The Ultimate Guide to Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world

Are you ready for a day (or two or three) at the beach? Why not spend it at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, a park with “the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.”

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, one of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline. It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a haven for over 380 bird species. It also has a rich history including the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to its 70 miles of protected coastline, other important ecosystems abound including rare coastal prairie, a complex and dynamic dune system, and tidal flats teeming with life. The National Seashore and surrounding waters provide important habitat for marine and terrestrial plants and animals including a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Padre Island National Seashore and South Padre Island are two different places located over 100 miles apart. Sometimes Padre Island National Seashore is confused with South Padre Island but the two are very different destinations. Padre Island National Seashore is a National Park Service (NPS) site located just outside of Corpus Christi. South Padre Island is a resort community located near Brownsville with numerous hotels, clubs, and souvenir shops. The two destinations are at opposite ends of the long, barrier island named Padre Island and are about 100 miles apart.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning on putting the park address into a smart phone app or GPS? It most likely will NOT bring you to the park. For unknown reasons, many of those applications place the park’s physical address miles away from its actual location.

Plan your trip: A Slice of Paradise: Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fortunately, getting to the park is easy once you know that the road coming to the park—Park Road 22—actually dead ends into the National Seashore. The park entrance station is a booth that is located literally in the middle of the road. Once you’re on Park Road 22, just keep going until you reach the end and the park entrance station. Bring a paper map or use the above directions to locate the park.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park entrance fees and passes can be purchased online before your visit or purchased in person at the entrance station upon your arrival. Your options include a 1-day pass ($10.00 per vehicle), a 7-day pass ($25.00 per vehicle), and a 1-year pass ($45.00 per vehicle). Those with federal interagency passes enter free.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Typical weather conditions. Weather on Padre Island varies widely and can change from sunny and warm to thunderstorms and heavy winds very quickly. Padre Island has long, hot summers and short, mild winters. Most rain falls near the beginning and end of hurricane and tropical storm season which lasts from June through October.

Daytime temperature in spring averages in the 70s-80s with lows in the 50s-60s. Summer daytime temperatures are usually in the mid-90s with very humid conditions. Lows are usually in the 70s. Afternoon and evening sea breezes help to moderate temperatures. In the fall, daytime temperature average in the 70s-80s with lows in the 50s-60s. Winter high temperatures are usually between 50 degrees and 70 degrees but can occasionally drop into the upper 30s. Sudden, strong cold fronts can move through bringing gale force winds and dropping temperatures quickly.

Average rainfall for the southern portion of the park is 26 inches and 29 inches for the northern area of the park.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a drive along the seashore. Many people come to the National Seashore to experience the beauty of nature in isolation. One way to do this is to travel down-island into the park’s most remote areas which are only accessible with a high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle. Don’t try it with a regular car if you intend to drive further than 5 miles.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To get to the portion of the park where you can drive on the beach and down to the remote parts of the island, continue on the main park paved road (Park Road 22) past Malaquite Visitor Center until the pavement ends (South Beach). From that point, the park has 60 miles of beach open to driving. South Beach (and driving) ends at the Port Mansfield Channel, a man-made waterway cut through the island.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is not possible to drive all the way down to South Padre Island due to this waterway. You must turn around at that point and drive 60 miles back north to reach the park paved road.

Plan your trip: Padre Island National Seashore: World’s Longest Stretch of Undeveloped Barrier Island

Remember that Texas beaches are public highways and all traffic laws apply including seat belt regulations. All vehicles on Padre Island National Seashore must be street legal and licensed.

Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go camping. Padre Island National Seashore has two campgrounds and three areas for primitive camping. They are open year-round and are first-come, first-served. Campers must have a camping permit. There are no RV hook-ups on Padre Island but a dump station and a water filling station are available for all campers staying in the National Seashore.

Malaquite Campground, Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucked in the dunes with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and a short distance north of the visitor center, Malaquite Campground features 48 semi-primitive designated sites. Located near the boat ramp on the waters of the Laguna Madre, Bird Island Basin Campground offers an opportunity for windsurfing, kayaking, boating, birding, and fishing. Both RV and tent camping sites are available but it is dry camping only.

Sea Breeze RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’d rather stay in a full-service RV park, Corpus Christi, 10 miles away from the park entrance, has several choices. We stayed across the bay in Portland at Seabreeze RV Resort and would return in a heartbeat.

Since sunrises are spectacular along the seashore, plan to take a morning walk along the beach and bring your camera with you to capture the moment. During your early-morning walk, you might spot the elusive (and very fast) ghost crab peeking at you from its burrow.

Stick around after dark on a clear night for a little stargazing. Take a flashlight with you to spot ghost crabs as they move away from their burrows to seek a midnight snack.

Do some beachcombing. Have you ever gone to the beach with bucket in hand hoping to find treasures along the seashore? If so, then you have been beachcombing. Many of the currents that flow through the Gulf of Mexico bring endless curiosities onto the beach at Padre Island National Seashore. These items include seashells, beached jellyfish, sea beans (drift seeds), driftwood, lumber, plastics, and things that have been lost or discarded by seagoing vessels and other marine activities. The best time is immediately following a storm. You are allowed to keep a five-gallon bucket of treasures you might find but if an animal is still in its shell be sure to put it back where you found it.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go fly a kite. Padre Island National Seashore has plenty of wind to fly a kite. The seashore has in the past hosted a kite festival in February filling the sky with all sorts of colorful kites including some intricate and creative Chinese kites. Be sure to check with the park before heading there with your kite. 

