot for both boating and swimming. The calm lakes offer a refreshing escape allowing visitors to connect with nature while engaging in recreational water activities.

6. Annual bison roundup

An iconic event in Custer State Park is the annual bison roundup (September 27, 2024), a spectacle that draws thousands of spectators. This tradition, dating back to 1965 involves herding the bison for health checks and population management. Visitors have the unique opportunity to witness this significant conservation effort and gain insights into the park’s commitment to wildlife management.

7. Visitor Center Exploration

Opened in 2016, the park’s visitor center serves as an informative hub. Visitors can delve into exhibits detailing the park’s wildlife, history, and layout. The center provides a comprehensive introduction to Custer State Park enhancing the overall visitor experience with interactive displays and a 20-minute film.

Camping in Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Camping

For those seeking a more immersive experience, Custer State Park offers several campgrounds nestled within its natural landscapes. Campers can enjoy the tranquility of the Black Hills with campfire evenings under starlit skies. The park provides a range of camping options from rustic sites to more developed facilities.

Custer State Park’s diverse activities cater to a broad range of interests inviting visitors to engage with its natural wonders, wildlife, and recreational offerings. Whether exploring by car, foot, or boat, the park provides an enriching experience that showcases the unique beauty of the Black Hills region.

As our journey through Custer State Park concludes, it leaves an indelible mark—a canvas of granite peaks, untamed bison, and winding scenic drives. The echoes of preservation and nature’s allure linger. Until the next adventure beckons, Custer State Park remains a cherished chapter in the tapestry of exploration.

Plan your next trip to Custer State Park and the Black Hills with these resources:

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

In summary, Custer State Park is a harmonious blend of conservation, recreation, and cultural heritage. Its diverse landscapes from prairie grasslands to granite peaks provide a captivating environment. The park’s commitment to preservation evident in the annual bison roundup and historic contributions reflects its dedication to stewardship.

Worth Pondering…

My first years were spent living just as my forefathers had lived—roaming the green, rolling hills of what are now the states of South Dakota and Nebraska.

—Standing Bear

A Summer Road Trip Guide to Bryce Canyon Country

Explore canyons, forests, and lakes in Bryce Canyon Country—home to Bryce Canyon National Park and so much more

Summer is synonymous with road trips. There’s no need to worry about icy roads or snow storms. School’s out and businesses are back in full swing to support summer travelers. It’s the perfect time of year to hit the open road for an epic adventure. And there is no better place to do this than in Southern Utah’s Bryce Canyon Country.

A geological masterpiece sculpted by time, the landscape of Southern Utah begins with the Colorado Plateau upon which Southern Utah rests. The massive area encompasses everything from the natural rock arches of Arches National Park and the deep canyons of Canyonlands National Park to the waters of Lake Powell with Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park anchoring the land in between. 

Garfield County Utah, otherwise known as Bryce Canyon Country is the fifth-least populous county in Utah, the vast landscape holds just over 5,000 residents—with one inhabitant per square mile—making it also the least densely populated county in the state. Because of this, traveling here even in the busy summer months can sometimes feel like you have the entire place to yourself. This remote destination offers all the fun with a vast landscape filled with hoodoos and arches, deep canyons and slot canyons, rivers and red rocks, all without the crowds.

Discover how to have an epic road trip in Bryce Canyon Country where remote roads lead to an unveiling of not only a landscape that’s etched with beauty but also a treasure trove of rich history waiting to be discovered. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park

Begin your exploration of Bryce Canyon Country with a visit to Capitol Reef National Park. You’ll know instantly when you’ve arrived at the park’s most iconic feature, the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long warp in the Earth’s crust. The park gets its name Capitol Reef from the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that resemble domed capitol buildings and the large rocky cliffs that are a barrier to travel, much like an ocean reef.

Drive along State Route 24 and as you enter the park you’ll encounter some of the park’s top highlights: the Hickman Bridge Trail, the petroglyph panels, Ripple Rock Nature Center, the visitor center, and the 200-acre Fruita Rural Historic District where you can camp and pick fruit from the orchard’s bountiful trees.

Note: Fruit taken from the orchards must be paid for.

Explore by simply taking a scenic drive through the park or venturing out on one of the park’s many trails that wind through narrow canyons or strike out on backcountry dirt roads to see what you find.

Check this out to learn more:

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel the All-American Road

For the ultimate summer scenic road trip, continue south and drive along the Scenic Byway 12. The epic 123-mile driving route follows some of the most beautiful landscapes of the American Southwest for which it was named an All-American Road.

Jaw-dropping scenery and a road that follows and clings to the land its one road trip where you almost feel a part of the landscape. The paved two-way road climbs to the highest of heights along the famous Hogsback stretch and curves corners of slick rock highlighting scenic vista points along the way that offer views for as far as the eye can see. 

The scenic byway connects U.S. 89 near Panguitch with S.R. 24 near Torrey and will be your main thoroughfare through Bryce Canyon Country. As you climb through the Dixie National Forest from Torrey, one of the best spots for a scenic overlook is at the road’s summit at 9,000 feet. This stop gives you some of the best views of Bryce Canyon Country with the contrasting red rocks of Capitol Reef, the distant Henry Mountains, and the expansive desertscape of the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Connecting Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, the road winds through parts of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and nearby state parks such as Kodachrome Basin, Escalante Petrified Forest, Anasazi State Park Museum. 

Here are some articles to help:

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

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Spanning nearly 1.9 million acres from Bryce Canyon to Grand Canyon the rugged and remote terrain of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is one of the most scenic yet overlooked destinations in the U.S. The monument received its name Grand Staircase for its large sequence of sedimentary rock layers stretching south from Bryce Canyon National Park through Zion National Park and into Grand Canyon National Park. This huge stairway of rock ascends north out of the Grand Canyon encompassing much of Bryce Canyon Country.

Aside from the monument’s vast desert views, many travelers come here to plunge into the deep red walls of the area’s many slot canyons. While some of the most popular slot canyons to explore including Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch don’t require a guide, getting to some of the monuments more remote and off-the-grid slot canyons requires a guide. 

Excursions of Escalante is the premier tour company that takes you beyond the more accessible places (Spooky, Peekaboo, Big Horn, etc.) and into the most remote, beautiful, and pristine corners of the Escalante region. Choose your own adventure with slot canyon hikes and canyoneering options to explore the area’s most remote and slender slots.

Scenic Byway 12 winds through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If tiny spaces aren’t your thing, regular hiking is another option. Part of what makes visiting the monument special is its limited access to trails and the land itself. Very few can be reached on paved roads with most accessed via unpaved dirt roads. These backroads throughout the monument not only offer access to numerous trailheads, they also offer exceptional scenic driving potential. 

The only two designated trails (with signs) in the Grand Staircase can be accessed directly from Scenic Byway 12—Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls. Upper Calf Creek is a short two-mile hike round trip but with a steep climb to the falls. Lower Calf Creek Falls is longer at six miles but is mostly flat. 

A unique way to get a great overview of Bryce Canyon Country is with an ATV tour from Grand Staircase ATV Tours. See the back gate to Bryce Canyon National Park from the little town of Tropic to view the highest plateaus and cliffs that make up the steps to the Staircase. A husband-and-wife team own the company and provides a wealth of knowledge and information about the area. Just a 10-mile drive from Bryce Canyon National Park located in Tropic, the company offers private guided tours into the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

By the way, I have written: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Naturally

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park

Continuing along Scenic Byway 12 heading west you take you directly to Bryce Canyon National Park—the heart of Bryce Canyon Country. 

Bryce Canyon National Park is an otherworldly landscape famous for its breathtaking amphitheaters of towering hoodoos. These hoodoos are distinctive spire-shaped rock formations that lay the groundwork for this incredibly unique place. The whimsical, orange and red hoodoos rise in dense concentrations forming a surreal panorama across the amphitheaters and maze-like trails below the rim.

Driving into Bryce Canyon initially throws off first-time visitors with its forests of ponderosa pines along the flat plateau. Here is where you’ll find most of the park’s camping spots and access to the canyon and its overlooks. The out-and-back 18-mile road stretches the length of the park and is the jumping-off point for all vehicle and trail exploration.

