15 Amazing Places to Discover in Phoenix

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

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

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

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, Gilbert

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

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

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

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Papago Park, Phoenix

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

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

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

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

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park

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

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apache Trail

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

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cave Creek Regional Park

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

Related: Top 10 Day Trips From Phoenix

Cave Creek Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Wildlife World Zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park, Litchfield Park

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

McDowell Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

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

McDowell Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goldfield Ghost Town

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

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro Lake

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

Saguaro Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park

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

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

White Tank Mountains Regional Park

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

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

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

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Superstition Mountain Museum

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

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

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

Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

San Tan Mountain Regional Park

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

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

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert,

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

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

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

I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Three Southwest Towns You Need To Visit This Winter

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

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

Quartsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite, Arizona

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

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Related Article: Most Beautiful Towns in the Southwest

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad, New Mexico

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

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Camping in the Southwest

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

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

Las Cruces, New Mexico

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

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

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

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Las Cruces Mainstreet Downtown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

The RV Phenomenon That Is Quartzsite

A place in the desert not to be missed

Every January something happens that is hard to believe unless you have seen it!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They come in motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, truck campers, converted buses and vans, and even in tents. There are rugged individualists, small groups banded together (circling the wagons, in a modern way), and large groups, all parked in the desert to feel the Quartzsite vibe. Some have been coming for years, returning to a favorite site which they have marked with rock-lined drives (although “saving” unoccupied sites are not allowed under BLM rules). Long-term visitors often expand their domains to include screened “porches” and massive solar panel arrays.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite has become a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem and mineral shows and flea markets meet every January and February. From its humble beginnings, the now-massive Quartzsite show has grown to epic proportions with vendors offering everything under the Quartzsite sun.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Being close to town means being close to Interstate 10—the basic amenities that Quartzsite provides and giant flea markets which are the center of attention. Going by names such as Rice Ranch, Tyson Wells, The Main Event, and Desert Gardens, the open-air marketplaces host a variety of “shows.”

Related Article: Woodstock in the Desert

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These are actually a series of events that run through the winter, specializing in hobbies and crafts, gems and minerals, jewelry, classic cars, and RVs. Most are riddled with an indescribable variation of new and old products far beyond their title, plus all the snack foods of a county fair. A lot of annual visitors simply say, “We’re going to the show,” and their RV friends know they mean Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town itself features all the basic services of a southwestern desert highway stop: gas stations, barbecue restaurants, and seedy little grocery stores (several of which are run from tent-sided buildings during the season). Owing to the heavy RV emphasis there are also several places to get propane, RV supplies, and used or cheap tools.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be warned, though. Don’t come in the summer when nothing much happens. The gypsy-like encampment will have long disappeared. Vendors start packing up in mid-February and are long gone before the snowbirds migrate north and the intense desert heat becomes unbearable.

Related Article: The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

But come winter, everything changes as the small desert community bustles with activity. RVs by the tens of thousands camp helter-skelter on the BLM land.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally built by Charles Tyson, Quartzsite began in 1856 as Fort Tyson, then became a stagecoach stopover called Tyson Wells and this name still echoes in the annual Tyson Wells Rock and Gem show. A mini mining boom led to its renaming as Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What started as a small-town mineral show in the late ’60s in western Arizona has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite, where a huge RV show greets them.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run from January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Related Article: RV Shows: One-Stop RV Shopping

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a popular destination for snowbirds on its own but many come for a week or two during the RV Show. When the gates open on the first day, people are lined up for a quarter-mile at each of the two main entrances to get in. It fills the tent and creates gridlock.

Related Article: RV Travel Bucket List: 20 Places to Visit Before You Die

If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.

Quartzsite is a phenomenon, a gathering place.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Winter Road Trip

Discover America’s scenic byways on a winter road trip adventure

There’s nothing quite like packing up your car or recreation vehicle and heading out onto the open road. With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the country, how do you choose where to travel?

In much the same way Congress set aside lands to be protected as national parks, the Department of Transportation has designated a network of spectacular drives that are protected as part of America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of America’s Byways collection, a road must-have features that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States and be unique and important enough to be destinations unto themselves.

Without further ado, here are 10 of the most scenic and culturally significant byways in America for your winter road trip adventure.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Designation: All-American Road (1996/2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural, Natural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 180 miles

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, Cajun culture, and more can be experienced as you travel along the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.” Download the free personal tour app (search “creole” in your app store.) Once on the trail, open the app and make sure your location is enabled. It’s like having a personal tour guide in the vehicle with you!

Related: Introducing New Scenic Byways and All-American Roads

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Highway 30A

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Natural

Location: Florida

Length: 18 miles

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Highway 30A has many unique features including 15 rare coastal dune lakes, the historic beach town of Grayton Beach, charming Seaside, and access to three state parks and a state forest. Meandering along an 18-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, the road is naturally scenic by nature. It runs along soft white sand beaches, over coastal dune lakes, through quaint beachside towns with pastel cottages, and through large swaths of natural lands.

Middleton Place along Ashley Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ashley River Road

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2000)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic

Location: South Carolina

Length: 11 miles

Magnolia Plantation along Ashley River Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Discover the history of European and African settlement, commerce, and industry from colonial times to the present by traveling along the Ashley River Road, the oldest road still in use in South Carolina. This corridor is particularly significant to the area because it demonstrates the first colonial efforts to develop and maintain roads and waterways for public benefit. Along the way, visitors will have the opportunity to explore historic sites such as St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Middleton Place.