Plan your trip: Oceans of Fun: Port Aransas and Mustang Island

Go swimming. Swimming at the National Seashore can be a lot of fun! You can swim in the recreation area at Bird Island Basin or in the Gulf of Mexico. However, remember that safety is important and there are no lifeguards on duty. Use caution when swimming and never swim alone.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go fishing. Fishing has been one of the biggest attractions to Padre Island, long before its designation as a National Seashore. Visitors may fish along the entire length of the Gulf of Mexico beach in the Laguna Madre and at Yarborough Pass and Bird Island Basin. Two currents, one from the north and one from the south converge at Big Shell beach near the middle of the park.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These currents bring an abundance of nutrients which, in turn, attract plenty of fish. To fish anywhere within the park requires a valid Texas fishing license and a saltwater stamp which are only sold outside of the park at any local gas station or tackle shop.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go boating. Bird Island Basin offers a boat ramp to provide access to the excellent boating and fishing waters of the Laguna Madre. It’s one of the world’s best windsurfing sites and you can fish and birdwatch there, too. You can get a daily pass to Bird Island Basin at the Entrance Station for $5.00 or an annual pass for $30.00. Be aware that jet skis, kite surfing, and air boats are prohibited at the national seashore.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hatching releases. During the summer Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings are released from nests that were laid in the park and along parts of the Texas coast. Hatchling releases typically occur from mid-June through August. Most releases that are open to the public take place at 6:45 a.m. on Malaquite Beach in front of the Visitor Center at Padre Island National Seashore. For information about public hatching releases, call the Hatchling Hotline at 361-949-7163. Because park rangers cannot predict exactly when a sea turtle nest will hatch, not all hatchling releases are public and hatchling releases do not occur daily or on a regular schedule.

American avocet and Black-necked stilt, Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go bird watching. With more bird species that any other city in the U.S., Corpus Christi has won the competition for being the “Birdiest City in America” for the past 10 years in a row. Needless to say, Padre Island National Seashore, located on 130,000 acres of undeveloped land is an exceptional place for bird watching.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated along the Central Flyway, Padre Island is a globally important area for over 380 migratory, overwintering, and resident bird species (nearly half of all bird species documented in North America). You’ll catch sight of brown pelicans, egrets, herons, terns, gulls, hawks, ducks, teals, and crested caracaras and not just along the beach but inland as well. The best time to bird Padre Island National Seashore is either during early spring or during fall and winter when thousands of birds either migrate through the park or spend the winter there.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interpretive programs. Attend a ranger program to learn about the seashore, the birds, and the things that wash up on the beach. Informal 30-45 minute Deck Talks on various aspects of the island’s natural and cultural history are held Thursdays to Sundays at 1 pm at the Malaquite Visitor Center.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a Junior Ranger. Padre Island National Seashore is just one national park that gives you a chance to earn an official Junior Ranger badge. Ask a ranger for a Junior Ranger booklet when you stop by the Malaquite Visitor Center. The Underwater Explorer Junior Ranger Program is available as well. For all those who are young or young-at-heart, come out and earn your badge. All ages are welcome to participate in the Junior Ranger program at Padre Island National Seashore.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Relax on the beach, build a sand castle, and play in the sand. Just remember the Leave No Trace principles. If you dig any holes or trenches while playing in the sand, cover them back up so they don’t create a hazard for vehicles, people, and animals.

Remember to check the park’s website for any alerts and closures due to construction or weather-related damage. Check the site also for other things to know before you head out to the park and whether or not pets are allowed.

Read Next: Where the Journey Is the Destination: Texas State Highway 35

Worth Pondering…

I must go down to the seas again,

To the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star

To steer her by.

—John Masefield

9 of Best National Parks for RV Campers

Looking to get closer to nature and linger longer at a US national park? RV camping is the perfect way to experience the majestic wide-open spaces of the national parks.

Camping in an RV within a national park provides a comfortable base to immerse yourself in a park’s beauty from sunrise to sunset (and beyond for great stargazing). National park campsites also create a fun sense of community between RV campers who share everything from vehicle advice to travel tips, BBQ recipes, and s’mores around the campfire.

The national parks listed below are top destinations not only for the quantity and quality of RV campsites within the parks but for the access that RVs have to tour the parks on paved roadways with key park attractions being within roadside viewing distance. 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top tips to consider when RV camping at national parks

Most national parks use Recreation.gov as the website to make reservations for campsites. Each park has its own quirks about the timing and process for making reservations, so check out your target park’s rules and regulations prior to booking. 

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make reservations as far in advance as possible. National park RV campsites can become fully booked within minutes of dates being offered, particularly for summer high season and holiday weekends. 

For your RV campsite, research the length restrictions and available hookups for water, electricity, and sewage dumps. You don’t want an unpleasant surprise after a late arrival to a remote campground.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re not able to secure a RV campsite within a national park, be aware that many private RV parks and resorts operate just outside the boundaries of most National Parks. Reservations at commercial campgrounds will be easier to make and these campgrounds provide more services and amenities than those within park limits. 

Bringing bicycles or a towed car with your RV can greatly expand your options for exploration in a national park particularly to areas with limited RV access. Also, consider leaving your RV in the campground and using park shuttle services when available. 

Following are nine of the best US national parks for RV camping.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah

This 76,000-acre wonderland is less a park and more a sandstone sculpture garden of sunset-hued arches and domes. 

Main Park Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drive in the park: Arches’ Main Park Road traces 18 miles from the entrance to Devils Garden Campground on a nicely paved roadway with numerous pull-outs and overlooks that showcase the park’s epic arches and other rock formations. A spur marked by signage for the park’s Windows Section—so named for the portholes that have been gouged from the rock—is not to be missed. After your visit here, you can add stops to southern Utah’s BryceCanyonlandsCapitol Reef, and Zion for an epic Utah national parks RV road trip. 

Devils Garden Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV campsites: 1 campground with 51 sites

The only camping option inside the park is the Devils Garden Campground, a slickrock-flanked oasis at the end of the park’s main road. Reservations are available and recommended via Recreation.gov, March through October and are available up to six months in advance; its 51 sites are first come, first served the rest of the year. 

Related Article: To Visit a Popular National Park this Summer, Start Planning Yesterday

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is about 1-mile deep and 10 miles wide, measuring 277 miles in length, and it holds more than 10,000 years of history in that space. 

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic RV route through the park: Desert View Drive portion of SR-64 is a scenic road that begins near Grand Canyon Village. Private vehicles can drive east along the canyon rim for 23 miles to the Desert View Services Area and the East Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV campsites: 4 campgrounds with 519 sites available for RVs

Mather Campground is located in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. There are 327 sites. Each includes a campfire ring/cooking grate, and picnic table. There are flush toilets and drinking water throughout the campground. No hookups are available; however, there is a free dump station. Most RV spaces are pull-through.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trailer Village is the only in-park RV campground with full hookups (sewage, water, and electrical with 30-amp and 50-amp sites available) Trailer Village features paved pull-through sites which can accommodate vehicles up to 50 feet long. Trailer Village is concessioner operated. Reservations can be made up to 13 months in advance.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains got its name from the Cherokee Indians who called the area shaconage (shah-con-ah-jey) meaning “land of the blue smoke,” after the thick, bluish haze that hangs over the mountains peaks and valleys.  