Hiking amongst the hoodoos is a must with popular trails including the Fairyland Loop, Navajo Loop, Queens Garden, and the Rim Trail. Scenic views from Sunrise, Sunset, and Inspiration point should not be missed as well.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s why I wrote these five articles:

Or explore the diverse canyon as the first settlers to discover the area did by way of horseback. Saddle up with Canyon Trail Rides, the only horseback outfitters inside the park with their two-hour guided tour through the heart of Bryce Canyon. The best part? This trail is not accessible to hikers or backpackers, so you get to see some of the canyon other visitors don’t get to see. 

Plan your next trip in southern Utah’s Bryce Canyon Country with these resources:

Worth Pondering…

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.

—August Fruge

Summer 2024 in Arizona: 106 fun ways to survive the 100-degree heat

It’s a dry heat but Arizona is still hot: here’s some ways to cool off

Hello, triple-digit temperatures!

It’s been hot in Arizona since May thanks to a heat dome but now that the official first day of summer 2024 has come and gone you may be needing ideas on how to survive the Sonoran Desert heat.

Those who live in—or spend time in—the desert have two options for coping with triple-digit temps: finding ways to have fun indoors or outdoors or getting out of town.

Whichever way you roll (in your RV) I’ve got you covered.

Don’t let those high temperatures deter you from doing fun stuff this summer. Here’s a list of 106 fun things to do this summer to beat the Arizona heat.

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Let’s start with the obvious: Pools, waterparks, and splash pads are the first things to think about when it comes to summer.

2. And while we’re on the subject of bodies of water, Arizona actually has a surprising number of sandy beaches where you can swim. I’m totally for real—check them out below.

3. Salt River Tubing has been a summer tradition since the 1980s.

4. With hundreds of miles of shoreline, Lake Powell harbors countless remote beaches amid a colorful labyrinth of canyons. There are even a few beaches that don’t require a boat.

5. Tucked away amid the rolling hills of southern ArizonaPatagonia Lake State Park is a shimmering oasis in the high desert. And since water is scarce around these parts, the 265-acre reservoir draws summer visitors from all across southern Arizona looking to cool off.

6. Four state parks cling to the edge of the Colorado River between Parker and Lake Havasu City accessed from State Route 95. Buckskin Mountain straddles a picturesque section of river, a beautiful combination of stony mountains and sparkling water.

7. Nearby River Island State Park nestles in a sloping bowl at the base of stark mountains that rise from the riverbank. An intimate beach sits next to the boat ramp and just beyond the campground with a grassy lawn that’s perfect for tents.

8. Hugging the southern edge of Lake Havasu, Cattail Cove State Park protects a long piece of scenic shoreline. Swimming is allowed in the roped-off area adjacent to the beach. 

9. Lake Havasu City also has free public beaches. Rotary Beach is a 40-acre park with picnic areas, barbecue grills, multiple play areas, a skate park, and designated swim area. Its location inside the 5 mph no-wake zone of Thompson Bay makes for calm waters.

Colorado River in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Yuma has done an amazing job cleaning up and revamping its waterfront in an effort to reconnect to the Colorado River. Gateway Park was part of that development. Sitting at the end of Madison Avenue the park has picnic ramadas, a grassy area, playground, fishing piers, and a sandy beach with a gradual entry into the water. Located under the Ocean to Ocean Bridge the span provides a swath of welcome shade.

11. Popular with anglers, Roper Lake State Park has 5 miles of trails, cabins, a campground, and a picnic area.

12. For those uninterested in being out during daylight hours summer provides the perfect opportunity to catch up on all the shows. Lucky for you, Season 3 of Bridgerton is out on Netflix.

13. Also in TV news, Season 6 of Love Island USA is airing weekly on Peacock.

14. If you do want to leave the house for entertainment take advantage of summer movie deals at AMC Theatres, Harkins Theatres, and Cinemark.

15. Want to learn something this summer? The Poozeum is an extraordinary FREE museum and gift shop located in Williams. You can immense yourself in the fascinating world of coprolites or fossilized poop at Arizona’s most unusual new museum where while indulging in an experience that goes beyond the ordinary—it’s instructive entertainment at its finest and is suitable for visitors of all ages.

16. Speaking of museums, Tucson’s Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum just recently won the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service due to their excellence in service to the community. So, it’s definitely worth checking out.