Related: Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Sky Island Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sky Island Parkway National Scenic Byway (Catalina Highway)

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Natural

Location: Arizona

Length: 27.2 miles

Sky Island Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The journey starts among giant saguaro cacti of the Sonoran Desert and climbs to shady conifer forests at nearly 9,000 feet passing biological diversity equivalent to a drive from Mexico to Canada in just 27 miles. Spectacular views and recreational opportunities abound -from hiking and camping to picnicking and skiing.

Edisto Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2009)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: South Carolina

Length: 17 miles

Edisto Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Edisto Island National Scenic Byway is known for its views of natural beauty. One of the hallmarks of the byway experience here is traveling under the Spanish-moss-draped live oak canopy and past multiple pristine waterways that meander throughout the island offering expansive views of marsh and seabirds feeding on their shores. And when the Byway terminates at the Atlantic Ocean/Edisto Beach, it’s clear to the traveler that Edisto Island is a very special protected place—it’s like visiting the South Carolina Lowcountry of half a century ago.

Alabama’s Coastal Connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama’s Coastal Connection

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2009)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Alabama

Length: 130 miles

Alabama’s Coastal Connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beautiful beaches, authentic downtowns, wildlife preserves, historic sites, and the freshest seafood you’ll ever put in your mouth are all yours to enjoy on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Visit the Coastal Connection to take in the natural beauty and experience all there is to see and do. Historic Forts Gaines and Morgan stand united around the mouth of Mobile Bay. The Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and Gulf State Park provide more than 12,000 acres of protected lands along the coast. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge boasts habitats including beaches and sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, scrub forests, freshwater swamps, and uplands.

Related: Life is a Byway: The Roads Less Traveled

Zion Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 54 miles

Zion Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Virgin River runs alongside the Byway and offers opportunities for recreation as well as important riparian habitat for wildlife. Hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and river tubing provide recreation options for every ability and interest. Highway 9 is the major road providing access to Zion National Park. It winds past the park visitor center and museum, and past many famous Zion landmarks. It provides access to Zion Canyon (accessible by shuttle only during the tourist season) and then goes through the park’s mile-long tunnel. It cuts through the park’s Checkerboard Mesa area and then ends at Highway 89 at Mt Carmel Junction.

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 183 miles

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located along the Bayou Teche National Water and Paddle Trail in the heart of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, the byway is home to an incredibly beautiful natural landscape and winds through three parishes, St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary, along LA-182 and LA-31. With an authentic, walk-able oil rig; stately historic homes; swamp and paddle tours; and tasty Cajun fare, the scenic self-guided tour has something for everyone from the history buff to the avid outdoorsman.

Related: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Fall Road Trip

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock All American Road

Designation: All-American Road (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic, Recreation

Location: Arizona

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Length: 8 miles

Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, this route is often called a “museum without walls.” The byway winds through the evergreen covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.

The high desert power, diversity, and sense of intimacy with nature is amazing. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stunning red rocks are alive with a timeless spirit that captivates and inspires.

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway

Designation: All-American Road (2002/2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Recreation, Historic

Location: Florida

Length: 72 miles

Related: Moab’s Scenic Byways

A1A Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the northern boundary of St. Johns County, the Byway bisects the seaside luxury and golf mecca known as Ponte Vedra Beach, and weaves through America’s oldest city, St. Augustine; finally ending at the terminus of Flagler County at a seaside park named for a true folk hero, the Gamble Rogers Memorial Park on Flagler Beach, the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway connects State Parks, National Monuments, stunning beaches, nature trails, boating, fishing, preserves, estuaries and all of America’s diverse people.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads

Announcing the Absolutely Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for 2022

Explore this guide to find some of the best camping locations across America

Are you as ready as I am to wipe the slate clean for 2022? I know we always kind of do this charade where we act like the previous year has been disappointing and the next is sure to be the one in which our dreams come true, but it can be an important exercise, repetitive though it may be.

I’m not encouraging anyone to make resolutions this year, though. I think if we’ve learned anything from 2020-2021 it is that we are not in control of destiny. I don’t know who is, but let yourself off the hook, look in the mirror and bellow loudly, “there is a lot to look forward to in 2022!” Well, we can always plan—and hope that lockdowns and quarantines are behind us.

Roosevelt State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now is the perfect time to start mapping out your RV trips and making reservations where needed. No matter the corner of America you and your RV discover, there are some great can’t miss resorts. RVing with Rex selected this list of campgrounds and RV resorts from parks personally visited. Now go forth and be safe!

Roosevelt State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roosevelt State Park, Morton, Mississippi

Conveniently located between Meridian and Jackson, Mississippi, Roosevelt State Park offers an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities in a picturesque setting. A variety of recreational activities and facilities are available at Roosevelt State Park including a visitor center, game room, performing arts and media center, picnic area, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, disc golf, softball field, swimming pool, and water slide, tennis courts, and nature trails. Fishing, boating, and water skiing are available on Shadow Lake, a 150-acre freshwater lake.

Roosevelt State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park offers 109 RV campsites, primitive tent sites, 15 vacation cabins, a motel, and a group camp facility. These facilities are located in wooded areas with views of Shadow Lake. The RV sites feature a picnic table and grill. 27 campsites include electricity and water hook-ups. 82 sites have electricity, water, and sewer hook-ups. Many campsites feature views of Shadow Lake and some feature waterfront access. Campground roads and RV pads are paved. All of the RV pads are within easy access of a dump station and a bathhouse with hot showers.

Related: The Best RV Camping January 2021

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa, Arizona

Usery Mountain Regional Park is set at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. The park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Along with the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support the hanging gardens of Rock Daisy. The Wind Cave is formed at the boundary between the volcanic tuff and granite on Pass Mountain.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breathtaking views from this 2,840-foot elevation are offered to all visitors. The park offers a campground with 73 individual sites. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV and is a developed site with water and electric service, a dump station, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and a fire ring. The park provides restrooms with flush toilets and hot water showers.

Columbia Sun RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington

Big-rig friendly, Columbia Sun RV Resort is a 5-star resort that opened in 2013. Spacious sites, manicured grass on both sides, wide paved streets, and a perfect 10/10*/10 Good Sam rating. Washington’s Tri-Cities area—Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland—is a great area to visit to explore the outdoors while still being close to shopping, dining, and wineries. The Columbia Sun Resort has a heated swimming pool, hot tub, fitness room, game room, dog runs, sports court, and a playground.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park, Hunting Island, South Carolina

Hunting Island is South Carolina’s single most popular state park attracting more than a million visitors a year as well as a vast array of land and marine wildlife. Five miles of beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon, and an ocean inlet are all part of the park’s natural allure.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hunting Island Lighthouse is the only one in the state that is publicly accessible. From the top, guests can stand 130 feet above the ground to take in the breathtaking, panoramic view of the Atlantic Coast and surrounding maritime forest.

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

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is available at the northern end of the park near the ocean. 102 sites offer water and 20/30/50 amp electric service. Campground roads are paved while the sites are packed soil. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; others up to 28 feet. The campground is convenient to hot showers with restroom facilities, beach walkways, and a playground.

Poche’s RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Poche’s RV Park is a Cajun campground located approximately 5 miles north of Breaux Bridge.  Poche’s sits on 93 beautiful acres and has 85 full concrete slab RV sites with full hookups which include electric (30 and 50 amp at each site), water, sewer, and Wi-Fi. Most sites back up to a pond to where you can walk out of your RV and start fishing within a few feet.

Poche’s RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poche’s also has five different size cabins for rent to accommodate any size family. Located throughout the property are five different fishing ponds which total roughly 51 acres of water. Within the ponds, you can catch largemouth bass, bream, white perch, and several different types of catfish. You can also rent a paddleboat or single and tandem kayak to explore the ponds or bring your own.

The clubhouse is a 5,000 square feet recreation building with a complete wrap-around porch over the water on Pond 3. 

Seven Feathers RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville, Oregon

Seven Feathers RV Resort resort is situated on 23 acres of well-maintained lawns and landscaping. All sites have level, concrete pads, and patios. Whether you choose to relax on your patio, enjoy the heated pool and hot tub, work out in the fitness room, shop in the Gift Boutique, meet friends in the Gathering Room, or take part in the nightlife of the Seven Feathers Casino—you can expect an enjoyable stay.

Related: The 15 Best State Parks for RV Camping

The RV park offers 182 full hookup sites with 30/50 amp electric including 102 pull-through sites and 78 back-in sites, six log cabins, and three yurts.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia

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

Coastal Georgia RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The resort also offers a swimming pool, horseshoe pits, and shuffleboard courts. A cable TV and Wi-Fi are included. From I-95 (exit 29) and US 17, go ½ mile west on SR-17, turn left onto US-17 south for ¼ mile, turn east onto Martin Palmer Dr for 1 mile and enter straight ahead.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf State Park is home to two miles of pristine white-sand beaches along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway. Sink your toes into the fine, sugary sand, fish, bike, kayak, or canoe. Birding, hiking, and biking are other popular activities. The park offers a 496-site improved campground including 11 modern bathhouses, pull-through sites, back-in sites, waterfront campsites, and ADA accessible sites.

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

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The paved camping pads fit large RVs and provide full hookups with water, sewer, electricity, a picnic table, and a pedestal grill. The park even has 3 new “glamping” sites and 11 primitive camping sites that include stone campfire rings, grill tops, and picnic tables nestled among the trees and along the creek. Cottages, cabins, and lodges are also available.

Gulf Coast RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas

Easy-on, easy-off I-10 (eastbound, take Exit 845; westbound, take Exit 847), Gulf Coast RV Resort is big-rig friendly with 127 large pull-through sites in the 60-65 foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and picnic table. All sites are pull-through; sites #115 through 125 are 75 feet in length and sites #75 through 83 are in the 90-foot range.

Gulf Coast RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All interior roads and sites are concrete. Park amenities include free Wi-Fi, private restrooms/showers, a swimming pool with sun deck, exercise room, playground, laundry, and book exchange.

Whispering Hills RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky

Whispering Hills RV Park is nestled in the heart of horse country in Georgetown, north of Lexington. The park is located approximately 2.5 miles off I-75 at Exit 129. Whispering Hills offers 230 full-service sites including nine new premium pull-through sites in the 70-90 foot range.

Related: Announcing the Absolutely Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for 2021

Whispering Hills RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amenities include a swimming pool, basketball court, laundry facility, book exchange, fishing pond, bathhouses, picnic tables, and fire rings at most sites. Our pull-through site was in the 60-foot range. Most back-in sites tend to be considerably shorter and slope downward. Interior roads and sites are gravel.

Worth Pondering…

It is good to appreciate that life is now. Whatever it offers, little or much, life is now—this day—this hour.

—Charles Macomb Flandrau

The Top 10 in 2021

Today, I’m delighted to bring you RVing with Rex’s Best of 2021: a collection of articles about RVing and the RV Lifestyle

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.
—Brad Paisley

Hello, RVing friends! The year has turned over and another 12 months of RVing, photography, hiking, and birding has crept by.

I tried to squeeze in all of the things I didn’t get to do this year into the last remaining days of 2021. Truth be told, we weren’t able to do a lot of things.

We can all agree this was a year like no other, at times feeling like a refugee from reality.

Sonoran Desert near Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who is pumped for 2022???

(cicadas chirp loudly)

Yeah, that seems to be the general vibe. While a new calendar year typically means exciting new opportunities, a chance for a fresh start, 2022 feels like it could just be another disappointing sequel to 2020 and 2021.

Historic Mesilla, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It makes sense—we’re all beaten down. We’ve socially distanced, worn masks, Zoomed into important events for what seems like an eternity. And each time we made progress toward normalcy a new variant came along and pushed us back into the Twilight Zone.

As each new variant arrived, lockdowns and quarantines returned. We circled back to the same old, same old, expecting different results.

Related: Best of 2020: Top 10 RVing Articles of 2020

I don’t have a feeling next year is going to be different, better.

Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some day in the future, this thing will transition into an endemic virus and we can go back to talking about all the things we talked about before COVID, like…yeah, I forget too.

As the year mercifully comes to a close, RVing with Rex celebrates the must-reads that you loved the most over the past 12 months. I’ll start off by doing a sincere thank you so much for reading this year and returning frequently to read my latest articles. Thank you for your continuing support!

The End is almost here!

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is article # 1,065 since my first post on January 16, 2019. Okay, the end isn’t near, but the end of the year is almost here, and it’s time to think about wrap-ups as 2020 draws to a close. The end of the year is the traditional time for doing a summary and some reflection.

Looking back there were certain events and articles that kindled reader interest.

Related: Top 10 RV Travel Tips of All Time

It’s always fascinating to look back and see what stories enjoyed the most readership and interest that year. The results often confound my expectations.

Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I check my readership data for several important reasons. First and foremost, I want to keep my finger on the pulse of what my readers actually want to read. While it’s tempting to assume I know what you want to read—my gut and personal preferences have some definite opinions—but the data is the reality.

This is actually a relief as it gives me a concrete direction on what types of content to focus on going forward. I can’t always provide the content that’s most wanted as I attempt to keep the blog well-rounded and offer something for all RVers—and wannabes—but the readership data is a fantastic guide.

Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVing with Rex would like to wish its readers a safe and happy New Year.

Here are the top 10 most read and most popular RVing with Rex posts of the year, listed in the order of their readership numbers.

The top 10 most popular articles of 2021 were…

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Absolutely Best Road Trips from Houston

Texas lends itself well to adventure

Originally Posted: March 17, 2020

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. 10 Amazing Places to RV in January

RV travel allows you to take the comforts of home on the road

Originally Posted: January 4, 2021

Related: Top 10 States with the Best Winter Weather

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. The Real Florida Comes Alive at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

This state park offers many opportunities to observe the Real Florida and its wildlife

Originally Posted: January 13, 2021

Travel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. The Pros and Cons of Buying a Travel Trailer

A travel trailer offers the amenities of a home with the portability of a trailer

Originally Posted: August 8, 2020

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

6. The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

If you’re planning on snowbird RVing this winter consider one of these state parks. They all offer warm weather and beautiful views of the Gulf or Technicolor deserts.

Originally Posted: January 5, 2021

Related: Top 10 State Parks to Visit

Truth BBQ, Brennan, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. The Essential Guide to Eating Texas

Everything a foodie should know about the Lone Star State

Originally Posted: January 20, 2021

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. National Monuments Feature Places for Reflection and Hope

From the legacy of ancient peoples to Colonial times

Originally Posted: January 18, 2021

Tiffin motorhome at Jackson Riviera Casino RV Park, Jackson, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. THOR Buys Tiffin Motorhomes: What Happens Next?

THOR Industries Buys Tiffin Motorhomes

Originally Posted: January 16, 2021

Buckhorn Lake RV Park, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Announcing the Absolutely Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for 2021

Explore this guide to find some of the best camping locations across America

Originally Posted: January 3, 2021

And the most popular article of 2020 is…

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Absolutely Best Road Trip from LA to the Grand Canyon

This road trip goes from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park to Prescott to Williams to the Grand Canyon to Mojave National Preserve and back to LA

Originally Posted: July 26, 2020

A Happy New Year to all my readers. Best wishes for 2022. Find what brings you joy and go there.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

May the months ahead be filled with great RVing experiences! Remember, the journey, and not the destination, is the joy of RVing. Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in an RV.

Happy Trails. Life is an adventure. Enjoy your journey.

Worth Pondering…

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light,

The year is dying in the night.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow,

The year is going, let him go.

—Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Take a First Day Hike on New Year’s Day

First Day Hikes are a healthy way to start 2022 and a chance to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, and connect with friends

Usher in 2022 with other outdoor lovers at one of the many First Day Hikes offered on January 1 at state parks and forests across America.

On New Year’s Day, park rangers across the country are inviting Americans to start 2022 with inspiring First Day Hikes. First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes will be organized in all 50 states. Families across America will participate in First Day Hikes, getting their hearts pumping and enjoying the beauty of a state park. Last year nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country.

America’s State Parks will help capture the collective strength and importance of the great park systems developed in the 50 states. With 10,234 units and more than 759 million visits, America’s State Parks works to enhance the quality of life.

Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to foster healthy lifestyles and promote year-round recreation at state parks.

Related: Elevate Your Hiking with Mindfulness

First Day Hikes are led by knowledgeable state park staff and volunteers. The distance and rigor vary from park to park but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for the whole family. People are invited to savor the beauty of the state park’s natural resources with the comfort of an experienced guide so they may be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona State Parks

Spend the first day of the year in a state park and kick off the year on a healthy note. There are fun activities for all including hikes, tours, boat rides, and even s’mores! Remember to wear the appropriate shoes, bring plenty of water, a camera, and your sense of adventure.

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

Dead Horse Ranch State Park: Meet at the West Lagoon parking lot. The guided 3-mile birding and nature hike will go along the riparian area of the Verde River and around the edges of the lagoons to look for evidence of beaver, otter, waterfowl, and other wildlife found in the park. Enjoy cookies prior to the hike.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park: Start the year off right with a moderate hike on Treasure Loop Trail. Be ready for rocky terrain with a 500-foot elevation gain over 2.4 miles. Bring your water bottle, sturdy shoes, and cameras. A guiding ranger will answer questions you’ve always wanted to ask about the landscape around you.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park: Hike the Calloway trail up to an overlook below the face of Picacho Peak. This trail is moderately difficult. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water. Elevation gain will be 300 feet, 1.5 miles round-trip, and roughly 1.5 hours. Meet at Harrington Loop.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock State Park: Learn about Sedona’s diverse and beautiful bird species while taking a stroll through this gorgeous park with a veteran bird enthusiast. Bring binoculars to get the most out of the experience. The hike lasts approximately two hours. Meet at the Visitor Center rooftop.

Related: Hiking Arizona

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California State Parks

More than 40 state parks and over 50 guided hikes will take place across the state in this National-led effort by the First Day Hikes program which encourages individuals and families to experience the beautiful natural and cultural resources found in the outdoors so that they may be inspired to take advantage of these treasures throughout the year.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Starting at the Visitor Center, explore desert plants, crypto-biotic crust, and signs of animals as you walk cross-country to the ½-mile Panorama Overlook Trail. Ascend by switch-backs about 200 feet up the moderate-strenuous trail to a scenic overlook of the Borrego Valley and Fonts Point. At the viewpoint, reflect on your new year with a lighthearted introspection guided by a Park Interpretive Specialist. Walk down the mountain as the sun sets on your first day of 2022.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia State Parks

In Georgia’s state parks and historic sites, more than 40 guided treks will encourage friends and families to connect with nature and each other. Outings range from a kid-friendly stroll through Mistletoe State Park’s campground, a hike along the banks of the Suwanee River in Stephen C. Foster State Park, a 3-mile hike through Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, and even a night hike at Reed Bingham State Park.

Related: Best Hikes for National Hiking Month

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During winter, hikers will notice interesting tree shapes, small streams, and rock outcrops that are normally hidden by summer’s foliage. Many guided hikes are dog-friendly and visitors are welcome to bring picnics to enjoy before or after their adventure. First Day Hikes are listed on GaStateParks.org.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina State Parks

Kick-off the New Year with fresh air and family-friendly fun on a First Day Hike in South Carolina State Parks. More than 40 ranger-led hikes are scheduled across the state with most parks offering half-mile to 3-mile guided adventures for all ages and skill levels.

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All participating hikers will receive an official First Day Hike sticker.

First Day Hikes will also jumpstart a new initiative in South Carolina State Parks. Beginning January 1, use #StepsInSCStateParks to share your walking, hiking, or other active adventures any time you’re visiting a park. The year-long promotion aims to encourage more visitors to get moving in South Carolina State Parks.

Related: Best Places to Plan a Hiking Trip

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the park enthusiasts who want to visit as many parks as they can on January 1, you can squeeze in four hikes by following the First Day Dash schedule:  

  • Start the day at 9:00 a.m. with a hike on the 1.25-mile Interpretive Trail at Lake Warren State Park
  • Head north to the Battle of Rivers Bridge State Historic Site for an easy 1-mile hike on the Battlefield Trail at 11
  • Cruise over to Barnwell State Park for a 1.5-mile hike along the Dogwood Nature Trail at 1:00 pm
  • Finally, finish your day on the 1.5-mile Jungle Trail at Aiken State Park at 3:00 pm
Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other First Day Hikes include a wildflower walk at Oconee Station State Historic Site, stepping into Revolutionary War history on a walk at the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, and hunting for fossils and shells during low tide at Edisto Beach State Park.

Other events happening at parks around the state on January 1 include a ranger-guided walk on the beach at Edisto Beach State Park and an easy 1.5-mile ranger-guided hike before along the lagoon at Hunting Island State Park.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas State Parks

As New Year’s Eve merriment gives way to New Year’s Day, start 2022 in the great outdoors. Over the years, First Day Hikes have become a tradition at Texas State Parks and across the country.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Enchanted Rock hosts three guided summit hikes at 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:45 p.m. The park is located at 16710 RR 965 between Llano and Fredericksburg. The two-hour hikes will be led by a park ranger or knowledgeable volunteer. Meet at the gazebo at the start of the Summit Trail.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reservedts

Pedernales Falls State Park: Located east of Johnson City at 2585 Park Road 6026, Pedernales Falls offers two guided hike options. The first is the Pedernales Falls and Beyond hike which starts at 9 a.m. in the Falls Parking Lot. It’s a 2-mile, moderate hike. The half-mile, moderate Twin Falls Nature Trail hike starts at noon from the Twin Falls trailhead. The park is also hosting a First Day Campfire at 3 p.m. at Campsite 68.

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia State Parks

Set the tone for a fantastic 2022 with a New Year’s Day hike in one of Virginia’s State Parks. First Day Hikes are a great opportunity to improve one’s physical, mental, and social health, and what better way to start the New Year than by connecting with nature. State parks offer iconic and beautiful outdoor places that support healthy, affordable, physical, and social activities.

Related: How Much Time Should You Spend in Nature?

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park: Join the Friends of Shenandoah River for a hike celebrating the New Year. Bring your family and leashed pets to Shenandoah River State Park for a hike on the Cottonwood Trail. The Cottonwood trail is about 1.5 miles long with little change in elevation. The loop at the end of the trail is a raised boardwalk but the rest can be muddy in wet weather. The Friends Group will lead the hike and provide light refreshments in the Massanutten Building. The parking fee is waived on January 1.

Conquering a challenging trail on the first day of the year will keep you motivated towards tackling even the toughest goals throughout the year.

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir, Steep Trails, 1918

Escape Winter in an RV: The How and Where

Hit the road and escape to warmer weather!

Winter is upon us and travelers looking to escape the cold are seeking new ways to travel this season after being mostly shut down last year. While looking for that sunny and warm getaway seems to be universal, many are still looking for ways of travel that avoid large, crowded airports and busy hotels with lots of small, shared spaces like elevators and hallways.

This is just one of the reasons RV travel has soared in popularity over the last year and throughout the pandemic.

Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a survey conducted by Lending Tree, “Interest in RVs was up 41 percent and 56 percent, respectively, in January and February 2021 compared to the year prior.” And when planning a getaway this winter, RVing checks many boxes: It’s a great way to travel safely in today’s COVID environment, it’s a quick and easy way to leave the expected bitter cold behind, and it also makes for a truly unique experience when visiting sunny hot spots like Southern Arizona and South Texas.

Colorado River Historic Park in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No RV? No problem!  

You’ve tried Airbnb or VRBO, now it’s time to try a peer-to-peer RV rental company to experience the RV trend! This is an easy way to explore the open road and get a taste of the RV lifestyle without the commitment of buying your own. Whether renting in a hometown location and hitting the road to your destination or securing an RV rental upon arrival at your destination, a rental makes it easy.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most popular, Outdoorsy, offers hundreds of RVs in all shapes and sizes for rent across the country, perfect for your next getaway. Rentals start at $109/night.

Now where to RV? The southwest is home to some of the best winter RV resorts in the country. Here are some fantastic options to explore this winter and enjoy the sunshine and 70-plus degree weather.

Related Article: Why You Need to RV in the South This Winter

California

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the Coachella Valley with the snow-capped peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains for the backdrop, Palm Springs has long been an upscale escape for area visitors and famous figures. Movie stars and mob bosses ditched L.A. to vacation here during the town’s first boom in the 1920s, popularizing a Spanish-Mediterranean architectural style.

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, hiking, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Indian Canyons are one of the most beautiful attractions for any Palm Springs visitor, especially if you love to hike. You can hike Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon. Unlike other area trails, most of the trails in the Indian Canyons follow running streams. Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm), and indigenous flora and fauna are abundant.

Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The waterfalls of Tahquitz Canyon are truly astounding, flanked by lush greenery and picturesque wildlife. The crisp water rushing past you tumbles 60 feet from apex to completion.

Palm Springs and the San Jacinto Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beautiful San Jacinto Mountains are the backdrop to Palm Springs. You can visit the top of the San Jacinto Mountain via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It’s the world’s largest rotating tramcar. It travels up over 2.5 miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon. The weather is about 30 degrees cooler so you can go from warm to cool weather in a 10-minute tram ride.

Related Article: A Dozen Amazing Spots to Visit with your RV during Winter

VillageFest rocks Palm Canyon Drive every week with a dazzling array of delightful fare. Fall hours are 6–10 pm. 

Coachella Valley Preserve

Downtown Palm Springs transforms into a diverse array of artists, artisans, entertainers, and purveyors of fresh fruits and veggies, flowers, jewelry, snacks, and sweets. Add all that to the great shops, restaurants, clubs, and entertainment venues located along World Famous Palm Canyon Drive—and the result is one of Southern California’s most popular weekly events: VillageFest!

Arizona

Yuma Date Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the sun shining 360 days a year, Yuma is known as the sunniest place on Earth, averaging more than 4,000 hours of sun per year (out of 4,456 possible). Winter guests enjoy activities like the nationally recognized Medjool Date Festival (January 8, 2022) where thousands of visitors head to Yuma’s historic downtown to get a taste of the delicious southwest fruit from local and regional growers.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking for some history? Touring the Yuma Territorial Prison, a famous Yuma landmark that was opened in 1876 and operated for 33 years is the city’s number one tourist attraction. Visitors can tour the prison, view the cells, get a feel for what 1800’s solitary confinement felt like, and get a mug shot memento to take home.

Downtown Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors looking for more should head to the nearby Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. With sand dunes topping 300 feet, these massive dunes are perfect for all-terrain vehicle riding and also made the perfect backdrop for the scenes in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sights and sounds of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an International Biosphere Reserve, reveal a thriving community of plants and animals. Thirty-One species of cactus have adapted themselves to the extreme temperatures and little rainfall including the park’s namesake and the giant saguaro.

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ajo Mountain Drive is the most popular scenic drive in the monument. It is a 21 mile, mostly gravel road usually passable by a normal passenger car. RVs over 25 feet are prohibited due to the twisting and dipping nature of the road.

Related Article: National Parks at their Spectacular Best in Winter

Camping at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can camp in one of two campgrounds within the monument. They have different amenities and offer campers a choice between modern comforts and rustic wilderness. You may see the desert, dark sky subtlety illuminated by countless stars or shadows that are awakened under a full moon’s glow at either campground.

Texas

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the winter, the seasonal warmth visitors enjoy from both the sun and the southern hospitality makes Texas the place to be when looking to escape the cold. With the Texas winter temperatures averaging in the mid-70s, visitors enjoy the sandy beaches of South Padre Island which is also the longest stretch of an undeveloped barrier island in the world. The water sports and the abundant fishing throughout the Gulf provide plenty of opportunities for fun in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Great kiskadee in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For travelers looking to develop a new hobby, it’s not only the human snowbirds that make the seasonal trek to South Texas, as there is a wide variety of migratory birds to spot throughout the area. The World Birding Center (WBC) has nine locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley that are suitable for first-timers or expert birders.

Altamira oriole in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, headquarters for the WBC, the wildlife-viewing is nonstop. A plain chachalaca strolls the grounds while a green jay stops for a drink and an Altamira oriole takes a bite of an orange at the feeding station. Three different species of hummingbirds zoom in and out.

Plain chachalaca in the Rio Grande Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is one of the best places in the country for bird-watching. It’s at a biological crossroads with two migratory flyways. The result is one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on Earth with more than 530 species documented in the Rio Grande Valley (including about 20 species found nowhere else in the U.S.) and 365 species at Bentsen itself.

Related Article: The Absolutely Most Amazing Winter Road Trips

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, when thinking of Texas, one can’t forget The Alamo. The 300-year-old Spanish Mission is located in San Antonio where the Battle of San Jacinto took place on April 21, 1836. Visitors also enjoy the miles of dining, shopping, and museums along San Antonio’s well-known Riverwalk.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

This Way to the Little Creamery

It all started on a hot summer day in 1907

In Texas and other parts of the Southeastern United States, it’s not summer without Blue Bell ice cream. The regional favorite is the go-to choice on a hot and humid day (or a cold one, this is a no-judgment zone). It’s an ice cream brand with a small-town feel and image but a big business reputation and a devoted following of ice cream lovers who load up their freezers with the stuff.

Blue Bell Creameries © Rex Vogel, all rights

Founded in 1907 as the Brenham Creamery Company, Blue Bell began operation making butter. In 1911, ice cream for local consumption began production. Ice cream distribution was limited to the small town of Brenham in the Brazos River country of south-central Texas about 70 miles west of Houston.

Blue Bell Creameries © Rex Vogel, all rights

As transportation improved, distribution expanded. The company name was changed to Blue Bell Creameries in honor of a Texas wildflower in 1930. A reproduction of one of the first route trucks, a 1932 Ford, sits outside company headquarters.

Related: Getting in our Licks on National Ice Cream Day

Blue Bell Creameries © Rex Vogel, all rights

The rest is history! Blue Bell ice cream flavors are often the exciting grand finale of any celebration. The products are now sold in 18 states according to its website. That’s quite a change for a company that still promotes itself as a small town business selling a locally produced product. “We eat all we can and sell the rest,” one of the company’s favorite marketing slogans says.

Blue Bell Creameries © Rex Vogel, all rights

The century-old, Brenham-born brand offers a wide variety of ice creams, sherbets, and frozen snacks. Ice cream flavors include 25 classic year-round options like cookie two-step, mint chocolate chip, and pistachio almond. As well as rotational limited-time flavors like fudge brownie decadence, spiced pumpkin pecan, and confetti cake. And yes, I’ve tried them all!

Blue Bell Creameries © Rex Vogel, all rights

I taste-tested 11 flavors of Blue Bell ice cream and ranked them starting with my go-to favorite.

Another scrumptious Texas dessert: Along the Kolache Trail

Pecan Pralines ‘n Cream

Praline-coated pecans are a thing?? These are so good.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights

The Original Homemade Vanilla

Nothing is better than Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream. This vanilla is so rich, creamy, and delicious. When have you ever wanted more! And, oh so good with pecan pie!

Moo-llennium Crunch

Chocolate and caramel chunks in every bite make this rich and creamy treat so good.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights

Buttered Pecan

This is so popular in the south. Pecans in every single scoop!

Another scrumptious Texas dessert: Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Who needs cookies and milk when you can have it all in one?

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights

Butter Crunch

Peanut butter mixed with ice cream could never be better.

Homemade Vanilla

This vanilla is so rich, creamy, and delicious. When have you ever wanted

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights

Strawberries & Homemade Vanilla

Real strawberries in every bite plus the original homemade vanilla! Yes, please.

Related: Why I Love Blue Bell Ice Cream

Rocky Road

The dark chocolate ice cream is so good. Plus, it has mini marshmallows and nuts!

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights

Cookies ‘n Cream

Oreo cookies in every bite! That’s a win-win for everyone.

Southern Blackberry Cobbler

The decadent concoction involves a luscious blackberry ice cream combined with flaky pie crust pieces and a blackberry sauce swirl.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights

Honestly, all Blue Bell ice cream is so good. Any other brand could never compare.

The beloved ice cream brand has two creamery locations you can visit—one in its hometown of Brenham, Texas, and another in Sylacauga, Alabama, outside Birmingham. And you can get a taste of your favorite Blue Bell flavors made fresh, right there on the premises.

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights

At the original Blue Bell in Brenham, a small town about halfway between Austin and Houston, you can get a scoop of ice cream at the Ice Cream Parlor, view where the ice cream is made from the famous Observation Deck, shop in the Country Store, and learn about the creamery’s 100-plus-year history at the Visitor Center.

At Sylacauga, visitors can indulge at the Ice Cream Parlor, check out where the ice cream is made, and do some shopping at the Country Store.

A trip to Blue Bell isn’t complete without exploring the beautiful surrounding communities.

Related: The Essential Guide to Eating Texas

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.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

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

—Howard Johnson

Woodstock in the Desert

Every January and February, the small desert town of Quartzsite is transformed by the addition of a gargantuan tent city and an influx of people in thousands of recreation vehicles

Anyone who travels a lot by RV eventually hears about Quartzsite, Arizona. Reputedly the biggest RV phenomenon in North America—may be in the entire world—started with a small-town rock and mineral show in the late ’60s and grew into a massive snowbird pilgrimage.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To those who have only heard of Quartzsite as an RV phenomenon, it may appear as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle. The dusty little Arizona outpost is north of Yuma, two hours west of Phoenix, 20 miles west of the Colorado River, and not really near anything. Rumors about Quartzsite border on legend. Various sources claim anywhere from one to four million visitors every winter which is often exaggerated to a million RVs parked in the desert.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there certainly aren’t a million RVs at any given time, there’s no question hundreds of thousands come to park in one of the 30-odd RV parks and enormous open Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping areas that surround the town of Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It has been variously called a Senior Citizen Pow-Wow, Burning Man for Boomers, Woodstock in the Desert, The World’s Largest Flea Market, and The RV Boondocking Capital of the World.

Related Article: Snowbirding in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert

The term boondocking, also known to RV enthusiasts as dispersed camping, dry camping, or coyote camping, is used to describe camping in the midst of nature without the use of commercial campgrounds and hookups.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you approach Quartzsite from any point on the compass, you begin seeing them approximately 20 miles away from town: clumps, groups, and temporary communities of RVs circled around common campfire rings like wagon trains of old. The Quartzsite Valley appears as you top the hills, revealing a panorama of RVs of all sizes and shapes scattered throughout a 15-mile-diameter circle around town.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best view of Quartzsite’s metamorphosis is from the crest of small hills a few miles west of town along Interstate 10. Many solo units also are scattered among the sagebrush. In the early morning and late afternoon, you will see tall, straight fingers of campfire smoke pointing upward from these campsites.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hundreds of thousands of RV owners, enthusiasts, and dreamers descend on the flat, rocky desert fields surrounding the town. Folks come from all over the U.S. and Canada to behold the wonder that happens in Quartzsite every January and February. They come for the warm sunny weather, and great deals—what more can you ask for?

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At its core, Quartzsite is a boondocker’s paradise. In the BLM-administered La Posa Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA), you can pay just $180 for a seven-month season of camping from September 15 to April 15.

Related Article: The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are no assigned spaces, no hookups, and hardly any roads. For your money, you get access to potable water, sparsely scattered pit toilets, a dump station, and trash bins. Pick a site from the 11,400 acres of open land and you’re home.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The desert landscape is transformed into make-shift RV parks, little cities within a city. The streets have no name, but the purpose is the same—to boondock in the desert, rendezvous with old and new friends, visit the rock and gem shows and flea market vendors, participate in the Sell-A-Rama, wander the RV show under the Big Tent, and soak in the wonder of it all.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you are really on a budget, you can park for free a few miles from town in non-LTVA areas administered by BLM. The only catch here is that the amenities are miles away, and technically you are supposed to stay only 14 days. No doubt many hardy souls hang around longer, commuting back and forth to town for what they need and hoping the BLM staff don’t notice.

Related Article: What Makes Arizona Such a Hotspot for Snowbirds?

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No doubt also that many could afford to pay for a full-service campground for the entire season if they wanted to, but they seem to get a thrill from staying somewhere for virtually nothing. As one desert boondocker snorted when another visitor said he was going to buy a short-term permit to stay at South La Posa LTVA for two weeks (a whopping $2.85 per day): “Sure, if you want to waste money!”

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter which option you choose, once you’ve chosen your own little spot in the desert, surrounded by creosote bushes and an occasional saguaro cactus, you are the king of your domain, free from real estate taxes, utility bills, campground fees, fuel prices, neighborhood associations, and snow.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is something to be savored in the feeling of having very little civilization around you. It is an exercise in self-sufficiency and perhaps stubborn nature to stay the entire season, but thousands do it and thrive on the experience.

Related Article: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip: 16 Places to See & Things to Do

Woodstock in the Desert is an experience not to be missed—and we think you’ll like it too!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering…

Quartzsite = $400,000 diesel pusher motorhomes towing $40,000 SUVs looking for free camping.