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drives in the park: The main gateways to Great Smoky Mountains are the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina. Between the two is the scenic Newfound Gap Road which winds for 29 miles neatly bisecting the park on the only pavement traversing the Smokies.

Cades Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cades Cove is by far the most popular site in the park. You can meander along the 11-mile driving loop through pastoral landscapes to historic log cabins and churches all the while viewing wildlife without ever having to leave the comfort of your car. 

Sugarlands Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV campsites: 9 campgrounds 924 sites available for RVs

Each campground has restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets. Each individual campsite has a fire grate and picnic table. There are no showers, electrical, or water hookups in the park.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drive in the park: Few roads pass through Joshua Tree but entrances at both north and south ends of the park connect in a cross-park scenic drive with spur roads to specific attractions. Driving the park north to south will give you roadside views not only of plenty of the park’s namesake trees but notable landmarks like Skull Rock and the Jumbo Rock formations. As you continue south watch as the landscape and flora transforms from the Mojave to the Colorado Desert ecosystems.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV Campsites: 8 campgrounds with 495 sites available for RVs

With 8 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).

Related Article: Tips for Reserving a National Park Campsite

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde, Spanish for “green table”, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years from AD 600 to 1300.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drive in the park: The best way of acquiring a feeling for Mesa Verde is to follow the 6-mile Mesa Top Auto Loop Road which traces Pueblo history at 10 overlooks and archeological sites.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV Campsites: 1 campground with 267 sites

Morefield Campground is located 4 miles from the park entrance. With 267 sites, there’s always plenty of space and the campground rarely fills. Each site has a table, bench, and grill. Camping is open to tents and RVs and includes 15 full-hookup RV sites.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah

With over 229 square-miles, more than 35 hiking trails, and cliffs towering more than 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, Zion National Park is a pretty incredible place. 

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drive in the park: The Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway (5 miles one way) in the northwestern corner of Zion National Park features the same dramatic desert landscape associated with the main section of the park: towering colored cliffs, narrow winding canyons, forested plateaus, and wooded trails along twisting side canyons.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Note: The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is accessible by shuttle bus only from March 15 to October 25 and on weekends in November. The shuttle system was established to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV Campsites: 2 campgrounds with 303 sites

South Campground (127 non-hookup sites) and Watchman Campground (176 sites, 95 with electric hookups; reservations recommended) are near the south entrance at Springdale.

Tip: This part of the park is desert. There are few trees to provide relief from the heat. Some campsites get shade for part of the day but many get no shade at all. Summer temperatures often exceed 95 degrees.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Scenic vistas, diverse wildlife, outdoor adventure, historic sites, and dark skies rank among the features visitors enjoy in Big Bend.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip: Big Bend is best enjoyed from late fall through early spring. Winter months bring beautiful days and pleasant temperatures. Summer months are scorching and outdoor recreation can be uncomfortable and unsafe. In the winter, five visitor centers are open, ranger programs occur more frequently, and local outfitters offer more activities. In the summer, many of these operations are reduced.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drive in the park: The 30-mile-long Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive holds up to its name taking you by noteworthy spots like the Mules Ears viewpoint (where you can see two jagged rock formations that jut up resembling donkey’s ears), Sam Nail Ranch (a historic homestead built in 1916), and Santa Elena Canyon (get those cameras ready).

Related Article: My Favorite Under-appreciated National Parks to Visit in 2022

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV campsites: 5 campgrounds with 196 sites for RVs

Since it takes a long time to reach the park—and then once there, you can spend a good amount of time just getting around within the park—it’s not a good idea to reserve a campsite well in advance. For camping within Big Bend, you have four developed campgrounds to choose from: Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, Cottonwood, and Rio Grande Village RV Park. Reservations required. You can book your site up to six months in advance.

Note: At Chisos Basins RVs over 24 feet (trailers over 20 feet) and are not recommended due to the narrow, winding road to the Basin and small campsites at this campground.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Striped in yellow, amber, and purple, the colorful eroded formations of Badlands National Park dip and rise amid the prairie grasslands.

Badlands Loop Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drive in the park: The 39-mile Badlands Loop Scenic Byway (also known as SR-240) connects the Northeast Entrance with the Pinnacles Entrance near Wall. This scenic route winds up and down the contours of the Badlands with about a dozen opportunities to stop at overlooks and trailheads as well as less formal pullouts for photo ops.

Cedar Pass Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV campsites: 2 campgrounds with 118 sites

In addition to backcountry camping, Badlands offers two campgrounds. The primitive, first-come-first-served Sage Creek Campground in the park’s northwest has 22 sites (free), vault toilets, picnic benches, and bison trails. For running water and electricity opt for the Cedar Pass Campground adjacent to Cedar Pass Lodge where you’ll find 96 RV and tent camping sites with shaded picnic tables. Reservations recommended.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The name “Shenandoah” is an American Indian word meaning “Daughter of the Stars.” 

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most scenic drive in the park: Skyline Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States at any time of the year. The picturesque 105-mile road rides the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains where 75 overlooks welcome visitors to take in panoramic views of the Shenandoah wilderness.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Number of RV campsites: 4 campgrounds with 357 sites

Nothing compares to sleeping under the stars and with four campgrounds there’s no better place to do it than Shenandoah National Park. Reservations are highly recommended on weekends and holidays. Many sites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance.

Related Article: National Parks Inspire Love of Nature

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah’s four main campgrounds are operated by the National Park Service and are open seasonally from early until late fall and feature spacious tent, trailer and RV sites:

  • Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22.2) 
  • Big Meadows Campground (mile 51) 
  • Lewis Mountain Campground (mile 57.2) 
  • Loft Mountain Campground (mile 79.5)

Worth Pondering…

If we set aside time each day to be in a peaceful environment, to walk in nature, or even just to look at a flower or the sky, then that beauty will penetrate us and feed our love and our joy.

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese monk and Zen master, How to Love

An RVers Guide to Campground Etiquette

Do you practice good RV campground etiquette?