17. Plus, the Phoenix Art Museum offers “Pay-What-You-Wish Wednesdays” from 3-9 p.m. for general admission with special exhibition tickets being $10 for adults and $5 for anyone under the age of 18.

18. Want to save some money while soaking up all this knowledge? The Act One Culture Pass gives free admission to museums around Arizona. All you need is a library card.

19. Too hot to golf outdoors? Hone your skills at TeeBox Indoor Golf Club in Cave Creek. It has 11 simulator bays with the latest training technology plus a restaurant and bar.

20. If you’re going shopping, pick one of the many retail emporiums with misters lining the walking areas. A favorite is Tempe Marketplace which also has a splash pad for the kiddos and boba tea, ice cream, and frozen yogurt shops to keep you cool. It’s a win/win/win.

21. For the perfect family-friendly day outing the Arizona Boardwalk near Scottsdale has a ton of fun activities including a brand-new attraction: the Boardwalk Carousel.

22. Another way to stay cool is to go bar hopping and Arizona has so many cool bars and I bet you haven’t been to them all. See how many new ones you can make it to by the end of summer.

23. Don’t go day drinking and bar hopping without the proper fuel. Luckily, there are zillions of restaurants where you can enjoy a summer of trying new foods.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

24. And what’s summer without a cool sweet treat? Head to Novel Ice Cream for their famous dough melt (warm glazed doughnut stuffed with ice cream?) or to Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream for one of their 100 irrestible ice cream flavors (Graham Central Station or Cotton Candy for starters).

25. You can also go on a food crawl at the farmers’ market which will give you an opportunity to taste the best Arizona fruits, veggies, and other foods. Several farmers’ markets are open during the summer.

26. No list of iconic summer foods would be complete without the classic hot dog.

27. And speaking of dogs the Sonoran hot dog is a must-try on many foodie enthisiast’s list. Sonoran hot dog, also known as a Sonoran dog, is a regional specialty and a type of hot dog that originated in the Sonora region of northern Mexico specifically in the city of Hermosillo.

28. Stay with me on this one: Arizona has some pretty cool bug life and you could spend the summer learning all about it. For example, did you know that summer is peak tick season in Arizona? Here’s how to keep these biters off you and your dog. 

29. Consider the scorpion, that symbol of the desert. Don’t be surprised if a scorpion shows up in your pool or even your toilet. Pools and other damp areas can attract scorpions seeking water especially during extreme dry periods. Scorpions can survive in water for up to two days.

30. Its also good to read up on black widow spiders since they’re plentiful in the desert.

31. You could spot a rattlesnake anytime in warm weather. They’re rarely aggressive if you’re careful.

32. If you’re determined to spend the summer outside of Phoenix, there are lots of in-state getaways perfect for a weekend or much longer.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

34. For time travel without all the butterfly effect nonsense take a drive to Bisbee. In its mining heyday, it was Arizona’s largest city for a time. Today it’s a laid-back artsy and historical community.

35. If you’re traveling north this summer you can explore myriad interesting museums along the way from the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott which covers Arizona’s territorial history to the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff which presents a comprehensive look at the people and natural history of the Colorado Plateau.

36. Kids can get some summer learning with a side of fun at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. It has three floors of interactive exhibits for kids up to age 10. There are weekly summer camps to get them even more involved.

37. Another fun, hands-on option is the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Ranked nationally as a top destination for families it’s easy to see why with kids able to play, hear, and experience music in new ways.

38. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is beautiful in the bright sunshine but you should check it out under the beam of a flashlight for a cooler experience. During the garden’s Flashlight Nights you can see its beauty while strolling under the night sky with cool drinks and treats.

39. If you want to explore Arizona’s wildlife from the safety of your own vehicle, check out Bearizona Drive-Thru Wildlife Park in Williams to see bison, bighorn sheep, goats, wolves, and bears.

40. If you’re more into classic animal excursions the Phoenix Zoo opens at 7 a.m. for nonmembers and 6 a.m. for members and closes at 1 p.m. to avoid the hottest times of day making it the perfect early outing.

41. If you love birdwatching or want to pick up the hobby explore the Base and Meridian Wildlife Area at the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers in Avondale. You could see hawks, doves, Western yellow-billed cuckoos, and many more species. Bats, bobcats, Sonoran Desert tortoises, and other wildlife also live here.

