How COVID-19 Changed RVing

Six significant ways that COVID-19 has impacted the RV lifestyle

It seems like we’ve been dealing with the various effects and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic forever, but it’s really just been in the United States and Canada since February. There were reports of coronavirus infections prior to that time but community spread was first proven about eight months ago. It just feels like eight years.

What follows is an analysis of the impact COVID-19 has brought to the RV community. I’ll also offer several tips to help you navigate these impacts.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Impact: Campgrounds and RV parks close temporarily

On Tuesday, March 17th, a Florida state campground ranger knocked on a camper’s door, stood back, and informed them they had to leave the campground and park by that Friday. Everyone camping in the Florida State Parks was being evicted—no exceptions.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Numerous accounts of campers being forced out of their campgrounds and RV parks surfaced coast-to-coast. As RV parks closed, many snowbirds, full-time, and other far-from-home RVers were stranded. Our future RV park reservation was cancelled and we were left scrambling.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Closing campgrounds and RV parks was the first major impact of COVID-19 facing RVers. For us, it was the red flag warning that this virus was not something that we could ignore. By mid-March, national, state, county, and private campgrounds were closing coast-to-coast due to an increasing number of COVID-19 shut-downs and shelter-in-place orders. 

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

By late April, Campendium reported 46-percent of their listed campgrounds were closed due to the pandemic. Essentially half of the possible campground sites across the continent were shut down. Over the course of the following four months, federal, state, and local authorities lifted and adjusted coronavirus-related orders allowing RV parks to reopen. By mid-July, Campendium reported just 9-percent of their listed campgrounds remain closed. Although they have not updated that information, it’s likely to have further improved.

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

We’re all hopeful that the worst of this wretched experience is behind us and RV park closures do not return. Don’t let what happened to us happen to you. Have a Plan B campsite plan ready, COVID or not. The best made plans can occasionally fall through on the road. Things do happen.

Columbia Sun RV Park, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Second Impact: High RV demand

Seemingly every journalist who could locate their laptop has published an excited article on how RVing is the “best socially-distanced travel alternative to flying and cruising”. It’s as if every network, newspaper, and knucklehead blogger simultaneously discovered RVs and decided to join the Go RVing marketing team.

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having read a few of these articles I have no doubt that most of these reporters have never stepped foot in an RV and are probably bored out of their minds working at home. You can almost hear them mutter, “Maybe I could get an RV and get out of here”.

The Lakes RV and Golf Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This coverage has triggered unprecedented demand for RVs from the general public while ill-preparing newbies for life on the road. Obviously this has been an unexpected godsend for the RV industry but it’s not all roses and sunshine for those of us who already love the RV lifestyle.

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

Third Impact: Tight RV supply

RVs are flying off dealer lots and showrooms across the United States and Canada. Inventory is currently the lowest they’ve ever seen. And RV manufacturers hampered by COVID-19 shutdowns and related supply shortages are struggling to keep up with the extraordinary demand the pandemic triggered. You can still find RVs on dealer lots but selection is limited. 

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

If you want a new RV that’s not in stock at your local dealer place an order as soon as possible. Otherwise, it may be a long wait before they have what you’re looking for on their lot. With the high demand and the short supply of new RVs, interest in pre-owned RVs is also high.

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

Fourth Impact: Stretched RV service

For years the RV industry has struggled to find qualified service techs. When the pandemic created a tremendous surge in new customers, it exacerbated already tight service availability. Service has been further hampered as customers, managers, and service techs are required to maintain social distancing and a variety of safety protocols.

When you require RV service, call for an appointment as early as possible. When you call, be prepared for an appointment date further out than you would prefer as dealers work through an increasing service demand.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fifth Impact: Strained RV park availability

The surge in RV popularity has also dramatically increased demand for campgrounds and RV parks. This demand may subside once people feel safe flying, cruising, and staying in hotels again. COVID-19 has allowed a host of newbies to discover the magic and fun of the RV lifestyle but not all will stay with it.

Make RV park reservations as far in advance as possible to increase the likelihood of obtaining the site you desire. Once again, have a Plan B campsite or overnight location in place.

Eagle Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sixth Impact: Travel restrictions

As of this writing, the United States and Canada have agreed to extend the border closings to non-essential travel through November 21. Furthermore, some U.S. states have their own specific travel restrictions and may require self-quarantine for 14-days. 

Needless to say, these restrictions are not exactly what, “Go Anywhere” RVing is all about! As the COVID-19 situation improves these travel restrictions will change. Be sure to research any possible travel restrictions along your route before setting out and keep an eye on them as you travel.

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

The Bottom Line: COVID stinks, but we can adapt

The impacts of COVID-19 are negative and positive, sometimes at the same time. We are pleased to see the RV industry doing so well. At the same time that strength and interest in RVing has brought its own challenges. These six impacts should be temporary but they cannot be ignored.

In summary, anything and everything related to RVs—including the availability of units, service, campgrounds and RV parks, dump stations, national and state parks, BLM lands, and even rentals are all experiencing higher demand than ever before. As RVers, it’s important to understand these new realities and ways to deal with them.

Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing lasts forever and this too will pass. RV manufacturers will eventually meet the increased demand, and that demand will subside to normal. RV dealers will eventually work through the increased service need and that too will return to normal. RV parks will expand and new parks will emerge as the reservations return to what was prior to COVID. And yes, RV travel between Canada and the United States will resume.

Worth Pondering…

We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems!

—Lee Iacocca

Life Lessons during the COVID Era

Here are some lessons for life to be learned from the pandemic. Many we probably should have known all along, but the current situation has brought them out again in sharp relief.

We all thought this was a temporary thing. But here we are. People are already calling this the “COVID era” as if they are reading about it in a history book. But we’re still going through it. 

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For us the social distancing and handwashing aren’t that bad. We got used to that stuff quickly. The tough part about this era is that life has changed permanently for many folks. 

Salton Sea, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rifts are created between people with different beliefs on wearing a mask. Complete industries are swept away and will probably never be the same. The world has truly changed. 

In this article, I’m sharing life lessons I’ve learned from observing these changes. Hopefully, these short reminders will make life during this era easier for you.

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard on everybody

I know your life is hard. But so is the life of your neighbor. That puts us all in the same boat. So go easy on yourself and others.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing is forever

It seems like this will last forever. But everything dies. And so will pandemics.

Harvesting in Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Make the best of your time

Accepting circumstances doesn’t mean we give up. Make the best of it. To be clear: Worrying and thinking about stuff that’s outside of your control is NOT a good use of your time. Yes, easier said than done. I know.

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights

Take a breather

Take a moment for yourself and breeeeath…. Aaaah. Yes, that’s the feeling.

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

Exercise every day

Go for a walk or hike. Stay in shape. If you’re not injured or ill, it’s your duty to take care of your body. Never take this lightly. 

Fraser River at Hope, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Get off social media

Social media is a waste of your time. Always! Pretty much so!

Gilroy Garlic Festival, California © Rex Vogel, all rights

Read books

Reading is a better use of your time. We all have reading lists with hundreds of books on them. And we’re not going to live 200 years. That means you need to make some tough choices. Which books will you read before you die?

Boyds Bears, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights

Learn new skills

Technology is improving and changing so fast that we’re not aware what’s going on. We just learn it after the fact. But that may be too late. Stay on top of your game and keep learning new skills you need to do good work.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Keep a daily journal

The COVID-19 pandemic will probably be one of the weirdest times of our lives. Don’t you want to document this? Even if you never read it again, it’s still worth writing because it makes you a better thinker. 

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights

Inspiration comes from within

“I need to go to Sedona for inspiration.” Or replace Sedona with any city or place. Why do we think inspiration comes from the outside? Look inside!

Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Good food improves your mood

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary and adventurous? Try a Philly cheesesteak, poutine, crab cake, gumbo, alligator, jambalaya, boudin, étouffée, crawfish, Texas BBQ, green chili cheese burger, tamales, chimichanga, or hushpuppies. On the sweet side, try Key lime pie, kolaches, sweet potato pie, goo goo clusters, apple pie, pecan pralines, Ben & Jerry’s, or Blue Bell ice cream. Take your taste buds for a tour!

Don’s Specialty Meats, Scott, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Objects will not make you happy

STOP BUYING CRAP ONLINE! You need to tell yourself that after a few too many useless purchases.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

More money is not the answer

I’m not going to lie. Having a little bit of money will lighten the load. So start that online business or side-gig you’ve been thinking about. But don’t expect that money will make you happy. It just solves your money problems. Nothing else!

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights

Do work you enjoy

Just because you need to survive, don’t say yes to the first available job you encounter. And also don’t start some kind of soulless online business so you can make a few bucks. Find something you enjoy—and that pays the bills. 

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights

Appreciate what you have

Grass is always greener on… So here’s a reminder: If you’re reading this on your smartphone in the comfort of your home, life isn’t so bad!

Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Give back

Do something altruistic. It’s fine to give money to charity. But I’m not talking about that. Talk to your elderly neighbors, hold the door for someone, do a small kindness. Small things have a positive impact on people.

Change is good

Life is hard when your job is no longer there. But remember, change is a part of life. And in the long-term, it’s good. We just don’t see the sunshine when we’re going through a storm. 

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Stop consuming. Start creating.

The world never changed for the better by doing nothing. Right now, our biggest challenge is paralysis by consumption. We’re over-consuming everything: News, food, clothes, entertainment, you name it. To get through this era, we need more action. So stop sitting there and go create something. Without creation, there’s no progress.

Hopefully we’ll also feel a new sense of appreciation when we get to act normal again. And hopefully that, and the other lessons we pull from this over time, will stick around for a long time. Let’s hope we’ll be smart enough to remember these life lessons over the long-term.

Worth Pondering…

To re-create yourself anew in every moment in the grandest version of the greatest vision ever you had about Who You Really Are. That is the purpose in becoming human, and that is the purpose of all of life.

— Neale Donald Walsch, in Conversations with God

Anxiety and Depression: The Fall-out from COVID-19

Health impacts of pandemic were felt first; now, effects of lockdown, social isolation are starting to appear

It is official: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly despondent and our youngest adults—ages 18 to 29—are feeling it the most.

Along Dike Road, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California provides a snapshot of what much of the nation is experiencing. Weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from late April through late July offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on the nation’s mental health. By late July, more than 44 percent of California adult respondents reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder, a stunning figure that rose through the summer months alongside the spread of COVID-19.

Red Rock Canyon, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America at large has followed a similar pattern with about 41 percent of adult respondents reporting symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression during the third week of July. By comparison, just 11 percent of U.S. adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The findings reflect a generalized sense of hopelessness as the severity of the global crisis set in. Most adults have been moored at home in a forced stasis, many in relative isolation. The unemployment rate hit its highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Thousands of families across California and tens of thousands across the U.S. have lost people to the virus. There is no clear indication when—or even if—life will return to normal.

“The pandemic is the first wave of this tsunami and the second and third waves are really going to be this behavioral health piece,” said Jessica Cruz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness California.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The surveys were part of a partnership between the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau to provide relevant statistics on the impact of coronavirus. In weekly online surveys over three months, the Census Bureau asked questions to about 900,000 Americans to quantify their levels of anxiety or depression. The four survey questions are a modified version of a common screening tool physicians use to diagnose mental illness.

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Respondents were asked how often during the previous seven days they had been bothered by feeling hopeless or depressed, had felt little interest or pleasure in doing things, had felt nervous or anxious, or had experienced uncontrolled worry. They were scored based on how often they had experienced those symptoms in the previous week ranging from never to nearly every day.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In both California and the nation, symptoms of depression and anxiety were more pronounced among young adults and generally decreased with age. For example, nearly three in four California respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 reported “not being able to stop or control worrying” for at least several of the previous seven days. And 71 percent reported feeling “down, depressed, or hopeless” during that time.

Lovers Key State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interestingly, respondents 80 and older—an age group far more likely to suffer and die from COVID-19—reported nowhere near the same levels of distress. Just 40 percent reported feeling down or hopeless for at least several days in the previous week, and 42 percent reported uncontrollable worry.

City Market, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruz said that may be because young adults are more comfortable expressing worry and sadness than their parents and grandparents. However, even before the pandemic, suicide rates among teens and young adults had been on a years-long climb nationwide and California emergency rooms had registered a sharp rise in the number of young adults seeking care for mental health crises.

Amish Country, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some researchers have cited the ubiquitous reach of social media—and with it an increased sense of inferiority and alienation—as factors in the rise in mental health struggles among younger generations. COVID-19 could be exacerbating those feelings of isolation, Cruz said.

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Census surveys also found higher rates of depression and anxiety among those who have lost jobs during the pandemic. Young adults in the service sector have been hit particularly hard by the wide-scale economic shutdowns. In July, the unemployment rate among U.S. workers ages 20 to 24 was 18 percent compared with 9 percent among workers 25 to 54, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Others noted that many other young adults who would normally be immersed in college life are stuck on the couch in their parents’ home staring at a professor online with little social interaction and no paid work after class.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Californians with lower incomes also reported higher levels of anxiety or depression. About 72 percent of California respondents with household incomes below $35,000 reported “little interest or pleasure in doing things” for at least several of the previous seven days, according to an average of survey results from July 2 through July 21. These increasing rates of depression and anxiety could outlast the pandemic itself, particularly if the economy lapses into a prolonged recession.

Worth Pondering…

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.

—Martha Washington

How Will People Travel After the Coronavirus?

With people still concerned about COVID-19, social distancing away from home can be easier in an RV

With travel restrictions loosening all around the country, where and how will vacationers get out and go? Many will get behind the wheel.

COVID-19 has left most travel industries like airlines, hotels, resorts, and cruise lines struggling for business. International travel is essentially dead on arrival now with numerous countries in Europe alone requiring or planning to require travelers to quarantine for 14 days after they arrive. Setting your sights on a tropical isle isn’t a good idea either.

Camping at Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But one is doing surprisingly well, the RV industry. We’re going to take a lot of road trips. Some one-tank trips where we can go just for the day and come back, not even do an overnight. Cooped-up Americans and Canadians desperate to get out after months of lockdowns are dreaming of doing something—anything—that resembles a vacation.

Camping at Edisto Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many are ready to get back to normal and travel. AAA predicts more Americans will hit the highway instead of the skies this year. A recent study by the U.S. Travel Association found 68 percent of people feel safe traveling in their own car but only 18 percent feel safe taking a flight to somewhere in the U.S. It’s good news for the RV industry.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to recent Ipsos research examining consumer interest and planned actions on travel choices in light of the COVID-19 crisis, 46 million Americans plan to take an RV trip in the next 12 months. This positive news for RV manufacturers, dealers, and campgrounds reinforces what dealers are already seeing at the retail level.

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

RV dealerships are seeing a surge in sales and campgrounds are seeing an increased number of reservations as people plan for summer vacation during the pandemic. The attraction to recreational vehicles is that no one’s slept in that bed except you, you’re using your own private bathroom, and you can still be outdoors. It’s hard for a virus to jump across a campfire.

The Old Bag Factory, Goshen, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With an RV you really know what you have. You can clean it to your personal standard and let the people of your choosing share the space with you. You have a lot more control and yet you still can be outside enjoying nature.

For decades, sales of motorhomes and travel trailers were a reliable indicator of the beginning—and end—of a recession. Sales would dip as a downturn approached and rise ahead of a recovery. But this time, it’s different: sales are rising as America enters its worst contraction since the Great Depression.

Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most sales have been reflective of the desire to wring as much recreation out of a socially distanced summer as possible. While more than one in five workers has filed for unemployment, some people are shelling out upward of $100,000 so they can hit the road while staying away from everyone else. Social distancing is a lot easier when you can bring along your own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

Along Bush Highway, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to providing a personal space that allows people to maintain social distance in a safe manner, the RV life also allows people to connect with loved-ones, provides the ability to get away for short, frequent breaks or longer adventures, and helps people reconnect to nature or explore some of the many attractions that are often just a drive away. That’s what RVing is all about. It’s a lifestyle that you never can get going to a hotel or resort as far as camaraderie with other people and that sort of thing.

Arizona Oases RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And social distancing away from home for families can be easier in an RV.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. has about 13,000 private RV parks and an estimated 1.23 million individual campsites according to estimates from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (and that doesn’t include campsites in state and national parks). Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that 60,000 new camping spots would become available.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not just purchases that are climbing according to Jen Young, co-founder of Outdoorsy which matches 40,000 RV owners with people who want to rent. Though bookings fell during the early stages of the pandemic, they have since skyrocketed.  Outdoorsy rival RVshare also reported a surge in reservations.

The Lakes Golf and RV Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People say “‘I won’t visit any place where a lot of people will go,’ so that pretty much (cancels) out all the big city centers and air travel,” she said. “There’s just so much more flexibility in recreation vehicle travel.”

Worth Pondering…

Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.

—Blaise Pascal

COVID-19 Road Trip: Best Places for RV Travel this June

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb, pack the RV, and travel again.

June takes its name from Roman origins. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the ancient Roman goddess that reigns over marriage and childbirth which may explain why June is such a popular wedding month.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The summer season officially arrives and the sun is out longer than ever––providing hours of daylight for exploring a new area. To visit a destination in June is (often) to see it at its joyful best. If you’re looking for a destination worthy of your June vacation days consider places with generally good weather this month.

Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By now, it’s clear that the road trip will be the most popular form of travel this summer. Though it is not without risks, it has the potential to be one of the safest forms of travel in the current COVID-19 era especially if you target wilderness areas, camp, and keep to yourself as much as possible. So, where should road trippers look to explore? Here are a few ideas.

Kentucky

Bourbon Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yeah, the bourbon and fried chicken in Kentucky are superb but so is the adventure. Kentucky has a unique geography that has turned the state into a honeycomb of caves and rock formations. It is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s largest known cave system.

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you prefer sunlight, there’s Red River Gorge Geological Area which has the most sandstone arches outside of Arches National Park not to mention hundreds of sport-climbing routes. In between these two superlatives, you have 49 state parks including My Old Kentucky Home, massive lakes, and, yeah, really great bourbon and fried chicken.

Utah

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

With five national parks and an uncountable amount of nooks and crannies, Utah is one of the best states in the country for a road trip. That said, considering that the State’s national parks suffer from overcrowding when they are fully operational, don’t expect complete solace or unlimited availability when they are only partially open (especially Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon). As an alternative, head to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or Glen Canyon Recreation Area where you will find it easy to disappear (in a good way).

Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking for open space, Texas might have more than anyone. Keep an eye on the reopening status at Big Bend National Park. Normally, it’s one of the most out of the way national parks but maybe time is now not as much of an issue as it usually is.

Big Thicket National Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise, consider heading to the southeast part of the state towards the Louisiana border where four national forests—Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Angelina, and Sabine—hide between Shreveport and Houston.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Young Theodore Roosevelt had the world to choose from. Where did he come to satiate his yen for wild open spaces? North Dakota. The state’s badlands, wooded valleys, mighty rivers (featuring the Missouri and the Little Missouri), and rolling hills are the perfect backdrop for “the strenuous life” that T.R. endorsed. Whether that manifests as an epic bike ride on one of America’s finest off-road trails or a session of walleye fishing in a quiet lake is, of course, up to you.

New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s been a long time since Breaking Bad, but it’s time to get reacquainted with New Mexico. On a normal road trip combining Carson National Forest with a couple nights in Santa Fe would be an ideal pairing. But for these times I suggest something more remote, perhaps the sandstone cliffs of El Malpais National Monument or the unexpected, rugged mountain terrain of Lincoln National Forest. Perhaps no road trip to New Mexico should skip some time spent in Gila National Forest which covers much of the landscape in the southwest and leads into Arizona.

Arizona

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona’s favorite tourist hot spots are trickling back to life with safety protocols in place as the state’s economy continues its reopening this month. The Grand Canyon seems poised to continue its gradual reopening which will no doubt draw many road warriors to Arizona. Nearby Lake Powell will also be a big draw in the next few months and between the two there’s plenty of room to find your own space via hiking, biking, and boating. Check out the two million acres of forest within the boundaries of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the red rock formations of Coconino National Forest, or the big, desert cacti of Tonto National Forest.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in March, April, and May. Also check out our recommendations from June 2019.

Worth Pondering…

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
—L.M. Montgomery

Quarantine on Wheels: Families Turn to RVs to Save Their Summer Travel Plans

The summer getaway theme of 2020 is staying safe, healthy, and in control

It’s become clear that far-flung international travel isn’t going to be as common as it once was for quite some time. Four-hour wait times to get on a plane will be the norm with as much as twice that to get out of the airport when you arrive. That’s before you take into account that most international travel will require 14-day quarantine on arrival and once you return home or consider which borders will to be open to tourists from our continent. (For example, it’s looking more and more like Europe will only allow internal tourism for the rest of the year.)

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With international travel pretty much off the books for the rest of 2020, it’s time to look to the highways and byways of the good ol’ US of A to get your travel fix (assuming you’re lucky enough to get a couple weeks of vacation this year and feel able to afford it). That means the Great American Road Trip is back in a big way. A chance to see the ever-changing nation in a time of massive upheaval, use your tourist dollars to support struggling communities, and get a little elbow room as quarantine winds down. A chance to stay socially distanced without going stir-crazy.

Along Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a recent GasBuddy survey 36 percent of respondents are canceling trips that require flying and 24 percent plan to make shorter trips by distance. 31 percent are planning to take a road trip. Not to mention, gas prices are the cheapest they’ve been in almost 20 years, AAA says.  

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not a surprise that summer vacation will look at lot different this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of RV travel. A recent survey of 4,000 U.S. and Canadian residents by KOA showed the pandemic sparking interest in camping especially among first-timers and younger generations. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Once it is safe to travel, it’s likely the camping market will get a greater share of leisure travelers’ trips in 2020,” reads the May 11 report measuring the effects of COVID-19 on the campground industry. (The study showed camping drawing 16 percent of leisure travelers for the rest of 2020, up from 11 percent before the pandemic.)

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In March, as RV buyers evaporated and manufacturing plants—mostly in northeastern Indiana—closed, the RV industry pivoted toward crisis management. Dealers and manufacturers sent vehicles across the country for use as isolation units, housing for critical health care workers, command centers, and mobile testing labs. 

Along Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California ordered 1,309 to house the sick should hospitals be overwhelmed. Louisiana state police ordered nearly 100 for command posts. A dealer in Texas sent RVs across the state to municipalities. Florida health officials retrofitted RVs as rolling testing labs. 

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

The 418 businesses that make up the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association pushed federal and state lawmakers to keep RV manufacturers and dealers open as essential businesses to meet this new demand. 

The generally accepted plan for reviving the country’s tourism industry starts with people traveling closer to home. It’s not likely vacationers will be jumping in planes anytime soon, so the RV industry is hoping more people start looking at self-contained motorhomes and trailers as a way to vacation while distancing and controlling their own environments. 

Wind Creek Casino RV Park, Atmore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV production was strong in January and February with shipments pacing ahead of 2019. Even after the collapse in mid-March, the RV association reported a slight increase in shipments for the first three months of 2020 over last year. After a dormant April, the industry is seeing a revival in May, driven in large part by a surge in demand for RV rentals.

Capitol City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 3,000-plus members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in recent years have seen a majority of their RV visitors traveling within 150 miles of their homes. This most certainly will be the case going forward in the age of COVID-19.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The association’s latest survey of private campground owners estimates there are more than 1.2 million private campsites across the country and owners plan to add more than 60,000 this year. Private campground owners are preparing for wary visitors by scripting specific plans for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining distancing. Most communal facilities including pools, gyms, and game rooms remain closed.

The MotorCoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As restrictions begin to ease we will see people get outside, stay closer to home, and be as safe as possible. The RV is a self-contained way for them to do that.

It’s like everyone was in a holding pen and as things begin to open up, there is a definite and growing demand for RVs and RV travel.

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

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course, of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why NOW is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel Bucket List

Have you been dreaming of destinations that you’d like to be quarantined in?

As we travel again, having had time to consider how much we miss traveling and exploring, will we do anything differently? Will we make better use of our time by ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind?

I posed the above question in an earlier post titled, Why Do You Travel? Many of us, I suggest, travel for the wrong reasons, putting the ‘where’ ahead of the ‘why’. We have a perfect opportunity to change all that with a new travel paradigm.

Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A renewed and surging interest in travel suggests that many people (including myself) are starving for travel and as it becomes safe to travel again, many of us will embrace it— and we should. But will we travel better than before?

Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This pandemic is not the first major disruption to travel and besides other outbreaks from SARS and Swine Flu to MERS and Ebola there have been volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires. But because this is so widespread and long lasting, I for one will emerge with a newfound sense of seizing the moment.

World’s Only Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is short enough without one not knowing when the next shoe will drop. A lesson to be learned is that if there are things you want to do in your life, you should put a plan in place and Just Do It.

In terms of travel, this is not a new idea since the pandemic. Each trip we create is by definition unique. What all of our trips share in common is the belief that any journey worth taking should be a rich personal story set within the larger narrative of life itself.

Lady Bird Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Why Do You Travel? I concluded that in this time of reflection we can make the most of the opportunity to plan our future travels by first asking why rather than where. Because travel is so freely available we tend to rush through this question.

Fort Jackson State Historic Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of travel that puts the where ahead of the why follows a predictable blueprint that hasn’t changed since the days of the Grand Tour; we visit the Louvre, tour the Pantheon, and ride the London Eye. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re meant to do.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is why you need to think about what you really want to do and see? Create your own Bucket List and do it in multiple categories that could focus on family trips and personal passions that could include an interest in history, architecture, food and wine. Then plan a realistic timetable to accomplish your goals.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic, time is the one thing we have in abundance which makes travel planning even more desirable. This forced break is the optimal time to begin planning those big trips that require considerable research and forethought. We may also see tighter restrictions in place in terms of visitors to some of the most coveted sights which makes advanced planning even more important.

Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This multi-year calendar approach makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Bucket list sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Masters Tournament, Rose Bowl Parade, and Superbowl benefit from booking a year out.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, some trips can be done by just about anyone while others require a modicum of fitness and mobility that may mandate simply not waiting too long. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or heli-ski in Rocky Mountains, these should be closer to the front of your list.

Fort Frederica National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But besides these logistical issues the biggest reason to plan a multi-year bucket list calendar is to ensure you do what you want to do while you’re physically able and in a way you can afford. Since the world is just too big and diverse not to explore, use some of your downtime and emerge from this crisis with a better sense of all the things you want to do and see with the time you have remaining.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

—Hilaire Belloc

After the Coronavirus: Your Next Vacation May Look Like This

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred quite a bit of interest in connecting with nature via RV travel

One thing is true with a large, extended, epic vacation: There is no flexibility. The dates are set. The hotel nights are purchased. The flights have been arranged. The pets have been boarded. Relatives or neighbors have been asked to collect the mail. These are the necessary evils that go hand in hand with planning a big trip.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For RVers the trip is easier to plan. No scheduling of flights. No searching for available hotels that meet your requirements. And you can even take your pets with you.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry, the demand for travel is slowly—very slowly—creeping back up again. But many remain wary of getting on a plane, a train, a bus, or a cruise ship and being packed tightly in with strangers and not knowing if somebody is carrying the virus.

Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV. Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After an indeterminate period of isolation families will be more enthusiastic than ever to get outside and see new places, even within their own local areas. RV travel allows people to sleep in their own bed, cook gourmet meals, and control where they go. As restrictions are lifted, you’ll be able to experience the endless range of outdoor wonders throughout the country and the freedom of independent travel that RVs offer.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas

RVs provide travelers control: they allow people to travel where they want, when they want, and offer a unique travel experience that allows people to pursue their favorite activities and experience places they may have only seen in a coffee-table book or on Instagram. They can do this all with the ability to stay connected to family and friends.

Quail Gate State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These are all positive features but particularly attractive during this most unprecedented time. RVs provide a wonderful opportunity for people to continue to enjoy vacations with their families while still adhering to social distancing, which will likely stay in place in some form for the foreseeable future.

Bartlett Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s something about road trips that creates a nostalgic feeling. Beautiful scenery, regional cuisine, and good company are just some of the many things that make road tripping so awesome and there’s something profound about literally just driving away from it all to seek an adventure.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And with the U.S. packed with so many incredible road trips, there really is something for everyone! Whether you’re looking for a day trip or wanting to be out on the open road for a prolonged period of time, there are beautiful places both in your backyard and beyond proving you don’t have to get on a plane to have an epic vacation. So pack up the RV and keep reading to discover your next road trip.

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon is famous for its undeniable beauty, and I strongly believe everyone should see it in person at least once in their lifetime. Phoenix is a great place to start this journey and as you make your way north toward the Canyon be sure to stop and stretch your legs in Sedona and Red Rock Country.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as one of America’s best and most beautiful drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles across Virginia and North Carolina. It follows the Appalachian Mountains—the Blue Ridge chain, specifically—from Shenandoah National Park in the north to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. Because the Blue Ridge Parkway connects two national parks, it’s easy to visit both during your drive.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Well-known among rock climbers and hikers, this road trip through Southern California’s desert is filled with opportunities to experience nature. With almost 100 miles of paved roads and an almost equal amount of unpaved roads, this road trip has much to offer.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A social distancing-friendly destination, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the colorful North Dakota badlands is a great place for hiking, camping, and sightseeing. Bison roam throughout the North and South units of the park and most visitors can see them as they drive along the park roads. Deer, elk, feral horses, longhorns, pronghorns, coyotes, and even bobcats can also be seen in various parts of the park.

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie

How to Travel Safely As Restrictions Are Lifted?

Interest in RV travel has grown exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic

The travel industry has been profoundly impacted by the uncertainty and anxiety currently enveloping the country. Airlines, resorts, and hotels are now offering discounted prices in order to rejuvenate their bottom lines but thus far the public’s appetite for travel seems to be stuck in neutral. However, there is an alternative to traditional vacations that could ease your concerns about mingling with the masses.

Welcome to the world of RV travel.

RVs at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since early April, RVShare.com, a company that arranges RV rentals between RV owners and the general public, has seen a 650 percent rise in bookings as “long periods of isolation and social distancing have halted most forms of travel” and left people anxious to be on the move again but with personal safety always in mind.

Fishing at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When planning a trip in the next three months, the overwhelming majority of respondents (93 percent) want to avoid crowds, according to RVShare. This wasn’t always the case. The importance of avoiding crowded places when traveling has increased by 70 percent since the pandemic started. Additionally, 84 percent plan to travel with their partner or immediate family instead of friends or extended family.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“RV travel has been a trend steadily on the rise for years due to RV rentals being more accessible than ever thanks to sites like RVshare,” said CEO Jon Gray. “We expect RVs to continue to gain traction as a preferred method of travel while consumers are seeking flexible options and a unique way to experience the outdoors.”

According to the company’s data, national parks are the preferred destination of 65 percent of their customers.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

TurnKey Vacation Rentals reports that although summer bookings are down from 2019, they’ve seen spikes in bookings over the past two weeks as well as travelers booking beach and mountain retreats for trips. As destinations start to open, there’s increased interest in the Alabama and Texas Gulf Coast and in mountain areas like Asheville, North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is worth noting that these locations are drive-to destinations as travelers now prefer to avoid air travel and stay closer to home.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer marketplace that connects families, solo travelers, and travelers of all kinds with trusted RV owners so they can rent an RV to power their road adventures. Their selection spans easy-to-navigate campervans to vintage Airstreams to luxury Class A motorhomes.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers can personalize their trip, customize their itinerary, and choose the price point that fits their budget. In addition to RV rentals being a controlled environment where renters can choose how much or how little they are exposed to others, where they travel, and more. Outdoorsy owners are held to high cleanliness standards and provide clean, sanitized, and germ-free RVs to those new to the RV lifestyle and veteran road travelers alike.

North Beach at Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey commissioned during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows that camping rates very high when Americans and Canadians are asked what they’re looking forward to once life regains some normalcy. Very strong majorities said it would be “reasonable” to have social distancing measures employed at campgrounds and on trails.

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

Performed on behalf of KOA, the “North American Camping and the Effects of Covid-19” survey reached out to 4,000 American and 500 Canadian households for their opinions on how the pandemic affects their plans for camping in the months ahead. The survey is bullish in saying “camping is well positioned to rebound earlier compared to other types of travel once travelers themselves deem it safe to travel again.”

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly half (46 percent) of the campers surveyed said they view camping as the safest form of leisure travel in the post COVID-19 world. That percentage jumps to 72 percent when the question is posed to Baby Boomers. They also ranked camping as the safest type of trip, the survey found.

Camping in an Airstream at Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the same time, 90 percent of leisure travelers and 95 percent of experienced campers said there should be some measures in place to enforce social distancing. Forty-seven percent of campers and half of leisure travelers “agree that limiting the number of people on a trail is reasonable.” Nearly half (48 percent) of prospective campers thought limiting group sizes would be reasonable.

Stephen Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty-one percent of the campers surveyed said they thought it was safe to camp right now while 54 percent said they thought another month or two should pass before it would be safe.

Bernheim Forest, Krntucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. Sometimes it is better to abandon one’s self to destiny.

—Napoleon Bonaparte

National Parks Are Slowly Reopening. Here’s The Status Of Our Favorites.

America’s greatest outdoor treasures are slowly starting to reopen

When COVID-19 took hold of the world the closures came fast. But the idea of a global pandemic shutting down America’s biggest, often extremely isolated natural spaces seemed unfathomable. It turned out that when the world’s health was at risk even Smoky the Bear had to do his part to flatten the curve. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, as the Memorial Day weekend kicks off a summer that will almost certainly be full of scenic drives, some national parks are slowly reopening their gates following months of closure. To help you track what’s open, we’re keeping tabs on our favorite national parks. We’ll keep you posted on what’s open (hint: not many), what services are available (if amenities are marked “limited,” chances are it has toilet facilities but no visitors center), and what you’re allowed to do once inside the park. And, in most cases you can drive the scenic roads and hike the trails. But we’ll take what we can get!

Hopefully, this list will change quickly as more and more of these national treasures open up to responsible, respectful, and safe use. The list is current as of the Memorial Day weekend. We’ll be updating as things progress. 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah
Status: Closed. For the moment, the closest you can get to Balanced Rock, Devil’s Garden, and the other glorious spires is via Google Earth. Phased re-opening begins May 29.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited. The visitor centers, entrance fee stations, and South Unit of the park are currently closed. But other than that, this SoDak icon and its rugged geologic beauty is mostly open for business as usual.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Status: Closed. This hiker and kayaker paradise along the Rio Grande is hoping to begin phased reopening in June, so chances are you’ll be able to explore its waters right around the time temps hit 300 degrees in the Lone Star State.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. While visitor center occupancy is limited and overnight stays are prohibited, the main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point are open. The majority of trails (other than backcountry) remain open as well, so consider yourself lucky if you’re anywhere near this Utah showstopper. Plan your sunrise around it.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Status: Closed. Phased reopening of this oft-overlooked Utah gem (the least visited of Utah’s famous “big five” parks) starts May 29. Social distancing is a breeze in this park where the ravens outnumber the humans on any given day.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No. This International Dark Sky Park combines the best of Utah’s more famous national parks into one lesser-visited package of surprises. While Scenic Drive, the visitor’s center, and most campgrounds are closed, you can still pitch a tent at Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley campgrounds.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. Public trails, picnic areas, and roads are open across the park. Still, this isn’t called Carlsbad Picnic Area, so it’s probably not worth a journey just yet unless it’s close enough to justify a day trip.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Status: Closed. The nation’s oldest hardwood bottomland didn’t keep its 500-year-old cypress trees alive through multiple plagues, yellow fever, and the Twilight Zone by taking chances. It remains closed until further notice.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. The Grand Canyon has begun extremely limited access. You can enter the south rim viewpoints between 6-10 a.m. for now and go as far as Pipe Creek Vista, Twin Overlooks, Duck on a Rock, Thor’s Hammer, No Name Point, and Navajo Point. The rest of the Canyon is closed. Ditto for visitor centers. 

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. The nation’s most popular park (on a technicality, but whatever) allows access to most of its sprawling trails though this has always been a park most utilized as a scenic drive, so go forth, but keep an eye on their site for any changes. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited. Now back in the business of helping claustrophobic Californians “find themselves” after a painful couple months, this gloriously trippy desert playground has opened up its trails, roads, bathrooms, and individual “family” campsites, which in California parlance ranges from actual family units to cults. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Status: Closed. When California emerges from quarantine, make a point to discover this remarkable national park in Northern California’s Shasta Cascades which is rich in rugged wilderness and rare geothermal delights.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Status: Closed. With more than 5,000 sites including its famous ancient cliff dwellings such as Cliff Palace, America’s largest archeological preserve has been around since 7,500 BC. So it can wait out COVID-19.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Status: Closed. Travelers along Route 66 (or Interstate 40) would be wise to pull over at this stunning park that suddenly pops up along both sides of the highway in eastern Arizona. Until the park reopens, however, it’s just more roadside oddities and vintage motel signs for Mother Road enthusiasts.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pinnacles National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No. This Central California park is one of the lesser-known National Park Service destinations possibly due to the fact that it’s often 100-plus degrees and half of it is in an eroded-out, extinct volcano. Right now, day use passes are a no-no and the park’s largely open only to people helping in protection efforts. Still, the campgrounds are open to people with reservations. So if you scored one a while ago, you kind of have the run of the park. Just, you know, bring a ton of water.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. Located on either side of Tucson, this cacti-laden gem has opened all roads and trails though groups are limited to 10. Visitor centers and restrooms remain closed.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia National Park, California
Status: Closed. Like its neighbor Kings Canyon, the densely forested Sequoia is closed until at least May 25. Highway 180 which runs through it is open for through traffic to private property.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Status: Closed. Renowned for its fabled Skyline Drive, this national treasure encompassing part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is working on a phased reopening. It makes wonder how you open the Skyline Drive in stages.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. Look, it’s not like they named this ultra-underrated park—where the prairies and the Badlands converge where Buffalo roam and the sky’s one big panoramic light show—James Buchanan National Park. It’s named after Theodore Roosevelt. Of course it’s open.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Status: Closed. America’s newest national park didn’t pick a great time for its coming out party. Transitioning from a national monument to a national park in the final days of 2019, the park was forced to shut down just a few weeks later. Thanks a lot COVID: you’re a real jerk.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. One of America’s most beloved parks has just started to reopen in recent days with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and many park trails currently open (with Zion’s often-packed shuttles mercifully suspended.)

Worth Pondering…

One of my favorite things about America is our breathtaking collection of national and state parks, many of which boast wonders the Psalmist would envy.

—Eric Metaxas