Unless you are about to embark on your first RV road trip, you probably already practice the basic, common-sense rules of campground etiquette. They simply reflect the good manners that most of us observe in our everyday lives.

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

Unfortunately, many of us have encountered that rare individual with rude or thoughtless behavior that spoils a camping experience for others. It all begins with the Golden Rule. If we expect our campgrounds to be friendly, well-mannered communities, we should make sure we are friendly and courteous campers.

Virtually every RV Park has posted speed limits usually in the range of 5-10 miles per hour. Courteous behavior and good manners begin with observing speed limits throughout the park. Obey one-way signs as well.

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

Every campground has its own set of rules and regulations usually included in a park brochure or handout sheet. Read them carefully as they serve as a guide to what you can and cannot do at that particular campground.

Avoid walking through someone else’s campsite. You wouldn’t walk through a stranger’s yard without asking—so be polite and go the extra distance around.

Most RV campgrounds are family-friendly and, yes, kids deserve to have fun too. However, the fun shouldn’t be at the expense of the neighbors in your campground. Make sure they’re supervised when roaming about and know the campground rules.

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

Many RVers love to take their pets camping—and they love it too—but irresponsible pet owners are one of the most common causes of campground etiquette complaints. Keep your dogs on a short leash when walking and make sure they are properly restrained at the campsite. Not even the most ardent of dog lovers can put up with incessant barking, so if your pooch is one of those non-stop yappers plan to leave it with a sitter when you go camping.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, it goes without saying that you should be prepared to clean up after your pet. If you forget to bring your own, most campgrounds provide doggie bags to make the cleanup easy and convenient.

Keeping the noise down is another important campground courtesy. You might jam to heavy metal but chances are your neighbor prefers Tchaikovsky. So, it’s good to remember that your sounds shouldn’t travel beyond your own campsite.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most campgrounds post quiet hours so be sure you know when they are and be doubly sure to keep things quiet during that period. Outside lighting can be an irritant to neighbors as well so turn off your awning and/or porch lights when you retire for the evening.

Emptying holding tanks is not a popular task—but dumping those tanks is a nasty fact of life for every camper and should be done courteously and with consideration of your neighbors. Don’t do it when they are relaxing with a drink or enjoying a meal.

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Late arrivals and early departures can create a campground disturbance, so try to be as quiet as possible. If you’re planning an early getaway, stow your camping gear the evening before.

Some state parks and most federal campgrounds don’t have power outlets, so in those instances, you’ll need to rely on your batteries, solar, or a generator. You shouldn’t need to run the generator for long to maintain your RV batteries. Having a solar system and generator is the best of both worlds minimizing generator usage for a more peaceful campground experience.

Columbia River RV Park, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since your campsite is just on loan to you, it’s important to leave it as you found it. Don’t move fire rings or boundary stones and if you relocate the picnic table, return it to its original place when you leave. Never cut branches or pound nails into trees for clotheslines or hammocks. Before departing, take a look around the site for personal items or litter.

As a final thought, take time to make some new friends. We all spend too much time on our personal devices these days, so crank up your communications skills and go for some old fashion personal contact. Time on the road is precious—so relax, have fun, and enjoy the company of some newfound friends.

Worth Pondering…

Enjoy your days and love your life, because life is a journey to be savored.

Why the World Needs More Campers

Summer is in full swing: hot temperatures, afternoon and evening thunderstorms, beautiful sunrises and sunsets—and camping

While it has been a record year for campgrounds and RV parks, I am convinced the world needs more campers. 

Stay with me, as this comment is not about occupancy rates or empty sites, it’s about campers.  The campers you see in a state, provincial, or national park campground or privately owned RV park with a fifth wheel, pop-up trailer, truck camper, motorhome, or even a tent. The people who pack for the week or weekend, leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind, and enjoy their parks and being with other campers.

Boondocking in Quartzite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe it’s these dog days of summer or the fact the nightly news seems to be filled with controversy, hostility, and real problems but I’m thinking the world needs to go camping. 

And here is why: Camping brings out the best in people.

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

When walking through a campground or RV park, no one knows who you are—you’re just another camper on a morning or evening stroll. You’ll be greeted with a “good morning”, a “good evening”, or a “howdy” many times on your walk.

This greeting is much different than in the hectic hustle and bustle of city life as people go through their daily activities as if on an ever-moving treadmill. A polite exchange of greetings and nothing further.

Camping at Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When camping, it’s followed by more. “Where are you from,” and discussions about the weather and the beauty of the area. This is the norm in a campground or RV park—casual introductions turn into conversations and even lasting friendships. If you are a camper you know what I am talking about. 

A camper need not worry if they forgot to pack something, as another camper will always step up with whatever was left back home. Need a hand? You don’t even have to ask, as campers are, by their very nature, always willing to lend a hand. If you’ve camped you’ve experienced this and if you haven’t camped, you don’t know what you’re missing.

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

The type of camper doesn’t matter, whether it’s a fifth-wheel trailer with four slide-outs or a camping van, a diesel pusher with a car in tow, or a two-person tent, campers are not defined by the units they camp in—campers are people. People who care and who enjoy the outdoors, fellowship, and other people. 

Campers have an uncanny ability to see the good in people, to want to help those in need. It may be that campgrounds are seen as places of sanctuary from a world filled with controversy, misunderstanding, and real problems. Or, maybe it’s the parks, those places we can escape from the pressures and reality of a fast-paced world. Parks protect us with their tall trees, mountains, creeks, rivers, and lakes.

Camping at Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe it’s a campfire and the darkness that seem to soothe the soul with time for reflection and conversation. A conversation around a campfire leads to laughter and smiles and often ends with a satisfying “good night, see you in the morning.”

Tip: avoid conversations about politics!

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

Maybe we all need these special places to escape to every now and then just to get away, recharge our batteries, and reconnect with nature and each other. Parks really do become a sanctuary and allow us to escape from the day-to-day rat race, allow us to put our guard down, relax, and enjoy life. 

It doesn’t hurt when you fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves or the chorus of crickets and tree frogs and wake to the rising sun peeking through the tall pines or silhouetting stately saguaros or Joshua trees.