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

42. For a one-stop wildlife experience you can visit Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Litchfield Park to see over 600 species and over 6,000 animals.

43. For rock climbers summer temps can be deadly. Thankfully, there are plenty of indoor climbing gyms in metro Phoenix and Tucson. Try out ClimbMax Climbing Gym or Phoenix Rock Gym in Tempe, Ape Index in Peoria, or AZ on the Rocks in Scottsdale. In Tucson check out Rocks & Ropes, the BLOCK Climbing + Fitness, and Rock Solid Climbing.

44. Want to expand your dining horizons? Arizona is home to many James Beard award-winning chefs. Recent winners include Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café in Phoenix, Rene Andrade and Roberto Centenoat Bacanora in Phoenix, Jaren Bates and Brett Vibber at The Table at Junipine in Sedona, and Wendy Garcia at Tumerico in Tucson.

45. Do you have a need for speed? Metro Phoenix has a plethora of indoor and outdoor go-karting venues including the new Andretti Indoor Karting. Many have arcade games and other attractions too.

46. Many people have opinions on the ultimate summer drink. In Arizona, the michelada is the one to beat.

47. If you’re truly trying to avoid the sun, go underground. Outside Benson in southern Arizona is Kartchner Caverns State Park where you can explore amazing living caves.

48. And don’t discount how fun a night bike ride or hike can be. Maricopa County Parks offer after-dark mountain bike rides, scorpion hunts, and other family-friendly outings.

49. Looking to learn a new skill? Tempe Town Lake offers classes for kids and adults to learn rowing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Plus, they occasionally throw a nighttime glow paddle party.

50. Take a relaxing sit at WaterWorks at Arizona Falls in Phoenix. Sitting in the water room will give you the feeling of being behind a real waterfall. Arizona Falls is a natural 20-foot drop along the Arizona Canal.

51. It doesn’t matter if you are headed to your local public library, the school library open for summer hours, or even just the library at your church or a friends house, reading is a great summer activity that can take you anywhere you want to go from the comfort of your air conditioned living room. 

Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

52. A favorite getaway of Tucsonans is Mount Lemmon where it’s about 20 degrees cooler than Tucson. 

53. If you haven’t checked out Changing Hands Bookstore and First Draft Book Bar in Phoenix or Changing Hands in Tempe (which just celebrated 50 years) go peruse the stacks, get yourself a little gift and if you go to the Phoenix location grab a drink or snack at the bar to enjoy with your new summer read.

54. Test your daring spirit at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course at Fort Tuthill County Park. This elaborate above-ground obstacle course has aerial challenges like cable bridges, zip lines, swings, and more.

55. The new Slick City Action Park in Peoria has 10 indoor slides, an acrobat alley with a trapeze and swing, and a few sports courts to keep kids and adults entertained for hours.

56. The Scottsdale Arts District is home to dozens of unique art galleries and Thursday ArtWalks. You can find a new treasure for your home or RV while strolling the streets and trying some of Scottsdale’s best restaurants and bars.

57. You also shouldn’t miss out on the First Friday art walks on Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue in downtown Phoenix.

58. The Great Arizona Puppet Theater has been introducing children to the magic of puppetry and live theater since 1983 and they have several fun shows to take the kids to. 

59. Ice skating in the summer? Heck yeah. Three AZ Ice arenas around the Valley have multiple public skating times, allow you to rent skates, and they’ll even teach you how to lace them properly.

60. See 70 species of butterflies, learn about how they live, and even watch them hatch out of their cocoons at the Butterfly Wonderland on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale. 

61. Want to learn the science behind bubbles? What about being immersed in a 360-degree planetarium? The Arizona Science Center has that and more and is open seven days a week.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

62. Every summer, Catalina State Park hosts its “Music in the Mountains” concert series. Head on up the mountain to hear various compositions from jazz swing music, blues, Latin, bebop, ballads, rock, gypsy, and oldies.

63. At an elevation of 9,157 feet, you will find Mt. Lemmon’s SkyCenter. Here, the two largest dedicated public telescopes in the Southwest guide visitors through a unique and awe-inspiring galactic adventure with a bonus dinner. 

