Leave No Trace 7 Principles

Before you head into the great outdoors, embrace the practices highlighted below

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of how to properly behave and act while in nature. Whether you’re hiking, camping, kayaking, wildlife viewing, photographing, or anything else, the 7 Principles apply to pretty much all outdoor recreation.

Every individual principle tackles a specific subject, offering in-depth information to limit the impact of your activity.

I personally live by these Principles and I encourage everyone who visits state parks, national parks, county and regional parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, or other protected areas to adhere to them. They greatly help to ensure that wild (and less wild) landscapes will be there for the enjoyment of future generations, too.

Observing wildlife at Bosque National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Plan ahead and prepare

Adequate trip planning and preparation helps backcountry travelers accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably while simultaneously minimizing damage to the land. Poor planning often results in unhappy hikers and campers and damage to natural and cultural resources.

Rangers often tell stories of campers they have encountered who because of poor planning and unexpected conditions degrade backcountry resources and put themselves at risk.

The basics:

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use
  • Visit in small groups; split larger parties into smaller groups

More information about planning and preparation

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

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

The goal of traveling outdoors is to move through natural areas while avoiding damage to the land or waterways. Understanding how travel causes impacts is necessary to accomplish this goal.

Travel damage occurs when surface vegetation or communities of organisms are trampled beyond recovery. The resulting barren area leads to soil erosion and the development of undesirable trails.

The basics:

  • Durable surfaces include established trails, campsites, rock, gravel, and dry grasses or snow
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams
  • Good campsites are found, not made; altering a site is not necessary
  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites

More information about traveling and camping on durable surfaces

Keeping a clean campsite while camping at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Dispose of waste properly

The waste humans create while enjoying outdoor spaces can have severe impacts if not disposed of properly. It is crucial to anticipate the types of waste you will need to dispose of and know the proper techniques for disposing of each type of waste in the area you are visiting. Leave No Trace encourages outdoor enthusiasts to consider the impacts they leave behind which will undoubtedly affect other people, water, and wildlife.

Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease, and maximize the rate of decomposition.

For other waste, pack it in, pack it out is a familiar mantra to seasoned wildland visitors. Any user of recreation lands has a responsibility to clean up before he or she leaves. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled food. Pack out all trash and garbage.

The basics:

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled food. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Burning trash is never recommended.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Bury toilet paper deep in a cathole or pack the toilet paper out along with hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter dishwater.

More information about proper waste disposal

Leave petrified wood for others to enjoy (Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Leave what you find

Leave areas as you find them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct lean-tos, tables, chairs, or other rudimentary improvements. If you clear an area of surface rocks, twigs, or pine cones replace these items before leaving.

Avoid hammering nails into trees for hanging things, hacking at them with hatchets and saws, or tying tent guy lines to trunks—thus girdling the tree. Carving initials into trees is unacceptable.

Natural objects of beauty or interest such as antlers, petrified wood, or colored rocks add to the mood of the backcountry and should be left so others can experience a sense of discovery. In national parks and many other protected places, it is illegal to remove natural objects.

The basics:

  • Preserve the past: Observe cultural or historic structures and artifacts but do not touch them
  • Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches

More information about leaving objects and living things as you find them

Use firepits carefully © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Minimize campfire impacts

Fires vs. Stoves: The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper.

Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking.

Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, and flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace.

The basics:

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts on the environment; use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light
  • Use established fire rings, pans, or mound fires where fires are permitted
  • Keep fires small. Use only sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, and then scatter cool ashes

More information about minimizing campfire impacts

Observe wildlife from a distance (pronghorns at Custer State Park, South Dakota) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Respect wildlife

Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a better look. Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee.

Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide it into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.

Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed, or force animals to flee. (One exception is in black bear or grizzly bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears.) Do not touch, get close to, feed, or pick up wild animals.

The basics:

  • Observe wildlife from a distance; do not follow or approach them
  • Never feed animals; feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers
  • Control pets at all times or leave them at home
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter

More information about respecting wildlife

Yield to others on the trail (Catalina State Park (Arizona) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Be considerate of other visitors

One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward others. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Excessive noise, uncontrolled pets, and damaged surroundings detract from the natural appeal of the outdoors. Being considerate of others ensures everyone can enjoy nature no matter how they interact with it.

The basics:

  • Respect others and protect the quality of their experience
  • Be courteous; yield to other users on the trail
  • Greet riders and ask which side of the trail to move to when encountering pack stock
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and others
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail; avoid loud voices and noises

More information about sharing nature with other visitors

Worth Pondering…

Please leave only your footprints.

11 Best Things to do this Summer in Georgia

Road trips to water parks, quirky landmarks, drive-in movies and many more of the hottest ways to explore Georgia this summer

Summertime in the Peach State is unlike anywhere else. Sure, it can be hot but there are plenty of ways to cool down. No matter what part of Georgia you’ll be visiting, you’re sure to have a great time. I have a few suggestions to add to your list.

1. Cool off in the water

What better way to beat the summer heat than by wading into the ocean, jumping in a lake, playing at one of Georgia’s water parks, or taking a dip in an RV park’s swimming pool?

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Georgia Coast

Kayak around a historic lighthouse at Tybee Island, photograph Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, explore historic Sapelo Island, and much more on the Georgia Coast.

Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

The water park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands opens every May as another way to enjoy the lake with mat racing slides, a zipline, and water activities for little ones.

Georgia’s Lake Country

Head to Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair for watersports, fishing, golf, and cool morning breezes. You’ll love all of the water activities as well as great dining, shopping, and nearby sightseeing in Eatonton, Greensboro, Madison, and Milledgeville.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Six Flags White Water

Six Flags White Water in Marietta is a longtime favorite with nearly 70 acres of slides, tube rides, and a wave pool.

SoakYa Water Park at Lake Winnepesaukah

At Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park and SoakYa Water Park in Rossville, swimmers can relax at the beach lagoon, race on the slides, and splash in the interactive kids’ area.

Spivey Splash at Clayton County International Park

Cruise along the state’s largest lazy river at Spivey Splash waterpark at the Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro. Kids will love cooling off on the splash pad, flow rider, water slides and pool, and testing their skills on the ropes course.

Splash in the Boro

At Splash in the Boro Family Water Park in Statesboro, swimmers can float on the lazy river, brave the water slides, and bob in the wave pool.

Summer Waves Water Park

On Jekyll Island, swimmers can take a break from the beach at Summer Waves Water Park to brave the Pirates Passage flume, drift down Turtle Creek, and wade into the kiddie pool.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Camping

Georgia is an ideal playground for those who like a variety of camping adventures. Georgia’s state park system allows you to enjoy a variety of camping experiences across the state and many other campgrounds and attractions offer inviting settings for sleeping under the stars.

Park your RV or set up your tent at campsites in the North Georgia mountains to explore miles of hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and undisturbed forests. Or go camping on the Georgia coast near beaches, boating, fishing, and more water activities. Throughout the state, rolling hills, lakes, and rivers offer the perfect conditions for camping trips filled with fun.

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

Stephen C. Foster State Park

The Okefenokee Swamp is the backdrop for a unique camping experience among the swampy lowlands and wildlife of southern Georgia at Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo. A certified dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association, this park has minimal light pollution so guests can experience some of the darkest skies in the Southeast. Stand beneath a sky full of stars and see the Milky Way stretched out above you.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park

Camp along Wolf Creek and enjoy the babble of tumbling waters lulling you to sleep at night after exploring North Georgia’s beloved mountain playground at Vogel State Park near Blairsville. With 34 cottages; 90 tents, trailer, and RV campsites; and primitive backpacking sites, visitors have a range of overnight accommodations. Swim, boat, and fish in Lake Trahlyta and explore hiking trails to waterfalls, playing miniature golf, and stepping back into history at the Civilian Conservation Corps museum.

Soar through the trees © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Soar through the trees

Feeling adventurous? Georgia has a number of thrilling ziplines for all experience levels.

Banning Mills Screaming Eagle canopy tours has the largest, continuous zip line canopy tour in the world.

In Columbus, you can zip from Georgia to Alabama with Blue Heron Zipline Adventure Park.

Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge soar above North Georgia with two towers and three sky bridges.

Farmers market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Hit up the farmers markets

Take advantage of the state’s agricultural bounty by visiting one of the many Georgia Grown farmers markets, like Dublin’s Market on Madison, the Atlanta State Farmers Market, Oconee Farmers Market, and the Cordele State Farmers Market, the major watermelon distribution hub for the Southeast. They’re easy to find in nearly every region. You’ll find fresh produce, meats, seafood, prepared foods, and crafts. It’s a great way to pick up ingredients to cook for friends and family. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is a good place to start looking.