Camping at Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Could it be distinctive smells of a campground, lingering smoke that can only come from a campfire, the smell of coffee brewing, and bacon sizzling? Could it be these things influence our behavior and enable us to relax and revive those characteristics of kindness, friendliness, and a sense of community? 

Or maybe, just maybe it’s the people who camp.

Yes indeed, the world needs more campers, let’s go camping! 

Camping at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

See you in the parks!

Worth Pondering…

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

—Miriam Beard

The Ultimate Guide to Pinnacles National Park

At one of America’s newer National Park, the possibilities for discovery are limitless

The remains of an ancient volcanic field consisting of massive monoliths, rocky spires, pinnacles, red crags, and talus cave, rise out of the Meditteranean chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, a sanctuary for the California condor.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Salinas Valley in west-central California is the site of an ancient history spanning 23 million years. Over the course of that time, the “pinnacles” have migrated some 200 miles from their original home on the San Andreas Fault where the volcano that they were born from once stood. Today, that volcanic rock from the Pacific Coast Range has morphed to form monoliths, spires, peaks, cliffs, and other formations that jut out from the pastoral hills of the region. 

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is split into east and west districts between which there are no driving roads connecting the entrances on either side. In the west district, there are rare and unusual talus caves—caves made up of fallen rock sandwiched in slot canyons. On the east side, you will find the most interesting views of the formations along with broader views of the entire park landscape, the main park visitor center, and an established camping area. Both sides are beloved by technical climbers, day hikers, cave-goers, and bird watchers eager to catch a glimpse of the endangered California condor.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first 2,500 acres of the rugged Pinnacles were made a national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Since 1908, the monument significantly increased in size to 26,000 acres and on January 10, 2013, Pinnacles became America’s 59th national park. 

Hiking and rock climbing are popular activities in Pinnacles National Park as is watching for the majestic California condor overhead. Pinnacles National Park is a nesting place for the endangered soaring bird, the largest in North America.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the early 1980s, the California condor population had dwindled to just 22. The birds were placed in captive breeding programs, and Pinnacles became one of the release sites. Other condors from the Big Sur area also frequent the area which increases the odds of seeing one of these rare creatures.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remarkable rocks sculpted by 14 million years of volcanic turmoil. The rocky spires and pinnacles have long attracted rock climbers. So have talus caves (formed when massive boulders tumbled into narrow canyons) inhabited by protected bat communities. A well-maintained 30-mile trail system, partially created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, beckons hikers to this rugged landscape. Wildflowers bloom in the spring, and the temperate climate makes for year-round exploration opportunities.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rock formations of Pinnacles National Park divide the park into east and west access points which are connected by trails. But, there is no road connecting the east and west entrances of the park.

The eastern access road (CA 146) branches off CA 25, 30 miles south of Hollister, and leads up a wide, partly wooded valley alongside Bear Creek, and past the park campground. The mountains are visible to the west though they seem unremarkable from a distance as the volcanic formations are hidden behind more conventional rocks.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pinnacles Campground offers 149 tent, group, and RV sites with 30-amp electric service. Water is located throughout the campground. Showers and a dump station are available. During the spring and summer seasons, campers can enjoy the campground swimming pool and ranger programs at the campground amphitheater.

The road bends around a side canyon and ends next to the visitor center just as the main valley (Bear Gulch) starts to become relatively narrow. The center has exhibits, a small selection of books for sale, a public telephone, and flashlights for use in the caves.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The surrounding vegetation is typical of the chaparral zone, mostly small oak trees, and bushes, reflecting the low elevation, moderate rainfall, and long hot summers of this part of California. The main hiking area is to the west, further along, the canyon—within 2 miles are Bear Gulch Cave, Bear Gulch Reservoir, and many rock climbing sites, while 2 miles further are the extensive formations of the High Peaks. Many trails intersect, allowing for a short loop or a longer all-day hike.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bear Gulch Cave provides a home to a colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats as they rest there in winter and raise their young in the late spring and summer. The colony in the Bear Gulch Cave is the largest maternity colony between San Francisco and Mexico. The lower half of the Bear Gulch Cave is usually open from mid-July through mid-May each year, depending on the presence of the colony of bats. The entire cave is closed from mid-May to mid-July while the bats are raising their young. Bring a flashlight if your hike leads through a cave.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The west entrance has just a ranger station plus parking and is reached by a narrow, 12-mile road from Soledad that is not recommended for RVs or other large vehicles. From the road’s end, three trails depart to the north, west, and east; the most popular routes are the Juniper Canyon Trail to the High Peaks, and the Balconies Trail which leads to volcanic rocks and a talus cave.

Fact Box

Size: 26,000 acres

Date Established: January 10, 2013

Location: West central California, in the Salinas Valley

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How the park got its name: In 1880, the area where the national park is now was known as “the Palisades” until a newspaper article came out in 1881 describing the trellised areas as “the Pinnacles.” Further exploration of the area and additional marketing of it as a tourist destination helped the new name to stick. It has been officially known as Pinnacles since it was protected as a National Monument in 1908. 

Iconic site in the park: The geologic formations are known as “the pinnacles” are a series of volcanic and sedimentary rocks that have eroded over time to take the shape of colorful and ornate cliffs, crags, and talus cave formations that rise from a forested landscape. 

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did You Know?

Pinnacles, Muir Woods, and the Grand Canyon were all set aside as national monuments in the span of seven days in January 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt.

American writer John Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley and lived there until he went to Stanford University in 1919. The location inspired several of his works, one of them being East of Eden

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recreational visits in 2020: 165,740

Entrance Fees: $30/vehicle (valid for 7 days); all federal lands passes accepted

Camping Fee: $37/night

Worth Pondering…

May all your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view……where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you.

—Edward Abbey

The Ultimate Big Bend National Park Road Trip

Thanks to the park’s varied terrain, you can choose between desert, mountain, and river hikes, or hop in your car and explore the park on four wheels

Big Bend National Park has it all—vast amounts of open space, rivers, canyons, pictographs, and hot springs. Located in southwest Texas, the park can be wonderfully warm in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer offering year-round access to some of the most beautiful terrain in the state. Big Bend National Park is where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the Chisos Mountains and it’s where you’ll find the Santa Elena Canyon, a limestone cliff canyon carved by the Rio Grande.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park abuts the border with Mexico across a stunning stretch of southwestern Texas where evenings are defined by an orange sky and red canyon walls and where chirps of yellow meadowlarks and the sounds of the Rio Grande fill the air. While such stunning scenes are commonplace within Big Bend, the massive desert preserve remains overlooked among U.S. national parks—it has never surpassed 500,000 annual visitors since its designation in 1944.