64. Descend into a cool experience (literally) underneath the surface of your feet at Colossal Cave. Like an underground rock climbing adventure, this cave system features unique rock formations with a fascinating science behind its creation. 

65. Take a tour of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home Taliesin West in Scottsdale with the gorgeous McDowell Mountains as a backdrop. 

66. While it’s no longer known as Bedrock City after the Flintstones, Raptor Ranch is the perfect day getaway to learn more about raptors and learn more about the wildlife conservation they’re doing with the Northern Arizona Raptor Foundation. 

67. Fishing is a classic summer activity and there are 27 city-park lakes around the Valley that allow you to fish from their shores. If you’re 10 years of age and older, you’ll need a fishing license. 

68. Take golfing to a new level by going to TopGolf and make it a party with friends, drinks, and snacks while listening to some tunes all from the comfort of a mister-cooled golfing bay.

69. If you have a kiddo obsessed with music, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers offer a place for ages 12-20 to get free music, vocal, and dance training.

70. Stay cool indoors and throw it back to the good old days by roller skating at USA Skateland. 71. Pack a picnic and head up to Kitt Peak to take advantage of the cooler temperatures at the Peak! At 7,000-foot elevation temperatures on Kitt Peak are typically 15-20 cooler than the valley floor. The day-use area closes at 4 p.m. but if you have tickets and are so inclined you can remain at Kitt Peak for a cool evening of astronomical wonders during their Night Observation Program.

72. The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is one of the most unique museums you will find in the West. It’s a must-do for any Tucson visitor particularly if your visit falls during the heat of the summer. At this unusual museum, you will be able to explore over 400 mini dollhouses spread out through three sections: The Enchanted, History, and Exploring the World rooms.

73. The Happy Saguaro sells all sorts of beautiful Southwestern style decor and knick knacks. If shopping is your preferred means of escaping the heat then keep it local. At this little Tucson gem you will find all sorts of unique treasures including hand painted pottery pieces, glass blown art, eccentric decor, handcrafted furniture, and much more.

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

74. The 14 mile picturesque Oak Creek Canyon drive includes scenery ranging from towering red rocks to tranquil creeks to the tall ponderosa pines. It’s a drive like no other in the country.

75. Set your alarm for a sunrise hike. About the only time you can even consider hiking on a hot summer day is during the early morning hours. Plan on a short hike (preferably under 2 miles) and be sure to complete your hike before 8 a.m. Carry plenty of water and choose a nature stroll over a vigorous uphill climb.

76. The Tohono Chul Garden Bistro offers one of the shadiest patios in Tucson thus making it a prime choice for outdoor dining during the hot summer season. There are so many trees here that it feels like a mini oasis in the middle of the desert which of course is not a bad thing during the brutal summer season.

77. Plan a day of fun at Castles N Coasters where you can experience 20 rides and attractions, spend hours winning tickets in the arcade, and play 18-hole mini golf. 

78. What has bowling, arcade games, movies and glow golf all under one roof? Fat Cats, of course! Spend the day knocking down pins and testing your mini-golf skill then end the day with a movie. There are locations in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, and Surprise.

79. Travel back to the days of gold mining at Goldfield Ghost Town at the base of the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction. There’s a pottery shop, a museum, a church, livery stables, and a reptile exhibit; plus, you can pan for gold, go to a shooting gallery, and ride on a zipline, train, or a horse.

80. Take a trip to the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff and ride the chairlift to the top of an extinct volcano about 11,500 feet above sea level. Just don’t forget a jacket!

81. Catch an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game at Chase Field.

82. Or maybe basketball is more your sport? If that’s the case, you can catch the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury play at Footprint Center.

83. Explore Arizona’s newest state park Rockin’ River Ranch State Park. The Verde River runs right through it making it the perfect place for swimming, fishing, or lounging. Plus, there are 6 miles of flat trails.

84. Explore the new $66.4 million, 85-acre Frontier Family Park in Queen Creek.

85. Located in the Talking Stick Entertainment District on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Medieval Times transports you back in time with jousting knights, horsemanship, falconry, and a four-course dinner.

86. You know what has great air conditioning, a fun atmosphere, a variety of food and beverage options and is a kid-free zone? Casinos. The newest one in the Valley is the Santan Mountain Casino on the Gila River Indian Community near Chandler.

87. Las Vegas is a getaway from Arizona and the Eagles recently announced a residency at the trippy new Las Vegas Sphere at The Venetian Resort.

88. For those wanting to say closer to home, Jerome is an easy Arizona day trip. Go for galleries, restaurants, and ghosts.

89. The best way to avoid the scorching sun? Become a night owl and go stargazing, of course! Arizona has numerous dark-sky cities and parks where you can see the stars, planets, and Milky Way.

90. Splash in a cool mountain stream at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park northwest of Payson.

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

91. Keeping your family entertained on a budget sometimes feels nearly impossible. Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is free and you can fish, feed ducks, and peer at the night sky through a telescope.

92. Feel the wind in your face and embrace the cooler temperatures when riding Arizona’s first mountain coaster at Canyon Coaster Adventure Park in Williams.

93. And a new mountain coaster is coming soon to Sunrise Park Resort in the White Mountains that sports 3,287 feet of track, thrilling drops, heart-pounding turns, and breathtaking mountain views.

94. Ride a gondola to the top of the San Francisco Peaks. Marvel at the vistas spilling away in all directions as you glide up the slopes before being deposited at 11,500 feet. Pause to enjoy incredible panoramas, the sweet chilled mountain air, and some memorable photo opportunities before returning. You may not be on the roof of Arizona but you’re pretty darned close.

95. Drive up the highest mountain in southern Arizona. Travel through five life zones on this twisting climb up the slopes of Mount Graham, southern Arizona’s highest peak. For 35 miles State Route 366 makes a switchbacking ascent from desert scrubland to high forests.

96. A summer’s worth of adventure awaits at Lyman Lake State Park. At 1,500 acres, Lyman Lake dwarfs all bodies of water in the White Mountains. With such an expanse, there are activities for everybody including a sheltered swimming beach, a no-wake zone for anglers, twisting canyons kayakers will love, and plenty of wide-open water for speed-boaters and skiers.

97. Stop and smell the flowers at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

98. Instead of going north, dodge some traffic by driving south to Chiricahua National Monument. Forming an island of sculpted stone and forest in a sea of arid grasslands, the 12,000-acre park southeast of Willcox shelters an exotic array of massive columns, slender spires, and impossibly balanced boulders. Elevation at Chiricahua National Monument ranges from 5,124 feet at the entrance station to 7,310 feet at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

Parker Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

99. Rent a rowboat or kayak at Parker Canyon Lake. At 5,400 foot elevation, it’s a lot cooler up there than on the desert floor.

100. The Titan II Missile Museum tour will warm you up and then drop you into the cool underground silo where the mighty missile still stands at attention.

101. Ramsey Canyon Preserve near Sierra Vista is owned by the Nature Conservancy. This is a beautiful, cool forested area with a year ’round stream and amazing plant and wildlife diversity including 15 species of hummingbirds and dozens of other bird species such as the rare elegant trogon. Here you will also find bears, deer, and other wild critters. Bring your camera.

102. Waterfalls are a welcome surprise at the end of several hikes in and around Tucson such as Hutch’s Pool or Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon, Romero Pools in Catalina State Park, Bridal Wreath Falls off East Speedway Boulevard, or Tanque Verde Falls off Redington Road. 

103. Show Low’s unique name comes from a legendary card game played by two early settlers to determine the town’s name. This charming town situated in the White Mountains offers a cool escape with summer temperatures averaging around 80°F. Embrace the laid-back mountain lifestyle, enjoy fishing and boating on Show Low Lake, and savor the fresh mountain air.

104. Considered one of the most beautiful places to swim in Arizona, Rattlesnake Cove is on the Bartlett Reservoir near Carefree but is completely protected from motorized watercraft. A gentle slope allows swimmers of all abilities to enjoy the cove and you can bring your own grill to enjoy a picnic

105. Located over 8,500 feet above sea level, Greer is much cooler than the surrounding deserts. You can travel up to the 9,500 foot level to explore Big Lake where you can camp, fish, and swim.

106. Tubing is a great summer pastime in Arizona and the Lower Salt River located near Mesa offers exceptional tubing conditions. 

Looking for more Arizona travel tips?

Worth Pondering…

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

—Will Rogers