5. Plan a road trip to see quirky landmarks

Georgia has some truly unique attractions that are worth a road trip in their own right. There are quirky artist havens like Pasaquan in Buena Vista and Summerville’s Paradise Garden created by Howard Finster, one of America’s most widely known and prolific self-taught artists.

The Ashburn Peanut is a beloved landmark for those driving south along I-75 while the Plains Peanut has the same smile as President Jimmy Carter. While in Plains, be sure to tour the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park to learn more about America’s 39th president.

The Doll’s Head Trail is a funky Atlanta hike and the faces carved into trees on St. Simons Island make for a mystical treasure hunt.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Catch a drive-in movie

Although there aren’t many drive-in theaters left, summertime is great for catching an outdoor film in Georgia. Gather your friends, chairs, and snacks for a new or second-run movie. Swan Drive In in Blue Ridge, Starlight in Atlanta, Jesup Drive In in Jesup, Tiger Drive In in Tiger, and Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater in Trenton are ones you can check out around the state. Wilderness has the world’s largest screen!

7. Eat a peach

Nothing says Georgia more than peaches. Summer is the best time to get them from roadside stands and in restaurants. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the state fruit whether in fried pies, milkshakes, peach wine, jams, or straight from the tree.

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

8. Make a run for it

An Atlanta (and Georgia) tradition is the world’s largest 10K race: the AJC Peachtree Road Race. It winds from Buckhead to Midtown every July 4. Runners also can participate virtually by running 6.2 miles wherever they choose. Even if you’re not up for the race itself, make a sign to cheer on the competitors.

9. Go on a farm stay

Get up close with the animals at one of Georgia’s farm stays and guest ranches. In Bluffton, White Oak Pastures is a working cattle farm with guest cabins.

In Madison, Crafdal Farm Alpacas lets you stay in rustic cabins on the same property as alpacas, and Southern Cross Guest Ranch is a dude ranch with horseback riding.

Bavarian village of Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Tour a historic home

Choose a part of the state and there’s a historic home you can learn about.

In Atlanta, it might be the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center which film fans will recognize as President Snow’s mansion in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In Macon, tour the 18,000-square-foot Hay House known as the Palace of the South.

Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, the Callaway family home, and the Little White House in Warm Springs where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt retreated also can’t be missed.

11. Chow down on ice cream

Cool off with a cool treat! Georgia has some fantastic ice cream establishments.

You’ve likely heard of Leopold’s in Savannah which usually has a line down the street. The parlor has been scooping ice cream since 1919 including its famous Tutti Frutti flavor (rum ice cream with candied fruit and freshly roasted Georgia pecans).

Lane Southern Orchards makes peach ice cream as does Jaemor Farms where you’ll want to add a fresh fried pie to your order.

In Atlanta, Jake’s Ice Cream is a must-stop if you’re walking the Atlanta Beltline and in the Grant Park neighborhood be sure to stop into one of Historic Oakland Cemetery’s newest neighbors, oh-so-sweet Cereal and Cream.

Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If a Georgia getaway is on your mind this summer you’ll want to check out these posts:

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

30 Tips for Making the Most of Your National Park Trip

Tips for making your next trip to a national park even more amazing

Mountains, seashores, grasslands, wetlands, coral reefs, and glaciers.

With sweeping vistas, stunning wildlife, and rugged landscapes, America’s national parks are truly a collection of national wonders. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or are a regular at the country’s national parks, planning ahead is the best way to ensure your trip goes off without a hitch.

Following are 30 ways to ensure that your trip to a U.S. national park is great from planning your route in advance to making sure you bring the right supplies and why it’s really important to pay attention to those safety rules. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Choose a time to visit that’s best for your park and travel style

First and foremost, make sure that the park you choose is open at the time of year that you’d like to visit. Several national parks are located in regions that can be dangerous, inaccessible, or uncomfortable if you select the wrong time. For example, you may not want to experience Death Valley National Park—the driest, hottest and lowest national park—in the heat of summer. Some parks such as Lassen Volcanic National Park are completely snowed in and unavailable in the winter.

2. Find out if the park you want to visit requires reservations

During peak seasons, many parks require timed-entry reservations that can be made in advance on each park’s website. You may not need to make that reservation in advance but checking before your trip is a good way to avoid disappointment at the gates. 

Camping in Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. …especially if you want to go camping

Because many parks have limited camping space, reservations fill up quickly especially on major holiday weekends. It’s best to start checking at least a few months in advance for camping sites and though a last-minute spot might open up, don’t count on getting lucky at many of the busiest parks.  

4. Research the best hikes

National parks offer some of the country’s best hiking opportunities and websites like AllTrails can help you find hikes that suit your abilities and sightseeing wishes. By planning your hikes in advance, you’ll be able to strategize and maximize your time in the park. For more on hiking in national parks check out these articles:

Scenic drive in Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. …and don’t forget about the scenic drives

If hiking’s not your thing, don’t let that keep you from checking out the country’s incredible national parks. Almost all the parks offer scenic drives, many of which will get you up close and personal with nature without requiring a long trek. These scenic drives make an ideal start:

6. Consider traveling during shoulder season to beat the crowds

During the busy season, crowded parking lots and so many tourists can put a damper on your enjoyment of the outdoors. Consider planning your trip during shoulder season or just before or after the busiest times for the park you’d like to visit. A quick Google search will reveal when the park is busiest and also let you know about any weather conditions that may result in closures or other limitations on your visit to the park. 

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Prepare yourself for the elements

Hiking even short trails at national parks requires the right equipment and weather conditions can change rapidly depending on the climate. Make sure you’ve got good shoes, essentials like a rain jacket and sunscreen, and a first-aid kit in the event of any mishaps. 

8. Bring plenty of snacks and water

Most national parks don’t boast a ton of services like restaurants which means that you’ll need to bring your own (healthy) snacks. Water is especially important, especially if you plan to hike — plan on bringing about 1 gallon per person even if you’re just going on short walks, and more if you have more strenuous activities in mind. 

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. …and don’t forget to pack out all your trash

Leave no trace is an essential principle of being outdoors responsibly and that means getting rid of all your trash—all of it! Pack a trash bag in the car and toss your waste in only approved containers. Don’t toss out food scraps, either. They may be a detriment to the animals that live in the park. 

10. Be respectful of wild animals and keep your distance

The animals you encounter in national parks are wild; they’re living in their natural habitats and they behave accordingly. Respect the full-time inhabitants in the parks. Don’t attempt to touch them or point a selfie stick at them. Don’t chase them and stay the recommended number of feet away from them. Even though they’re cute or really majestic, never touch a wild animal, no matter how small or docile it seems. Wild animals are wild and contact with humans can endanger their lives — and the lives of the human.

11. …and take good care of the land you’re visiting

National parks are protected sites and the rules exist for a reason. Stay only on marked trails, don’t take rocks or other souvenirs from the ground, and never carve into any trees or rock formations. 

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Consider buying an annual park pass to save money

If you’re planning to visit multiple national parks this year, consider investing in an annual park pass. Costing around $80 per year, these passes provide access to all parks managed by the National Park Service (NPS) along with parks managed by other agencies, and are a real bargain considering that many can cost upwards of $20 per visit. 

13. Check to see if you qualify for any national park discounts

Veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and some students are eligible for discounted national park passes, some of which are good for a lifetime. Check out the NPS website for details on these discounts. 

14. Don’t forget to fill up your gas tank before beginning the drive

As with snacks, gas stations aren’t always abundant near national parks and you’re probably going to do a ton of driving. Fill up the tank before you head out and make sure to keep an eye on the gas gauge throughout your trip. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Know your limits in the outdoors and operate within them

The beautiful scenery of many national parks can also mean some pretty rugged, unforgiving terrain. If you’re not an experienced hiker, make sure to stick to shorter, safer treks, and don’t forget to bring plenty of water and a wide-brimmed hat. Don’t take unnecessary or stupid risks. And don’t expect to rely on your devices if you get into trouble; in some national parks, cell and data service is negligible. Know your limits and stay within them, especially with children.

16. …and follow all the safety guidelines

In national parks, the rules are there to both preserve the gorgeous landscapes and also keep you alive. In addition to avoiding fines and other penalties, closely following all posted safety guidelines will also prevent you from ending up in a seriously dangerous situation. 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Don’t expect great cell phone service

Thanks to the remote nature of most national parks, cell phone service can be sketchy, especially at high altitudes or in really rural areas. Make sure to download offline maps from your favorite navigation app, or make use of the paper maps provided at most ranger stations. 

18. Travel the right time of the year

Whether you’re looking for great fall foliage or a warm trip in the summer, choosing the right time of year at your park is essential. Going too early (or late) can mean road and trail closures so make sure to do your research in advance. 

19. Check in with park rangers when you first arrive

Stop at the visitor center when you first arrive. Often, you’ll find interesting exhibits and artifacts that will help you learn more about the land you’re visiting. The park rangers there will have current insider information that you’ll need such as which hiking trails, roads, and areas of the park are closed and what special ranger programs are being offered during your stay. Park rangers can also help you figure out what hidden trails to try or the best place to watch the sunset (or sunrise). Consider a ranger-led hike or nature talk. While there, pick up any needed guidebooks and maps.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Practice trail etiquette

Stay on designated trails. By doing so, you’ll help prevent erosion and damage to vegetation. Do not litter, pick flowers, or use the outdoors as your personal gift shop. Be aware of your surroundings and make room for quickly approaching groups, fast-paced cyclists, or horseback riders. Take a moment to move to the side and politely let them pass.

 21. Stay at a national park lodge

If you really want to immerse yourself in a national park, consider staying on property. Many parks offer hotels and other lodging and of course camping is an option. Being in grand old lodges literally surrounds you with park history. An added benefit is that you have the early mornings and late evenings in the park. There’s nothing like waking up and seeing the Grand Canyon or Zion Canyon right in front of you.

22. Camp for at least one night—or several

The ultimate thing to do when visiting a national park is to camp under the stars. By unplugging, you’re forced to be present, you more easily connect with nature, and you engage with other people more fully. But, do plan in advance and book a site early.

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

23. Tend to campfires and cooking stoves with the utmost care 

In 2013, a hunter’s illegal fire got out of control in the Stanislaus National Forest in California. For nine weeks, this Rim Fire burned the backcountry areas of Yosemite National Park consuming 257,314 acres. In 2018, Yosemite National Park closed for the first time since 1990 due to the nearby Ferguson Fire which burned 96,901 acres. In that same year, the Howe Ridge Fire, ignited by a thunderstorm, burned more than 12,000 acres of Glacier National Park. Read more on wildfire safety.

24. Have a mission in mind…

When in nature, there’s a lot to be said for being spontaneous and making discoveries by chance rather than overscheduling yourself. But when you show up at a national park and don’t have any idea about what you want to do, you might end up not doing much. On the other hand, making a list of everything you want to do in a sprawling national park can be overwhelming and cause you to become overly concerned with time allotments. So, go with at least one mission in mind to accomplish on your trip.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. … But don’t forget there are wonders—and place to wander—away from the famous sites 

Rather than sticking to the most popular sites, go out a bit and hit the trails (or water), particularly those routes that are longer than three miles. They may not be listed as the park’s top must-see locations but they’re almost guaranteed to be just as spectacular, yet apart from the crowds.

26. Journal every day

Make sure to record your memories in a journal each day so you don’t forget the good times—and the bad. They’re all part of your experience and your story. Journaling is also a great way of releasing any anxiety or stress.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

27. Go with a good attitude

Remember that the national parks belong to all of us. Its part of their appeal and what makes them so special. Undoubtedly, there will be times when the places you’re visiting will get uncomfortably crowded. Meet those challenges with a smile. It’s important to remember our joint venture in these places and play well with others.

28. Passport to your national parks

A National Parks Passport is a really fun memento and a great way to mark each park you’ve visited. You pay $10 for the passport and each park will have a stamp you can put in your book. You can look back and see the exact date you visited different places.

29. Share your experience

If it’s possible, take a family member or a friend along with you on your adventure; there’s no better way to share your experience.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

30. Leave the park better than you found it

My final piece of advice is to leave the park better than you found it. This also means knowing and committing to the National Park Service’s Leave No Trace principles. They range from minimizing campfire impacts to disposing of waste properly. By being a good steward of these national treasures, those who come after us can continue to enjoy them as we do now.

In my opinion, visiting just one national park is almost impossible. They quickly become addictive.

Worth Pondering…

I encourage everybody to hop on Google and type in national park in whatever state they live in and see the beauty that lies in their own backyard. It’s that simple.

—Jordan Fisher, American actor and musician

Explore the Lowcountry at Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island is South Carolina’s single most popular state park attracting more than a million human visitors a year

Spend a day on Hunting Island and you’ll quickly understand why this secluded Lowcountry sea island is South Carolina’s most popular state park. More than a million visitors a year are lured to the 5,000-acre park once a hunting preserve for 19th and early 20th century planters.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also attracted to the semi-tropical barrier island is an array of wildlife ranging from loggerhead sea turtles to painted buntings, barracudas to sea horses, alligators, pelicans, dolphins and deer, raccoons, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and even the rare coral snake.

Part of the pristine ACE Basin estuarine reserve, the park features thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, 5 miles of beach, a saltwater lagoon, and an ocean inlet. Add to that the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For outdoor enthusiasts, it’s an oceanfront playground where you can enjoy fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and camping.

One of the most popular activities is hiking and there are numerous trails in the park. Some trails are longer than others and some are more difficult so there’s something for all ages and skill levels.  

At 1.9 miles, Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail won’t take much time to do but it’s a bit difficult in spots. Only tackle this one if you’re fit and used to hiking on rugged trails. If you’re looking for a more relaxing trail or you’re traveling with children, Magnolia Forest Trail is easy and at only 1.2 miles, it’ll only take a short time to do. From the campground, you’ll walk through a hilly area full of beautiful Magnolia trees. Maritime Forest Trail is another short and easy trail at only 2 miles long. It travels through the interior of a maritime forest area where you’ll see a protected habitat that’s home to deer, owls, raccoons, and other animals. 

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In winter, Hunting Island State Park offers a quiet coastal retreat to de-stress and re-energize. There’s nothing like a long walk along a deserted beach or wooded nature trail to clear the clutter from your psyche.

If you’re into history, you’ll love the lighthouse that once warned sailors to keep away from the island’s shallow shoreline. Originally built in 1859, Confederate forces destroyed the structure to ensure the Union would not be able to use it against them.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A new lighthouse was built in 1875 using interchangeable cast-iron sections so it could be dismantled and moved should the ocean ever encroach upon it. Severe erosion forced the lighthouse to be relocated 1.3 miles inland in 1889.

Decommissioned in 1933, it still retains a functional light in its tower. It’s a 167- step climb to the 130-foot observation deck where you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding maritime forest. Due to safety concerns, it is currently closed to tours until repairs can be made. However, visitors are welcome to walk though several buildings on the site featuring exhibits on the construction of the lighthouse and life as a lighthouse keeper.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park also features a fishing pier that extends 950 feet into Fripp Inlet. Or drop your line in Johnson Creek or the surf. If you’re traveling with a boat, you can launch from a ramp at the south end of the park. It provides access to Harbor River and Fripp Inlet.

In the Nature Center, visitors will find live animals and exhibits about the habitats and natural history of the park. Educational programs are offered throughout the year including walks with a naturalist, beach explorations, and turtle talks.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to walk out on the Marsh Boardwalk and bring your camera and binoculars. It takes you across the marsh to a hammock and a deck that overlooks a tidal creek, a prime bird watching perch.

Want to stay more than a day on Hunting Island? No problem. The park features 186 campsites and one fully-furnished cabin.

You can visit Hunting Island State Park any time of year but ultimately it will depend on what you plan on doing there that will determine the best time for you to go. If swimming, kayaking, or sailing are on your mind, the end of spring to the first weeks of fall is the best time to visit with the summer months being the warmest but also the most crowded. 

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If hiking and fishing are on your mind spring and fall when the temperatures are cooler is the best time to visit.  The best thing about spring and fall is this tends to be the time of year when there are fewer people so you get the trails and top fishing spots almost all to yourself. If you visit during the winter months it’s even likely you’ll have the park to yourself.

Hunting Island State Park is situated along the southeastern coast of South Carolina about 15 miles from the small town of Beaufort.  Its location between Harbor Island and Fripp Island is telling of the type of area you’ll be exploring; one with several beautiful barrier islands to explore including Hunting Island. 

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll be awe-inspired before you even get through the entrance to the park. You will pass through a sub-tropical maritime forest and embark on a scenic, but short, drive through stunning low-country landscape. This winding road with lush greenery will take you to the entrance of Hunting Island State Park where you’ll continue your adventure in one of South Carolina’s most popular state parks. 

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park is open from 6 am to 6 pm every day (park hours are extended to 9 pm during Daylight Saving Time). The best time of day to visit will depend on what you want to see and do. If you want to observe wildlife, the best time to go is early in the morning or into the evening hours but other than that, any time is a good time to visit. Just be sure to set out early if you plan to do a longer hike. 

The office and visitor center are open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays and 11 am to 5 pm on weekends. The fee to enter the park is $8.00 per adult. There are discounted prices for South Carolina seniors and youths and children under the age of five years old can enter for free. 

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the numbers

  • 5: miles of beach
  • 1: saltwater lagoon
  • 5,000: acres of Lowcountry South Carolina that includes beach, marsh, and maritime forest
  • 1: historic lighthouse, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina
  • 167: steps to climb to the top of the lighthouse
  • 102: standard campsites, all of which offer 50 amp service and are highly-coveted year round
  • 25: rustic tent sites
  • 1: cabin located near the lighthouse
  • 1: nature center with all sorts of neat creatures and regularly scheduled programs for you to enjoy
  • 1: pier for fishing or just strolling to the end to see the view
  • 1: picnic shelter for family reunions or other group outings

Worth Pondering…

As the old song declares, “Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,” or almost any other time.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park: Paradise in the Chihuahuan Desert

If you like camping, fishing, boating, or just being outdoors, Elephant Butte Lake is for you

Seventeen of New Mexico’s 35 state parks are based around an artificial lake of which by far the largest is Elephant Butte, a 40,000-acre expanse formed by a concrete dam (completed 1916) across the Rio Grande River, a few miles north of Truth Or Consequences and 80 miles from Las Cruces.

The park contains 200 miles of shoreline and over 40 miles of the river valley including a band of marshland several miles upstream of the lake’s high water mark extending almost as far as Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge though most visitor activities are concentrated in a five mile section along the southwest shore and include marinas, boat launch ramps, campsites, picnic areas, and beaches.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is plenty of water and plenty of beach room at New Mexico’s largest state park. Elephant Butte Lake can accommodate watercraft of many styles and sizes: kayaks, jet skis, pontoons, sailboats, ski boats, cruisers, and houseboats. Besides sandy beaches, the state park offers restrooms, picnic area, playgrounds, and developed sites with electric and water hook-ups for RVs.

Elephant Butte Lake is one of the most visited state parks in New Mexico, popular because of the abundant water recreation and the easy access, just a few miles off Interstate 25.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This part of the Rio Grande valley forms the northernmost tip of the great Chihuahuan Desert so summer temperatures are hot and the vegetation includes several types of cactus. The lake itself is named after a strangely-shaped remnant of an ancient volcano now forming an island just opposite the dam.

The visitor center and state park headquarters are reached by State Routes 179 and 195; near the junction, a spur road leads to facilities including a launch ramp near Marina Del Sur and to a number of picnic areas and overlooks. The scenery here is typical of the whole lake—earthen hills sloping quite gently down to the water, sparsely covered with straggly bushes and cacti, many small bays and inlets, several islands, and a higher range of hills along the inaccessible east side of the reservoir.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The main shoreline access is a little further north via Rock Canyon Drive forking off SR-195 in the middle of Elephant Butte, a small village offering all kinds of boat-related businesses. This paved road follows close to the water’s edge for 8 miles before turning inland and meeting Interstate 25 at exit 89. En route are many side roads, some paved with facilities and self-pay fee stations, others unpaved and free to enter.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History

Before the dam was built the Rio Grande River flowed through on its way to Mexico. In 1905, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation received approval from the United States Congress to construct Elephant Butte Dam and Spillway to provide flood control and irrigation downriver. Construction of the dam started in 1911 and was finished in 1915. Materials and supplies were brought in by rail and transported to the dam by a 300-horse-power electric-motor-powered cable system.

Upon completion, the dam had a 1,674-foot crest, a spillway, and a road running across the top. The channel and the downstream concrete-lined chute weren’t completed until 1922. In 1940, a 23,400-kilowatt hydroelectric power plant connected to the dam began operating. One year later, the spillway was used for the first time and then not used again until 1985 when the lake reached its record high.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most common misconception visitors have of the lake is that the water levels have become dangerously low. However, even at its current level, water in the lake is up to 30 feet and in places 60 feet deep.

During the late 1980s to mid-1990s the water levels were at their highest. It even flowed over the floodgates of the dam. Before then it looked just like it does today. Even at its lowest levels Elephant Butte Lake can support boating, fishing, and many other types of aquatic fun.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fun on the water

Speaking of fun, there is a lot to be had on the water. Bring your watercraft whether it’s a houseboat, yacht, speed boat, fishing boat, rowboat, jet-ski, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard.

Don’t have your own? Don’t worry! There are numerous places to rent your toy of choice for a few hours, the day, or the whole weekend.

Fishing is another popular activity at the lake and a fishing license is required to cast your line. You can get them at Zia Kayak Outfitters or Walmart in Truth or Consequences.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elephant Butte Lake is known for record-breaking black, white, and striped bass as well as crappie and bluegill. The lake is stocked with all kinds of fish including four species of bass, catfish, carp, salmon, pike, walleye, and sunfish.

There are fun landmarks to explore while on the water like Kettle Top Mountain which avid lake-goers use as a geographical reference. Pirate’s Cove is a great place to anchor, go for a swim, and mingle. Castle Rock is a popular . . . well . . . rock in the middle of the lake that people climb and jump off. And, most famous of all, the elephant: a volcanic core that looks like an elephant lying down. You’ve likely already guessed that’s how Elephant Butte acquired its name!

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are two marinas to serve boaters:

  • Dam Site Marina, near the rock formation for which the lake is named, is also within view of the Elephant Butte Dam. The marina has a store and offers kayak and standup paddle board rentals.
  • Marina del Sur is located at the main entrance to Elephant Butte State Park and offers boat rentals, slip rentals, dockside facilities, and a convenience store.

Fun on land

How about some lakeside hiking and nature observing? West Lakeshore Trail is a six-foot-wide hiking and biking trail with a gravel surface that spans 12 miles through the desert along the lake. It can be accessed from six different trailheads including Overlook Trailhead and Sailboat Cove Trailhead. Dirt Dam Trail is 1.5 miles of fully paved road that is closed to traffic making it a safe spot for hiking with children and pets. Use the restroom and pick up snacks first as there are no facilities along the trail.

The Paseo del Rio Interpretive Trail is a one-mile loop, half gravel and half paved. This trail features great views and restrooms at the trailhead and midway point of the loop.

The closest hiking trail to Marina del Sur is the Lucchini Trail, a sandy 1.5-mile loop that can be accessed near the Elephant Butte State Park Visitor Center and the Desert Cove Campground where you will also find restrooms.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding

This park is a prime area for waterbirds and shorebirds. The best birding is between September and May. At the lake, you may see American white pelicans, thousands of western and Clark’s grebes, several terns, and unusual gulls. Some of the better birding spots are at the marinas at Long Point, Three Sisters Point, and South Monticello Point (check for shorebirds, gulls, terns, waders, and ducks). Loons are more common at the southern end of the lake. Birding on land is best from Rock Canyon south where tall scrub and houses with plants and feeders attract numerous species. Check migrating horned lark flocks for longspurs. 

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping

Camping is available in various designated areas located throughout Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Despite its large size, the park has an elaborate system of roads within it that makes the park reasonably easy to navigate—SR-181, SR-195, SR-171, and SR-51 all wind through parts of the park. Inside the campgrounds, visitors can make use of sites that accommodate rigs of up to nearly 90 feet long with a mix of pull-through and back-in options.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park has plenty of campsites to offer guests with 173 developed campsites, 144 water and electric sites, and eight full-hookup sites spread across four campgrounds and multiple primitive camping areas.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Cove Campground is in the southern half of the park, just north of the Visitor Center and offers 16 reservable sites with water and 50-amp electric hookups. These sites are all back-in access and can accommodate rigs of up to 50 feet in length.

South Monticello Campground is home to 15 reservable sites and even more first-come, first-served sites. The campground is located in the far northern area of the park past many of the primitive camping areas. These sites can accommodate vehicles up to 87 feet in length and offer water in-site, electric hookups, a table, canopy, and fire ring. Some of these sites also offer views of the lake. Guests at South Monticello Campground can also make use of the RV dump station located near the entrance to the campground, the restrooms, and showers located in the campground, and easy access to both hiking trails and a boat ramp.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quail Run Campground is located next to Desert Cove Campground and has an additional set of RV campsites, two of which can be reserved ahead of time. These sites offer 20- to 30-amp electric hookups and can accommodate rigs of up to 73 feet in length. Some of the sites offer pull-through access and stunning lake views depending on the water level. Each site has a table, canopy, and fire ring. Visitors can also make use of the restrooms located in the campground and the dump station located at Desert Cove Campground. Guests staying at Quail Run Campground will be about one mile away from the lake and a half-mile from a playground. Guests can also enjoy easy access to nearby Luchimi Trail.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just northeast of Desert Cove Campground, Lions Beach Campground offers 25 sites which feature water and 30-amp electric hookups. Many of these sites offer stunning views of the lake and most have a table, canopy, and fire ring. These sites are all back-in access and can accommodate rigs of up to 70 feet in length. Visitors can also make use of the modern restrooms with running water and an RV sanitation dump station located in the campground. Guests staying at Lions Beach Campground can enjoy very easy access to the lake and nearby access to hiking trails. Some of the sites at Lions Beach Campground can be reserved ahead of time, while others are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Elephant Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Location: Southern New Mexico, 80 miles north of Las Cruces

Elephant Butte Lake surface area: 40,000 acres

Park Elevation: 4,527 feet

Daily entrance fee: $5/vehicle

Annual pass: $40/vehicle

Maximum RV camping length: 87 feet

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Patagonia Lake State Park: A Southern Arizona Oasis for Boating, Fishing, and Camping<

Whether you are interested in birding, fishing, camping, water sports, or just enjoying one of the favorite lakes in southeastern Arizona, make a stop at Patagonia Lake State Park

When a sign suddenly popped up along a two-lane highway carving through Arizona’s wine country I wondered if it was a mistake. It pointed to a back road leading into the desert foothills promising an unlikely destination. Is there really a lake amid these gentle rolling hills covered in desert brush?

Taking that turn we traveled a road whose route is dictated by the landscape almost doubling back on itself as it follows the path of least resistance. The drive took us through semi-desert grasslands and rolling hills studded with ocotillo, yucca, and scrub oak. After four miles it ended at small lake tucked within the contours of rolling hills.

Road to Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding and fishing in winter

The first glimpse of water at Patagonia Lake State Park came through the tents and RVs that crowd the campground. On a winter morning early risers walk their dogs nodding to their fellow campers taking leisurely strolls through scenery that demanded attention.

The 2½-mile lake plays hide and seek throughout its length ducking around bends and into coves. On this day, anglers are the first ones on the water, prowling for bass, catfish, crappie, and even rainbow trout which are stocked during the winter. Fishing opportunities abound from both shore and boat, and anglers typically do fairly well in their pursuit of whichever species they are targeting.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Later on they will be joined by kayakers who cruise silently along the placid surface. Two-thirds of Lake Patagonia’s 265 surface acres are devoted to no-wake zones, the perfect playground for those who prefer to explore in a canoe or kayak.

Patagonia Lake also draws those who have binoculars and know how to use them. More than 300 species of birds have been spotted and the area has a national reputation among birdwatchers.

More on Arizona State Parks: Spring Is the Season to Hike Arizona State Parks

Many head to the east where the Sonoita Creek Trail leads to a riparian area perfect for the area’s full-time avian residents as well as those stopping briefly during migration. Birders have reported seeing such common species as the broad-billed hummingbird and great horned owl as well as the harder-to-find vermilion flycatcher, elegant trogon, and spotted towhee.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sonoita Creek

Sonoita Creek flows for two-and-one-half miles along the edge of the park providing some of the richest riparian habitat in the area.

Sonoita Creek courses its way through Coronado National Forest between the Santa Rita Mountains in the north and the Patagonia Mountains in the south and is notable for its extensive, well preserved riparian corridor which harbors many rare species of plants and animals, especially birds. The creek creates a band of greenery in the otherwise arid mountains in a transition zone between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts and which stretches for 15 miles from the village of Patagonia to the low elevation foothills east of the Santa Cruz Valley where the waters evaporate or seep below ground.

Sonoita Creek State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A dam over the creek (constructed in 1968) formed Patagonia Lake, a small but scenic reservoir. Its blue waters are surrounded by a narrow band of trees and bushes set beneath barren, rocky hillsides bearing cacti and yucca. Below the dam, several miles of the creek and an area of hills on both sides are further protected as the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area (see the above photo).

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV and tent camping

One hundred five developed campsites with a picnic table, a fire-ring/grill, and parking for two vehicles. Select sites also have a ramada. Sites have 20/30/50 amp voltage. Sites tend to fill up in the evening from May until November. Campsite lengths vary but most can accommodate any size RV. Quiet hours (no generators, music, or loud voices) are from 9 p.m.–8 a.m. 

More on Arizona State Parks: The Ultimate Guide to Arizona State Parks

There are also two non-electric campsites available. They have a picnic table, a fire-ring/grill, and parking for two vehicles with a ramada for shade. These two sites are 22 feet long and are suitable for camper vans and short trailers.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boating and swimming in summer

As the weather warms, Patagonia Lake becomes an altogether different beast. The park is no secret to the thousands who come each summer to splash along its beach or carve rooster tails on its western third where wakes are to be jumped rather than shunned.

People from all over the area come to escape the heat. Summer weekends can get pretty crazy.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most summer visitors settle in at the beach finding a seat among the dozens of picnic tables shaded by a ramada or playing in the gentle water of the protected cove as parents make sure their children don’t venture past the line of buoys protecting the area from passing boats.

About a mile away on the lake’s western portion motor boats dominate, most of them towing skiers in an orderly counter-clockwise circle. At the end of the day some will head to the handful of camping sites available only by boat enjoying sunset from their secluded nooks.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A history of recreation

The lake’s popularity nearly killed it when local citizens first dammed Sonoita Creek 50 years ago to attract recreational enthusiasts. Members of the Patagonia Lake Recreation Association built facilities to make the area popular with those who wanted to fish, water ski, or simply have a picnic. Visitors flocked to the lake in the late 1960s and early ’70s so much so that owners couldn’t safely keep up with the demand.

More on Arizona State Parks: The Most (and least) Popular Arizona State Parks

Eventually the area was acquired by the state and on April 1, 1975 it was opened as Patagonia Lake State Park.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia Lake State Park Fact Box

Size: 2,658 acres

Elevation: 3,804-4,200 feet

Established: April 1, 1975

Location: Southeastern Arizona, 15 miles northeast of Nogales

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Directions: From Tucson, take Interstate 10 east to Vail (Exit 281); south on SR 83 to Sonoita; west on SR 82 past Patagonia to the Patagonia Lake State Park turnoff (distance is 177 miles one way)

Nearest services: In Patagonia, 10 miles away.

Park entrance fee: $15/vehicle Mondays-Fridays; $20/vehicle Saturdays-Sundays.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best time to go: Summer, if you want to cool off; Winter, if you want to kayak or fish when crowds are gone and the lake is calm.

Trails: There are more than 25 miles of hiking trails. All but a half-mile of them are within the adjacent Sonoita Creek State Natural Area

Visitor center: This should be your first stop for maps and a list of boating and swimming rules. Wakes are prohibited along two-thirds of the lake and rangers keep a close eye to make sure everyone is enjoying responsibly.

More on Arizona State Parks: Focus on Birding in Arizona State Parks

Picnic areas: Ramadas and picnic tables are scattered about the lake’s south shore with most clustered at the beach.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground: There are 105 sites with electricity and room for two vehicles. Sites with electricity are $25-$30 per night; non-electric sites are $20-$25. The 12 boat-in campsites ($20-$25 per night) have no power or bathrooms. Cabins have a queen-size bed, two sets of bunk beds, table and chairs, mini-fridge, microwave, ceiling fan, heating and air conditioning. Bring your own bedding and supplies. Cabins cost $119 per night, $129 on holidays with a three-night minimum. Campsites and cabins can be reserved at azstateparks.com.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Supplies: The Lakeside Market sells food, drink, and other common provisions and also offers boat rentals, fishing licenses, and bait.

Worth Pondering…
Patagonia is a tiny hamlet located in the Sonoita Valley in southeastern Arizona. A few blocks from the main street through town, on the edge of The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, lies a non-descript ranch house that is no less than one of the most famous bird watching sites in the world.

―Mathew Tekulsky, National Geographic News, 2004

The Best RV Camping March 2023

Explore the guide to find some of the best in March camping across America

But where should you park your RV? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Here are 10 of the top locations to explore in March. RVing with Rex selected this list of campgrounds and RV resorts from parks personally visited.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in January and February. Also, check out my recommendations from March 2022 and April 2022.

Rain Spirit RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rain Spirit RV Resort, Clarkdale, Arizona

Overlooking Tuzigoot National Monument and Verde River, Rain Spirit RV Resort is a new park with 63 full-service sites including 30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, and the Internet. Amenities include private restrooms/showers, a fitness room, laundry facilities, a recreation room, a library lounge, a pool and spa, and a dog run. This 5-star resort is a great home base from which to explore the historic town of Jerome, Sedona Red Rock Country, and Old Town Cottonwood, and book an excursion on the Verde Valley Railway.

Barnyard RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina

Barnyard RV Park offers 129-level and grassy sites with paved interior roads. All sites include water, sewer, electric (30 and 50 amp), and cable TV. Most sites are pull-through and can accommodate large units including a tow car. Amenities include bath and laundry facilities, Wi-Fi available at the site, and a dog park. Barnyard RV Park is located 8 miles from downtown Columbia. From Interstate 20, take Exit 111 west on US-1 to the park. On weekends, experience Southern hospitality at the huge Barnyard Flea Market. The RV Park is located behind the Flea Market.

Red Bluff KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Bluff KOA Journey, Red Bluff, California

Big-rig friendly, Red Bluff KOA Journey (formerly Durango RV Resort) is a 5-star resort located on the Sacramento River. The park is well laid out and designed. Most sites are pull-through, 70-90 feet in length, and 30-35 feet wide. In addition, there are 11 riverfront sites and 21 water-feature spaces (fountains); these sites have utilities on both sides of the concrete pads enabling fifth wheels and travel trailers to back onto the sites and motorhomes to drive forward maximizing the view and water features. In addition, there are several buddy sites.

Red Bluff KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utilities including 20/30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Wi-Fi works well. Interior roads are paved. We have stayed at Durango on several occasions and would return in a heartbeat. Conveniently located on I-5, Exit 649 (Highway 36/Antelope Boulevard).

Roosevelt State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roosevelt State Park, Morton, Mississippi

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

Roosevelt State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Capital City RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capital City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama

Approximately 6 miles north of I-85 (Exit 6), Capital City RV Park is a 5-star park located on the northeastern edge of Montgomery. The park offers clean and quiet sites at reasonable rates.

Capital City features full-hookup sites with 20/30/50 amp electric service, cable TV, high speed Wireless Internet, complete laundry facility, and private bathrooms with showers. Our pull-through site was 70 feet long and 35 feet wide with centrally located utilities. Interior roads and individual sites are gravel. This is a well designed and maintained RV park.

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia

The Jekyll Island Campground is the most affordable, convenient accommodation located near Driftwood Beach. Choose from RV and tent sites as well as amenities like free Wi-Fi, shower facilities, and onsite laundry. The campground offers 175 campsites on 18 wooded acres on the island’s north end. Options range from tent sites to full hook-up, pull-through RV sites with electricity, cable TV, water, and sewage. Wi-Fi and DSL internet is free for registered guests. The campground also will offer private yurt experiences beginning in 2023.

Hidden Lake RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hidden Lake RV Park, Beaumont, Texas

Hidden Lake RV Park offers 72 large pull-through and back-in sits (60-60 feet), full hookups with 30/50 amp at every site, free satellite TV cable, free Wi-Fi, private bathroom/shower rooms, laundry facility, lakeside sites, some shady sites, nature trail, and catch and release fishing.

CT RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

C T RV Resort, Benson, Arizona

Whether you’re escaping the cold winters of the north or just looking for a place to relax and enjoy the dry heat, CT RV Resort is for you. This luxury RV resort—and community of four neighborhoods—sits in Benson, Arizona, home of Kartchner Caverns State Park. This welcoming resort is your home away from home with mountain views and neighborly group cookouts, campfires, and get-togethers.

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California

A new facility, Pala Casino RV Resort offers 100 full-service sites with grass lawns and picnic tables. Site selection includes 30 feet x55 feet back-in sites, 30 feet x 60 feet luxury sites with barbecue grills, and 30 feet x 70 feet pull-through sites. Amenities include 20/30/50 amp power, water and sewer hookups, free Wi-Fi, cable TV, restrooms and showers, a heated swimming pool, two spas, a fenced dog park, and 24-hour security patrol. Pala Casino RV Resort received top marks from Good Sam in every category including facilities, restrooms and showers, and visual appearance. The resort is located on SR-76, 6 miles east of I-15.

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Beach State Park, Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Beach State Park offers access to the Atlantic Ocean and beach. It also provides access to the saltwater marsh and creeks. An environmental education center highlights the natural history of Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE Basin. The trails wind through Edisto Island’s maritime forest of live oak, hanging Spanish moss, and palmetto trees. During your walk, you may see white-tailed deer, osprey, or alligators. 112 RV and tent camping sites with water and 20/30/50 amp electrical service are available ocean-side and near the salt marsh. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available for park guests near the office area and in the Wi-Fi room located adjacent to the office.

Worth Pondering…

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

—John Ruskin

Why Winter Is the Best Time to Visit Southern Utah

Why Winter Is the Best Time to Visit Southern Utah

When winter arrives, travelers tend to split—half head to the mountains to ski or snowboard; the other half seeks out warm weather in the U.S. Sunbelt. Most overlook Utah, a state with year-round blue skies, mild weather, and red rock arches and spires that only look more stunning with a dusting of snow. 

That landscape is perhaps best represented by southern Utah, my favorite section of the state that’s dominated by Mars-like spires, twisting canyons, and delicate sandstone arches. Southern Utah is home to all five of the state’s national parks and is often best visited in the winter when the hot, dry summer has passed and the crowds have dispersed.

Here’s everything you need to know to plan a visit to this lesser-known winter destination.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to do

All five of Utah’s national parks (The Mighty Five) are found in the southern half of the state. In fact, it’s hard to plan a trip to southern Utah without incorporating a visit to at least one or two of the national parks.

Zion National Park is the furthest south and is known for its narrow slot canyons and pink sandstone cliffs. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Zion National Park is a great place to enjoy sunny skies and fresh air, and get a little extra Vitamin D in the winter months. Plan a winter visit to soak up the sunshine while enjoying moderate temperatures and a stunning sandstone kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and pinks. Winter visitors will find plenty to do including hiking, photography, camping, and gazing up at the wonders of the night sky.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby is Bryce Canyon National Park, home to the world’s largest concentration of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock). The stark white of freshly fallen snow, red rocks, blue sky, and evergreen trees—some say Bryce Canyon is even more beautiful in winter! Here at 8,000 feet the scenery changes dramatically in the colder months providing unique opportunities to see the park but requires a very different packing list. Begin by reviewing regular closures and regulations, read about typical weather, and then explore the many ways you can experience this winter wonderland.

To the east are the red rock canyons, cliffs, and domes of Capitol Reef National Park while the adventure town of Moab acts as the gateway to both Arches and Canyonlands national parks with delicate sandstone arches and red rock canyons.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Star of Ed Abbey’s iconic Desert Solitaire, Arches has come a long way since 1968 and these days it’s so action-packed, the park service is piloting a timed-entry system requiring advance reservations from April to October 2023. But there are ways around a Disneyland experience. Be an early bird or a night owl—come before sunrise or stay beyond sunset and you’ll be amply rewarded with quieter trails and golden light that makes the arches glow.

The nearest accommodations of Moab are close enough to the park entrance to make this doable. If you’d rather not rise early, book a guided tour with a ranger to see the permit-only Fiery Furnace area or secure a campsite at Devils Garden up to six months in advance. From the campground, you can hike to an underdog of an arch: the lesser-known, stunning Broken Arch. 

Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Five distinct districts comprise Canyonlands, each offering something different. Island in the Sky is land of long views—don’t miss Shafer Trail Viewpoint or Mesa Arch. Only about 20 miles south of Island in the Sky as the crow flies (but a solid two-hour drive away), the Needles District offers great hiking including an action-packed jaunt on Cave Spring Trail featuring a replica of an 1880s-era cowboy camp and mushroom-like rock formations.

Canyonlands National Park, Needles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go to the Maze to get lost; Chocolate Drops and Land of Standing Rocks are a couple of worthy destinations in this backcountry district. Head to the non-contiguous Horseshoe Canyon unit to see incredible petroglyphs including floating holy ghosts. And visit the River District at the bottom of the canyons carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers for a rafting adventure. For most of the park’s district, the best place to stay in Moab which offers easy access to Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the park’s rivers. 

Brian Head Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond hiking, and in some cases, camping in southern Utah’s national parks, this part of the state is home to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, two winter sports that are beginner friendly and affordable. Those with their heart set on downhill skiing can find it at Brian Head Resort (near Cedar Breaks National Monument) or Eagle Point Resort, two ski areas with significantly lower prices than those found in northern Utah.

But there’s also year-round hiking, biking, camping, and backpacking in the southern part of the state. And in the evenings, when you’re resting your weary legs, make sure to look up—the long winter nights lend themselves to excellent stargazing.

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

What to pack

It’s all about layers in the winter. If you plan to be outside most of the day, you’ll want to wear synthetic or wool base layers and pack a warm jacket and hat. Sunny days are the norm even in the middle of winter so sunscreen and sunglasses are also a must.

If you plan on hiking in the snow, it may be worth getting a pair of cleats that fasten over your winter footwear and provide added traction. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to stay

Many of southern Utah’s national and state parks offer year-round camping.

Zion has three campgrounds. Watchman Campground is open year-round with reservations from early March to late November and first-come, first-serve during the rest of the year. South Campground and Lava Point Campground are open seasonally.

At Bryce Canyon, North Campground’s A Loop is open all winter long for first-come, first-served camping. There are 30 sites in this loop and it is rare for the campground to fill in winter other than around major holidays. As happens every year when overnight temperatures fall below freezing, Loops C and D of North Campground have closed. Loop B typically closes in late fall unless demand for winter campsites is high enough to justify its remaining open. Sunset Campground is closed for the winter and will reopen for first-come, first-served camping on April 15.

Fremont River, Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjacent to the Fremont River and surrounded by historic orchards, Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef has 71 sites. Each site has a picnic table and firepit and/or above ground grill but no individual water, sewage, or electrical hookups. There is a RV dump and potable water fill station near the entrance to Loops A and B. Restrooms feature running water and flush toilets but no showers. The park has a 100 percent reservation system from March 1-October 31.

Devil’s Garden Campground, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Devils Garden Campground is the only campground at Arches National Park. You can reserve campsites for nights between March 1 and October 31. Between November and February, campsites are first-come, first-served.

Canyonlands maintains two campgrounds. Island in the Sky Campground (Willow Flat) has 12 sites, first come, first-served. There are toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings in the campground. There is no water at the campground. The campground is open year-round. The Needles Campground has 26 individual sites. You can reserve some individual sites from spring through fall. At other times of the year, individual sites are first-come, first-served. There are toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings in the campground.

Worth Pondering…

Landscape is what becomes us. If we see our natural heritage only as a quarry of building block instead of the bedrock of our integrity, we will indeed find ourselves not only homeless but rootless by the impoverishment of our own imagination. At a time when we hardly know what we can count on in a country of shifting values and priorities, Canyonlands is our bedrock, a geologic truth that we all share, the eyes of the future are looking back at us, praying that we may see beyond our own time.

—Terry Tempest Williams

2023 Wildflower Season is coming soon. Will it be a Superbloom?

Winter showers are bringing spring flowers and a great wildflower season is expected. Here’s a sneak peek at where to go for the best views!

Spring is on the way, bringing one of Arizona’s best features: Wildflowers.

As far as wildflowers are concerned, a lot of things have gone right so far this winter in Arizona. Widespread rains came early and often. The moisture has been well-spaced so there were no extended dry periods. Temperatures have stayed moderate. All those factors matter for how many and what types of flowers are likely to bloom.

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

There are no guarantees when it comes to wildflowers but the 2023 season seems full of promise. The Arizona deserts may be teetering on the edge of a superbloom. It’s still too early to say but no matter how things play out during February, the desert should be filled with a colorful array of poppies, lupines, and other flowers this spring.

This is a wildflower season that should not be missed. Here are seven Arizona wildflower hotspots worth exploring and which blooms you are likely to see.

Estrella Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Estrella Mountain Regional Park

Overview: This big park in Goodyear always seems to get a jump on some of the other spots in the Valley and it flashed lots of blooms in January. Visitors will find a nice medley of brittlebush, Mexican goldpoppies, globemallows, rock daisies, and fiddlenecks among others.

What to look for: Some of the best sightings can be found along the Rainbow Valley Trail sprinkled with poppies, scorpionweed, and brittlebush. On the Gadsden Trail, the blue/purple lupines are already blooming and noted for being “extra heavy and extraordinary in color and expanse.” Poppies of varying hues sway on both sides of Flycatcher Trail. Stop at the Nature Center for the exhibits and to get the latest info.

Lupines and poppies at Estrella Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When to go: Right now if you want. Abundant blooms should continue through February and into March.

Camping: Unless a Park Host site is available, there is no camping in the park.

Location/address: 14805 W. Vineyard Ave., Goodyear

Park entrance fee: $7 per vehicle

Contact:  602-506-2930, ext. 6

>> Get more tips for visiting Estrella Regional Park

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

Picacho Peak State Park

Overview: Good to excellent. They’ve had plenty of rain and poppy plants are out in force on the lower slopes of the mountains although few flowers are visible yet. Joining the poppies will be lupines and a healthy mix of perennials including some rare globemallows with lilac-hued flowers.

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

What to look for: This is a good park to visit even for folks with limited mobility. Visitors will be able to enjoy plenty of color from the park roadway and adjacent picnic tables. For a closer look, good showings of color can be found on the easy Nature Trail, Children’s Cave Trail and the moderate Calloway Trail.

When to go: Mid- to late February. The season often starts early at Picacho Peak although a late January cold snap could delay it a bit this year. Colorful blooms should continue into March.

Picacho Peak State Park camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping: Picacho Peak State Park’s campground has a total of 85 electric sites for both tent and RV camping. Four sites are handicapped-accessible. No water or sewer hookups are available. Access to all sites is paved. Sites are fairly level and are located in a natural Sonoran Desert setting. High speed Wi-Fi internet access is now available at all campsites provided by Airebeam. Additional fees required for access.

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

Park entrance fee: $7 per vehicle

Location/address: 15520 Picacho Peak Road, Picacho

Contact: 520-466-3183

>> Get more tips for visiting Picacho Peak State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park

Overview: Park rangers are cautiously optimistic predicting an above average year while hoping for a stellar one.

What to look for: In some recent years, the poppies at Lost Dutchman have been drastically reduced by late season freezes. So that is always a possibility. Yet even if that does happen, hardier perennials like brittlebush, globemallow, and chuparosa should still flourish. If poppies show up to the party, it makes for an unforgettable sight with the steep ramparts of the Superstition Mountains rising directly from a sea of shimmering yellow and orange. For some of the best flower viewing, start up the Siphon Draw Trail and then circle back on Jacob’s Crosscut and Treasure Loop.

When to go: End of February through mid-March.

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

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

Park entrance fee: $10 per vehicle

Location/address: 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction

Contact: 480-982-4485

>> Get more tips for visiting Lost Dutchman State Park

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

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Overview: If not a superbloom, something very close to it. Conditions seem pretty close to ideal at this remote park in southwestern Arizona. While poppies will bloom at Organ Pipe, they are not as predominant as at some other locations. Here visitors will enjoy a mixed bouquet of lupines, chuparosa, ocotillos, fairy dusters, brittlebush, globemallows, and more.  

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

What to look for: In the monument, take the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive (a well maintained mostly dirt road) looping into rugged country for a colorful mix of flowers. Or hike the Palo Verde and Victoria Mine trails for a closer look. If the season develops like they expect, rangers may schedule some guided wildflower hikes. Check the website or call the visitor center for details.

When to go: March is the prime time. Heading south on State Route 85 from Gila Bend, travelers are treated to big pools of Mexican goldpoppies in good years.

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

Camping: Twin Peaks Campground is located just over one mile away from the Kris Eggle Visitor Center and each campsite is surrounded by beautiful desert plants. It has 34 tent-only sites and 174 sites for RVs. Several sites can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet in length. Restrooms have running water and a three have free solar-heated showers. Hookups for electricity, water, or sewer are not available

Park entrance fee: $25 per vehicle, good for seven days

Location/address: About 150 miles southwest of Phoenix off SR 85

Contact: 520-387-6849

>> Get more tips for visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Wildflowers at Bartlett Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bartlett Lake

Overview: Good to excellent. After a couple of disappointing years there are high hopes for a colorful season at Bartlett Lake.

What to look for: The road to the reservoir quickly leaves suburbs behind and winds past rolling hills to the sparkling reservoir cradled by mountains. Poppies and lupines grow in profusion on the banks above the water. Be sure to keep an eye peeled for white poppies; this is a good spot for them. Some of the best flower sightings are along the road to Rattlesnake Cove. The Palo Verde Trail parallels the shoreline pinning hikers between flowers and the lake, a wonderful place to be on a warm March day.

Wildflowers at Bartlett Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When to go: March. Peak color should be in the middle of the month but much will be determined by temperature.

Camping: Campground fees at various sites around Bartlett Reservoir might be separate from the Tonto Day pass. Call Cave Creek Ranger District (480-595-3300) for specific details.

Wildflowers at Bartlett Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park entrance fee: An $8 Tonto Day Pass is required. Buy one before you go; purchasing options are listed on the website.

Location/address: Bartlett Lake is about 57 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Contact: 480-595-3300

>> Get more tips for visiting Bartlett Lake

Mexican poppies at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park

Overview: Good to excellent. All winter the rains have pounded this scenic park on the north side of Tucson. It even led to flooding of the big Cañada del Oro wash in January. All that moisture has greened up the saguaro-clad foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and the lush garden is thick with flowering plants.  

Fairy duster at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to look for: The Sutherland Trail offers the best assortment of flowers with fields of poppies, cream cups, lupines, penstemon, and desert chicory. Best color can be found near the junction with Canyon Loop and continuing for about 2 miles on the Sutherland across the desert.

For those looking for a quick outing, a good wildflower spot is on the Nature Trail. The path climbs a low hill that’s often carpeted with an array of blooms. Guided hikes and bird walks are offered several days a week.

When to go: Mid-March through early April.

Catalina State Park camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping: The campground offers 120 electric and water sites. Each campsite has a picnic table and BBQ grill. Roads and parking slips are paved. Campgrounds have modern flush restrooms with hot, clean showers, and RV dump stations are available in the park. There is no limit on the length of RVs at this park.

Park entrance fee: $7 per vehicle

Location/address: 11570 N. Oracle Road, Tucson

Contact: 520-628-5798

>> Get more tips for visiting Catalina State Park

Wildflowers on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peridot Mesa

Overview: Moderate to good. This rocky mesa on the San Carlos Apache Reservation east of metro Phoenix is known for some of Arizona’s best poppy displays, stretching across a broad hill and sweeping down the slopes.

Wildflowers on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to look for: Sharp-eyed visitors will spot lupines, desert chicory, and blue dicks mingled among the blaze of orange. But the hillsides blanketed in poppies are the absolute showstopper. With the cooler temperatures this winter, peak bloom isn’t expected until later. The mesa is down a dirt road a short distance off U.S. 70 east of Globe. The road can normally be managed in a passenger car.

When to go: Late March into early April. If temperatures heat up, the season could develop sooner.

Camping: The closest camground is Apache Gold Casino RV Park, 12 miles east of Peridot Mesa.

Poppies on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park entrance fee: Since the Peridot Mesa is located on San Carlos Tribal Lands, visitors will need to purchase a permit to travel to the wildflower spot.  Permits are $10 each and can be purchased at the Circle K in Globe (2011 U.S. 70), or the San Carlos Recreation & Wildlife Office in Peridot.

Location/address: 30 miles east of Globe on US-70

Contact: 928-475-2343

>> Get more tips for visiting Peridot Mesa

Worth Pondering…

Colors are the smile of nature.

—Leigh Hunt

Campgrounds, RV Parks, and RV Resorts: How Are They Different?

Difference between RV parks, RV resorts, and campgrounds

When you’re looking for a place to set up your RV you may find several different options depending on the location you are planning to stay. You will probably come across three very common terms: campground, RV park, and RV resort. They may raise some questions especially if you are new to RVing.

12 Tribes Casino RV Park, Omak, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Asking what the difference is between campgrounds, RV parks, and RV resorts is a bit like asking the difference between a cabin, a condo, and a mansion.

Think about it. They’ll all give you a place to stay. But, similar to the types of houses, the campground, RV park, and resort all offer different amenities. 

Today I’ll break down the difference between these three types of RV camping experiences. Let’s dive right in!

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

What to look for in a campsite

What you want in a campsite is highly dependent on personal preference. Something that is an absolute must for one person might be at the bottom of someone else’s list!

The best way to approach this is to ask your self a few questions:

  • What amenities do I need or desire? (Consider: flushing toilet or vault toilet, shower facility or not, full hookups or partial or no hookups, Wi-Fi or no internet)
  • What is my goal when RVing? (Consider: adventure, work while enjoying nature, getting away from it all, and experiences)
  • How much are you willing to pay? (Consider: < $35, $35-$60, >$60)
Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And live by one statement: You will not be able to see everything, do everything, eat or drink everything, or experience everything. So live in the moment, you’re in. Go ahead, repeat that last sentence. I will live in the moment I’m in. You’ll be much happier for that.

Great! You’ve adopted a new life mantra. However, you will still have plenty of choices to make.

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

And depending on where you are, when you are, and your preferred activities/experiences, your choices and answers to those questions may be different every time you decide where to stay.

Once you have answered those questions, though, it is quite helpful to have a basic understanding of the differences between campgrounds, RV parks, and RV resorts.

Pro tip: Here is an RVers guide to campground etiquette

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

RV parks

RV parks are generally located either in a town/city or nearby. Their pricing can range anywhere from $35 a night to $60 a night. Many RV parks also participate in discounted camping programs such as Passport America or Good Sam, making their nightly rates even cheaper.  Many will also offer weekly and monthly rates upon request. 

Most RV parks have space for overnight campers as well accommodations for long-term campers, seasonals, and full-time RVers. Some RV parks have a mix of mobile homes and RV sites.

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

Typically RV parks will have full hook-ups at most sites but some will offer partial hookups and/or dry camping at a reduced rate. Most RV parks offer laundry facilities, Wi-Fi (but often iffy), showers, and restrooms. 

Sites are generally spaced fairly close together. Except for a few extremely old RV parks, most have available space for big rigs to access and get in and out of fairly easily.

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In general, RV parks will have the basics that every RV needs, but without all the fancy bells and whistles. You will typically get what you pay for with the basics. RV parks cost less than RV resorts, but not always less than campgrounds.

Pro tip: Here are 10 RV parks across America that are one step above the rest

White Tank Mountains Regional Park Campground, Maricopa County, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campgrounds

Speaking of campgrounds, if you are paying more than an RV park for a nightly stay, what you’re really paying for is the natural beauty that surrounds you. Consider this when you’re looking for amenities at a campground. Pricing can vary from about $15 per night to $40 or $50 a night depending on the location and amenities offered or lack thereof.

Campgrounds are more like what you would get if you’re staying in a state park, national park, or county/regional park. Because campgrounds are normally located in nature-surrounded areas such as forests or water, you’ll usually have more privacy here than you would in a typical RV park.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sites are often larger but the maneuverability for big rigs might be more difficult due to dirt roads, narrow roads, and all the trees. Most will have shower facilities and restrooms and partial hookups. Oftentimes the hookups do not include sewer at your site but a dump station is usually provided.

What you may not get in RV amenities, you’ll get back in natural ones. Most campgrounds have hiking and biking trails right outside your door.

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

And, some campgrounds have campstores and rental places on site allowing you to learn how to canoe or kayak. But don’t count on great cell service. You are, after all, tucked away in a forest of trees.

Pro tip: Explore America’s beauty at these scenic campgrounds from coast to coast

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

RV resorts

Want it all? Including cell service, Wi-Fi, nature trails, full hook-ups, privacy, and ample space.  RV resorts can give you that and more. With prices ranging anywhere from affordable to well over $100/night, usually you get more if you pay more.

Some RV resorts are truly lavish in their resort style. From hot tubs to swimming pools and golf courses to private dinner clubs and a spa, you can get it all. Of course, you can get all the amenities in a typical RV park, but be wary, some are billed as RV resorts when they resemble a typical RV park, maybe with a tree or two more in between spaces.

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

One drawback of RV resorts may be the numerous rules and restrictions that are often in place. Although, that may be one thing you desire when choosing your campsite giving you the ambiance you seek. One of those rules may state how new your rig must be and another could be dictating whether you can or cannot have children or pets. And some resorts are restricted to Class A motorhomes

Whether or not you like that type of organizational style is up to you. Maybe all those rules are well worth the fancy amenities. After all, you are spending your well-earned money and you should get the level of luxury you desire.

Pro Tip: For resorts that have it all, here are 10 luxurious RV resorts for summer travel

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

RV park, campground, and RV resort: Which is right for you? 

So you think you now know your exact needs and wants when it comes time to choose between an RV park, a campground, or an RV resort. Good for you! Hold on to that thought! Your needs and desires may change based upon traveling to scenic destinations or camping in a big city.

Pro Tip: Prioritize your wants and needs when choosing RV parks and campgrounds

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course, Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My best advice: Go with what you need and want in that moment. Traveling in an RV has probably made you pretty flexible and has taught you how to go with the flow. From that lesson, your new mantra of living in the moment you’re in and knowing the differences between RV parks, campgrounds, and RV resorts, you’re prepared to know which one is right for you when that moment arises.

Worth Pondering…

Life is like an RV, always moving, always different, and always an adventure.