A Hiker’s Paradise: White Tank Mountain Regional Park

A top notch location in the greater Phoenix area for a hike in the desert with thirty miles of trails that range anywhere from as short as a mile to several of them exceeding five miles or more

Nearly 30,000 acres makes White Tank Mountain the largest regional park in Maricopa County. Most of the park is made up of the rugged and beautiful White Tank Mountains on the Valleys west side. The range, deeply serrated with ridges and canyons rises sharply from its base to peak at over 4,000 feet. Infrequent heavy rains cause flash floodwaters to plunge through the canyons and pour onto the plain. These torrential flows pouring down chutes and dropping off ledges have scoured out a series of depressions, or tanks, in the white granite rock below, thus giving the mountains their name.

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

White Tank Mountain History

Eleven archeological sites occupied during the time period A.D. 500-1100 were located within the boundaries of White Tank Mountain Regional Park. All of these sites can be attributed to the Hohokam Indians. The White Tanks were apparently abandoned by the Hohokam about A.D. 1100. There is no further indication of human occupation until the historic period when the Western Yavapai controlled the area.

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

Ruggedness of terrain and scarcity of water restricted the sites to large canyons leading out of the mountains. In these canyons, the sites include seven villages varying from 1 to 75 acres in area, a rock shelter in the face of a steep cliff overlooking the white tanks, and several shard areas. Several of the villages appear to have been occupied for long periods by sizeable populations while the shard areas may represent temporary camps of hunters and gatherers.

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

Most of the sites in the area are concentrated around the White Tanks themselves. The Tanks probably held water the year-round and thereby drew people to the region. Petroglyphs on rocks indicate the Indians were more than transients. Pottery shards along the Agua Fria and Hassayampa signify the presence of villages and the likelihood that an Indian trail connected the streams with the White Tank long before Europeans came into the area. The discovery of possible agricultural terraces or check dams indicates that farming may have been carried on in the various canyons of the White Tank Mountains by utilizing seasonal runoff and rain water.

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

About the Petroglyphs

Ancient Arizonans pecked hundreds of figures and symbols on the rock faces of the White Tank Mountains. Some may approach 10,000 years old. All have withstood sun, rain, and vandals for 700 or 800 years or more.

The Black Rock Trail circles through a Hohokam village site though the pit houses and trash mounds are hidden to all but the trained eye of an archeologist. The largest group of rock-art panels is along the Waterfall Canyon Trail at “Petroglyph Plaza”. Another big group is near the entrance to the box canyon that gives the trail its name.

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

A rock drawing was serious business to its maker. While no one can say precisely what most of them “mean”, we know they had important functions in the lives of their makers. They were not simply stone-age graffiti. The symbols recorded events and marked locations. They were a magical way to control nature so rain would fall or mountain sheep would let themselves be caught. Some served as trail markers and maps. Others represented religious concepts.

Do not try to make “tombstone rubbings” of the petroglyphs. It does not work and you will erode the dark areas making the petroglyph dimmer. Look at and photograph these figures and symbols of history but do not touch the petroglyphs as skin oils can also damage them. 

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

White Tank Mountain Hiking Trails

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers approximately 30 miles of excellent shared-use trails ranging in length from 0.9 mile to 7.9 miles and difficulty from easy to strenuous. Overnight backpacking with a permit is allowed in established backcountry campsites. Day hikes can provide some breathtaking views of the mountains and panoramas of the Valley below. Horseback and mountain bike riders are welcome although caution is stressed as some of the trails may be extremely difficult.

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

In addition, there are 2.5 miles of pedestrian-only trails. These include two short trails that are hard-surfaced and barrier free. Waterfall Trail is barrier-free for 5/10 of a mile. The handicap accessible portion now ends about 1/10 of a mile past Petroglyph Plaza. The short loop of Black Rock Trail which is about ½ mile long begins at Ramada 4.

All trails are multi-use unless otherwise designated. All trail users are encouraged to practice proper trail etiquette. Always remember to carry plenty of water and let someone know where you are going.​ Heavy sole shoes are a must as well as sunscreen, and a large-brimmed hat (I recommend a Tilley hat).

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

White Tank Mountain Picnic Areas

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers 240 picnic tables with grills, 80 of which have a small cover. Eleven Group Picnic Sites are available for large groups. These ramadas can be reserved for a fee in four-hour increments. If not marked as reserved, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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

White Tank Mountain Camping

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers 40 individual sites for RV camping. Most sites have a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV and offer water and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, a fire ring, and nearby dump station. All restrooms offer flush toilets and showers. All sites in the campground may be reserved online at maricopacountyparks.org.