The lack of tourists is likely due to the park’s extreme remoteness: Big Bend lies 300 miles from El Paso, the nearest major metropolitan area, and is geographically isolated within a massive turn of the Rio Grande from which the park gets its name. Those who brave the miles will find the journey is filled with natural riverfront hot springs, luminous night skies, and secluded mountain trails. Here is how to make the most of your trip to one of the more underrated national parks in America.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pick the right season and give yourself plenty of time

With its southerly location and exposure to the elements, triple-digit temperature stretches in the summer months are not uncommon and threaten to turn the most well-intentioned hiker into a sweaty, sunburned mess. A better experience is found in winter and autumn but spring comes with the double bonus of long daylight hours and wildflower season. If you do go in the summer make sure to bring lots and lots of water, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat (I prefer a Tilley), and plan your excursions around the heat. Winters can also get surprisingly chilly—averages hover around 60 degrees but can dip into the forties—so dress warmly if you plan your trip in the colder months.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend is among the largest national parks in the United States. With numerous trails, mountains, canyons, and nearby villages to explore; each point of interest could easily yield itself to days of exploration. For the best experience resist making a set plan—allow yourself plenty of time to explore and discover each desert sanctuary at your own pace.

While the paved roads make it possible to explore much of the park’s natural beauty, many of the more obscure sights are hidden deep within the park’s interior on rough, dirt roads. To explore this rugged area bring a vehicle with four-wheel drive, plenty of ground clearance, and good tires.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and gaze at the night skies

Roadrunners, sparrows, and warblers are among the 450 species of birds found within Big Bend, home to more birds than any other national park. With a keen eye and a bit of luck, you can also spot jackrabbits, coyotes, black bears, mountain lions (known in Big Bend as panthers), and javelina—a hairier cousin to the familiar pig. Sunrise and sunset observations are recommended for optimal wildlife spotting and while the average smartphone may suffice take a camera capable of capturing the brilliant scenery at night.

This is dark sky country. Due to its relative isolation from major cities, this side of West Texas has some of the lowest levels of light pollution in the country. Thousands of stars are visible on a clear night and even the Milky Way can be seen under the darkest conditions earning it a designation by The International Dark-Sky Association. Consider bringing a telescope or simply lie down at night, looking up, and see what appears above.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pass through Marfa on the way in and Terlingua Ghost Town on the way out

The tiny, peculiar artistic town of Marfa is about 100 miles north of Big Bend. Here you’ll find the El Cosmico hotel with rooms consisting of brightly colored vintage trailers, tepees, and yurts. The town acts as a venue for the annual Trans-Pecos festival in September containing a weekend’s worth of art, building, and songwriting workshops, artisanal markets, pop-up parties, live music of all genres, and the tense yearly sandlot baseball showdown between Austin’s Texas Playboys and the Los Yonke Gallos de Marfa.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel 30 minutes north on U.S. 90 to find the famous Prada Marfa art installation in neighboring Valentine, a tiny, fake store isolated within the surrounding landscape and complete with actual Prada shoes and handbags from the fall 2005 collection. Try heading east about 10 miles to watch for the mysterious Marfa Lights off of U.S. 67. Sometimes they’re red, sometimes they’re green, and sometimes they’re white. Visible at night regardless of season or weather, nobody is quite sure what causes them.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Marfa travel 30 miles east on U.S. 90 to the town of Alpine and take TX-118 for 80 miles due south to Terlingua at the gates of Big Bend. The remnants of a mercury mining camp from the early 20th century, the former ghost town has become known for its charming assortment of gift shops, earthy hotels, and its famous chili cook-off in early November. Check out the Terlingua Trading Company for handmade gifts and grab a bite of chips and guacamole and catch live honky-tonk music at the old Starlight Theater Restaurant and Saloon. Spend a few days at Paisano Village RV Park & Inn to further explore the area.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and see Santa Elena Canyon in west Big Bend

At the western end of the park coming from Terlingua, the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is perfect for single-day trips. The paved road covers 30 miles of gorgeous desert scenery including stops at landmarks such as Sotol Vista, Tuff Canyon, and Mule Ears. The road ends at Santa Elena, one of the numerous river canyons within Big Bend.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tour the Chisos Mountains in central Big Bend

In the center of Big Bend lies the Chisos Mountains, the only mountain range in the United States fully contained within a single national park. Given their relatively high elevation—the summit of Emory Peak stands at 7,835 feet—the Chisos are typically 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the adjacent desert and home to a wide variety of shady juniper, mesquite, and oak. Within the 20 miles of trails here it’s a fairly easy hike to a beautiful view at the summit of Emory Peak. Camping is available here as well at the Chisos Basin Campground. If camping isn’t for you, try the stone cottages at the Chisos Mountain Lodge the only hotel within the park.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the Hot Springs Historic District and Ernst Tinaja in east Big Bend

The eastern side of the park is home to Big Bend Hot Springs, a geothermally heated oasis now sitting within the remnants of an early 1900s bathhouse. Once a gathering place for locals, soak in the year-round 105-degree waters said to have healing properties and enjoy unobstructed views of the Rio Grande and into Mexico. A short trail passes Native American petroglyphs on the adjoining limestone cliffs and the still-standing Hot Springs Post Office where mail was delivered every Monday in the early 20th century.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to know about camping in Big Bend National Park

When night falls, you’ll want to have an already reserved campsite so all you have to do is settle in. Here’s everything you need to know to secure that perfect Big Bend National Park camping spot.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are four campgrounds inside Big Bend National Park—three park-operated camping areas with various services and one by an outside company. The three park-run campgrounds are Chisos Basin Campground, Rio Grande Village Campground, and Cottonwood Campground. All require advance reservations booked (up to 6 months in advance) through recreation.gov.

Chisos Basin Campground sits in a scenic mountain basin with views of Casa Grande and Emory Peak. There are plenty of hiking trails nearby, including Window Trail, a popular place to watch the sunset. The year-round campground has 60 sites with access to flush toilets, running water, and a dump station. There are no hook-ups, and trailers over 20 feet and RVs over 24 feet are not recommended.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The year-round Rio Grande Village Campground is nestled in a grove of trees near the Rio Grande. This is the place to go if you want access to more amenities—a store, laundromat, and visitor center are nearby. The park has 100 sites with access to flush toilets, running water, showers, and some sites with overhead shelters. A dump station is nearby.

The small Cottonwood Campground is more remote than the other campgrounds and has fewer services but tends to be quieter with plenty of shade. Cottonwood is a seasonal campground –(open November 1 to April 30) with 24 camp spots—all without hookups or generators.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While certain park-operated campgrounds allow RVs, you’ll want to head to the Rio Grande Village RV Park (operated by Forever Resorts) for a camping experience tailored to RV campers. All 25 sites at Rio Grande Village have full hook-ups—water, electrical, and sewer—and are built for RVs. The campground sits adjacent to the Rio Grande Village Store and allows pets. For reservations, call 432-477-2293.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fact Box

Size: 801,163 acres

Date Established: June 12, 1944

Location: Southwest Texas

Recreational visits in 2020: 393,907

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How the park got its name: Big Bend was named for the prominent bend of the Rio Grande River that runs through it along with the United States and Mexico border.  

Did you know? Big Bend has more species of scorpions (14) than any other national park, including some species that have been found nowhere else in the world.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Big Bend is a land of strong beauty—often savage and always imposing.

—Lon Garrison

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

The Perfect Campsite: 10 Questions to Ask

The key to enjoying campground bliss lies in knowing the exact type of site you want, and then making the effort to reserve that spot

Most everyone in the campground industry wants you to book your campsite online. And many of you do just that.

But RVing with Rex has one thing to say about this trend: Don’t do it. Seriously. Just don’t do it. Pick up the phone. Yes, and talk to a real person.

Back-in site at Jack’s Landing RV Park, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

All campgrounds are not created equal, and you should never blindly book an RV park without doing the research—not knowing if it has the space, amenities, the views, and the location that you prefer.

You might have to work a little harder and actually talk to someone on the phone (GASP!), but when you are sitting with a view of the creek, you’ll know it was worth it.

Pull-through site at Toutle River RV Resort near Mt. St. Helens, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Many research junkies just put in their travel dates and leave the actual campsite selection to an impersonal computer algorithm.

But, not us. We have stayed at hundreds of RV parks and campgrounds around the country and can say one thing for certain: even the best 5-star campgrounds and RV parks have some mediocre (or just plain bad) sites. Even more importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all ideal. The best campsite for a family with small children might be senior’s worst nightmare.

Back-in site at Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The key to enjoying campground bliss lies in knowing the exact type of site you want, and then making the effort to reserve that spot. Here are ten questions to ask before booking your next great RV adventure.

Pull-in site at Holiday Hills RV Park, Penticton, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Can I talk to someone who knows the campground layout?

Talk to a member of the staff who knows the campground well. These days, many want to take the easy way out and book online, but that won’t guarantee you a slice of camping heaven. Open up the campground map on your laptop, and settle in for a chat.

This site offers 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

What hookups do I want?

Campgrounds usually offer a range of hookup options. Some sites will have full hookups, with 30 or 50-amp electric service; other sites will offer just water and electric. If the campground is rustic, there may be no hookups available at all.

Pull-through site at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want a pull through or back in?

People with larger rigs or limited experience often prefer pull through campsites since they are easier to navigate. However, these sites can also be less private, less aesthetically pleasing, and more costly. A back in site might be trickier to get into, but it could also offer you the scenery and space you prefer.

Clubhouse at Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want to be close to the action, or far away?

Many RV parks have hubs of activity where playgrounds, pools, and shuffleboard courts are located. Study the campground map to determine your preferred location

Pull-through full-service sites near the water at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want to be close to the bathhouses or far away?

If you plan to use the facilities in your RV, then there’s no reason to be located near the bathhouses where you might find increased traffic and noise.

Back-in sites at River Run RV Resort, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Can I hear road noise from this site?

RVers who travel in motorhomes and run the air conditioning at night may not care that their campsite is backed up to a highway. But pop up campers and hybrid travel trailers won’t block out that road noise at night. Light sleepers should make this issue a priority when choosing a campsite. Also, be on the lookout for any railroad tracks that run by the campground.

Traffic is not an issue at The Lakes at Chowchilla (California) due to the layout of the park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Will a lot of campground traffic pass this site?

Traffic flow through a campground will affect your camping experience. If you are near the entrance, consider that every single vehicle entering and exiting will likely pass by your site. Garbage disposal bins are another source of high traffic.

It’s all sun at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want shade or sun?

Are you looking for lots of trees where you can hang a hammock and nap under rustling leaves? Or do you dream of sitting in the sun with a glass of iced tea and a good book?

Waterfront site at Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want a waterfront site?

There is a reason why so many campgrounds are located on lakes, rivers, and streams. Sitting at your campsite and listening to the sound of rushing water may just be the most relaxing experience. But these sites are usually the most popular and fill up quickly. If you want to prime waterfront site, you need to book far in advance.

Waltons Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Do I want a buddy site?

If you are traveling with family or friends, then look for a buddy site. These campsites are set up so that your RVs can be parked awning to awning, with camper doors facing each other. This creates a wonderful shared space in the middle where you can comfortably gather with friends.

Long pull-through site at On-Ur-Way RV Park, Onoway, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is no such thing as the perfect campsite. Some RVers want rustic and private spots, while others seek out immaculate landscaping and access to amenities. The trick to finding your perfect site is knowing exactly what you want and doing some research to make it happen.

Lakeside sites at Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

You Might Be an RVer If…

You might be a RVer If…a toad is not an amphibian

You might be a RVer if going out for drinks means sitting under the awning with a beer or glass of wine.

You might be a RVer if roughing it is only water and electric.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at 12 Tribes Casino RV Park, Omak, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For any of the more than 10 million Americans and Canadians who will go RVing this year, one question they will ask is what exactly makes them an RVer?

Loredo fifth wheel trailer by Keystone at Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The RV and Motorhome Hall of Fame and Museum is now selling the answer in the form of the ultimate RV Joke Book—You Might Be A RVer If… RV Joke Book by Mark and Katarina Koep.

The title is a humorous look at the RV lifestyle and covers topics like shopping, packing, and driving a RV.

Fifth wheel trailers at Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

“The RV industry is absolutely booming but there are no books outside of travel guides directed at this audience,” stated Mark Koep, co-author with his GPS and wife Katarina Koep.

“We know they, RVers, read and we know they laugh so why not give them something that accomplishes both tasks?”

Fifth wheel trailer at Rio Bend Golf and RV Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Just like the back half of the Walmart parking lot, this book is made just for RVers. A collection of some of the funniest RV jokes ever put into print, readers will now have an even better excuse to spend more time on the commode.

Fifth wheel trailer at Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For example, you might be a RVer If:

Your RV cost more than your first house…and by the time the Fed is done your current house, too

You stay away from RV shows after the last incident of “only looking”

RVs at Whispering Pines RV Park near Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You think the capitol of the United States is Elkhart, Indiana (home of the RV industry)

You have disowned any friends or family that doesn’t have full hookup access for your visits

Camping at Lakeside RV Park near Baton Rouge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You have paid to have hookups installed because you really don’t want to disown them

They refused to allow you to pour a concrete parking lane across the grass so you changed your mind and disowned them anyways

Class A motorhome at Columbia River RV Resort, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The 148-page paperback book is available for sale in the RV and Motorhome Hall of Fame and Museum store with a retail price of $12.99.

“We are always on the lookout for unique items that speak to our visitors and share the joy and fun of RVing,” said Connie Hart, museum coordinator.

“This book is a perfect fit and we invite anyone passing through Elkhart to stop and learn more about the Museum and RV industry, and pick up their copy of the book.”

2012 Newmar Dutch Star Class A motorhome at Capital City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You Might Be a RVer If… RV Joke Book: Written by RVers for RVers is also available in paperback or digital download from BookPatch.com and Amazon.com.

You might be a RVer if…you can drive better in reverse than most people drive forward.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You might be a RVer if…after buying a new bigger truck you decide that now you can buy a new bigger trailer…and the cycle keeps repeating.

You might be a RVer if…you buy things you will never need simply because they are collapsible.

All hooked up at full-service RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You might be a RVer If…a toad is not an amphibian.

You might be a RVer if…you know what a “dump” really is.

2019 Newmar Dutch Star at La Quintas RV Park, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You might be a RVer if…your spouse is now referred to as the GPS.

You might be a RVer if…your idea of a “well manicured lawn” is a clean patio mat.

Worth Pondering…

You Might Be a RVer If you plan all of your business trips based upon availability of campsites.

Discover Usery Mountain Regional Park

The spectacular desert mountain scenery here is breathtaking

Usery Mountain Regional Park, one of 13 Maricopa County Regional Parks, is a 3,648 acre preserve at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains, adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. Located on the Valley’s east side, Usery Mountain contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home.

Usery Mountain is where my love of and discovery of The West began. That would be early April 1987 when we spent a week in site 48.

At that time, I wrote in my journal: “The spectacular desert mountain scenery here is breathtaking. When we first arrived in Arizona our reaction was why would anyone winter in this dreary, harsh, unforgiving desert environment, let alone live here. The Sonoran Desert grows on you with a beauty all its own. And the beauty of Usery Mountain is absolutely stunning.”

And we have enjoyed camping here numerous times since.

Along the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support hanging gardens of Rock Daisy. The Wind Cave is formed at the boundary between the volcanic tuff and granite on Pass Mountain. Breathtaking views from this 2,840-foot elevation are offered to all visitors.

Usery Pass is known for being a major sheep trail leading from the high country north of Mt. Baldy south to the Salt River Valley. Flocks of sheep, led by Mexican and Basque shepherds with their dogs, present a picturesque sight in the spring and fall as they move into or out of the Coconino plateau region.

The traditional account of settlement of the Salt River Valley credits a former Confederate Officer and gold seeker, Jack Swilling, with the beginning of modern irrigation in central Arizona. Swilling came into the Valley in 1867 and noted the presence of ancient canal systems of the early Native Americans who had irrigated these lands.

Swilling presumably traveled between John Y.T. Smith’s hay camp a few miles east of downtown Phoenix and Fort McDowell in the summer of 1867 and came within sight of Usery Mountain Park, and even closer to the ruins of an old canal system and an ancient Native American village situated between the park and the Salt River.

Usery Mountain Regional Park became a park in 1967. Pass Mountain, also known as “Scarface” to the local folks, is the geological focal point of the park. The mountain itself was named for King Usery (sometimes spelled Ussery). “King” was his first name, rather than a title. He was a cattleman who was running stock in the area in the late 1870s and early 1880s. He had a tough struggle to survive and, apparently losing ground, moved up into the Tonto Basin country where his activities provided him a kind of unwanted security…behind bars.

Usery Mountain offers over 29 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Park trails range in length from 0.2 miles to over 7 miles, and range from easy to difficult.

These trails are very popular because they have enough elevation to offer spectacular vistas of surrounding plains. Whether you are looking across the plain, flat land, south of the recreation area, or to the west or north, great distances and surrounding mountains can be seen and enjoyed.

Arguably the most popular hike at Usery Mountain is the 3.2-miles Wind Cave Trail up Pass Mountain. Although the elevation gain is 820 feet, it’s considered a moderate hike. Views from this 2,840-foot elevation are breathtaking.

If you are looking for an easy, relatively short hike, the Merkle Trail is barrier-free. For a long more difficult hike, try the 7.1-mile Pass Mountain Trail. All trails are multi-use unless otherwise designated. Always remember to carry plenty of water and let someone know where you are going.

The park’s modern campground offers 73 individual sites. All sites are paved and have water and 50/30-amp electric service, a picnic table, barbecue grill, fire ring, and can accommodate up to a 45-foot RVs. Other facilities include modern washrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, and a dump station. All sites can be reserved online.

Nightly camping fee is currently $32. Non-refundable reservation fee is $8. For non-campers, the day use fee is $7.

Usery Mountain is best explored from late autumn to early spring as summer temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees.

Worth Pondering…
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know that place for the first time.
— T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding