Explore the Nine Newest National Recreation Trails + Five Old Favorites

The United States has more than 1,300 national recreation trails spanning a total of 50,000 miles

A national recreation trail is a gateway into nature’s secret beauties, a portal to the past, a way into solitude and community. It is also an inroad to our national character. Our trails are both irresistible and indispensable.

—Stewart Udall, US Secretary of the Interior (1961–69); 1920–2010  

The National Trails System Act of 1968 as amended calls for establishing trails in both urban and rural settings for people of all ages, interests, skills, and physical abilities. The National Trails System promotes the enjoyment and appreciation of trails while encouraging greater public access. The system includes national scenic trails, national historic trails, and national recreation trails.

Hiking Okd Baldy Trail (see description below) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recently announced (June 9, 2023), the newly designated routes span a total of 340 miles across nine states. From the lush, tree-covered peaks of the Ozark Mountains to the babbling Fox River in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois, the nation’s trail system just got a big upgrade: Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has designated nine new national recreation trails spanning 340 total miles in nine states.

The new routes add to America’s existing network of more than 1,300 national recreation trails located in every state plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

More broadly, the National Trails System which includes recreational trails as well as historical and scenic trails spans 50,000 total miles across the country. Created with the National Trails System Act in 1968, the network is meant to promote access to the outdoors “in both urban and rural settings for people of all ages, interests, skills, and physical abilities,” per the National Park Service.

“These trails offer an abundance of opportunities to experience the breathtaking landscapes of our country, all while supporting outdoor recreation activities and boosting local economies,” says Haaland in a statement.

>> Read Next: The 10 Best Hiking Trails in America’s National Parks

If you’re looking for new destinations to explore, check out one of the additions.

Angel of Goliad Trail (see description below) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crown Zellerbach Trail in Scappoose and Vernonia, Oregon: The 22-mile Crown Zellerbach or Crown Z trail is open to horseback riders, runners, and walkers of all ability levels. Made primarily of gravel, the route follows the path of the historic Portland and Southwestern Railroad through Oregon’s Columbia River wetlands and Coastal Range. It’s lined with interpretive signs that offer insights into the region’s human and natural history.

Enterprise South Nature Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee: The Enterprise South Nature Park includes 70 miles of trails through 2,800 acres of heavily wooded forests.

Fabulous Fox! Water Trail in Wisconsin and Illinois: This unique water trail along the Fox River invites kayakers, rafters, canoers, and paddle boarders to explore 158 miles throughout southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois. It offers more than 70 access points through a variety of landscapes.

Harris Greenway Trail in Gwinnett County, Georgia: This paved, multi-use trail spans over five miles and links two parks on the outskirts of Atlanta: Tribble Mill Park and Harbins Park. It’s named after Lloyd N. Harris, who helped strengthen and expand the county’s public lands.

Frances Beidler Trail (see description below) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Iron Hills Trail System in Utah: Situated on Bureau of Land Management land north of Zion National Park in southwest Utah, the Iron Hills Trail System is perfect for mountain biking, hiking, trail running, and horseback riding.

Old Highway 131 Trail in Kickapoo Valley Reserve, Wisconsin: This four-season trail is beloved by cross-country skiers, snowshoers, cyclists, hikers, and pedestrians alike. The state has already created a handy digital interpretive guide for learning more about the region.

Razorback Greenway in Northwest Arkansas: Spanning 40 miles, the Razorback Greenway is an ideal jumping off point for exploring the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. It connects the cities of Fayetteville, Johnson, Springdale, Lowell, Rogers, Bentonville, and Bella Vista while also providing access to museums, historic sites, entertainment venues, lakes, and local businesses.

Vernon Bush Garden Trail in Jackson County, Alabama: Located at Jackson County Park, the one-mile Vernon Bush Garden Trail is lined with thousands of plants, flowers, and trees including hydrangeas, azaleas, and trilliums. It’s named after longtime volunteer Vernon Bush who dedicated thousands of hours to beautifying the park.

>> Read Next: National Fishing and Boating Week: Exploring National Water Trails

Wilson Creek Trail in McKinney, Texas: With nearly ten scenic miles to explore, Texas’ Wilson Creek Trail links Bonnie Wenk Park and Towne Lake Park. For adventurous four-legged friends, it also includes a special 0.44-mile dog park loop.

Old Favorites

We have hiked numerous trails including designated National Recreation Trails. Following are a few of our favorites.

Hiking Old Baldy Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Baldy Super Loop

State: Arizona

Location: Coronado National Forest near Madera Canyon

Length: 12.9 miles

Hiking Old Baldy Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: The trails form a figure eight making it possible to put together a number of different loops using different portions of each. Old Baldy is the most heavily traveled and also remains the cooler of the two by keeping a more northerly aspect and staying in the trees for almost its entire length.

Above the midpoint of the 8 at Josephine Saddle, the Super Trail loops around the south side of the mountain through more arid country while Old Baldy switchbacks through thickets of New Mexico locust on a west-facing slope to Baldy Saddle. The last mile to the summit of Mt. Wrightson via the Crest Trail #144 is the same no matter which trails you’ve followed to the saddle.

The views from the summit are, to say the least, breathtaking. Actually, you don’t even have to go all the way to the top to enjoy great views.

And while you’re at it, remember that all that’s worth seeing here is not in the distance. The birdwatcher’s heaven that exists in Madera Canyon extends up the mountain into this area where in addition to the birds you have a chance to see Coues white-tailed deer, black bears, and even mountain lions.

Angel of Goliad Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Angel of Goliad Trail

State: Texas

Location: Goliad

Length: 2 miles

Angel of Goliad Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: The Angel of Goliad Trail, a 2-mile hiking, bicycle, and pedestrian trail is handicapped-accessible with multiple entry points for selected distances. The trail took 10 years to complete and serves to link multiple historical sites in Goliad.

>> Read Next: Best Hikes for National Hiking Month

Named after Panchita Alavez, the Angel of Goliad as so designated by the survivors of the Goliad Massacre during the Texas Revolution on March 27, 1836 where Col. Fannin and 341 of his men who were captured by the Mexican forces at the Battle of Coleto and executed under direct orders of Santa Anna.

Panchita was the wife of the paymaster of the Mexican Army and was directly and solely responsible for saving at least 28 lives during several confrontations. Those lives were that of the brave men fighting for Texas Independence.

Many Winter Texans visit Goliad State Park and comment on the natural beauty of the trail in its serene setting. Goliad State Park encompasses the restored Mission Espiritu Santo, claimed to be the very first beginning of Cattle ranching in Texas during the Spanish missionary period.

Frances Beidler Forest Trail

Francis Beidler Forest Four Holes Swamp Trail

State: South Carolina

Location: National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest near Harleyville

Length: 1.75 miles

Frances Beidler Forest Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: The National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest located in Four Holes Swamp contains within its 18,000 acres the largest remaining stand of virgin Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gum swamp forest left anywhere in the world. The Beidler Forest has been recognized as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, a National Natural Landmark, an Important Bird Area, and a site on the Underground Railroad.

Wander along an elevated boardwalk past ancient trees, black water swamps, clear pools, and abundant wildlife. Thousand-year-old trees and native wildlife abound in this pristine sanctuary that has been untouched for millennia. The swamp is a birding paradise with some 140 species of bird documented on the sanctuary including nesting Prothonotary Warblers from April-July and Barred Owls present year-round. Reptiles are frequently seen on the boardwalk trail during the warm months.

A 1.75-mile self-guiding boardwalk trail allows visitors the chance to safely venture deep into the heart of the swamp and experience the peace and serenity that characterizes the area, hear the sounds of birds and bugs, and take a relaxing and informative walk back in time and see a swamp the way nature intended it to be.

Carlsbad Caverns © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns

State: New Mexico

Location: Underground trails at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Length: 4.2 miles

Carlsbad Caverns © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: The underground trail system in Carlsbad Cavern is 4.2 miles long and includes six interconnected tour routes with 2.61 miles of paved trail and 1.59 miles of flagged off-trail tour routes. The paved routes include the 1.25-mile-long Main Corridor, the 1.2-mile-long Big Room loop, and the 0.16-mile-long Kings Palace loop.

The Main Corridor is a self-guided tour that drops 750 feet from the Natural Entrance to the Big Room and takes about one hour to walk. This tour passes Bat Cave where several hundred thousand Brazilian Free-tailed bats roost between April and November. It then descends down the impressive Devils Pit and into a giant hall before passing Iceberg Rock, one of the largest breakdown blocks found in any cave and finally past the Boneyard, a mazy area that resembles a giant sponge.

>> Read Next: Best Places to Plan a Hiking Trip

The Big Room self-guided tour starts at the bottom of the elevator shaft and takes 1.5 hours to make a loop back to the elevator. This tour passes some of the most scenic and iconic places found in Carlsbad Cavern including the giant stalagmites in the Hall of Giants, the Chandelier, the Jumping off Place, the historic National Geographic Pit, Top of the Cross, Bottomless Pit, the impressive vista at Rock of Ages, and the beautiful Longfellows Bathtub, Painted Grotto, Dolls Theater, and Chinese Theater.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Freedom Trail

State: Massachusetts

Location: In Boston a 2.5 mile path along city sidewalks marked by a red line that connects 16 historic sites.

Length: 2.5 miles

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: To travel back to Revolutionary Boston—to understand the people, the events, and the ideals of the 18th century—is a great leap for us today. But the sites along the Freedom Trail do speak eloquently of that time. Bostonians and other colonists shared a notion of liberty that was precious and worth fighting for. The Freedom Trail sites include scenes of critical events in Boston and the nation’s struggle for freedom.

Most of the Boston National Historical Park sites are connected by the Freedom Trail. Recognized as a National Recreation Trail, the 2.5-mile trail is a walking tour of 16 sites and structures of historic importance in downtown Boston and Charlestown. Sixty-minute tours begin at the Visitor Center at historic Faneuil Hall and cover the heart of the Freedom Trail from the Old South Meeting House to the Old North Church. Tours leave at regular intervals in the spring, summer, and fall, weather permitting.

Worth Pondering…

As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

20 Top Things to Do in South Carolina

Quite simply, South Carolina has it all, y’all—and the state has delivered to visiting RVers with a friendly southern drawl

From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Midlands and the beaches and marshes of the Coast, South Carolina is full of natural beauty and historic gems. You’ll find a wide variety of attractions in the Palmetto State to explore including stately antebellum mansions, world-class golf courses, and sun-soaked beaches.

The Palmetto State contains many surprises. It’s the first state to open a library (1698) and its state fruit is the peach—it produces even more than Georgia. But beyond what you may not know about this coastal state, South Carolina has plenty of what you would expect from historic estates and cultural tours to gorgeous shorelines and its ever-present oak trees. It’s a state that blends old and new, land and sea.

With hundreds of years of history and postcard-perfect landscapes, South Carolina has something surprising in store for any RV traveler.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Charleston Historic District

Frequently ranked as one of America’s best places to visit, Charleston is known for its candy-colored historic homes, friendly vibe, and a skyline dotted with grand church spires. Take a guided tour or head out on your own to view architectural landmarks like Rainbow Row, the Gibbes Museum of Art, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, the city’s oldest church. Then grab provisions from a nearby market like Butcher & the Bee and head to the Battery to enjoy a picnic under majestic oak trees with waterfront views.

>> Get more tips for visiting Charleston

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Congaree National Park

Just 18 miles southeast of the state’s capital, Columbia, Congaree National Park contains the country’s largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest and one of the world’s largest concentrations of champion trees including a 167-foot point loblolly pine and 500-year-old cypress trees. Park highlights include the 2.6-mile Boardwalk Loop Trail which departs from the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and traverses through old-growth hardwood forest featuring bald cypress, tupelo, oak, and maple trees.

A marked canoe trail invites visitors to kayak or canoe their way through the park along Cedar Creek. More adventurous and experienced paddlers can take on the Congaree River Blue Trail, a designated 50-mile recreational paddling trail that stretches from Columbia to Congaree Park.  

>> Get more tips for visiting Congaree National Park

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Walterboro

Established in 1826, the City of Walterboro is hailed as the front porch of the Lowcountry with its historic charm, plentiful natural resources, and warm Southern hospitality. For those reminiscing about the warmth and familiarity of an authentic small town, Walterboro provides the perfect opportunity to step back through time.

Treasure-hunters love scouring the village’s dozen antique shops finding everything from high-end antiques to fun vintage souvenirs or shopping the Colleton Farmers Market for farm-fresh produce and delicious homemade food products. Nature lovers can take advantage of South Carolina’s year-round balmy weather and enjoy the quiet solitude of the ACE Basin and Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary (see below).

>> Get more tips for visiting Walterboro

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Hunting Island State Park

Located near historic Beaufort, four-mile-long Hunting Island is home to dense vegetation and wildlife making it the most natural of the Lowcountry Islands. Climb to the top of Hunting Island lighthouse to survey the palm-studded coastline. Bike the park’s trails through maritime forest to the nature center, fish off the pier, and go bird watching for herons, egrets, skimmers, oystercatchers, and wood storks.

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

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. King Street in Charleston

Once Charleston’s main thoroughfare, historic King Street bisects the peninsula from north to south. Its colorful buildings house restaurants, bars, and shops like Saks Fifth Avenue, Apple, and Anthropologie along with local gems like estate furniture shop George C. Birlant and Co., men’s clothier M. Dumas & Son, women’s ready-to-wear designer collective Hampden Clothing, family-owned fine jewelry store Croghan’s Jewel Box, and rare and used purveyors Blue Bicycle Books.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Edisto Island 

Edisto Island is a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations. Activities include touring Edisto Island, Edisto Island State Park (See below), the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation (see below).

>> Get more tips for visiting Edisto Island

Peachoid, Gaffney © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Gaffney

Southern charm makes Gaffney a desirable place to visit especially if your RV is a motorhome built on a Freightliner chassis. The Freightliner Custom Chassis Factory Service Center offers six service bays, 20 RV electric hookup, and factory-trained technicians. Be sure to visit the factory and see how the custom chassis is produced for the RV market.

And the Peachoid, a 135-foot structures that functions as one million gallon water tank is an iconic landmark that draws attention to one of the area’s major agricultural products.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Greenville

As the hub of South Carolina’s Upcountry region, Greenville has been finding its way onto many national Top Ten lists for its lively arts scene, modern downtown, and livability. Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls located in the heart of Falls Park (see below).

Crossing this urban oasis is the award-winning Liberty Bridge and its postcard-perfect photo ops. Shop up and down Augusta Road shopping district and marvel at all the public art that energizes this city.

>> Get more tips for visiting Greenville

St. Helena Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. St. Helena Island 

In the center of the island surrounded by Spanish moss-draped oak trees you’ll find the Penn Center, a 50-acre historic district comprising 25 historic buildings and structures. The Penn Center was one of the first schools in the country where formerly enslaved persons could receive an education. The center was visited by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s and continues to work toward preserving and celebrating Gullah culture to this day. Visitors can learn about African American history, art, and culture on self-guided tours and group tours.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Middleton Place

Home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens, Middleton Place is a former plantation and a National Historic Landmark. Only one part of the original house still stands and now functions as a museum complete with original furnishings.

The Plantation Stableyards are designed to give visitors a taste of 18th-19th century working plantation life and the beautiful 65 acres of gardens on the property have been planned so that there are flowers in bloom all year round. Interpretive tours of the various areas are offered for a fee and nature walks and guided kayak tours are also available.

Reedy Falls, Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Stroll through Falls Park on the Reedy

This stunning, 32-acre green space in Greenville’s historic West End is the ultimate urban oasis. Stroll along the walking trails to view landscaped gardens, public art installations, dramatic stonework, and a wall from the site’s original 18th-century grist mill.

For the city’s best views and the park’s namesake picturesque waterfalls, cross the 355-foot suspension Liberty Bridge, the longest single-sided bridge in the Western Hemisphere. After visiting the park, head to Passerelle Bistro to dine on French-inspired cuisine like escargot and crab cakes with a view.

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Founded by the Drayton family in 1676, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens has been open to visitors since 1870. It has been owned by the same family for more than three centuries and over the years they have carefully tended and added to the gardens.

There is also a beautiful plantation house on the property and guided tours are available for a small fee. Several other guided tours are offered as well, including a train tour, a boat tour, and a tour of the plantation’s slave cabins. The gardens are open 365 days a year, but hours vary according to the season.

Aububon Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Audubon Swamp Garden

The Audubon Swamp is a black water cypress and tupelo swamp that’s lovely, mysterious, and unique to this area. Once a freshwater reservoir used for rice cultivation the entire 60 acres is traversed by boardwalks, bridges, and dikes featuring all varieties of local mammals, birds, and reptiles including bald eagles, herons and egrets, otters, turtles and alligators. Allow at least 45 minutes for a self-guided walk. A 45-minute nature boat tour takes visitors through ancient rice fields.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Botany Bay Plantation

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront that you’ll never forget. Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto.

>> Get more tips for visiting Botony Bay

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Cowpens National Battlefield

On January 17, 1781, the Americans won a decisive battle against the better-trained British Army. The Battle of Cowpens was over in less than an hour. This battle was the event which started British General Cornwallis on his march north to his eventual surrender at Yorktown just nine months later. It was one of those special moments in time when destiny is forever changed. The march to Yorktown had begun.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cowpens National Battlefield

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Folly Beach

Folly Beach is one of America’s last true beach towns. Just minutes from historic downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a 12 square mile barrier island that is packed with things to do, see, and eat. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Folly River, visitors enjoy six miles of wide beaches, surfing, fishing, biking, kayaking, boating, and eco-tours. Folly Island was named after its coastline which was once densely packed with trees and undergrowth: the Old English name for such an area was folly.

Peace Center, Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. The Peace Center

The Peace Center is situated in the heart of Greenville’s downtown area and is largely considered the upstate’s cultural hub. The multipurpose venue is capable of seating 2,100 people in its concert hall, 1,400 people in its amphitheater, and 400 people in its theater. It has event spaces, rehearsal spaces, different stages, and more, making it incredibly versatile for acts of all kinds.

Jazz, Broadway, musical concerts, comedy, political events, and celebrity acts all arrive here to take the stage. There’s also the South Carolina Children’s Theater and the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, which call the Peace Center their home. With all its variety, there’s no surprise that watching a show here is one of the top things to do in South Carolina.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Frances Beidler Forest

Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from around the world, Audubon’s 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Frances Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem untouched for millennia. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk.

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

19. Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary

There is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of Walterboro. Easily reached from I-95, the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary (formerly the Great Swamp Sanctuary), is a great place to leave the traffic behind, stretch your legs, and enjoy nature. Located within the ACE Basin, the East Coast’s largest estuarine preserve, the sanctuary contains a network of boardwalks, hiking, biking, and canoe trails that are perfect for viewing a diversity of a black water bottomland habitat. The 3.5-mile loop is paved and well maintained.

>> Get more tips for visiting Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Edisto Beach State Park

Located on Edisto Island, Edisto Beach State Park is one of four oceanfront parks in South Carolina. Its 1.25-mile public beach is ideal for swimmers and beachcombers—and also a nesting site for loggerhead turtles.

The state park is situated neatly between a salt marsh and the beach making it possible to hear the waves lapping at the shore regardless of whether you’re staying in an RV, tent, or cabin. Located in the town of Edisto Beach, it’s just a short walk or bike ride from the grocery store, gas station, restaurants, and shops.

The park has an impressive array of camping sites in oceanfront and maritime forest habitats and most can accommodate RVs, some up to 40 feet. There are 64 oceanside sites and 33 sites along the salt marsh. Many sites offer easy access to the sea, sand, and sun. There is also a restroom and showering facility on the premises.

>> Get more tips for visiting Edisto Beach State Park

Worth Pondering…

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

10 Amazing Places to RV in April 2022

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in April

The only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough.

—Ted Hughes

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

English poet Ted Hughes is best known for his stark, no-frills writing on the natural world which explores the inherent wild nature of both animals and humans. Hughes wrote numerous poetry collections and children’s books and is also remembered as the husband of the renowned writer Sylvia Plath. Hughes’ words here remind us that taking risks is an essential part of living. With every chance we take, we make ourselves vulnerable to failure and hurt. But at the end of the day, we’re more likely to regret a life lived too cautiously to be enjoyed fully.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So whether you’re thinking of renting an RV or getting your RV ready for the road, here are 10 prime choices for an April getaway around the country. As always, check the locations’ policies and hours before you travel—but most of all, get out and live life to the full—in an RV!

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in February and March. Also, check out my recommendations from April 2021.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Caves, condors, and hiking

Caves, condors, and camping are the big draws at Pinnacles which became a national park in 2013. The park gets its name from towering, domed rock structures that seem to bulge out of the earth. Located east of the Salinas Valley, it’s the perfect place to enjoy natural wonder that still feels a bit off the beaten path.

Pinnacles National Park is divided into two sides—east and west—and there is no way to drive through the park from one side to the other (although you can cross the park on foot, a roughly 5-mile hike). 

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The extremely endangered California condor is the park’s signature bird: With its nine-foot wingspan and bald head, these impressive creatures are a sight to behold. Bring your binoculars and stay on the lookout for these prehistoric-looking scavengers as well as nearly 200 other distinct species including turkey vultures, hawks, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons.

Pinnacles National Park offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails, hundreds of rock climbing routes, and two talus caves to explore: the Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave.

King Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

King Ranch

The King Ranch is the largest ranch in the great state of Texas, 825,000 acres spread over 1,289 square miles and founded in 1853 by Capt. Richard King and Gideon K. Lewis.

King Ranch tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of the King Ranch reads like one of those magazines at the grocery store checkout stand: a rough and tough lifestyle of economic highs, depressions, and then a strong economic recovery. Heck, there was even a gentleman killed for messing around with another man’s wife. We are talking about real soap opera stuff here.

Caracara on King Ranch Nature tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But King Ranch’s real claim to fame is the livestock that was developed through a very selective merging of bloodlines to create a better breed. The King Ranch had been herding its lanky Longhorns to the railyards to get them to the markets in Chicago and other parts of the country. If you have ever seen one of these Longhorns up close you realize the steaks that would come off this breed would probably be pretty lean and tough as shoe leather. The Longhorn with its huge rack of horns is independent, hard to get along with and pretty much a loner.

King Ranch tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ranch provided an environment that was conducive to creating a carefully crafted mix of Braham and Beef Shorthorn they call the Santa Gertrudis. This new breed of hearty beef cattle has ease of calving, excellent mothering skills, can tolerate the South Texas heat, and is parasite resistant.

King Ranch tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though King Ranch quarter horses are vital to King Ranch’s day-to-day operations and are seen by thousands of visitors that tour the ranch each year, they also hold an important place in King Ranch history. Visit the King Ranch Museum to experience how King Ranch Quarter Horses are an integral part of King Ranch’s heritage, the Cutting Horse industry, and the American Quarter Horse Association alike in the special exhibit, From OLD SORREL to THE BOON: The History of the King Ranch Quarter Horses.

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

The King Ranch offers Daily Ranch Tours, Special Interest Tours, Nature Tours, and Motor Coach Tours for larger groups.

Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AZ Poppy Fest

Experience the vibrant poppy bloom the first weekend of April. Golden poppies are just starting to turn their faces to the sun all over the beautiful hills and neighborhoods of Globe-Miami, Roosevelt Lake, and Peridot Mesa. Enjoy the warmth and beauty of this spectacle April 1-3, 2022. Events will be held in the Roosevelt Lake area Friday, April 1. Globe will hold a Downtown event on Saturday, April 2. San Carlos will hold its second annual event on Sunday, April 3.

Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Celebrate spring as you feast your eyes on the natural beauty of poppy-covered hillsides throughout the region. Vendors, restaurants, and businesses offer poppy-themed items and the photo opportunities will be unmatched.

The AZ Poppy Fest includes guided hikes, local deals, and a variety of vendors plus poppy-themed eats, art shows, and lectures.

Besh-Ba-Gowah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While in Globe visit Besh-Ba-Gowah, the heartland of the Salado people. The term was originally given by the Apaches to the early settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means “place of metal.” Here visitors will see the partially restored ancient ruin of the Salado people who occupied the site between A.D. 1225 and A.D. 1400. Enjoy the self guided tour of the village which allows visitors to experience the mysteries of those who came before.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg was once the capital of Virginia, the largest and most influential colony in the budding republic. The restored version of Colonial Williamsburg has provided the public with a detailed, vibrant re-creation of this city with the opportunity to travel back in time amid 88 rebuilt homes, taverns, restaurants, and shops.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience the grandeur of royal authority in Virginia just before its collapse in the Revolution. The Governor’s Palace, home to seven royal governors and the first two elected governors in Virginia, was built to impress visitors with a display of authority and wealth.

Colonial Williamsburg is part of the Historic Triangle, which also includes Jamestown and Yorktown. Each of these sites has its own unique features and historical significance.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Historic Jamestowne, the site of the original 1607 settlement, explore the Glasshouse to learn about America’s earliest industries, see ongoing archaeological discoveries of the fort, and view thousands of artifacts unearthed on display in the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium. At Jamestown Settlement, explore a world-class living history museum that re-creates life in the Jamestown colony.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

See where American independence was won at the Yorktown Battlefield, administered by the National Park Service as part of the Colonial National Historical Park. Start at the Visitor Center and see the orientation film and museum exhibits including the field tents used by General Washington during the battle. Join a Ranger for a guided walking tour of the battlefield and 18th-century town.

Montezuma Castle © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montezuma Castle

Although Montezuma Castle National Monument is a small site, its history runs deep. Located in the Verde Valley 25 miles south of Sedona, it was established in 1906 to preserve Indigenous American culture. The compact site almost feels like a diorama of an ancient village built by the Sinagua people who inhabited the valley as far back as 650.

Sycamore along Beaver Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A short pathway lined with sycamores and catclaw mimosa trees leads to the limestone cliff where a 20-room building peeks out from above. Built by the Sinagua people in around 1050, the castle is a well-preserved example of architectural ingenuity. The placement of rooms on the south-facing cliff helps regulate summer and winter temperatures. Its elevated location provides protection from Beaver Creek’s annual flooding, plus it functions as a lookout. 

Montezuma Well © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive 11 miles north to see the Montezuma Well which is part of the national monument. Along with the limestone sinkhole, cliff dwellings, and irrigation channels are characteristic of the prehistoric people who have lived in the area, dating back to 11,000 CE. The water in the well which is 386 feet across has high levels of arsenic and other chemicals, but it still supports endemic species such as water scorpions, snails, mud turtles, and leeches.

Savannah River Front © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indulge in the Richness of Savannah

Savannah always has something to discover from food to arts, culture, and history. The Plant Riverside District is the new must-see area of River Street with dozens of shops, and restaurants, along with live entertainment and experiences. The JW Marriott Plant Riverside is spread across three buildings with two rooftop bars and a museum-quality collection of minerals and fossils.

Savannah City Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The City Market District has the city’s best shopping for unique gifts, restaurants, and cafes, as well as the American Prohibition Museum, which has its own speakeasy.

Related: The Ultimate RV Travel Bucket List: 51 Best Places to Visit in North America

Savannah has endless options for delicious meals. Grab a reservation at The Grey, an award-winning restaurant located in a restored Greyhound Bus Terminal. Sister restaurant The Grey Market is a more casual experience. Finish off your day with a sweet treat at Leopold’s, a retro ice cream parlor.

Benson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roam Cochise

Amid picturesque river-valley views, agreeable weather, and the Home of Kartchner Caverns State Park, the City of Benson is ideally situated along Interstate-10 as the Gateway to Cochise County. The Benson Visitor Center—Train Depot is a beautiful replica railroad depot using many of the same architectural features as the original depot that was built over a century ago. Head out from the Visitor’s Center and begin the Mural Walking Tour, a fun look at 42 hand-painted.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take in the ambiance of Douglas—home to the first international airport—as you enjoy the Border Air Museum and Art Car Museum. The 1907 Gadsden Hotel was named after the historically significant Gadsden Purchase; a purchase of 30,000 square miles from Mexico made in 1853 for 10 million dollars, negotiated by James Gadsden, who was then the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. The land purchase was to ensure territorial rights for a practical southern railroad route to the pacific coast. We can now only imagine how Arizona was before it was a state and at a time when Wyatt Earp, Geronimo, and Pancho Villa rode roughshod over the West.

Queen Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of Bisbee’s most magnificent architectural achievements is the countless concrete stairs that cling to the steep canyon sides. You can find these stairs all over town. While you’re at it, explore the heritage and culture along Subway Street.

Tour the Queen Mine, one of the most productive copper mines of the 20th century. Don the mining lanterns, hats and slickers of the miners, ride the mine train deep into the mine, and search for remaining veins of copper, gold, turquoise, silver, lead, and zinc.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Last, but not least, hitch a ride aboard a Tombstone Stage Coach in the Town Too Tough To Die.

Then, watch a reenactment of The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a 30-second gunfight between outlaw Cowboys and lawmen that is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Wild West.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hike and Paddle through Ancient Beidler Forest

The Francis Beidler Forest preserves one of the last large virgin stands of bald cypress-tupelo gum swamp in the United States. A significant number of rare and unusual plants and animals are found in this unique natural area. Its five major community types provide habitat for an extremely rich diversity of species.

Related: Get in your RV and Go! Scenic Drives in America

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of an 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary owned and managed by the National Audubon Society, Francis Beidler Forest boasts the largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest in the world. The 3,408-acre pristine ecosystem features thousand-year-old trees and a rich diversity of species.

Francis Beidler Forest offer two trails, the old growth virgin forest cypress tupelo swamp boardwalk and the newer grassland-woodland trail.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now’s your chance to paddle in the still blackwater of a primeval swamp and experience nature as it existed a thousand years ago. The water level is up in Francis Beidler Forest this time of year making it possible to navigate through the largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress and tupelo gum trees in the world.

Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

BBQ Capital of Texas

In 2003, the Texas Legislature proclaimed Lockhart the barbecue capital of Texas. Come hungry—there are four barbecue restaurants in town with menus that range from brisket to sausage and turkey. The oldest is Kreuz Market which opened in 1900 and is famous for not serving barbecue sauce. In 1999, owner Rick Schmidt moved the business to the current location, while his sister, Nina Schmidt Sells, continued ownership of the original building and opened it as Smitty’s Market. (Smitty’s does have sauce, but you have to ask for it.)

Black’s Barbecue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Opened in 1932, Black’s Barbecue is one of the oldest barbecue restaurants in the state owned and continuously operated by the same family. (In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson had their sausage flown directly to Washington, D.C. to be served at the U.S. Capitol.) Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que is the newcomer to town, opening in 1978 after owner Floyd Wilhelm sold his fishing boat to start the restaurant. Both Chisholm and Black’s have the largest variety of side dishes from macaroni and cheese to fried okra.

Caldwell County Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In between eating, be sure to stroll by the photogenic 1894 Caldwell County Courthouse, a three-story building made from Muldoon limestone with red Pecos sandstone trim. Another must-see attraction is Texas Hatters, a family-owned custom hat shop that’s fitted celebrities ranging from Willie Nelson to Robert Duvall. Stop by to see third-generation master hatter Joella Gammage Torres at work using the same techniques (and tools) her father and grandfather used.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park

Located in Oro Valley, at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, this nearly 5,500-acre park is home to thousands of saguaro cacti, other desert plants, canyons, and streams. Designated an Important Birding Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society, the park is home to more than 150 species of birds and several nature trails varying in length and difficulty.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park is a convenient place to stay near Tucson, offering 120 electric and water sites for RV and tent camping (each with picnic tables and grills, and access to flush restrooms and hot showers). One of the most visited parks in Arizona, Catalina is known for its stunning views and clean showers—but campers are advised to be on the lookout for camel spiders; although they’re harmless to humans, the scary-looking arachnids like to lurk in bathrooms and scare unsuspecting visitors. 

Worth Pondering…

April is a promise that May is bound to keep.

—Hal Borland

Hike and Paddle through Ancient Beidler Forest

One thousand year-old trees and native wildlife abound in this pristine sanctuary that has been untouched for millennia

The Francis Beidler Forest harbors one of the last large virgin stands of bald cypress-tupelo gum swamp in the United States. A significant number of rare and unusual plants and animals are found in this unique natural area. Its five major community types provide habitat for an extremely rich diversity of species.

Frances Beidler © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of an 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary owned and managed by the National Audubon Society, Francis Beidler Forest boasts the largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest in the world. The 3,408-acre pristine ecosystem features thousand-year-old trees and extremely rich diversity of species including Prothonotary warblers that nest in the cavities of cypress tree knees.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The forest is part of the Four Holes Swamp, a 45,000-acre matrix of black water sloughs and lakes, shallow bottomland hardwoods, and deep bald cypress and tupelo gum flats. A 1.75-mile boardwalk offers visitors the chance to walk through this unique and wild sanctuary. The Audubon Society also offers daytime bird walks, night walks, and two-hour kayak and canoe trips through the blackwater swamp in March, April, and May when the water level is high.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Francis Beidler Forest is located about an hour from Charleston and Columbia off Interstate 26 in Santee Cooper Country.

Related: South Carolina Has It All

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hike through Ancient Beidler Forest

Francis Beidler Forest offers two trails, the old-growth virgin forest cypress-tupelo swamp boardwalk, and the newer grassland-woodland trail. Pets and bikes are not allowed on either trail.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A 1.75-mile self-guided boardwalk trail (handicapped accessible) allows visitors the chance to safely venture deep into the heart of the swamp…to see it the way nature intended.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The new trail system meanders through Longleaf Pine, grassland, and woodland habitats being restored by Audubon South Carolina. Free to the public and open from sunrise to sunset, the new trails give visitors the opportunity to explore a new section of the sanctuary. The diverse habitat attracts birds and other wildlife not typically seen on the Beidler Forest boardwalk such as painted buntings, indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, loggerhead shrikes, eastern bluebirds, purple martins, and many sparrow species.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parking for the trail is located only a few feet from the Beidler Forest gate off Mim’s Road. Be sure to watch the bird feeders for buntings, woodpeckers, and sparrows.

Related: 40 Things Only Southerners Will Understand

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Naturalist-guided walks and programs also are available seasonally and by reservation.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paddle through Ancient Beidler Forest

Now’s your chance to paddle in the still blackwater of a primeval swamp and experience nature as it existed a thousand years ago. The water level is up in Francis Beidler Forest this time of year making it possible to navigate through the largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress and tupelo gum trees in the world.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Francis Beidler Forest is one of only two old-growth floodplain forests remaining in the state. The other is at Congaree National Park
When the water level in the floodplain is high enough, the Audubon Center offers guided canoe trips through this ancient forest located within the Four Holes Swamp.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trips are offered on a regular basis Friday through Sunday. Four-hour trips are scheduled each of the three days at 1 p.m.; two-hour trips are available at 9 a.m. Saturdays.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tours start from a remote landing on Mellard Lake, one of the swamp’s “holes”. Paddling through this open section of blackwater, surrounded by dense, undisturbed vegetation, you’ll feel totally removed from the rest of the world.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After just a few minutes, you’ll enter the woods, thick with 100-foot bald cypress and tupelo gum trees. It’s not unusual to see a variety of wildlife from yellow-bellied slider turtles to brown water snakes to Prothonotary warblers.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware, paddling through the swamp can be a bit tricky, especially at lower water levels. It helps to have some kayaking experience to maneuver through the floodplain’s narrow passages. In the spring, you’ll want to steer clear of trees covered with Poison Ivy. But it’s a trip unlike any other in the Lowcountry and so worth the navigational challenges.

Related: 5 Things I Learned While RVing The American South

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cost is $30 for adults ($15 for children 8 to 12) for the four-hour excursion; $20 for adults ($10 for children 6 to 12) for the two-hour trip. The price for the tour also includes admission to the Beidler Forest boardwalk.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reservations are required in advance. These trips are popular, so you’ll want to book early.

Worth Pondering…

As the leaves of the trees are said to absorb all noxious qualities of the air, and to breathe forth a purer atmosphere, so it seems to me as if they drew from us all sordid and angry passions, and breathed forth peace and philanthropy. There is a severe and settled majesty in woodland scenery that enters into the soul, dilates and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.

—Washington Irving (1783-1859), American writer

Spotlight on South Carolina: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina

Quite simply, South Carolina has it all, y’all—and the state has delivered to visiting RVers with a friendly southern drawl. From the Upcountry mountains through the vibrant Midlands and to the Lowcountry coast, the Palmetto State beckons with a wave that signals everyone’s welcome—come on down.

South Carolina is a state of variety with beautiful beaches, remote islands, charming cities and towns, watery wilderness, great golf, interesting history, rolling hills and mountains, and much more.

There isn’t a single amazing thing about South Carolina. There are about ten zillion. So start poking around and figure out what to put at the top of your list.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Established in 1670, today’s city was built starting in 1680 and named for the King of England and known as Charles Town. The fifth largest city in North America in 1690, it became well-known for trade and a hub of the rice and indigo markets that South Carolina cultivated.  The city’s streets and parks are not much changed from these colonial days. Beautiful Georgian homes still line many of the streets and walking the streets is like walking into old colonial America. Spires from the various churches in the city punctuate the skyline and many date to colonial days.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island 

Edisto Island is a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations. Activities include touring Edisto Island, Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation (See below).

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park

Swampy land may not be the first place on your list to roam but Congaree National Park is beautiful in its own way. The park preserves the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. Congaree is the last of the hardwood forests that once stretched across the eastern US. The park has one of the highest concentrations of champion trees in the world. Champion trees are the largest trees of its specific specimen and Congaree holds 15 of them.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walterboro

Established in 1826, the City of Walterboro is hailed as the “front porch of the Lowcountry” with its historic charm, plentiful natural resources, and warm Southern hospitality. For those reminiscing about the warmth and familiarity of an authentic small town, Walterboro provides the perfect opportunity to step back through time. Treasure-hunters love scouring the village’s dozen antique shops finding everything from high-end antiques to fun vintage souvenirs or shopping the Colleton Farmers Market for farm-fresh produce and delicious homemade food products. Nature lovers can take advantage of South Carolina’s year-round balmy weather and enjoy the quiet solitude of the ACE Basin and Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary (see below).

Gafney Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gaffney

Southern charm makes Gaffney a desirable place to visit especially if your RV is a motorhome built on a Freightliner chassis. The Freightliner Custom Chassis Factory Service Center offers six service bays, 20 RV electric hookup, and factory-trained technicians. Be sure to visit the factory and see how the custom chassis is produced for the RV market. And the Peachoid, a 135-foot structures that functions as one million gallon water tank, is an iconic landmark that draws attention to one of the area’s major agricultural products.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park

Located near historic Beaufort, four-mile-long Hunting Island is home to dense vegetation and wildlife making it the most natural of the Lowcountry Islands. Climb to the top of Hunting Island lighthouse to survey the palm-studded coastline. Bike the park’s trails through maritime forest to the nature center, fish off the pier, and go bird watching for herons, egrets, skimmers, oystercatchers, and wood storks.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greenville

As the hub of South Carolina’s Upcountry region, Greenville has been finding its way onto many national Top Ten lists for its lively arts scene, modern downtown, and livability. Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls, located in the heart of Falls Park. Liberty Bridge serves as Greenville’s signature postcard setting, and downtown’s extensive collection of public artwork adds beauty and energy to its public spaces.  

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cowpens National Battlefield

On January 17, 1781, the Americans won a decisive battle against the better-trained British Army. The Battle of Cowpens was over in less than an hour. This battle was the event which started British General Cornwallis on his march north to his eventual surrender at Yorktown just nine months later. It was one of those special moments in time when destiny is forever changed. The march to Yorktown had begun.

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folly Beach

Folly Beach is one of America’s last true beach towns. Just minutes from historic downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a 12 square mile barrier island that is packed with things to do, see, and eat. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Folly River, visitors enjoy six miles of wide beaches, surfing, fishing, biking, kayaking, boating, and eco-tours. Folly Island was named after its coastline which was once densely packed with trees and undergrowth: the Old English name for such an area was “Folly.”

Botony Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Plantation

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront that you’ll never forget. Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto.

Francis Beidler Forest

Frances Beidler Forest

Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from around the world, Audubon’s 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Frances Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem untouched for millennia. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk.

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary

There is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of Walterboro. Easily reached from I-95, the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary (formerly the Great Swamp Sanctuary), is a great place to leave the traffic behind, stretch your legs, and enjoy nature. Located within the ACE Basin, the East Coast’s largest estuarine preserve, the sanctuary contains a network of boardwalks, hiking, biking, and canoe trails that are perfect for viewing a diversity of a black water bottomland habitat. The 3.5-mile loop is paved and well maintained.

Worth Pondering…

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

Ultimate Road Trip of Discovery to Uncover Unique National Natural Landmarks

Discover 16 awe-inspiring natural wonders

Planning your RV road trip routes for the year already? You may want to consider squeezing in at least one natural landmark into the itinerary. In January, Former Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt named three new sites as national natural landmarks. Their addition brings the number of national natural landmarks in the United States and Territories to 602, a milestone for the National Park Service’s National Natural Landmarks Program. These sites are located in West Virginia, Colorado, and California:

  • Bear Rocks and Allegheny Front Preserve, West Virginia: The most distinctive feature of the preserve is the rocky, high-altitude plateau. The landscape includes wind-swept and stunted spruce trees, low-lying heath shrubs, rocky outcrops, and bogs. 
  • Sulphur Cave and Spring, Colorado: Amazingly, this highly toxic environment of hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide gases is home to a flourishing ecological community. People cannot enter the cave due to its toxic air but visitors can learn more about the landmark at the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs.
  • Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes, California: Located west of Arcata the coastal dunes are seemingly untouched keeping much of the features that once thrived on the west coast. Besides dunes, the site includes beaches, dune forest islands, salt marshes, deflation plain swales, freshwater marshes, and brackish wetlands.

We’ve explored America by RV and found these 13 national natural landmarks you’re sure to enjoy.

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary, Arizona

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary is a good example of a cottonwood-willow riparian forest and is one of the last permanent stream-bottom habitat areas in southern Arizona. The site retains a substantial part of the indigenous aquatic biota including the endangered Gila topminnow. The birdlife includes several Mexican species and is the only known nesting site in the country for the rare rose-throated becard.

Ramsey Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ramsey Canyon, Arizona

Ramsey Canyon is a stream-cut, vertical-sided gorge. Cold air drainage from the upper canyon results in a well-defined microclimatic habitat that supports Mexican flora and fauna and plants that normally occur only at higher elevations. The site is also frequented by more species of hummingbirds than any other area in the United States.

Sandhill cranes on Willcox Playa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Willcox Playa, Arizona

Willcox Playa, the largest “dry lake” in Arizona is a remnant of the pluvial Lake Cochise. Unlike similar dry lakes, the black mud below the surface contains a rich fossil pollen record of the pluvial periods of the Pleistocene. The site has become a night-time roosting area for 4,000-8,000 sandhill cranes and contains the greatest diversity of tiger beetles in the United States.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Florida

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary contains a wide variety of habitats including pond cypress, wet prairie, pineland, and the largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress in North America. The sanctuary supports the largest wood stork rookery in the United States and is important for several other endangered species.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

Okefenokee Swamp, located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, is one of the largest and most primitive swamps in the country. It contains a diversity of ecosystems and is a refuge for native flora and fauna including many uncommon, threatened, and endangered species.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bitter Lake Group, New Mexico

Located within the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the Bitter Lake Group contains more than 30 natural sinkhole depressions formed by solution of gypsum-bearing rocks. The highly saline artesian lakes provide habitat for the only inland occurrence of a marine alga and two rare fish species. The site offers one of the best examples of undisturbed shrub-grassland and the process of succession and restoration to natural conditions following a disturbance.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree River Swamp, South Carolina

The Congaree River Swamp is the most extensive, mature cypress-gum swamp and bottomland hardwood forest complex in South Carolina. Located within Congaree National Park, the site provides a sanctuary for wildlife.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Francis Beidler Forest, South Carolina

The Francis Beidler Forest harbors one of the last large virgin stands of bald cypress-tupelo gum swamp in the United States. A significant number of rare, unusual or range extensions for plants and animals occurs in this unique natural area. Its five major community types provide habitat for an extremely rich diversity of species.

Cathedral Spires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cathedral Spires and Limber Pine Natural Area, South Dakota

Cathedral Spires and Limber Pine Natural Area, located within Custer State Park, is an excellent, rare example of joint-controlled weathering of granite. The site also supports a disjunct relict stand of limber pine. Commonly referred to as the Needles, it is a popular area for rock climbers.

Caverns of Sonora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Caverns of Sonora, Texas

The Caverns of Sonora contains unusual formations such as bladed helictites and coralloid growths and is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves on the planet. The Cavern is over seven and a half miles long but only two miles of trails are developed for tours. There are five levels of the cave that vary in depth form 20 feet to 180 feet below the surface.

Enchanted Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enchanted Rock, Texas

Enchanted Rock, located within Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, is one of the largest rock mountains in the United States. It is a classic illustration of a batholith and of the exfoliation process. The coarse-grained pink granite is massive and uniform in composition and texture and is some of the oldest igneous rock known in North America. The massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas has drawn people for thousands of years. But there’s more at Enchanted Rock than just the dome. The scenery, rock formations, and legends are magical, too!

Blanco River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little Blanco River Bluff, Texas

Little Blanco River Bluff is an unspoiled example of the natural assemblage of flora characterizing the limestone bluff communities of the Edwards Plateau. The site supports diverse flora, including an estimated 250 species in 25 families.

Ibis at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Spanish moss drapes from trees and noisy chachalacas welcome the morning dawn as a malachite butterfly floats out from the shadows. Step into a rare tropical world at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a living museum of the lowland forested area of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The refuge’s jungle-like vegetation provides habitat for over 400 species of birds and about one half of all butterfly species found in the United States.

Worth Pondering…

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

—John Muir

Best Parks and Gardens to Connect with Nature

Parks and gardens are ideal destinations for picnics, enjoying the outdoors, and simply taking time to relax and enjoy nature

In an earlier article I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods including enjoying nature.

From an ancient forest and coastal wetlands to a botanical garden and desert oasis, here are eight of our favorite parks and gardens for enjoying nature.

Frances Beider Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frances Beider Forest, Harleyville, South Carolina

Feel the beauty and serenity of this ancient forest. Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from all over the world, this 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Audubon’s Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk. Paddle the flowing blackwater under towering 1,000-year-old cypress trees. Wildlife is plentiful and varied.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas

Lady Bird Johnson was the First Lady who championed the planting of wildflowers along Texas highways. Her passion was not only for wildflowers but native plants of all kinds. So it’s fitting that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is both a showplace for beautiful plants and a botanical research center. The public botanical garden introduces visitors to the beauty of wildflowers and other native plants and natural landscapes through experience and education. There are 284 acres of gardens, savannas, and woodlands including the Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden, the sprawling South Meadow, and the Erma Lowe Hill Country Stream.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo, natural history museum, aquarium, and botanical garden all in one place. Founded in 1952, 85 percent of the Desert Museum is outdoors and primarily a walking experience. Located just west of Tucson, it features 2 miles of walking paths traversing 21 acres of desert landscape. The Desert Museum’s 98 acres host 230 animal species—including prairie dogs, coyotes, Gila monster, and mountain lion—and 1,200 local plant species (totaling 56,000 individual plants). This highly acclaimed Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum deserves all the accolades that it receives.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With over 15,000 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone, no matter what your interest. At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees. Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads, or bicycle around the Arboretum. Over 40 miles of trails weave their way through the forest at Bernheim.

Desert Botanical Gardens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

You’ll never look at cacti the same way again after visiting the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden. In this environment, every plant represents stunning beauty. Five marked trails, such as the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, capitalize on views (whether of mountains or flowers) and fragrances. Learn how native ancestors and current ethnic groups survived in the desert climate by traveling along the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail which documents Hispanic, Tohono O’odham, and Western Apache people’s connection to plants. The Desert Botanical Garden is located in Papago Park in central Phoenix.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island. The 4,600-acre preserve includes three miles of undeveloped beachfront. This wildlife management area exhibits many characteristics common to sea islands along the southeast coast: pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands, and a barrier island with a beachfront. Only this tract has been left undisturbed.

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park, Superior, Arizona

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, tucked into the foothills of Picketpost Mountain near Superior is a state park like no other. The Arboretum is home to hundreds of species of desert loving plants from around Arizona and other parts of the world. This venerable “Arizona oasis” has nearly three miles of paths and trails winding through colorful gardens, woodlands, and native riparian habitat. Founded in 1924 by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson, the Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden and offers over 323 acres to explore.

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary, Walterboro, South Carolina

There is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of the historic and picturesque city of Walterboro, South Carolina. Easily reached from I-95, the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to leave the traffic behind, stretch your legs, and enjoy nature. Located within the ACE Basin, the East Coast’s largest estuarine preserve, the 600- acre Sanctuary features a network of boardwalks, hiking, biking, and canoe trails that are perfect for viewing a diversity of a black water bottomland habitat.

Worth Pondering…

We can never have enough of nature.

—Henry David Thoreau