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

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Directions: White Tank Mountain Regional Park is located at the very west end of Olive Ave about 15 miles west of the 101 (Agua Fria Highway).

NORTH: Take Highway 303 south and exit at PEORIA AVE. Turn right from the off-ramp and travel west for 1 mile on Peoria Ave to Cotton Lane. Turn left (south) onto Cotton Lane until you get to Olive Ave. Turn right (west) on Olive Ave and continue 4 miles to the park gate.

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

SOUTH: Take Highway 303 north and exit at NORTHERN AVE. Turn left (west) at the light and off-ramp onto Northern Ave, traveling west for 1 mile to Cotton Lane. Turn right (north) onto Cotton lane and travel 1 mile to Olive Ave. Turn left (west) onto Olive Ave and continue for 4 miles to the park gate.

Admission: $7 per vehicle.

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

Worth Pondering…

This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaros standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.

—Dorothy B. Hughes

Announcing the Absolutely Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for 2021

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

While 2020 has finally come to an end, there is a lot to look forward to in 2021. Now is the perfect time to start planning 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!

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee

Two Rivers Landing is a luxury RV Resort nestled along the banks of the beautiful French Broad River. A 5-star resort with 25 river front (drive-in sites) and 30 river view (back-in sites), Two Rivers Landing offers 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV conveniently located centrally. Interior roads are paved; individual sites are concrete, 70 feet in length and 22 feet wide. All sites surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Our drive-in site faced the river. Wi-Fi worked well. A beautiful sunset looking out our front window. This is resort living at its best.

Jackson Rancheria RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jackson Rancheria RV Resort, Jackson, California

New in 2008, Jackson Rancheria RV Resort is part of a casino complex. Big rig friendly 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Wide, paved interior roads with wide concrete sites. Back-in sites over 55 feet with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range. Amenities include walking trails and dog park, heated pool and spa, and laundry facilities. We would return in a heartbeat. Reservations over a weekend are required well in advance. Jackson Rancheria is conveniently located in the heart of Gold Country.

Tom Sawyer RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas

The endless river traffic of the Mississippi is the main attraction at Tom Sawyer RV Park and most of the sites are 100 feet or more. The atmosphere is relaxed, laid back, and peaceful. The interior roads and sites are mostly gravel. Tom Sawyer’s is located so close to the Mississippi River, sometimes the park is in it! The Mississippi River can cause the park to close periodically anytime from December into early June but most often April or May. The Corps of Engineers and National Weather Service provides river stage forecasts which gives the park 10 to 14 days advance notice as to when the Mississippi River will force the park to temporarily shut down.

CreekFire RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

CreekFire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia

About 20 minutes west of Historic Savannah, Creek Fire is a new RV resort conveniently located ½ mile west of Interstate 95 at Exit 94. The park offers 105 RV sites, all suitable for big rigs. Site options include back-in and pull-through, gravel and concrete. Interior roads are asphalt. Each site offers 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, and sewer centrally located. The park is adding 100+ new sites, two new pool features, rally building, pool bar and restaurant, market, and gym. Resort amenities include canoe, kayak, and boat rentals; 1 mile nature trail around the lake, tennis/pickleball court, bocce ball, and full shower and laundry facilities.

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Mississippi

Located on the beach in Waveland, Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands, and the Gulf of Mexico. Buccaneer State Park offers Buccaneer Bay, a 4.5 acre waterpark, Pirate’s Alley Nature Trail, playground, Jackson’s Ridge Disc Golf, activity building, camp store, and Castaway Cove pool. Buccaneer State Park has 206 premium campsites with full amenities including sewer. In addition to the premium sites, Buccaneer has an additional 70 campsites that are set on a grassy field overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. These Gulf view sites only offer water and electricity, are open on a limited basis and are only available through the park office. A central dumping station and restrooms are located nearby. 

Reunion Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reunion Lake RV Resort, Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Reunion Lake RV Resort is a gated resort with top-rated facilities and service and all-concrete roadways. Built around a scenic lake the park offers an adult pool with swim-up bar, poolside cabanas, a lazy river with tiki bar, giant hot tub, fitness center, family pool, basketball and pickleball courts, fenced-in dog park. Our Premium pull-through site will accommodate any size.

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort, Salem, Oregon

With a combination of 24 back-in sites (35 feet long x 20 feet wide) and 115 pull-through sites (75 feet long x 14 feet wide) available year round even the biggest rigs will have no issue finding a suitable spot. All sites include electric (20, 30, and 50 amp), water, sewer, wired and wireless Internet, and coax television hookups along with a picnic table. Park amenities include fitness room, seasonal pool and year-round spa, laundry facility, secure showers/bathrooms, and book library. The resort is located a short distance off Interstate 5 at Exit 258.

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas RV Resort is a 378 site RV park restricted to guests 18 years of age or older with a great location a short distance from the action of ‘The Strip’. The resort offers full hook-ups with back-in and pull-through sites available. Amenities include free Wi-Fi throughout the resort, pool and spa, fitness center, laundry facilities, pet area, picnic tables at every site, and 24-hour patrol.

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park, Bentonville, Virginia

Just 15 minutes from the town of Front Royal awaits a state park that can only be described as lovely. This park is on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and has more than 1,600 acres along 5.2 miles of shoreline. In addition to the meandering river frontage, the park offers scenic views of Massanutten Mountain to the west and Shenandoah National Park to the east. A large riverside picnic area, picnic shelters, trails, river access and a car-top boat launch make this a popular destination for families, anglers, and canoeists. Ten riverfront tent campsites, a campground with water and electric sites, cabins, camping cabins, and a group campground are available. With more than 24 miles of trails, the park has plenty of options for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and adventure.

Hacienda RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Hacienda RV Resort is located off I-10, exit 140, in Las Cruces, 1.5 miles from Historic Old Mesilla. Hacienda offer paved roads leading to 113 spacious RV sites with a variety of sizes and layouts with many boasting breathtaking views of the Organ Mountains. Relax in the large outdoor patio with a wood burning fireplace or enjoy the comfortable southwestern community clubhouse with an indoor fireplace, workout facility, and gift shop. Park amenities include 30/50 amp service with full hookup (electric, water, and sewer), private showers/dressing rooms with hair dryers, free cable TV, high-speed Wi-Fi, and large, enclosed dog run. Choose from pull-through sites (55– 59 feet), back-in sites (34–36 feet), extra-long back-in sites (52–53 feet), and extra-long, big rig pull-through sites (69–130 feet).

Galveston Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island State Park, Texas

With both beach and bay sides, Galveston Island State Park offers activities for every coast lover. Hike or bike four miles of trails through the park’s varied habitats. Stop at the observation platform or photo blinds, and stroll boardwalks over dunes and marshes. Twenty camping sites are available on the bay side of the park. Each site offers 50/30 amp electric, water, picnic table, and nearby restrooms with showers. These sites are for RV camping only. Additionally, 10 sites are available for tent camping only.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park, Williams, Arizona

Set in the mountain community of Williams—Gateway to the Grand Canyon—the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park is the ideal place to unwind and relax. The park has three types of RV spaces: select from pull-through, buddy spaces, or back-in sites. All spaces are 50-amp and large enough for big rigs. Each space comes with high definition digital TV provided by DirecTV, wireless Internet, and access to the indoor swimming pool and hot tub at the adjacent Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. The property has coin-operated laundry machines and a common picnic area with gas grills and a fire pit. Take the historic train from Williams into Grand Canyon National Park. Adjacent to the historic train depot, Grand Canyon Railway RV Park is just two blocks away from Route 66 and downtown Williams.

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

How to Choose the Perfect RV Park and Campsite?

A guide to finding the perfect RV campsite

Are you a boater enthusiast and swimmer looking for a lakeside or oceanfront RV park? Prefer wide open spaces in the great outdoors with plenty of hiking trails? When deciding where to stay, whether for the night, the weekend, or the season, there are several things to consider.

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores, Foley. Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Find the Right Site

Many RVers spend a lot of time searching for the perfect RV park while overlooking the fact that finding the perfect campsite can be just as important. Terrain, location, amenities, water sources, and traffic patterns—just to name a few—play a big part in selecting the perfect spot. Here are a few strategies to help you find the right site.

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Questions to ask:

  • What’s your budget? Having a clear budget will help you make your decision when looking at various campgrounds and resorts.
  • Are you staying in an RV? Is everyone in your group staying in an RV, or will some prefer tent or cabin?
  • What is your length of stay? Is this an overnight stop, several days, or a longer stay?
  • What is your camping style? Do you prefer numerous amenities or low-impact camping?
Palm Canyon Campground, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campgrounds are generally your most basic setup and are usually publicly owned and found in national, state, and county/regional parks. They tend to be more rustic, have ample room for tent camping, and cater to more outdoorsy types. They usually have greater emphasis on nature and scenic views than amenities and typical stays are shorter. It’s hit or miss as to the number of campgrounds that can accommodate big rigs so check the website or call the campground directly.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV parks and resorts offer amenities and creature comforts, typically with full service sites. They are usually privately owned and offer both short and longer term stays. Most RV parks offer Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, showers, and dog parks.

Sea Breeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV resorts will be well manicured and in good condition. The roads in the park should be wide enough to allow RVs of all sizes to enter and leave sites easily. Some RV resorts are gated with manned gate houses and you might find that your RV must be of a certain caliber in order to gain entry.  There is no industry standard; you may notice more luxurious amenities and surroundings according to price. These amenities may include exercise rooms, Jacuzzis, lap pools, in-house restaurants and/or bars, or golf courses.

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is your campsite spacious enough for a comfortably stay? Is there room to extend slide-outs?

Is there enough space to back in your rig? Do you require a pull-through site?

Are you bringing your pet? Does the campground provide pet-friendly amenities?

Do you want to a park with a bustling social scene or are you seeking solitude?

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

Planning

Take the time to research not only the campground or RV resort but your route, when you’ll be arriving, and any current restrictions related to COVID-19 or weather. And with today’s travel challenges, it’s even more important than ever to stay safe and be prepared. The RV park website is a great place to start. Supplement this with online reviews and personal recommendations.

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

And when you do call for reservations, be sure to give them a detailed description of your RV (length, height, toad) and what your requirements are in the way of hook-ups and additional services.

Pala Casino RV Park, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make a reservation

Demand for RVs in the era of COVID-19 has surged across the country. Many Americans are skipping hotels and air travel for RV parks in this era of social distancing with the industry scrambling to keep up with the demand. With an increasing scarcity of available sites it is advisable to book a site well in advance. This maximizes the likelihood of securing your top choice site. Phone the park to make a reservation. Reserving online isn’t always a possibility. You’re also more likely to snag a great spot if you’re more flexible with your dates. Popular destinations occasionally have campsites available mid-week.

Golden Palms Village RV Park, Hemet, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pro tip

Discounts are typically given for longer stays. Are you able to escape for a week or even a month? Ask about specials and you’ll likely receive a lower price per night.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many RV parks post their campground maps online. You can even check out the satellite view on Google Earth for a bird’s-eye view of the campground.

If you’re traveling with children, you might prefer a spot near the pool or playground.

River Plantation RV Park, Seviereille, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When selecting the right campsite, you may face a trade-off and need to prioritize which factors are most important to you.

Worth Pondering…

It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.

—Claude Bernard

The Best State Parks for Fall Camping

Campers fall paradise

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, camping has offered travelers an excellent alternative to hotel stays, air travel, and cruising. As summer gives way to fall, there’s never been a better time to reconnect with nature while still practicing social distancing. As the leaves begin to turn, here are seven one-of-a-kind state parks where campers will feel right at home this autumn.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park: Blairsville, Georgia

If you’re looking for a park with mind blowing fall color, head to Vogel-ville. Vogel State Park is one of Georgia’s top parks to see fall foliage in October. To reach the park, travelers can drive through the Chattahoochee National Forest on Wolf Pen Gap Road. Even the drive into the park is something special.

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia

Located between Front Royal and Luray, this 1600-acre park takes beautiful advantage of the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Come for the leaves—but stay for the hiking, the mountain biking, the horseback riding, the canoeing, or the ziplining. More than five miles of shoreline border the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and a small-boat launch is busy on weekends with canoeists, kayakers, rafters, and tubers. More than 24 miles of well-marked trails take you on level ground by the river or up steep inclines to ridgetop views.

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

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona

The tree-lined lagoons at Dead Horse Ranch are a sight to behold during late September and October! Golden hues reflecting off of the still water put the mind at ease and cause thoughts to wander toward beautiful destinations. Feeling adventurous? Take a hike down the adjacent Verde River and explore the limitless beauty of a riparian fall. Absorb even more of Arizona’s beautiful autumn display by booking a spot in the expansive campground or in one of the secluded cabins. Stay for a while and collect as many colorful memories as possible before the leaves fall and it’s too late.

Roosevelt State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi

Conveniently located between Meridian and Jackson, Roosevelt State Park is known for gorgeous scenery especially during the fall, thanks to its close proximity to Bienville National Forest. The park offers an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities in a picturesque setting. The gently sloping landscape is particularly striking in autumn when the forest is bright with fiery colors. The park offers 109 RV campsites, primitive tent sites, 15 vacation cabins, motel, and a group camp facility. These facilities are located in wooded areas with views of Shadow Lake.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer State Park, South Dakota

For an awe-inspiring, eye-popping autumn experience plan a fall color drive in the Black Hills. Consisting of 71,000 acres, Custer State Park encompasses rolling hills, granite peaks, and beautiful lakes and wildlife around every corner. Start your adventure as you travel on the back roads out of Keystone where you will see large stands of birch and aspen. As you travel through the Needles Highway the rich fall colors are from the birch and quaking aspen trees. The bright purples of the Dogwood and the soft green of the Russian olive will keep the color seekers eyes occupied for a while. Watch for the bison, pronghorns, wild burros, and deer along the Wildlife Loop. Many of the elms are a stark yellow contrast to the darker oaks. The ash trees have the speckles of orange like sparks from a campfire.

Lackawanna State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania

Offering gorgeous vistas of fall foliage, the 1,445-acre Lackawanna State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania, ten miles north of Scranton. The centerpiece of the park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, is surrounded by picnic areas and about 15 miles of multi-use trails winding through forest. Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming are popular recreation activities. The campground is within walking distance of the lake and swimming pool, and features forested sites with electric hook-ups and walk-in tent sites.

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

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana

For generations, a blend of history and legend has drawn visitors to this meeting place of incredible natural beauty and unique historical background. At Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, visitors are introduced to the diverse cultural interplay among the French-speaking peoples along the famed Bayou Teche. Many visitors may be familiar with the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia, and their arrival in Louisiana, as portrayed in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 epic poem Evangeline.

Worth Pondering…

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.

―Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Vacationing by RV this Summer? Here’s what you need to Know

Parks, scenic drives, and hiking trails all wait—all on your own terms

The wide open spaces never seemed more inviting than now. Fresh air, gorgeous scenery, and a healthy dose of freedom—it’s all waiting for you along the highways and byways of America. If you’re ready for a getaway with both wide-open spaces and a lot of autonomy, consider an RV road trip around America.

Motor coaches along Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you’re in your RV, or camping, you’re in control of your environment. You can spend as much or as little time as you want in any one place. You can go off on a hike all day and come back and never see a soul. Such trips literally and figuratively “put you in the driver’s seat”.

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

As communities re-open after their COVID-19-related closures, keep in mind that some parks, businesses, and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Before traveling, familiarize yourself with local guidelines and regulations for the destinations you plan to visit.

Camping in a Class B motorhome at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pick Your Wheels

There are vehicles for every style of trip from the converted minivan–style Jucy vans that sleep four and have a kitchen to full-size RVs with a bathroom. If you’re new to RVing, start by getting acquainted with the various types of RVs available. Options range from pop-up, teardrop, travel, and fifth-wheel trailers to motorized RVs that range in size from vans (Class B motorhomes) and cab-over morothomes (Class C) to long, bus-style motor coaches.

Camping in a travel trailer at Whispering Hills RV Park near Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rent or buy something that works best work for you and your family. Think about the activities you plan to do. If your plans involve regularly traversing hairpin mountain passes or embarking on day-long hikes, a campervan or truck camper would best fit the bill. Conversely, 45-foot motor homes equipped with cooking appliances and large wastewater holding tanks work well for large family get-togethers or cross-country trips.

Camping at Bellingham RV Park, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose a vehicle that’s compatible with the area you plan to explore and within your budget. You’ll love having the extra space of a motorized RV if you’re exploring the desert or mostly traveling along major highways. That said, a smaller camper van might be better suited for the scenic drive along California Highway 1, Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone, and other winding roadways.  

Camping at Colorado River Thousand Trails Preserve near Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most rentals do not require a special driver’s license. Ahead of booking make sure to ask about rental insurance and roadside assistance plans. Take advantage of a quick RV training session before revving up. If you plan on bringing along a furry friend, check the pet policies specific to your rental. Perhaps most important is to book early.

On the road to Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose Your Scenery

There are hundreds—if not thousands—of amazing places to visit across the country. Do you want to do a coastal or mountain drive or go off the grid for a bit? State highways and county roads tend to feature scenic drives filled with more beauty than interstates, so stop and take some photos, smell the flowers, or just marvel at nature when venturing off the beaten path. Taking the scenic route can reveal some unexpected locally owned gems that get overlooked. Pecan pralines in Louisiana, BBQ in Texas, green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want the journey to be just as meaningful as the destination? Check out these scenic byways. Looking to do an epic cross-country road trip along a beloved American roadway? Check out our guides to Route 66, Gold Rush Trail, or the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe you’re a history buff or a foodie? You could plan your camping trip around either of those themes—and many more, to boot. Here are some of our best road trip ideas for patriots, wildlife lovers, and haunted house enthusiasts.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California dreaming? Got Georgia on your mind? No matter what part of the country, there’s a road that can take you there—so go for it. And be sure to stop at neat little towns and roadside attractions along the way.

Camping at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start Browsing Campgrounds to Create Your Itinerary

Almost any destination can be made better—or significantly worse—by choice of campground. It’s hard to relax if you don’t have access to clean showers or if your neighbors keep you up all night with noise.

Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, don’t forget that we’re a great resource! Whether you’re camping out at a national park or just looking for the best RV park near your chosen national park, always turn to RVing with Rex for quality content to help you make your vacation great.

Worth Pondering…

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…

— John Muir

Most Scenic Campgrounds from Coast to Coast

There are tens of thousands of campsites across America, though not all offer breathtaking scenery. Many aren’t much more than a little dusty patch of earth. Some, however, offer campers spectacular vistas like these scenic campgrounds.

From Atlantic to Pacific, the US abounds with breathtaking scenery—and what better way to explore America’s beauty than an RV camping trip?

Sage Creek Campground at Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While many parks have distinct, built-up camping grounds to choose from with running water and electricity for RV parking (great for road trips), more experienced outdoors people can also find plenty of locations for backcountry camping where they can really rough it. Sleeping under the stars renews the spirit, and pitching a tent is a budget-friendly alternative to expensive.

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

Take a look at some of the amazing campsites, and don’t forget to bring your sense of adventure—and your camera.

Sage Creek Campground at Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sage Creek Campground at Badlands National Park in South Dakota

Don’t underestimate the beauty of the Badlands. Between the many rock formations you’ll see there, you’ll also find prairies and places to peak at ancient fossils. There are two choices of campgrounds: Cedar Pass (with amenities like running water and electricity) and Sage Creek (with no running water but you can often see bison wandering around).

Sage Creek Campground at Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A stay at this primitive campground offers an authentic experience of the vast Badlands. Visitors can observe bison roaming the park’s prairie landscape, which abounds with colorful buttes formed from layers of sediment.

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

Devils Garden Campground at Arches National Park in Utah

Arches only has one campground, The Devils Garden, which has 50 campsites, but there are numerous other places to camp nearby in the Moab area.

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

At Devils Garden Campground, visitors spend the night among the natural sandstone formations of Arches National Park. During the day, they can hike through the desert landscape, admiring the flowering cacti and juniper trees.

One of the most popular trails, the Delicate Arch Trail, takes you on an amazing hike full of photo opportunities.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground at Hunting Island State Park in 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 pristine beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon and ocean inlet, and a 100-site campground are all part of the park’s natural allure.

Each camping site offers water and 20/30/50-amp electric service. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; other up to 28 feet.

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground at Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina

Edisto Beach on Edisto Island is one of four oceanfront state parks in South Carolina. Edisto Beach State Park features trails for hiking and biking that provide a wonderful tour of the park. The park’s environmental education center is a “green” building with exhibits that highlight the natural history of Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE Basin.

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping with water and electrical hookups is available ocean-side or near the salt marsh. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Each campground is convenient to restrooms with hot showers.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground at Gulf State Park in Alabama

Gulf State Park’s two miles of beaches greet you with plenty of white sun-kissed sand, surging surf, seagulls, and sea shells, but there is more than sand and surf to sink your toes into. 

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located 1.5 miles from the white sand beaches, Gulf State Park Campground offers 496 improved full-hookup campsites with paved pads and with 11 primitive sites. Tents are welcome on all sites. 

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

Campground at Laura S. Walker State Park in Georgia

Located near the northern edge of the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp, this park is home to many fascinating creatures and plants, including alligators and carnivorous pitcher plants. Walking or biking along the lake’s edge and nature trail, visitors may spot the shy gopher tortoise, numerous oak varieties, saw palmettos, yellow shafted flickers, warblers, owls and great blue herons. The park’s lake offers opportunities for fishing, swimming and boating

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

The park has 64 camping sites; 44 sites offer electric utilities and accommodate RVs up to 40 feet.

Worth Pondering…

Stuff your eyes with wonder…live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

—Ray Bradbury

Joshua Tree National Park Turns 25. But what is a Joshua tree?

Joshua Tree National Park celebrates 25 years as a national park

It should come as no surprise that 3 million people visit Joshua Tree National Park each year. California’s High Desert is a veritable wonderland of unique desert plant life, beautifully bizarre rock formations, and dreamy views, after all.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located near the Greater Palm Springs area, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Diego, the park is best known for the oddly shaped Joshua trees which actually aren’t trees at all; they’re yucca plants.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’ve been itching to visit, now’s a great time. The park recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. According to the National Park Service, on October 31, 1994, Joshua Tree National Monument was elevated to national park status as part of the Desert Protection Bill. The bill also added 234,000 acres to the park, bringing the total acreage of the park to nearly 800,000. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua trees are rock stars in the plant world when it comes to their ability to survive in scorching heat, freezing cold, and environments with little water. They can be found in the Mojave Desert at elevations of 2,000 to 6,000 feet.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Technically, Joshua trees are not trees, but plants. In 2011, The American Journal of Botany published a report confirming that there are two distinct varieties of Joshua trees: brevifolia and a smaller plant, jaegeriana McKelvey. The plant is a member of the agave family.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s uncertain how the Joshua tree got its name though it is thought to have originated with the Mormon pioneers heading west. The strange, contorted branches, it is said, made the sojourners think of the Biblical figure Joshua pointing westward to the “promised land”. Native Americans call them “humwichawa,” among other names. They are also referred to as yucca palms, and in Spanish they are called izote de desierto, “desert dagger.”

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Native Americans used the plants’ tough leaves to make baskets and sandals. They used flower buds and raw or roasted seeds for food.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond the trees there’s so much to see including incredible sunsets and stellar views of the Milky Way. There are rugged mountains of twisted rock and exposed granite monoliths. Huge, rounded boulders pile up on top of each other and rectangular blocks thrust up from the ground at sloping angles, forming steep precipices.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The hiking is fantastic! There is a variety of self-guided nature trails and longer hikes that offer different perspectives of the park. The aptly named Jumbo Rocks has a half-mile nature walk to Skull Rock and the Barker Dam walk (1.1 mile loop) is interesting in terms of the cultural history of the area.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plus, there’s no shortage of desert critters including 3-foot-long lizards called chuckwallas, bighorn sheep, leaf-nosed bats, and red-tailed hawks. Also keep an eye out for American kestrels, kangaroo rats, kit foxes, and black-tailed jack rabbits. It’s not uncommon to see coyotes, rattlesnakes (five types of them make their home in the desert), and tarantulas, too. If you’re really lucky, you may spot a desert tortoise or a bobcat.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With eight different campgrounds offering about 500 developed campsites, Joshua Tree offers a variety of options for RVers. There are no hookups for RVs at any campground in Joshua Tree. Black Rock (99 sites) and Cottonwood (62 sites) have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations. At Hidden Valley (44 sites) and White Tank (15 sites) RVs may not exceed a combined maximum length of 25 feet. Additional campgrounds include Belle (18 sites), Indian Cove (101 sites), Jumbo Rocks (124 sites), and Ryan (31 sites).

Worth Pondering…

Trampled in dust I’ll show you a place high on the desert plain where the streets have no

name, where the streets have no name…

—Joshua Tree, sung by U2, 1987

What to Look For in an RV Campground?

A key factor in planning any RV road trip is the RV parks and campgrounds

Plans for your next RV road trip is mostly complete. You’re excited to hit the open road with your family, but haven’t given much thought to where you’re camping. Obviously, you know your destination. But, you aren’t sure how far you want to drive the first day, and whether you want to make some stops along the way. You’ll just Google the nearest campground when you feel the time is right to set up camp for the night.

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But before you hit the road, you should be aware that not all RV campgrounds are created equal and no one park is perfect for everyone. Campers can find RV parks in state parks and national parks as well as privately owned campgrounds. And the quality varies from budget to high end resorts.

A key factor in planning any RV road trip is the RV parks and campgrounds.

Meaher State Park near Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re thinking that all campgrounds are the same, think again. Every campground has its own set of rules and regulations, as well as different amenities. If you aren’t looking for full hookups, you can be less picky about what campground you choose for your stay. But if you’re looking for all the amenities including electric, water, sewer, cable TV, and Wi-Fi, there are several things you should look for before making your decision.

Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choosing an RV park sight unseen can be like playing the lottery. Many parks and resorts feature a variety of amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for all ages enabling families to enjoy quality time together.

Before leaving home, take the time to check out the best camping parks along your intended route and at your camping destination.

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choices for RV parks and campgrounds include luxurious RV resorts, activity-filled family destinations, 55+ parks, secluded natural settings, and basic parks conveniently located for an overnight stay. Prices also run the gamut.

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

There is a variety of campgrounds, each offering different amenities and activities. These include private RV parks; casino camping; national, state, and county park campgrounds; Army Corps of Engineers parks; and service club facilities.

Harvest Moon RV Resort, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are the best tips for choosing a campground and campsite that you and your family will love?

Irwins RV Park, Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing can make or break your RV vacation like choosing a campground not suited to your family’s needs and interests. When selecting a park, think about your camping style and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you camping with a young family?
  • Are you an active couple looking for outdoor adventures?
  • Are you snowbirds who enjoy on-site activities and the opportunity to meet new friends?
  • How large is your RV?
  • Consider your needs when choosing an RV park.
  • What amenities do you require? Full hook-ups? 30- or 50-amp electric service?
  • Are you looking for a rural or urban setting?
  • What is your nightly/weekly/monthly camping budget?
  • Do you travel with pets?
Cajun Palms RV Resort, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you plan to stay one night, a weekend, a week, or longer, there are campgrounds throughout the U.S. and Canada to meet your needs. All are unique. No two parks are the same. Each campground will provide something a little different.

You decide. Remember, getting there is half the fun.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware that RV parks and campgrounds have varied rules for check in and check out. Although some parks have 24 hour check in, most have set times that you must check in and check out. Some parks do not permit check ins prior to noon. If you plan to stop after hours call ahead to make the necessary arrangements.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

A Cool Oasis in the West Texas Desert

Dive into the crystal-clear water of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool

In July, on a 100-degree day in the desert, 562 miles west of Houston, the San Solomon Springs Pool at Balmorhea State Park in Far West Texas, is a favorite place for many RVers and other travelers searching for respite from the hot Texas sun.

The water is so clear it’s like jumping into a dream. The water temperature hovers around 75 degrees, refreshingly cool in the heat of the summer and comfortably warm in winter. It is, in the opinion of many, the best swimming hole on Earth.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set against the Davis Mountains where the Chihuahuan Desert transitions into the low, flat Permian Basin, the San Solomon complex of springs gush out 15 million gallons of artesian water every day, feeding a canal system that runs to nearby farms and the town of Balmorhea, 4 miles away.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the mid-1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built walls around the desert marsh to create the pool. Today, more than 200,000 people stop by every year to swim with fish, waterfowl, and amphibians.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The CCC-era structure is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The 1.3- acre pool is up to 25 feet deep, holds 3.5 million gallons of water with the temperature 72 to 76 degrees year-round.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several years ago when we stopped by in early spring on our route west to Arizona, we had the park to ourselves. But on summer weekends so many people cram into the park that volunteers improvise parking in open fields.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I always figured Balmorhea was too far away from major population centers, too in the middle of nowhere, to get overrun. I was wrong. In recent years, visitation has surged. For families between Van Horn and Odessa, Balmorhea is the one affordable place within 100 miles to cool off and picnic.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scuba clubs from as far away as Kansas and Arkansas explore the springs on weekends year-round. Fitness buffs motoring coast to coast make detours for a swim.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For almost three months, during the peak summer season, the pool was closed as staff figured out how to fix a collapsed retaining wall below the diving boards.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The closing was sudden and unplanned. During the annual cleaning in early May (2018), Abel Baeza, the manager of the local water district, was directing workers to make repairs in a nearby canal when he heard a noise, then turned around to see the underwater concrete skirting cracking off below the high dive.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 80-year-old pool, like the nearby adobe San Solomon Springs Motor Courts which are closed during a planned restoration, requires constant upkeep. The concrete repairs were an even bigger deal. A dam had to be constructed to hold back water around the damage during the painstaking process.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“There are five endangered species in the pool, and this is the only population left of this species of black catfish,” said Mark Lockwood, the West Texas regional director for Texas state parks.

“We can’t just open up the gates, let the water dry up everywhere, build a wall, and put it back together.”

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In early August, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) announced that pool repairs would begin imminently, with the cash-strapped agency forced to find creative ways to pay the estimated $2 million bill. Apache Corporation, the company doing most of the fracking exploration around Balmorhea, which some locals and environmentalists believe caused the damage, offered a $1 million matching grant through the nonprofit Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation.

The Garrison Brothers Distillery pledged a portion of proceeds from its small-batch, $59-a-bottle Balmorhea whiskey. Even for a park as popular as Balmorhea, getting things done these days requires the governmental equivalent of a GoFundMe campaign.

This project is only one of the three major developments underway at Balmorhea State Park. Renovations to the San Solomon Springs Courts and campgrounds have been ongoing since 2017. Once these projects have completed, visitors to Balmorhea will have an enhanced park experience at West Texas’ most treasured oasis.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) has established a fund to accept donations towards the structural repairs that are needed to reopen the pool. These donations will help ensure that Texans can continue to enjoy this historic spring-fed swimming pool and unique West Texas destination for generations to come.

The park remains open for day-use only with limited facilities.

The restoration of the San Solomon Springs Motor Courts should be finished by spring. The fallen wall in the pool should be repaired any day now. I’m standing by.

Balmorhea State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another sunny 70 degree fall or spring day with little wind will do just fine. Odds are, we’ll have the park all to ourselves.

If you wait until next summer, y’all will be waiting in line with the rest of y’all.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto