Summer 2024 in Arizona: 106 fun ways to survive the 100-degree heat

It’s a dry heat but Arizona is still hot: here’s some ways to cool off

Hello, triple-digit temperatures!

It’s been hot in Arizona since May thanks to a heat dome but now that the official first day of summer 2024 has come and gone you may be needing ideas on how to survive the Sonoran Desert heat.

Those who live in—or spend time in—the desert have two options for coping with triple-digit temps: finding ways to have fun indoors or outdoors or getting out of town.

Whichever way you roll (in your RV) I’ve got you covered.

Don’t let those high temperatures deter you from doing fun stuff this summer. Here’s a list of 106 fun things to do this summer to beat the Arizona heat.

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Let’s start with the obvious: Pools, waterparks, and splash pads are the first things to think about when it comes to summer.

2. And while we’re on the subject of bodies of water, Arizona actually has a surprising number of sandy beaches where you can swim. I’m totally for real—check them out below.

3. Salt River Tubing has been a summer tradition since the 1980s.

4. With hundreds of miles of shoreline, Lake Powell harbors countless remote beaches amid a colorful labyrinth of canyons. There are even a few beaches that don’t require a boat.

5. Tucked away amid the rolling hills of southern ArizonaPatagonia Lake State Park is a shimmering oasis in the high desert. And since water is scarce around these parts, the 265-acre reservoir draws summer visitors from all across southern Arizona looking to cool off.

6. Four state parks cling to the edge of the Colorado River between Parker and Lake Havasu City accessed from State Route 95. Buckskin Mountain straddles a picturesque section of river, a beautiful combination of stony mountains and sparkling water.

7. Nearby River Island State Park nestles in a sloping bowl at the base of stark mountains that rise from the riverbank. An intimate beach sits next to the boat ramp and just beyond the campground with a grassy lawn that’s perfect for tents.

8. Hugging the southern edge of Lake Havasu, Cattail Cove State Park protects a long piece of scenic shoreline. Swimming is allowed in the roped-off area adjacent to the beach. 

9. Lake Havasu City also has free public beaches. Rotary Beach is a 40-acre park with picnic areas, barbecue grills, multiple play areas, a skate park, and designated swim area. Its location inside the 5 mph no-wake zone of Thompson Bay makes for calm waters.

Colorado River in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Yuma has done an amazing job cleaning up and revamping its waterfront in an effort to reconnect to the Colorado River. Gateway Park was part of that development. Sitting at the end of Madison Avenue the park has picnic ramadas, a grassy area, playground, fishing piers, and a sandy beach with a gradual entry into the water. Located under the Ocean to Ocean Bridge the span provides a swath of welcome shade.

11. Popular with anglers, Roper Lake State Park has 5 miles of trails, cabins, a campground, and a picnic area.

12. For those uninterested in being out during daylight hours summer provides the perfect opportunity to catch up on all the shows. Lucky for you, Season 3 of Bridgerton is out on Netflix.

13. Also in TV news, Season 6 of Love Island USA is airing weekly on Peacock.

14. If you do want to leave the house for entertainment take advantage of summer movie deals at AMC Theatres, Harkins Theatres, and Cinemark.

15. Want to learn something this summer? The Poozeum is an extraordinary FREE museum and gift shop located in Williams. You can immense yourself in the fascinating world of coprolites or fossilized poop at Arizona’s most unusual new museum where while indulging in an experience that goes beyond the ordinary—it’s instructive entertainment at its finest and is suitable for visitors of all ages.

16. Speaking of museums, Tucson’s Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum just recently won the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service due to their excellence in service to the community. So, it’s definitely worth checking out.

17. Plus, the Phoenix Art Museum offers “Pay-What-You-Wish Wednesdays” from 3-9 p.m. for general admission with special exhibition tickets being $10 for adults and $5 for anyone under the age of 18.

18. Want to save some money while soaking up all this knowledge? The Act One Culture Pass gives free admission to museums around Arizona. All you need is a library card.

19. Too hot to golf outdoors? Hone your skills at TeeBox Indoor Golf Club in Cave Creek. It has 11 simulator bays with the latest training technology plus a restaurant and bar.

20. If you’re going shopping, pick one of the many retail emporiums with misters lining the walking areas. A favorite is Tempe Marketplace which also has a splash pad for the kiddos and boba tea, ice cream, and frozen yogurt shops to keep you cool. It’s a win/win/win.

21. For the perfect family-friendly day outing the Arizona Boardwalk near Scottsdale has a ton of fun activities including a brand-new attraction: the Boardwalk Carousel.

22. Another way to stay cool is to go bar hopping and Arizona has so many cool bars and I bet you haven’t been to them all. See how many new ones you can make it to by the end of summer.

23. Don’t go day drinking and bar hopping without the proper fuel. Luckily, there are zillions of restaurants where you can enjoy a summer of trying new foods.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

24. And what’s summer without a cool sweet treat? Head to Novel Ice Cream for their famous dough melt (warm glazed doughnut stuffed with ice cream?) or to Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream for one of their 100 irrestible ice cream flavors (Graham Central Station or Cotton Candy for starters).

25. You can also go on a food crawl at the farmers’ market which will give you an opportunity to taste the best Arizona fruits, veggies, and other foods. Several farmers’ markets are open during the summer.

26. No list of iconic summer foods would be complete without the classic hot dog.

27. And speaking of dogs the Sonoran hot dog is a must-try on many foodie enthisiast’s list. Sonoran hot dog, also known as a Sonoran dog, is a regional specialty and a type of hot dog that originated in the Sonora region of northern Mexico specifically in the city of Hermosillo.

28. Stay with me on this one: Arizona has some pretty cool bug life and you could spend the summer learning all about it. For example, did you know that summer is peak tick season in Arizona? Here’s how to keep these biters off you and your dog. 

29. Consider the scorpion, that symbol of the desert. Don’t be surprised if a scorpion shows up in your pool or even your toilet. Pools and other damp areas can attract scorpions seeking water especially during extreme dry periods. Scorpions can survive in water for up to two days.

30. Its also good to read up on black widow spiders since they’re plentiful in the desert.

31. You could spot a rattlesnake anytime in warm weather. They’re rarely aggressive if you’re careful.

32. If you’re determined to spend the summer outside of Phoenix, there are lots of in-state getaways perfect for a weekend or much longer.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

34. For time travel without all the butterfly effect nonsense take a drive to Bisbee. In its mining heyday, it was Arizona’s largest city for a time. Today it’s a laid-back artsy and historical community.

35. If you’re traveling north this summer you can explore myriad interesting museums along the way from the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott which covers Arizona’s territorial history to the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff which presents a comprehensive look at the people and natural history of the Colorado Plateau.

36. Kids can get some summer learning with a side of fun at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. It has three floors of interactive exhibits for kids up to age 10. There are weekly summer camps to get them even more involved.

37. Another fun, hands-on option is the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Ranked nationally as a top destination for families it’s easy to see why with kids able to play, hear, and experience music in new ways.

38. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is beautiful in the bright sunshine but you should check it out under the beam of a flashlight for a cooler experience. During the garden’s Flashlight Nights you can see its beauty while strolling under the night sky with cool drinks and treats.

39. If you want to explore Arizona’s wildlife from the safety of your own vehicle, check out Bearizona Drive-Thru Wildlife Park in Williams to see bison, bighorn sheep, goats, wolves, and bears.

40. If you’re more into classic animal excursions the Phoenix Zoo opens at 7 a.m. for nonmembers and 6 a.m. for members and closes at 1 p.m. to avoid the hottest times of day making it the perfect early outing.

41. If you love birdwatching or want to pick up the hobby explore the Base and Meridian Wildlife Area at the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers in Avondale. You could see hawks, doves, Western yellow-billed cuckoos, and many more species. Bats, bobcats, Sonoran Desert tortoises, and other wildlife also live here.

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

42. For a one-stop wildlife experience you can visit Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Litchfield Park to see over 600 species and over 6,000 animals.

43. For rock climbers summer temps can be deadly. Thankfully, there are plenty of indoor climbing gyms in metro Phoenix and Tucson. Try out ClimbMax Climbing Gym or Phoenix Rock Gym in Tempe, Ape Index in Peoria, or AZ on the Rocks in Scottsdale. In Tucson check out Rocks & Ropes, the BLOCK Climbing + Fitness, and Rock Solid Climbing.

44. Want to expand your dining horizons? Arizona is home to many James Beard award-winning chefs. Recent winners include Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café in Phoenix, Rene Andrade and Roberto Centenoat Bacanora in Phoenix, Jaren Bates and Brett Vibber at The Table at Junipine in Sedona, and Wendy Garcia at Tumerico in Tucson.

45. Do you have a need for speed? Metro Phoenix has a plethora of indoor and outdoor go-karting venues including the new Andretti Indoor Karting. Many have arcade games and other attractions too.

46. Many people have opinions on the ultimate summer drink. In Arizona, the michelada is the one to beat.

47. If you’re truly trying to avoid the sun, go underground. Outside Benson in southern Arizona is Kartchner Caverns State Park where you can explore amazing living caves.

48. And don’t discount how fun a night bike ride or hike can be. Maricopa County Parks offer after-dark mountain bike rides, scorpion hunts, and other family-friendly outings.

49. Looking to learn a new skill? Tempe Town Lake offers classes for kids and adults to learn rowing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Plus, they occasionally throw a nighttime glow paddle party.

50. Take a relaxing sit at WaterWorks at Arizona Falls in Phoenix. Sitting in the water room will give you the feeling of being behind a real waterfall. Arizona Falls is a natural 20-foot drop along the Arizona Canal.

51. It doesn’t matter if you are headed to your local public library, the school library open for summer hours, or even just the library at your church or a friends house, reading is a great summer activity that can take you anywhere you want to go from the comfort of your air conditioned living room. 

Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

52. A favorite getaway of Tucsonans is Mount Lemmon where it’s about 20 degrees cooler than Tucson. 

53. If you haven’t checked out Changing Hands Bookstore and First Draft Book Bar in Phoenix or Changing Hands in Tempe (which just celebrated 50 years) go peruse the stacks, get yourself a little gift and if you go to the Phoenix location grab a drink or snack at the bar to enjoy with your new summer read.

54. Test your daring spirit at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course at Fort Tuthill County Park. This elaborate above-ground obstacle course has aerial challenges like cable bridges, zip lines, swings, and more.

55. The new Slick City Action Park in Peoria has 10 indoor slides, an acrobat alley with a trapeze and swing, and a few sports courts to keep kids and adults entertained for hours.

56. The Scottsdale Arts District is home to dozens of unique art galleries and Thursday ArtWalks. You can find a new treasure for your home or RV while strolling the streets and trying some of Scottsdale’s best restaurants and bars.

57. You also shouldn’t miss out on the First Friday art walks on Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue in downtown Phoenix.

58. The Great Arizona Puppet Theater has been introducing children to the magic of puppetry and live theater since 1983 and they have several fun shows to take the kids to. 

59. Ice skating in the summer? Heck yeah. Three AZ Ice arenas around the Valley have multiple public skating times, allow you to rent skates, and they’ll even teach you how to lace them properly.

60. See 70 species of butterflies, learn about how they live, and even watch them hatch out of their cocoons at the Butterfly Wonderland on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale. 

61. Want to learn the science behind bubbles? What about being immersed in a 360-degree planetarium? The Arizona Science Center has that and more and is open seven days a week.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

62. Every summer, Catalina State Park hosts its “Music in the Mountains” concert series. Head on up the mountain to hear various compositions from jazz swing music, blues, Latin, bebop, ballads, rock, gypsy, and oldies.

63. At an elevation of 9,157 feet, you will find Mt. Lemmon’s SkyCenter. Here, the two largest dedicated public telescopes in the Southwest guide visitors through a unique and awe-inspiring galactic adventure with a bonus dinner. 

64. Descend into a cool experience (literally) underneath the surface of your feet at Colossal Cave. Like an underground rock climbing adventure, this cave system features unique rock formations with a fascinating science behind its creation. 

65. Take a tour of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home Taliesin West in Scottsdale with the gorgeous McDowell Mountains as a backdrop. 

66. While it’s no longer known as Bedrock City after the Flintstones, Raptor Ranch is the perfect day getaway to learn more about raptors and learn more about the wildlife conservation they’re doing with the Northern Arizona Raptor Foundation. 

67. Fishing is a classic summer activity and there are 27 city-park lakes around the Valley that allow you to fish from their shores. If you’re 10 years of age and older, you’ll need a fishing license. 

68. Take golfing to a new level by going to TopGolf and make it a party with friends, drinks, and snacks while listening to some tunes all from the comfort of a mister-cooled golfing bay.

69. If you have a kiddo obsessed with music, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers offer a place for ages 12-20 to get free music, vocal, and dance training.

70. Stay cool indoors and throw it back to the good old days by roller skating at USA Skateland. 71. Pack a picnic and head up to Kitt Peak to take advantage of the cooler temperatures at the Peak! At 7,000-foot elevation temperatures on Kitt Peak are typically 15-20 cooler than the valley floor. The day-use area closes at 4 p.m. but if you have tickets and are so inclined you can remain at Kitt Peak for a cool evening of astronomical wonders during their Night Observation Program.

72. The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is one of the most unique museums you will find in the West. It’s a must-do for any Tucson visitor particularly if your visit falls during the heat of the summer. At this unusual museum, you will be able to explore over 400 mini dollhouses spread out through three sections: The Enchanted, History, and Exploring the World rooms.

73. The Happy Saguaro sells all sorts of beautiful Southwestern style decor and knick knacks. If shopping is your preferred means of escaping the heat then keep it local. At this little Tucson gem you will find all sorts of unique treasures including hand painted pottery pieces, glass blown art, eccentric decor, handcrafted furniture, and much more.

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

74. The 14 mile picturesque Oak Creek Canyon drive includes scenery ranging from towering red rocks to tranquil creeks to the tall ponderosa pines. It’s a drive like no other in the country.

75. Set your alarm for a sunrise hike. About the only time you can even consider hiking on a hot summer day is during the early morning hours. Plan on a short hike (preferably under 2 miles) and be sure to complete your hike before 8 a.m. Carry plenty of water and choose a nature stroll over a vigorous uphill climb.

76. The Tohono Chul Garden Bistro offers one of the shadiest patios in Tucson thus making it a prime choice for outdoor dining during the hot summer season. There are so many trees here that it feels like a mini oasis in the middle of the desert which of course is not a bad thing during the brutal summer season.

77. Plan a day of fun at Castles N Coasters where you can experience 20 rides and attractions, spend hours winning tickets in the arcade, and play 18-hole mini golf. 

78. What has bowling, arcade games, movies and glow golf all under one roof? Fat Cats, of course! Spend the day knocking down pins and testing your mini-golf skill then end the day with a movie. There are locations in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, and Surprise.

79. Travel back to the days of gold mining at Goldfield Ghost Town at the base of the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction. There’s a pottery shop, a museum, a church, livery stables, and a reptile exhibit; plus, you can pan for gold, go to a shooting gallery, and ride on a zipline, train, or a horse.

80. Take a trip to the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff and ride the chairlift to the top of an extinct volcano about 11,500 feet above sea level. Just don’t forget a jacket!

81. Catch an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game at Chase Field.

82. Or maybe basketball is more your sport? If that’s the case, you can catch the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury play at Footprint Center.

83. Explore Arizona’s newest state park Rockin’ River Ranch State Park. The Verde River runs right through it making it the perfect place for swimming, fishing, or lounging. Plus, there are 6 miles of flat trails.

84. Explore the new $66.4 million, 85-acre Frontier Family Park in Queen Creek.

85. Located in the Talking Stick Entertainment District on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Medieval Times transports you back in time with jousting knights, horsemanship, falconry, and a four-course dinner.

86. You know what has great air conditioning, a fun atmosphere, a variety of food and beverage options and is a kid-free zone? Casinos. The newest one in the Valley is the Santan Mountain Casino on the Gila River Indian Community near Chandler.

87. Las Vegas is a getaway from Arizona and the Eagles recently announced a residency at the trippy new Las Vegas Sphere at The Venetian Resort.

88. For those wanting to say closer to home, Jerome is an easy Arizona day trip. Go for galleries, restaurants, and ghosts.

89. The best way to avoid the scorching sun? Become a night owl and go stargazing, of course! Arizona has numerous dark-sky cities and parks where you can see the stars, planets, and Milky Way.

90. Splash in a cool mountain stream at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park northwest of Payson.

Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

91. Keeping your family entertained on a budget sometimes feels nearly impossible. Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is free and you can fish, feed ducks, and peer at the night sky through a telescope.

92. Feel the wind in your face and embrace the cooler temperatures when riding Arizona’s first mountain coaster at Canyon Coaster Adventure Park in Williams.

93. And a new mountain coaster is coming soon to Sunrise Park Resort in the White Mountains that sports 3,287 feet of track, thrilling drops, heart-pounding turns, and breathtaking mountain views.

94. Ride a gondola to the top of the San Francisco Peaks. Marvel at the vistas spilling away in all directions as you glide up the slopes before being deposited at 11,500 feet. Pause to enjoy incredible panoramas, the sweet chilled mountain air, and some memorable photo opportunities before returning. You may not be on the roof of Arizona but you’re pretty darned close.

95. Drive up the highest mountain in southern Arizona. Travel through five life zones on this twisting climb up the slopes of Mount Graham, southern Arizona’s highest peak. For 35 miles State Route 366 makes a switchbacking ascent from desert scrubland to high forests.

96. A summer’s worth of adventure awaits at Lyman Lake State Park. At 1,500 acres, Lyman Lake dwarfs all bodies of water in the White Mountains. With such an expanse, there are activities for everybody including a sheltered swimming beach, a no-wake zone for anglers, twisting canyons kayakers will love, and plenty of wide-open water for speed-boaters and skiers.

97. Stop and smell the flowers at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

98. Instead of going north, dodge some traffic by driving south to Chiricahua National Monument. Forming an island of sculpted stone and forest in a sea of arid grasslands, the 12,000-acre park southeast of Willcox shelters an exotic array of massive columns, slender spires, and impossibly balanced boulders. Elevation at Chiricahua National Monument ranges from 5,124 feet at the entrance station to 7,310 feet at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

Parker Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

99. Rent a rowboat or kayak at Parker Canyon Lake. At 5,400 foot elevation, it’s a lot cooler up there than on the desert floor.

100. The Titan II Missile Museum tour will warm you up and then drop you into the cool underground silo where the mighty missile still stands at attention.

101. Ramsey Canyon Preserve near Sierra Vista is owned by the Nature Conservancy. This is a beautiful, cool forested area with a year ’round stream and amazing plant and wildlife diversity including 15 species of hummingbirds and dozens of other bird species such as the rare elegant trogon. Here you will also find bears, deer, and other wild critters. Bring your camera.

102. Waterfalls are a welcome surprise at the end of several hikes in and around Tucson such as Hutch’s Pool or Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon, Romero Pools in Catalina State Park, Bridal Wreath Falls off East Speedway Boulevard, or Tanque Verde Falls off Redington Road. 

103. Show Low’s unique name comes from a legendary card game played by two early settlers to determine the town’s name. This charming town situated in the White Mountains offers a cool escape with summer temperatures averaging around 80°F. Embrace the laid-back mountain lifestyle, enjoy fishing and boating on Show Low Lake, and savor the fresh mountain air.

104. Considered one of the most beautiful places to swim in Arizona, Rattlesnake Cove is on the Bartlett Reservoir near Carefree but is completely protected from motorized watercraft. A gentle slope allows swimmers of all abilities to enjoy the cove and you can bring your own grill to enjoy a picnic

105. Located over 8,500 feet above sea level, Greer is much cooler than the surrounding deserts. You can travel up to the 9,500 foot level to explore Big Lake where you can camp, fish, and swim.

106. Tubing is a great summer pastime in Arizona and the Lower Salt River located near Mesa offers exceptional tubing conditions. 

Looking for more Arizona travel tips?

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

14 Outdoor Adventures You Can Only Have in Arizona

Adventurers, take note: Whatever you’re into, you can get into it in Arizona

Sunny skies, year-round perfect weather, and stellar sunsets complemented by rugged backcountry terrain make Arizona an adventurer’s dreamland. From the North Country’s pine-forested rim that drops into the depths of the Grand Canyon to the picturesque Sonoran Desert landscape of central and southern Arizona, all the ingredients for the quintessential American adventure recipe are at your fingertips.

Check my list of some of the can’t-miss experiences, possibly life-changing opportunities, and adventures that give a glimpse into the incredible backcountry world of the amazing state of Arizona.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Search for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Nothing more perfectly sums up Arizona’s sense of adventure than the search for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The truth behind the legend is harder to pin down than a Gila monster but the gist is that somewhere hidden in the Superstition Mountains just east of Phoenix is a gold mine once tended by German immigrants Jacob Waltz and Jacob Weiser.

The two men pulled untold amounts of the precious metal from the mountain before a murderous run-in with—depending on who you ask—Apaches or each other left all who knew the mine’s location dead.

To this day, adventurers set out into the Superstitions in search of the mine. Sadly, more than a few have met the same fate as Waltz and Weiser.

If you’re not particularly interested in hunting for gold there are still more than a dozen access points into the surrounding wilderness that can take you on a short day walk or a multi-day expedition. Give the Peralta Trail a shot—this nearly five-mile hike is one of the state’s most popular.

Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Longboard (or bicycle) down Mount Lemmon

Rising 9,000-plus feet in the north of TucsonMount Lemmon is the highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains and for longboarders one of the truly epic runs in the country. The 20-plus miles of highway are paved smooth and offer great views and a challenging ride.

Don’t take my word for it—check out the plentiful YouTube videos. And watch out for the cactus!

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim

You simply can’t have a conversation about Arizona adventures without mentioning the Grand Canyon. The 24-mile Rim-to-Rim hike is an immense challenge that gives those who complete it an intimate understanding of the canyon that’s impossible to attain without dipping below its surface.

Start on the North Kaibab Trail and descend 6,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon where the Colorado River awaits. On the way down, you’ll pass through every ecosystem that exists between Canada and Mexico. Cross the Colorado and connect with the Bright Angel Trail and return to the surface along the South Rim passing hundreds of millions of years’ worth of history preserved in the surrounding rocks.

Most guides suggest planning on two to five days to complete the trail at a regular pace.

4. Ride horses around the legendary landscape of Sedona

If the red-rock cliffs that preside over Sedona don’t make you pause it’s time to book a trip to Mars because Earth has nothing left to offer. In the early evening, the spires reflect a reddish-purple hue that no photo could ever hope to do justice. Whether or not you subscribe to New Age beliefs, it’s easy to understand why people say there’s energy here that’s different than anywhere else on the planet.

There are many ways to explore the desert scenery around the cliffs but none gives you the chance to interact with nature on its own terms quite like riding a horse. Horseback trips typically last between one and three hours with sunrise and sunset options available. Beyond the red rocks, you can catch glimpses of the Verde Valley, the Mogollon Rim, and if you’re lucky some wildlife as well.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Explore the Petrified Forest

While it may not be the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, Petrified Forest National Park offers an amazing place to see extinct species. Many of the fossilized logs that dot the floor of the 146-square-mile national park belong to long-extinct trees. Interestingly, the site of the park is not where an actual forest stood but rather an ancient riverbed where fallen plants accumulated.

To get the most out of your Petrified Forest adventure, forget the trails—the National Park Service administers eight off-the-beaten-path routes. Check out Devil’s Playground, an especially old part of the park. Only three permits are handed out for it each week with information on how to access the route supplied only to those granted permission to take on the journey.

6. Off-road to ghost towns

While Arizona is a state known for its epic highways and scenic views, even more, it happens off the state-maintained thoroughfares. For every ghost town worth a visit there’s the main road to take you there and a secret second entrance for those with a hearty sense of adventure and a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

Off-roading or wheeling to the initiated is a great way to see Arizona’s wildlands and get a dose of history as well. Many off-road trails pass through old mining towns and other long-abandoned remnants of human habitation. The Bradshaw Mountains Trail takes you past the ghost town of Bumble Bee which was once a stagecoach stop for the U.S. Cavalry.

Traveling by these backroads is probably one of the most vastly under-appreciated ways to explore the state. There’s simply no way to not feel like a pioneer when you cross a mountain path or stream named for some long-deceased prospector. For a good off-roading guidebook, try the Guide to Arizona Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails, or check out the Off-Highway Vehicle Program at

White House Ruins, Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Explore both well-known and secret ancient cliff dwellings and ruins

Arizona is home to some of the most famous cliff dwellings in the world. Montezuma’s Castle in the Verde Valley is an 800-year-old, five-story structure built by the Sinagua Indians and one of the best-preserved examples of such a site. Three hours northeast on Navajo Land is Canyon de Chelly and its White House Ruins.

While many of Arizona’s ruins require a guide or sit inside well-developed tourist sites there are still plenty that demand a more intrepid spirit. The Sycamore Canyon Cliff Dwellings north of Clarkdale lie at the end of a tough drive and hike but exploring these magnificent ruins away from the masses is a worthy payoff. Just remember that when there’s no park ranger to keep an eye on things, it’s up to you to ensure these locations remain intact and pristine for the following generation of explorers.

8. Stand in a shaft of light in Antelope Canyon

There are other slot canyons but few if any can truly compete with the beauty of Antelope Canyon. Located east of Page on Navajo tribal land, the roughly quarter-mile-long canyon is a tight squeeze through a wonderland of colored sandstone, speckled shafts of light, and a smooth sandy floor. There are two canyon routes here, the Crack and the Corkscrew; both offer jaw-dropping palettes of light and color. Don’t you dare enter without your camera (and the mandated guide)!

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. See the biggest cacti in North America at Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park boasts some absolutely huge cacti. They dominate the desert landscape and make for some very cool photo ops. Located in the Sonoran Desert, it’s worth dedicating at least a couple of days to this park. Tackle the 1.5-hour King Canyon, Gould Mine Loop hike, walk the Signal Hill trail out to ancient petroglyphs, or go for some backcountry camping if you’re looking for a real adventure. 

10. Tour Hopi country

If you’re fortunate enough to take part in a tour of Hopi land you won’t just see some of the most beautiful terrain in the Southwest—you’ll also be given a lesson in the importance of living in harmony with nature and showing respect for all things, alive and otherwise.

The Hopi inhabit 12 villages spread across three separate mesas in northeastern Arizona. These homes have been occupied continuously for centuries, longer than most—if not all—settlements in the U.S. Your tour will include explanations of Hopi beliefs and culture, panoramic views from the high villages, and of course culinary treats.

Make sure to review the visitor etiquette (which includes refraining from taking photos or recordings of any kind) before you go. This is one Arizona-only adventure you can’t post to Facebook—which makes it all the more special.

Off-road adventure at Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Off-road in Sedona

It’s easy to imagine Zeus and the other Greek gods bickering over whether to settle on Mt. Olympus or in Sedona’s sandstone red rocks. During the evening, the massive outcroppings turn a shade of red so intense and worthy of contemplation that they feel like massive antennae signaling to the New Agers who flock from across the planet to admire them.

Like so much of Arizona, Sedona is a place that holds onto its secrets. Many beautiful views are accessible from the road but an entire world opens up when you have an off-road vehicle and a knowledgeable guide. To accommodate, there are several companies offering jeep tours to remote locations among the red rocks. Trips typically last between two and three hours and will take you to sweeping desert views and the ruins of ancient Native American dwellings.

12. Walk in Geronimo’s shadow at Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument is a maze of volcanic rock spires in the southeastern corner of Arizona. Boulders balance on top of each other so precariously it can feel as if the laws of physics have been suspended.

Covering nearly 12,000 acres, this is where Native American warrior Geronimo and other Apaches hid and planned attacks against the invading U.S. Army. Today, the national monument is notable for hiking trails and birdwatching—look out for bald eagles and prairie falcons. For an unbeatable view, be sure to check out Massai Point.

Jerome State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Mine the ramshackle history of Jerome

Lots of people recognize Jerome as a great day trip but it’s time to think bigger. Spend a night or two in this mountainside artist community soaking up the culture and general weirdness.

Visit Jerome State Historic Park which preserves a rambling 8,700-square-foot mansion built in 1916. Once the opulent home of mine owner James Douglas, it now serves as an informative museum filled with photographs, artifacts, mining, equipment, minerals, and models of the network of shafts and tunnels dug through the mountains.

Sitting a mile north of Jerome, Gold King Mine and Ghost Town harbors an assortment of ramshackle buildings, a menagerie of friendly animals, and a sprawling array of rusted machinery that forever teeters between ruin and redemption.

Coronado Pass looking east © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Picnic at Montezuma Pass, hike to a cave

Nestled in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains abutting the Mexican border, Coronado National Memorial commemorates and interprets the Coronado Expedition of 1540-1542 and its lasting impacts on Southwest culture. Located about 20 miles south of Sierra Vista, the memorial is part of Arizona’s Sky Island Mountains filled with spectacular scenery.  

Enter on the park road, which climbs from verdant grasslands into oak woodlands and continues through heavier forest up Montezuma Canyon. Past the visitor center the road is paved for a mile and graded dirt for the upper 2 miles. It twists around tight switchbacks (vehicles over 24 feet are prohibited) and steep grades as the world falls away below.

Montezuma Pass Overlook sits at 6,575 feet flanked by picnic tables and interpretive signs, a perfect spot for an end of summer picnic celebration. Afterward you can make a short scramble (0.8 mile round-trip) to the summit of Coronado Peak, crowned with a shade ramada and additional signs describing the Coronado Expedition.

Adventurous types will want to visit Coronado Cave, one of the few open, undeveloped caves in southern Arizona. You don’t have to worry about squeezing through. The large cavern is 600 feet deep and in most places about 70 feet wide. Legend has it that Chiricahua Apache leader Geronimo often hid out in the cave.


Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

Explore Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands

Larger-than-life hidden treasures and some of the world’s greatest destinations for biodiversity, Sky Islands—which, to be clear, are mountains—dot Southern Arizona’s landscape, erupting up up up from valley floors toward the Sonoran Desert sky. But what makes this type of mountain so special for the region, its environment, and explorers? Read on.

What Are Sky Islands?

Sky Islands are a classification of the mountain—an unofficial nickname given to 55 mountain ranges across Southern Arizona, Southern New Mexico, and Northern Mexico that rise so high, so quickly, that multiple habitats can be found from base to peak.

Climbing Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved[

As you climb up Sky Islands, you may go from an arid, saguaro-studded desert to a brisk, pine-filled forest in as little as an hour’s drive (in the case of Mount Lemmon, in Tucson). This makes these habitats especially attractive for wildlife, birds, and memorable hiking and biking. Sky Islands are also ecologically separated from other mountain ranges by distance and lowlands of a different environment.

The terminology is better known locally than anywhere else even though the parameters for what qualifies as a Sky Island can be applied to mountain ranges around the world. Knowing the term and its definition is less important than knowing how best to have an adventure on them.

Hiking Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ways to experience the Sky Islands

Listen to the audio tour available on the Mount Lemmon Science Tour app produced by the University of Arizona College of Science as you climb up Mount Lemmon in Tucson.

Hike a portion of the Arizona Trail, an 800-mile trek that goes from Arizona’s border with Mexico—up, through, and over several Sky Islands—to the state’s border with Utah.

Go birding in Ramsey Canyon near Sierra Vista, a site popular for seeing the elusive elegant trogon and more than a dozen species of hummingbirds.

Get involved with the Sky Island Alliance which hosts events aimed at protecting the diversity of Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sky Island activities near Tucson

The Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountain ranges make up Tucson’s Sky Islands hugging the city’s northern and eastern edges. Perhaps one of the best ways to explore a Sky Island—and one that requires the least amount of physical exertion—is by listening to the Mt. Lemmon Science Tour app which times fun facts and interesting tidbits with the one-hour drive from the mountain’s base to its peak. The flora and fauna surrounding the drive become a lot more interesting and you’ll learn some history about the area, too.

Saguaro National Park East below the Rincons makes up the dramatically different environment separation that Sky Islands require. More than saguaros can be found here as you bike, hike, or drive through the enormous national park.

Ramsey Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sky Island activities in Cochise County

The southeastern Arizona Sky Islands partly made up of the Mule, Chiricahua, and Huachuca mountains are crisscrossed with trails that beckon hikers and mountain bikers. Vertical monoliths challenge rock climbers.

And cool, damp canyons like Ramsey Canyon create some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. Here, vintners grow grapes for award-winning wine alongside spicy chiltepin peppers and sweet pistachios. Jaguar, white-nosed coati, and javelina wander under forest canopies while elegant trogons and hummingbirds zip across blue skies. In the fall, butterflies abound.

Montezuma Pass © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoor adventure

Montezuma Pass in the Huachucas just south of Sierra Vista marks the start of the Arizona Trail (AZT), an 800-mile hiking path that stretches from the Arizona/Mexico border to Utah. Dozens of other trails join the AZT for challenging hikes or woodsy walks and jaw-dropping views of Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora, Mexico. Mountain bikers take to the trails for single-track rides; maps are available at Sierra Vista bike shops.

Head east to Cochise Stronghold near Willcox. The Stronghold is strewn with massive boulders amid a maze-like terrain. Mountain bikers, hikers, and rock climbers head to these rugged canyons and craggy hoodoos for classic climbs and outstanding trails.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go a little further east to Chiricahua National Monument where towering rhyolite pinnacles and balancing spires stand alongside the 17 miles of trails. (If you have time, make a side trip down Turkey Track Trail for a gander at Johnny Ringo’s grave, the Old West outlaw and gunfighter made famous by Hollywood writers.)

After hiking around Chiricahua National Monument, head east for 25 miles via a dirt road toward the Yosemite of Arizona: Cave Creek Canyon. Accessed through the town of Portal, the canyon is described as a birder’s paradise for five months of the year. And, the rest of the time, it’s just paradise. Spend some time communing with nature. When you’re ready to rest and eat, head to the Portal Cafe, Country Store & Lodge, or if you prefer to camp, the Stewart Campground or Sunny Flat Campground are the closest to the canyon.

Mount Wrightson in the Santa Rita Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding and wildlife

In Douglas, San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge which shares its conservation efforts with compañeros across the border provides a year-round habitat for an amazing diversity of wildlife, both flora and fauna, and offers world-class bird and wildlife watching.

The Refuge is part of a migration superhighway through Cochise County following the northward-flowing San Pedro River. With near-tropical climates in the Sky Islands, Cochise County welcomes an incredible variety of birds that make season-long stops in the Huachucas and along the riparian area. The Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve just minutes from downtown Sierra Vista is one of the country’s top birding spots.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic sites and small towns

In centuries past, the Sky Islands provided hidey holes for outlaws and Apaches, vantage points for the U.S. Army, and cool retreats for city folk seeking to beat the heat of the valley floor. Geronimo, General Pershing, Johnny Ringo, and the Earp brothers roamed the area leaving indelible legends in the wind. In later years, the Sky Islands starred in feature films alongside Hollywood legends like John Wayne, Paul Newman, Charlton Heston, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, and Nicolas Cage.

Wayne is known to have frequented the communities among the Sky Islands including Patagonia and Bisbee, a reimagined former mining town. Both towns’ charming main thoroughfares while small are dotted with local restaurants and bars for a nibble and libation and some decent local lore.

In addition to mining, southeastern Arizona is also known for ranching. Many of the mines are gone but the ranches remain run by the descendants of the original families.

Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The John Slaughter Ranch (about a 20-mile drive on the Geronimo Trail outside Douglas), no longer a working ranch, gives visitors a glimpse into the life John Slaughter, a former Texas Ranger and Cochise County sheriff. He bought the property in 1884 and spent the remainder of his life developing it into a thriving southwestern cattle ranch despite the harassment from Geronimo and his band as they crossed into Mexico.

The lower loop of the Sky Islands cuddles Douglas, a border and former copper-mining town with a rich history. Home to the first international airport in the U.S., this community is anchored by the stately Gadsden Hotel built in 1907 for visiting mining company executives and fronted with a massive stained glass window—the only southwestern scene Tiffany ever created.

Legend says that the infamous Mexican bandit Pancho Villa rode his horse up the sweeping marble staircase in the early 1900s. Two decades later, a speakeasy opened in the basement and nine decades later the same speakeasy will open again. And yes, it’s said to be haunted.

Worth Pondering…

To my mind, these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

8 Spectacular Places to See Arizona’s Fall Colors

Road trip inspiration for seeing Arizona’s best leaves

Fall colors? In Arizona? Yep, that’s right. Despite its reputation as a gigantic desert full of sand and cactus, Arizona offers plenty of autumn action too.

With elevations ranging from nearly sea level to 12,633 feet, Arizona is home to a surprisingly diverse number of ecosystems—including ones where you’ll find deciduous trees. Yes, the type of trees whose leaves turn colors in the fall.

Renowned landscape photographer Derek von Briesen dubbed it “Arizona’s Almost Endless Autumn” because you can spend nearly three months following the fall colors as they trickle down from the forested high country to the desert creeks.

Of course, Arizona isn’t one of those states where you can drive pretty much anywhere and see the colors. You have to know where to go and sometimes get out of the car and take a hike.

Arizona has some gorgeous spots with fall foliage that will take your breath away. Right in the middle of the Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff and Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon are two of the best known spots to see all the brilliant color changes of the aspen, maple, cottonwood, and oak.

The change typically begins in the highest elevations in late September and then filters down to the lower elevations throughout the rest of the fall.

Late September to late October brings rich yellows and reds to the high-desert creeks near Sedona, Cottonwood, and Camp Verde. By late November, the colors move lower in elevation and farther south. This is an exciting time of year for desert-dwelling nature photographers as autumn in the Sonoran Desert equates to images of yellow cottonwoods framed with Saguaro cacti. Through early to mid-December, colors continue to permeate the Sonoran Desert lighting up all of the canyons such as Araviapa Canyon.

Most colors peak in late November closer to the Valley just in time for the holiday weekend. One of the best places to see that is at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It’s just a short drive east of the Valley. The awe-inspiring view of the vivid orange and red leaves on the 40-foot-tall pistachio trees make it well worth the trip.

Those of us who love the autumn color and miss it in the desert don’t need to go far to find it. Besides day trips in search of autumn colors, you can also enjoy some unique desert sites that most avoid in the summer.

For many, autumn is when nature does its finest work. So if you’re a leaf peeper, it’s time to start making plans to experience it—the crisp air, a crackling fire, hearty comfort food and, of course, a dazzling display of colorful leaves.

Here are some of the best autumn road trips in Arizona.

Watson Lake, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Prescott 

Although the town itself is a popular destination for its old-world cowboy charm, the main reason to drive to Prescott in the fall is the beautiful shades of gold, yellows, and oranges of the trees in the area. You’ll find autumn colors in downtown Prescott, along the Greenway Trail Systems, along Granite and Miller Creek, and in the Historic Courthouse Plaza.

In a more spectacular setting, the lakes in and around Prescott and Prescott Valley surrounded by deciduous trees showcase their bright oranges and golds at this time of the year. You’ll find cottonwood and ash trees near Watson Lake along the 4.8-mile-long Watson Lake Loop Trail or on the shores of Granite Basin Lake and Fain Lake in Prescott Valley.

Gorgeous autumn colors surround Lynx Lake in Prescott National Forest in mid-October. And if you love aspens in the fall with their shimmering yellow-gold leaves you’ll find them near Prescott in the Aspen Creek/Copper Basin.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Sedona 

Sedona is arguably the most popular destination in Arizona offering a perfect day trip at any time. However, autumn is one of the best times to visit this picturesque town nestled among towering red rock formations. Although the town’s art galleries, boutique shops, and restaurants for all tastes and budgets are worth the drive, fall in Sedona is best experienced outdoors.

Temperatures are perfect for hiking and several trails offer not only views of the stunning red rocks but also boast some autumn colors. The classic hotspot in the Sedona area is Red Rock Crossing where small waterfalls and yellow foliage along Oak Creek stand out against the red sandstone of Cathedral Rock inspiring photographers from around the world.

Avoid the crowds at Sycamore Creek, a moderate hike accessible via the Parsons Trail near the town of Cottonwood. After a quick hike that drops about 180 feet from the rim of the canyon, one is greeted with a lush, perennial creek lined with trees, all in various stages of autumn transformation. This trail continues for another 3.5 miles until it reaches Parsons Spring. The spring makes a perfect turnaround point for casual day hikers. Or continue deeper into the Sycamore Creek Wilderness where soaring sandstone walls, extreme solitude, and historic cabins await.

Or, for more fall colors set against the red rocks drive Dry Creek Road to Boynton Canyon Road or the Red Rock Loop.

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Montezuma Castle National Monument

Fall is also the perfect time to visit one of the most spectacular cliff dwellings in Arizona, Montezuma Castle National Monument. Built by the Sinagua (who had absolutely nothing to do with Montezuma and his people) the five-story cliff dwelling housed an entire village. Besides a look at the stunning cliff dwelling in October, you can also enjoy the changing colors of the sycamore trees along the trail.

Also, part of the national park, Montezuma Well is 10 miles away and is definitely worth the short drive. Here you’ll find a natural sinkhole fed by an underground stream in the desert. The resulting oasis is home to an array of wildlife but you’ll also find a few Sinagua cliff dwellings on its steep walls. You’ll also find more giant sycamore trees here along the short trail leading to the natural stream feeding the “well.”

Tuzigoot National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument sits on top of a hill overlooking a valley. An ancient village of the Sinagua overlooks a marsh on top of a hill here, a hilltop pueblo, one of the largest in the area. The self-guided, third-of-a-mile trail through and around the 110-room ancient pueblo also offers gorgeous views of Verde River and Tavasci Marsh. The valley below filled with deciduous trees adds a splash of autumn color to the desert.

Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Mount Lemmon

The highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Mount Lemmon offers several leaf-peeping opportunities making it a great day trip in the fall. The 30-mile-long Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway leading to the top of the mountain offers stunning views changing from giant Saguaro-filled areas to deciduous trees, aspens, and pines. In the higher elevations along the way, several hiking trails lead in the middle of this mix of pines and deciduous trees bursting with color in mid-October.

You’ll find colorful oaks and maples along with pines in Bear Wallow, a small valley accessible from Bear Wallow Road. Or hike the Aspen Draw trail or Aspen Meadow trail on the top of the mountain to be in the middle of aspen colonies showcasing their gorgeous fall colors. Other areas to stop include the Cypress Picnic Area, the Palisades Visitor Center, and the Box Elder Picnic Area.

Ramsey Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Ramsey Canyon Preserve in Southeastern Arizona is known for its birding opportunities but around mid-October it also showcases all the autumn colors of the Arizona sycamore, oak, and maple trees growing in and around it.

The Loop Trail through the bottom of the deep, wooded ravine takes you through a wooded area with a stream in the center showcasing fall colors in October. Starting past the visitor center it includes two connected loops linked by footbridges, a short, half-mile trail, or a longer one just over a mile through the valley floor. For those who need more of a challenge, a steep trail leads through a wooded area up the ridge.

Popular on weekends in mid-October when the leaves peak, the preserve is still quiet enough for a great time among fall colors. As a bonus, you are almost guaranteed to see wildlife—at least a few wild turkeys—besides the humming birds the preserve is famous for.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The Arboretum located in Queen Creek Canyon is the state’s oldest and largest botanical garden. With spectacular views of Picketpost Mountain, Boyce Thompson Arboretum features plant collections from the world’s deserts, historic buildings, and hidden gardens along miles of trails. The Arboretum has been called “the most enchanting” Audubon Important Birding Area in Arizona and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Vibrant fall colors take over the lush flora which makes late November the best time of the year to explore the gardens. Peak color-spotting varies due to weather and climate conditions but a good bet is during the time that the park would typically hold its annual Arizona Fall Foliage Finale during mid- to late-November. Leaves from honey locust, pomegranate, and soapberry trees offer light yellow to deep copper and golden tones before they shed while the Arizona sycamore tends to reach a yellow-red, the cottonwood a bright yellow, and the walnuts can reach a dark red.

Oak Creek Canyon

8. Oak Creek Canyon

The river gorge is a perfect place to escape year-round and is equally as appealing for leafers from October through November. As the temperatures drop, the leaves do the same but unlike other locations in the West that feature yellowed aspen leaves, Oak Creek is home to the maples and oaks normally associated with the East Coast.

One of the more popular destinations along the Mogollon Rim nestled between Sedona and Flagstaff the area is a two-hour drive to the north. Walk along the West Fork Trail (the most popular trail in the entire Coconino National Forest) surrounded by deep-red color or drive the canyon’s length to cover more ground. Though the area lost foliage during the 2014 Slide Fire which burned a devastating 21,227 acres, there are plenty of reddish-gold hues flooding the space—with a uniquely Southwestern take. After all, you can’t see red leaves and red rocks in Vermont.

For more on Arizona, explore these articles:

For more on leaf-peeping, explore these articles:

Worth Pondering…

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.

—Emily Brontë, Fall, Leaves, Fall

10 Amazing Places to RV in August 2023

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

The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it.
—Theodore Roosevelt

Joy may not typically be thought of as something we can demand but these words of wisdom from the 26th U.S. president offer us the opportunity to shift our perspectives on the concept. Moments of joyfulness abound—this month, let’s all insist upon experiencing them.

Good morning and welcome to August. It really is the best month and not just because my birthday is in it. It’s the perfect time to…

This August, I’ll not lament the fleeting days of summer. No, I will embrace it: There is still much to see and do—and places to travel in an RV. August is a time for lazy exploration and taking advantage of the last drops of the season while recharging for the months ahead. There are routes to be taken, mountains to climb, seafood to be eaten, and lakes to discover. Get out there and make the most of it.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in June and July. Also, check out my recommendations from August 2022 and September 2022.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Where the buffalo roam

When it comes to wildlife preserves, South Dakota’s Custer State Park is on par with just about any national park in the country. It is home to a large herd of bison that roam the sprawling landscape there just as they did hundreds of years ago.

But there are plenty of other wild creatures to see in the park as well. The animals commonly found there include elk, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs along with white-tailed and mule deer. You might even spot some of the park’s wild burros which famously approach passing vehicles looking for a handout.

>> Get more tips for visiting Custer State Park

Spotted Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Spotted Lake

Canada‘s Spotted Lake is famous for its summer style which is heavy on the polka dots. That’s because the lake’s water actually evaporates every summer. It leaves behind large spots which are colorful deposits of a dozen minerals.

The photo above shows enigmatic Spotted Lake near Osoyoos, British Columbia. It could also be called Doubletake Lake since that’s likely what many people do when they witness this odd body of water. Its spots result from a high concentration of a number of different minerals including magnesium sulfate, calcium, and sodium sulfates. At least a dozen other minerals are found in the lake’s water in varying concentrations.

By late summer, much of the water evaporates and only a mineral stew remains. It’s primarily crystals of magnesium sulfate that contributes to the spotty appearance. Different minerals yield different colors.

Originally known to the First Nations of the Okanagan Valley as Ktlil’k, Spotted Lake was for centuries and remains revered as a sacred site thought to provide therapeutic waters. 

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Columbia Icefield

Nestled among the towering mountain peaks in the border of Banff and Jasper National Park is the famous Columbia Icefield. This extensive valley of interconnected glaciers is home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world and is an once-in-a-lifetime adventure you don’t want to miss.

Hop onto an Ice Explorer and tour the Athabasca Glacier or take a guided walking tour to explore the glacier safely on foot. While at the icefields, check out the Skywalk, a 1,312-foot long walkway that sits 918 feet above the valley. At the top, you’ll be able to walk out to a platform made entirely of glass to experience unobstructed views around and beneath you. You’ll feel like you’re walking on air, while taking in the fresh mountain air at the same time.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Canadian Rockies

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. A taste of Bavaria in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Like taking a trip to Germany, only in North America, Helen, Georgia, is a Bavarian-inspired village town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Incorporated in 1913, Helen was once a logging town on the decline; however, it slowly reemerged as a Bavarian alpine town in 1968 that now provides tourists the chance to experience Germany in the Appalachians instead of the Alps.

Helen has many recreational and cultural activities. Its annual Oktoberfest in the fall is a favorite tradition filled with festivities. However, for visitors looking to spend their summer vacation in Helen, the city also offers tubing, the Anna Ruby Falls, zip-lining, and Unicoi State Park which offers trails for hiking and biking, swimming, and boating on Unicoi Lake.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Shenendoah Night Sky Festival

Conveniently located within a day’s drive from two-thirds of Americans, Shenandoah National Park’s Night Sky Festival (August 11-13, 2023) is a low-lift way to dabble in astronomy if you’re at all curious. The nearly 200,000-acre park located among the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia will host ranger talks, public stargazing sessions, lectures, presentations, and activities for kids.

If you plan on attending one of the outdoor evening activities, be sure to be prepared for the weather and bring a flashlight with a red filter. All events are free with park admission.

>> Get more tips for visiting Shenandoah National Park

Wood stork © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Wood stork may soon be off the Endangered Species List

Getting kicked off a list may sound like a bad thing but when that list is of critically endangered species, it’s certainly good news. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed removing the wood stork, a wading bird native to the Americas from the list following decades of conservation efforts.

The wood stork was first listed in 1984 when it was on the brink of extinction with less than 5,000 breeding pairs. Today, thanks to expanded environmental protections in Florida’s Everglades and the nearby Big Cypress National Preserve that number has doubled to more than 10,000. USFWS emphasized that the wood stork’s rebound indicates an even greater need to continue protecting the species and the habitats it calls home.

Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. There’s a new Camp Margaritaville RV Resort in Louisiana with a swim-up bar, renovated luxury cabins, and a Bark Park for dogs

Gas up the rig and pop Louisiana into the GPS because it’s time to visit Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge. Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge has 452 RV sites and 25 new luxury cabins.

Last winter, Camp Margaritaville announced it was transitioning the Cajun Palms RV Resort into Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge. The resort reopened as Margaritaville property on May 23. It’s located 15 miles east of Lafayette in Henderson.

The RV resort invites guests to pull up and unplug. They can hang by one of the resort’s three pools—each comes with private cabanas. One even has a swim-up bar) Plus there’s an adults-only hot tub for guests 21 years old and older.

It’s also ideal for a family getaway as it has a water park for little ones, cornhole, minigolf, and a playground that opened in June. There are also arts and crafts sessions—think sand art, tie-dye, and ceramics.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Splashing around at Blanco State Park

Blanco State Park is unique for several reasons. In addition to being one of Texas’ first state parks, it’s also one of the smallest state parks in the state and is entirely located within Blanco city limits.

The Blanco River has drawn area residents for hundreds of years, in part because the springs offer a consistent water source during droughts. The Blanco River attracted Native Americans, the Spanish, and early settlers to its waters. Springs in the park provided water even when the river was dry. In 1721, the Spanish named the river Blanco for its white limestone banks.

Settlers arrived in the area in the 1800s. They established ranches, grazed cattle, and built homes near the Blanco River. Ranchers donated or sold their land to create Blanco State Park in 1933. With 104.6 acres, it is one of the smallest state parks in Texas.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Queen of the Copper Camps

Twenty miles north of the Mexican border and about an hour’s drive from Tucson, Bisbee is a funky artist haven with copper mining town roots. It sits nearly a mile high in the Mule Mountains which means it’s 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler in the summer than it is in Arizona’s major cities. Victorian homes and buildings are perched precariously on the town’s steep mountainside which has over 350 staircases carved right into it for access.  

Once known as the Queen of the Copper Camps, Bisbee has proven to be one of the richest mineral sites in the world producing nearly three million ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper as well as significant amounts of silver, lead, and zinc.

Discover Bisbee’s past by visiting the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and taking the Queen Mine Tour. The tour will bring visitors underground to explore the mine on an ore ride while they learn more about the stories of the miners who worked here. Those who have an interest in the paranormal can book one of several ghost tours in Bisbee to hear the eerily fascinating reports of unexplained happenings and even sightings of spirits donning Victorian attire. Public art features prominently throughout town, from colorful murals and mosaic walls to cars that have been transformed into unique works of art.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Climb a Mountain 

Mount Lemmon, an oasis in the middle of the desert, is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. The area offers hiking, camping, and fishing. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Sky center.

>> Get more tips for visiting Mount Lemon

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

9 Beautiful Places to Escape the Summer Heat

It’s hotter than blue blazes!

It’s been a long, hot summer—and it’s likely to just keep getting hotter. That jug of fresh iced tea isn’t meant to be sipped inside with the shades drawn and that blow-up kiddie pool you’ve outgrown doesn’t have to be your only means of summer heat relief. Because I have good news! There are quite a few places you can go to escape the heat—and none of them involve jetting to the Southern Hemisphere.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historical weather data shows the five coolest summer states also happen to be filled with excellent RV camping destinations, too. The five best places to stay cool in summer are Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, and Alaska. These cool summer states are geographically immense. Each state gives you tons of camping choices from busy national parks to remote coastal and mountain destinations.

RV owners like us are lucky. Finding the coolest camping destinations in the summer is pretty easy. With a full tank of fuel and one turn of the key, our homes on wheels carry everything we need for a summer escape away from hot spots to a cool river, mountaintop, or breezy beach. Most of us will put in a few hours of driving to reach the coolest place to camp in August.

Glacial Skywalk, Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cool off with a trip to the mountains, the water, or up north. I’ve hand-selected nine places where you can beat the heat this summer while avoiding airport woes such as lost luggage, canceled flights, tarmac delays, and labor shortages—you know, all of the fun things people are dealing with right now not to mention the heightened cost of air travel.


Higher elevations provide sweet relief from the sweltering heat and humidity of summer. Here are three wonderful mountainous locales where you can escape the heat.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Lemmon, Arizona 

Mount Lemmon, an oasis in the middle of the desert, is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. The area offers hiking, camping, and fishing. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Skycenter.

Get more tips for visiting Mount Lemmon

Lassen Volcanic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, California and Oregon

For truly unusual and spectacular views, pack up the RV and head for the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway connecting California’s Lassen National Park with Crater Lake in Oregon. The north-to-south route covers about 500 miles tracing along geological formations created by volcanic activity of the Cascade Mountain Range.

The drive ventures through the majestic Shasta Valley and offers unobstructed vistas of Mount Shasta, the second tallest volcano in the country. There are countless things to see and do during a visit, but don’t miss Petroglyph Point, one of the country’s largest and most accessible panels of Native American rock art.

Get more tips for visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is a Vermont Ski town that is lovely to visit in summer thanks to an Alpine setting that doesn’t get too hot and lots of outdoor activities. For fun summer hiking, choose trails that lead to waterfalls like the easy Bingham Falls Trail in Smugglers Notch State Park or Moss Glen Falls trail in nearby Putnam State Park.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want a lazy day, head out of town and stop by Cold Hollow Cider Mill for a good picnic— sandwiches with Vermont cheddar cheese and hard and soft cider. Take your lunch to nearby Waterbury Center State Park on the Waterbury Reservoir. 

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the Trapp Family Lodge (yes, those Von Trapps). In addition to its hiking and mountain biking trails, the Alpine resort offers tennis, rock-wall climbing, swimming pools, and more. They brew their excellent Austrian-style beer in their bierhall where you can dine without staying at the lodge.

Get more tips for visiting Vermont

Near Water

When it’s hot outside we all want to be near a lake, river, or ocean destination. Here are three fabulous destinations to beat the heat near the water.

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island, Georgia

Are you ready to hit the beach without the crowds? Where you can find a piece of the coast to call your own? Cumberland Island is Georgia’s southernmost island and a place where you can truly get away from the modern world. With no bridge to come to Cumberland Island travelers have to use a ferry or private boat to get to this beautiful place which is managed by the national park service. 

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although Georgia’s Atlantic coastline is only about 100 miles long, the Peach State is home to 30 percent of the barrier islands along the Atlantic Seaboard. And Cumberland is the largest and fairest of them all with the longest expanse of the pristine seashore—18 glorious miles of deserted sand. Truly, this is a bucket list destination.

Get more tips for visiting Cumberland Island

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire located in the Lakes Region. It is approximately 21 miles long (northwest-southeast) and from 1 to 9 miles wide (northeast-southwest) covering 69 square miles—71 square miles when Paugus Bay is included—with a maximum depth of 180 feet. The center area of the lake is called The Broads.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake contains at least 264 islands, half of which are less than a quarter-acre in size, and is indented by several peninsulas yielding a total shoreline of approximately 288 miles. The driving distance around the lake is 63 miles. It is 504 feet above sea level. Winnipesaukee is the third-largest lake in New England after Lake Champlain and Moosehead Lake. Outflow is regulated by the Lakeport Dam in Lakeport, New Hampshire, on the Winnipesaukee River.

Experience the beauty of Lake Winnipesaukee during a narrated scenic tour aboard the historic M/S Mount Washington. Learn about the history of the region and local folklore surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in New England.

Get more tips for visiting Lake Winnipesaukee

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River. La Conner is a unique combination of a fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, and browse through unique shops and art galleries.

Get more tips for visiting La Conner

Northern States and Canada

When the going gets hot, the hot head up north! Here are three great northern destinations that put plenty of space between you and the equator.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville is nestled in the Siskyou Mountain foothills along the Rogue River Valley and is easy to fall in love with. The little town is at the Heart of Rogue Valley wine country which includes the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Though sometimes busy the small-town ambiance (population 2,860), gorgeous setting, and beautifully preserved late 1800s architecture combines to make a very attractive town. The little gem of a town is highly walkable and has at least one of everything—except chain stores. Everything from wine to cheese to chocolate, art, and fine dining.

Get more tips for visiting Jacksonville

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta

If you Google “Canada nature,” you’ll see pictures of Banff National Park in the Rockies—and for good reason. Canada’s oldest and most popular national park is Mother Nature’s best. Anywhere you look, there are jagged peaks sprinkled with fluffy powder, bluer than blue glacial lakes, and majestic wildlife.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After visiting Banff, take the Icefields Parkway—one of the world’s most scenic drives with more than 100 ancient glaciers—north to Jasper. One of Canada’s prettiest and wildest national parks, Jasper is massive at 4,247 square miles, making it the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. And it’s a great place to spot wildlife including black and grizzly bears, elk and moose, and big horn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats.

Get more tips for visiting Canada’s Mountain Parks

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wells Gray, British Columbia

Wells Gray is not as highly acclaimed as Mount Robson or the national parks in the Canadian Rockies. And having been there, I have no idea why. I mean… this place is awesome!

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.

Get more tips for visiting Wells Gray

Your summer vacation does not have to be hiding indoors in front of the air conditioner trying to stay cool from high temperatures or unbearable humidity. There are lots of places where you can enjoy beautiful pleasant temperatures while spending time outside. Whether you prefer cities, towns, or national or state parks, mild summer weather is available in many spectacular destinations.

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

10 Amazing Places to RV in August 2022

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

Learning never exhausts the mind.

—Leonardo da Vinci

Italian painter and polymath Leonardo da Vinci was a luminary of the Renaissance era—he not only painted such famed works as the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper, ” but was also an architect, inventor, and military engineer. In his lifetime, he sketched concepts resembling the modern-day bicycle and a flying machine and drew some of the first anatomical charts on human record. His words and life’s work remind us that broadening our horizons is healthy: Exploring new fields and skills will only create a richer life.

This August, I’ll not lament the fleeting days of summer. No, I will embrace it: There is still much to see and do—and places to travel in an RV. August is a time for lazy exploration and taking advantage of the last drops of the season while recharging for the months ahead. There are routes to be taken, mountains to climb, seafood to be eaten, and lakes to discover. Get out there and make the most of it.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in June and July. Also, check out my recommendations for August 2021 and September 2021.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climb a Mountain 

Mount Lemmon, an oasis in the middle of the desert, is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. The area offers hiking, camping, and fishing. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Sky center.

Guadalupe River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tube down the Guadalupe River

Tubing down Guadalupe River is about as Texan as it gets, and this state park welcomes you with four miles of river frontage. Just one hour from San Antonio and two hours from Austin, Guadalupe River State Park is also one of the more popular camping destinations in the state, particularly during the summertime when swimming in its cool waters is extra appealing for families and kids. When you’re not tubing, paddling, or taking a dip, embark on its hiking and biking trails. 

Related: The Best Stops for a Summer Road Trip

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Admire Breathtaking Red Rock in Sedona

Due to its distinctive culture, Sedona is truly a place unlike any other. Visitors can navigate remote canyons, rejuvenate at an energy vortex site, and experience the ancient culture of the Sinagua people. Throughout the red rock are multitudes of secluded viewpoints, cliff dwellings, and well-preserved petroglyphs. In downtown Sedona, you’ll find a vibrant art community dense with unique shops and galleries. Hikers and adventurous-types will enjoy the various trails in Red Rock State Park and the renowned Pink Jeep off-road adventure tours.

Deep sea red shrimp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

70th Annual Delcambre Shrimp Festival

The Town of Delcambre, Louisiana, located about 20 miles southwest of Lafayette is home to one of the area’s most productive shrimp fleets. The town devotes an entire weekend to honoring this economic lifeblood.

The Delcambre Shrimp Festival (70th annual; August 17-21, 2022) is home to one of the best 5-day festivals in South Louisiana. The festival has gained its popularity by providing a variety of delicious dishes and top-notch entertainment including National Recording Artists. Enjoy signature shrimp dishes like boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp sauce piquante, shrimp salad, and many more. Every shrimp dish consumed at the festival is prepared by volunteer members of the festival association. If you’re not in the mood for shrimp, the festival also offers a variety of other “festival” foods, cold beer, cold drinks, and water. Souvenirs, t-shirts, hats, posters, etc…

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit all seven of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks

Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes national parks in Alberta, Kootenay and Yoho national parks in British Columbia, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia. The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems, and deeply carved canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess an exceptional natural beauty that attracts millions of visitors annually.

Related: Summer 2022: 18 Best Things to Do in America

Blue Bell Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a Taste Bud Tour at Blue Bell Creameries

Learn what all fuss is about at one of the most iconic creameries in America. Can’t decide which flavor is for you? Try them all because, hey, it’s only $1 a scoop! Since 1907, Blue Bell Ice Cream has won a special place in the heart of Texans. Many would say it’s the best ice cream in the US. For anyone caring to dispute that claim, you can’t know until you try it for yourself and there is no better place to do that than straight at the source. See how the scrumptious stuff is made and learn about the history of the iconic brand before treating yourself to a sample at Blue Bell’s ice cream parlor. At just $1 a scoop, it’s one of the best things to do in the US to beat the heat this summer! 

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk your Way to 17 Historic Sites

The Freedom Trail is a red (mostly brick) path through downtown Boston that leads to 17 significant historic sites. It is a 2.5-mile walk from Boston Common to USS Constitution in Charlestown. Simple ground markers explaining events, graveyards, notable churches, other buildings, and a historic naval frigate are stops along the way.

Most sites are free; Old South Meeting House, Old State House, and Paul Revere House have small admission fees; still others suggest donations. The Freedom Trail is a unit of Boston National Historical Park and is overseen by The Freedom Trail Foundation and the City of Boston’s Freedom Trail Commission.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trail was originally conceived by local journalist William Schofield who since 1951 had promoted the idea of a pedestrian trail to link together important local landmarks. Mayor John Hynes put Schofield’s idea into action. By 1953, 40,000 people annually were enjoying the sites and history on the Freedom Trail.

In 1974, Boston National Historical Park was established. The National Park Service opened a Visitor Center on State Street where they give free maps of the Freedom Trail and other historic sites as well as sell books about Boston and US history. Today, people walk on the red path of the Freedom Trail to learn about important events that led to independence from Great Britain.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History nerd that I am, I can’t get over how much has happened in such a small area. I love that you can take your time walking it. Traveling on the Freedom Trail shows you how small historical Boston was. The trail is free, and clearly marked and you can walk at your own pace. Be sure to wear your comfy shoes as you’re in for an awesome hike.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NH’s Largest Lake

Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire located in the Lakes Region. It is approximately 21 miles long (northwest-southeast) and from 1 to 9 miles wide (northeast-southwest) covering 69 square miles—71 square miles when Paugus Bay is included—with a maximum depth of 180 feet. The center area of the lake is called The Broads.

Related: Best States for a Summer Road Trip

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake contains at least 264 islands, half of which are less than a quarter-acre in size, and is indented by several peninsulas yielding a total shoreline of approximately 288 miles. The driving distance around the lake is 63 miles. It is 504 feet above sea level. Winnipesaukee is the third-largest lake in New England after Lake Champlain and Moosehead Lake. Outflow is regulated by the Lakeport Dam in Lakeport, New Hampshire, on the Winnipesaukee River.

Experience the beauty of Lake Winnipesaukee during a narrated scenic tour aboard the historic M/S Mount Washington. Learn about the history of the region and local folklore surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in New England.

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grandest of Newport’s Summer “Cottages”

The Breakers is a Vanderbilt mansion located on Ochre Point Avenue in Newport along the Atlantic Ocean. It is a National Historic Landmark, a contributing property to the Bellevue Avenue Historic District, and is owned and operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County. The Breakers is the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages” and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America.  Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century.

The Breakers is the most famous of the Gilded Age Newport Mansions for good reason. It’s breathtaking in scope and scale. The design of this grand home was inspired by European palaces and every room is more lavish than the last.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the Richest Fossil Beds in the World

People are drawn to the rugged beauty of the Badlands National Park. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here.

The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today. Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Badlands were formed by the geologic forces of deposition and erosion. Deposition of sediments began 69 million years ago when an ancient sea stretched across what is now the Great Plains. After the sea retreated, successive land environments including rivers and flood plains continued to deposit sediments. Although the major period of deposition ended 28 million years ago significant erosion of the Badlands did not begin until a mere half a million years ago. Erosion continues to carve the Badlands buttes today. The rocks and fossils preserve evidence of ancient ecosystems and give scientists clues about how early mammal species lived.

Related: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Summer Road Trip

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Administered in two units, Sage Creek and Conata Basin, the area is open for backpacking and exploration. The Badlands was the filming location for both Dances with Wolves and Armageddon

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

Summer 2022: 18 Best Things to Do in America

From exploring a hippie paradise to a taste bud tour, RVing with Rex reveals unique and unusual picks for the 18 best things to do in the US this summer. Your US bucket list just got (a lot) longer …

We could all use a break this summer. The last two summer travel seasons have been especially challenging for everyone—travelers, destinations, and small businesses alike. But 2022’s summer could be the biggest one yet for travel within the US and I’m here to help you experience the absolute best of it.

Along Route 66 in Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best things to do this summer include many hidden gems and unique experiences. You’ll find plenty of tried-and-true staples too. But, as is my style at RVing with Rex, I tend to embrace under-the-radar spots as well as famous attractions. You’ll likely find things to do that you didn’t even know existed!

Believing the most authentic recommendations derive from personal experiences, the list highlights the places I’ve discovered and explored on one or more occasions. But, no matter where you plan to travel you’re bound to find something unique and fun to do this summer!

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Hit All the Roadside Attractions on Arizona Route 66

Location: Oatman to Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Originally running from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 is easily one of the most recognizable and iconic highways in the world. It has endless cultural references and was a popular way for travelers to get from east to west and back for decades. The route has mostly been taken over by the I-40 but the stretch of Route 66 in Arizona is especially exciting and alluring. Dotted with ghost towns, Route 66 iconography, local diners, and one-of-a-kind shops, you’ll be delighted every inch of the way.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Admire Breathtaking Red Rock in Sedona

Location: Sedona, Arizona

Due to its distinctive culture, Sedona is truly a place unlike any other. Visitors can navigate remote canyons, rejuvenate at an energy vortex site, and experience the ancient culture of the Sinagua people. Throughout the red rock are multitudes of secluded viewpoints, cliff dwellings, and well-preserved petroglyphs. In downtown Sedona, you’ll find a vibrant art community dense with unique shops and galleries. Hikers and adventurous types will enjoy the various trails in Red Rock State Park and the renowned Pink Jeep off-road adventure tours.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Hit All Five of Utah’s National Parks

Location: Utah

Plan a road trip to visit “The Mighty 5,” an unforgettable journey through Utah’s colorful Canyon Country. Utah is home to five remarkable National Parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. To see all of them on a road trip, start from Zion if you’re coming from the west or Arches if you’re coming from the east. On this beautiful drive, you’ll pass alien-like rock formations, sheer cliffs, and graceful arches. Note that in the summer, afternoon temperatures can be extremely hot.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Explore the Hippie Paradise of Woodstock

Location: Woodstock, New York

Located near the Catskill Mountains, this charming town lives up to its iconic namesake. People from all over the world recognize the name “Woodstock” yet most of them associate it with the crazy, free-spirited music festival. Fun fact: the festival wasn’t actually held in Woodstock but rather more than an hour away in Bethel. Though the name is famous, few people are familiar with the actual small town that boasts loads of personality. Somehow, it’s the perfect place to do a million activities or absolutely nothing.

Carlsbad Caverns © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Plunge into the Depths of the Earth at Carlsbad Caverns

Location: Carlsbad, New Mexico

Descend nearly 800 feet below ground into a series of completely dark, breathtaking caves.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is hidden within the remote parts of southeastern New Mexico. More than just a cave, Carlsbad Caverns is a completely immersive experience. Beginning with a several-mile descent from the cave opening, travelers will emerge into massive caverns full of magnificent rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites, and more. The paved decline is steep but accessible for most people. There is also an elevator available to transport visitors as needed.

Chihuly glass © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Observe Stunning Artwork at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Location: Seattle, Washington

At Chihuly Garden and Glass, vibrant colors and organic shapes come together in spectacular visual exhibits. The long-term exhibition features a Garden, theater, eight galleries, and the breathtaking Glasshouse. The impressive glass art was fashioned by the institution’s namesake, Dale Chihuly, a prolific and talented artist.

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Explore Historic Mansions along the Newport Cliff Walk

Location: Newport, Rhode Island

Come for the jaw-dropping mansions and stay for the scenic walking tour along the Rhode Island shoreline. Newport is best known for its sailing regattas and historic manors that run along the seaside Cliff Walk. The walk is a National Recreation Trail that spans 3.5 miles with multiple scenic overlooks along the way. Take a tour of The Breakers mansion along the walk and learn how New York’s elite families used to spend their summers. If you watched HBO’s The Gilded Age, then you’re probably planning your trip to visit the historic summer “cottages” already. 

Mississippi Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Experience Southern Coastal Charm in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Location: Ocean Springs, Mississippi

This quaint, coastal town along the Gulf Coast is the perfect small-town beach getaway. The Mississippi Gulf Coast advertises itself as “The Secret Coast,” and Ocean Springs is a treasure. The quiet town has white sand beaches, a vibrant art scene, and a beautiful downtown area with restaurants, shops, and nightlife. Every fall, Ocean Springs hosts the famed Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival but during the rest of the year, visitors can get a taste of the art scene at multiple galleries and museums in the area. If you’re looking for a summer 2022 beach getaway with a side of history and culture, then Ocean Springs is for you.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Wander Cobblestone Streets and Shoreline in Charleston

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

It’s easy to be transported back in time while exploring Charleston, the oldest city in South Carolina. Bordering the cobblestone streets are enormous trees and centuries-old Colonial and Victorian homes. Horse-drawn carriages clop through the moss-draped historic district. You can wade in Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park or through waves on Folly Beach. Over on Wadmalaw Island, Deep Water Vineyards offers six tasting pours and a souvenir glass for just $15. Even better, the top attraction in Charleston is the ambiance, free of charge.  

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Travel Back in Time at Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Cortez, Colorado

Marvel at the Mesa Verde National Park cliff dwellings that were once occupied by the Ancestral Pueblo people. Located in southwestern Colorado, this UNESCO World Heritage Site will transport you back in time almost a thousand years. Many archeological sites can be explored independently but Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America, requires a guided tour. Purchasing a ticket is worth it, but be aware that Cliff Palace won’t open to the public until July 1st due to road construction. 

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Experience the Magic of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Location: Virginia and North Carolina

There’s something about being on the Blue Ridge Parkway that instills a sense of calm and puts everything into perspective. The parkway, which is nearly 500 miles long, runs through the Appalachian Mountains and valleys of Virginia and North Carolina. The parkway is perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts since it’s filled with endless trails, camping, and waterfalls. Drive through the winding roads and see for yourself why these rolling hills and lush greenery make the Blue Ridge Parkway “America’s Favorite Drive.”

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Explore an Active Volcano at Mount Saint Helens

Location: Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

If you want to explore an active volcano, go to Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. There are several visitor centers in the area for people who want a deep dive into the mountain’s fascinating geological history. They help tell the story of the eruption in the ’80s that gave Mount St Helens its distinctive crater-shaped top. 

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Climb a Mountain 

Location: Mount Lemmon, Catalina Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway

Mount Lemmon, an oasis in the middle of the desert, is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. The area offers hiking, camping, and fishing. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Skycenter.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Tube down the Guadalupe River

Location: Guadalupe River State Park, Texas Hill Country

Tubing down the Guadalupe River is about as Texan as it gets, and this state park welcomes you with four miles of river frontage. Just one hour from San Antonio and two hours from Austin, Guadalupe River State Park is also one of the more popular camping destinations in the state, particularly during the summertime when swimming in its cool waters is extra appealing for families and kids. When you’re not tubing, paddling, or taking a dip, embark on its hiking and biking trails. 

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Escape to San Antonio’s Riverwalk

Location: San Antonio, Texas

A century ago it started as a flood management project, but today San Antonio’s Riverwalk is a flourishing urban waterway and one of the most cherished attractions in Texas. Visitors can drift underneath cypress trees by hopping on board one of the iconic riverboat tours that ply the nearly 15 miles of waterway. The banks of the river come alive all day (and all night) with musical performers, endless shops and boutiques, and numerous dining options. Plan your visit during the week of July 4th to experience the Bud Light Stars, Stripes, & Light exhibition when one thousand American flags will line the banks of the river. 

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Feel the breeze at Madera Canyon

Location: Madera Canyon, Arizona

With an average high of 102, June 29 has historically been Tucson’s most often hottest day of the year. So says From June through August, Madera Canyon’s average summer high in the low ’90s may still seem warmish but a typical light breeze and the shade from its dozen or so unique Oak species make it nice enough to bust out the cooler and camp chairs and head down I-19.  The coolest low-key adventure there is the Madera Canyon Nature Trail; it’s 5.8 miles out and back with a 921-foot elevation gain, easy for hikers. Take your binoculars because Madera Canyon is rated the third-best birding destination in the US.

Blue Bell ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Take a Taste Bud Tour at Blue Bell Creameries

Location: Brenham, Texas and Sylacauga, Alabama

Learn what all fuss is about at one of the most iconic creameries in America. Can’t decide which flavor is for you? Try them all because, hey, it’s only $1 a scoop! Since 1907, Blue Bell Ice Cream has won a special place in the heart of Texans. Many would say it’s the best ice cream in the US. For anyone caring to dispute that claim, you can’t know until you try it for yourself and there is no better place to do that than straight at the source. See how the scrumptious stuff is made and learn about the history of the iconic brand before treating yourself to a sample at Blue Bell’s ice cream parlor. At just $1 a scoop, it’s one of the best things to do in the US to beat the heat this summer! 

Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Refresh and Relax at Patagonia Lake

Location: Patagonia Lake State Park, 400 Patagonia Lake Road, Nogales

Whether it’s an ocean, river, or lake, water is the break everyone needs from the hot Arizona sun. Patagonia Lake State Park is an escape offering shade, water, boating activities, camping, picnic tables, and grills for summer barbecuing. The park has fully equipped cabin reservations available but these sell out fast. If you’re late to the reservation game, check out their boat-in campsites or pick from 105 of their developed campsites.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

A Southern Gem: 14 Reasons to Visit Tucson

No matter what season you visit, Tucson has a lot to offer

While Phoenix may offer a more metropolitan nightlife experience, Tucson can definitely hold its own when it comes to outdoor adventures and unique sights. In fact, in many ways, I prefer the relative quiet of this southwestern town over its larger cousin to the north.

Tucson is located less than two hours southeast of Phoenix and the Mexican border is roughly one hour to the south. Its proximity to Mexico has earned Tucson’s food scene major recognition—in 2015, UNESCO designated it the first “City of Gastronomy” in the United States.

The real, natural southwest captivates the imaginations of visitors fortunate enough to spend time in Tucson. Located in the Sonoran Desert, Tucson is the only place in the world the majestic saguaro cactus grows. The tall and stately cactus, stand like silent sentinels in the shadows of the five mountain ranges surrounding the Tucson valley. Tucson provides a stunning array of possibilities, satisfying culture seekers, outdoor adventurers, and fans of cowboys and cacti.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is a well-known Tucson attraction. The park is split into two by the city. The Rincon Mountain District is located to the East of Tucson and the Tucson Mountain District is located to the West. Both districts have their own visitor center, scenic drives, and hiking trail systems. In the west part, you will see plenty of the namesake cacti—the saguaro. In the east part, you will see colorful red rocks and more rugged terrain.

I highly recommend choosing several Saguaro National Park hiking trails to make the most of your time. There are both short, paved, accessible trails and day hike out in the wilderness. It all depends on what you are looking for.

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

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of the most popular attractions in town. A world-renowned zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden, all in one place, this is a solid introduction to plant and animal life as you’ll find in the region.

Related: Explore Tucson Naturally

Exhibits re-create the natural landscape of the Sonoran Desert Region so realistically you find yourself eye-to-eye with mountain lions and Gila monsters. Other species found here include prairie dogs, tarantulas, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Most of this museum is outdoors, so plan accordingly. Dress comfortably and bring a hat and sunscreen.

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sabino Canyon

On the northeast edge of Tucson, Sabino Canyon offers a variety of terrain including a paved path for the lighter option, or miles of rugged ground to explore. Nestled in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Sabino Canyon offers a wide range of hiking adventures for beginners and experts alike. Enjoy a relaxing stroll along the paved Sabino Canyon Trail or ride the tram along the wide, scenic path.

Sabino Canyon Tours offers a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8-mile tour into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The trams have nine stops along the tour with several restroom facilities and picnic grounds located near Sabino Creek. The tram turns around at Stop #9 and heads back down to the Visitor’s Center, at which point riders may remain on board and hike back down. Trams arrive on average every 30 minutes.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park 

One of my personal favorite stops, Catalina State Park sits at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains in northwest Tucson. Catalina is chock-full of epic mountainous backdrops, lush landscapes, towering saguaros, and trails for horses and hikers. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. If you visit in early spring, bright Mexican poppies and colorful wildflowers will greet you.

The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invite camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails that wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet.

Related: Why Tucson Is Your Next Great Outdoor Adventure

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon is named after Sara Plummer Lemmon, a botanist who trekked to the 9,000-foot-plus summit with her husband in 1881. Today, it’s a great spot for outdoor adventures like hiking, camping, rock climbing, and even skiing. Yes, skiing in the Sonoran Desert.

Mount Lemmon is located in the Catalina Mountains. Follow Catalina Highway (Sky Island Scenic Byway) to explore the mountain to your heart’s content. One of the most scenic drives in southern Arizona, the paved road provides access to a fascinating land of great vistas, natural rock sculptures, cool mountain forests, and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts.

Tohono Chul Park

Translated from the Tohono O’odham language, Tohono Chul means “desert corner.” This 49-acre desert preserve is a leading Southwest center of desert nature, arts, and culture. This oasis in the desert provides an informative look at the region’s fascinating cultural traditions and its flora and fauna.

Old Tucson Studios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Tucson Studios

Plenty of cowboys can be found at Old Tucson Studios. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are among the Hollywood legends that starred in some of the 300-plus movies and TV projects that have been filmed at Old Tucson since 1939. Today it’s a movie studio and theme park.

It’s been just over a year since Old Tucson Studios closed its doors. The famous western attraction was shuttered because of the pandemic. Now, after a long process, Pima County is getting ready to announce who will take over the lease. Be sure to check the current status before planning a visit.

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Fifteen minutes south of Tucson sits an important piece of the city’s history: Mission San Xavier del Bac. This is one of the most awe-inspiring of all of the area’s attractions and is definitely worth the short drive. Mission San Xavier del Bac, also known as the White Dove of the Desert, is a magnificent building that blends Moorish, Byzantine, and late Mexican Renaissance architecture.

In 1692 Father Kino, a Jesuit missionary came to the area. Eight years later he laid the foundation for the first church. This building was named for Francis Xavier, a pioneering Christian missionary. The current church, completed in 1797, serves an active parish. Today, this site is used as both a church and a school.

Titan Missile Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Titan Missile Museum

A National Historic Landmark known as Complex 571-7, the Titan Missile Museum is the only remaining Titan II missile site. On one-hour guided tours you’ll descend 35 feet below ground to marvel at the intercontinental ballistic missile that in about 30 minutes could have delivered a nine-megaton nuclear warhead to a location more than 6,000 miles away.

Related: 13 Weird and Wonderful Reasons to RV to Tucson

Tumacácori National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tumacácori National Historic Park

The oldest Jesuit mission in Arizona has been preserved in Tumacácori National Historic Park. The San Cayetano del Tumacácori Mission was established in 1691 by Spanish priest Eusebio Francisco Kino. Jesuit, and later Franciscan, priests ministered to the O’odham Indians and Spanish settlers until 1848.

A self-guiding tour booklet for the Tumacácori Mission grounds can be purchased or borrowed. The walking tour of the site leads through several interlinked rooms with open doorways, and to the enclosed courtyard garden, filled by mature trees and Sonoran desert plants.

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


A destination for the arts, Tubac features eclectic shops and world-class galleries. Clustered in the village plaza, old adobes, Spanish courtyards, and ocotillo fences blend with a handful of newer buildings. Meandering streets are punctuated by hidden courtyards and sparkling fountains.

This village of about 1,500 people has over 100 galleries, studios, and shops, all within easy walking distance of each other. You’ll find an eclectic and high-quality selection of art and artisan works that include paintings, sculpture, pottery, metalwork, hand-painted tiles, photography, jewelry, weaving, and hand-carved wooden furniture.

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

Established as a Spanish presidio in 1752, Tubac was the first permanent European settlement in what later became Arizona. Those early ruins are visible in an underground exhibit at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. Visitors also will see a museum that houses Arizona’s first printing press (demonstrations are offered), a furnished 1885 schoolhouse, and living-history exhibits.

Outdoor patio exhibits show how people lived, cooked, and worked in Spanish colonial times. The Park is home to three buildings on the National Register of Historic Places: an 1885 schoolhouse that is the third oldest in Arizona; Otero Hall, built as a community center in 1914 and now housing a collection of paintings; and a mid-20th century adobe vernacular row house.

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon is known for exceptional and varied hiking trails. The Mount Wrightson trailhead provides access to several trails including the Super Trail and Old Baldy trail where experienced hikers can climb to higher levels. These two trails to its summit cross one another twice and make a figure eight.

Related: Mountain Island in a Desert Sea: Exploring Southern Arizona Sky Islands

Madera Canyon is a famed wildlife location, in particular for birds with over 250 recorded species. The resident birds include hummingbirds, owls, sulfur flycatchers, wood warblers, elegant trogan, wild turkeys, and quails, as well as numerous migrating birds. Other notable wildlife includes coati, black bear, raccoon, mountain lion, bighorn sheep, bobcat, and ring-tailed cat.

Old Pueblo County Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Pueblo

Tucson has preserved a flair of its American Indian and Spanish-Mexican past of a pueblo in the Sonoran Desert. The days of the Presidio de San Agustin del Tucson, the original fortress built by Spanish soldiers during the 18th century, seem not that long ago. Wandering through the recreated structure, it is easy to imagine what life was like when members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Native American people of the Sonoran Desert, mingled there with Spanish soldiers and early Territorial Period settlers.

The neighborhood surrounding the Presidio, the Presidio Historic District, is a charming, eclectic assembly of adobe and brick buildings in Spanish-Mexican, Anglo-American, and other architectural styles of the 1920s. Many houses have been restored to their former beauty, in brilliant colors of bright green, brick red, plum-purple, and hues of blue and yellow, and their original masonry.

Worth Pondering…

Once in a lifetime, you see a place, and you know, instinctively, this is paradise.

On the Road to Mount Lemmon

Approximately an hour drive from Tucson’s city center, Mount Lemmon is a favorite day trip and camping spot

Climbing more than 6,000 feet, the Sky Island Scenic Byway begins with forests of saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert and ends in a cool, coniferous forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

On the road to Mount leaving Tucson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prepare yourself for breathtaking views and a climate change that would be similar to driving from Southern Arizona to Canada in a mere 27 miles. Each thousand feet up is like driving 600 miles north offering a unique opportunity to experience four seasons in one trip.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Often referred to as Mount Lemmon Highway or General Hitchcock Highway, Sky Island Scenic Byway drive begins at the northeastern edge of Tucson.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the road climbs among the giant saguaro cactus and brittlebush, enjoy hairpin curves as you arrive at the Babad Do’ag Viewpoint which overlooks the desert cacti studded Tucson Valley and the Rincon Mountains. There are interpretive signs at the lookout and if you’re up for a longer hike—try the moderate 5-mile round trip Babad Do’ag Trail. Incredible desert vistas of saguaro, wildflowers, and mountains await.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing up the road, you’ll enter Molino Canyon. The road hugs the canyon’s cliff until the Molino Canyon Overlook. The overlook offers a short hike to a creek and series of waterfalls. Towards the center of the canyon is the Molino Basin, home to a campground and trailheads for a variety of hikes. Hiking here is especially fascinating due to the transition from desert to a forest dominated by cottonwood, oak, sycamore, and willow trees.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each turn of the road reveals a new perspective. Entering Bear Canyon, the forest transforms once again into a lush, cool environment with cypress, juniper, pine, sycamore, and walnut trees. Granite pinnacles soar into the sky, and with rocky outcroppings and stony hoodoos, some of Arizona’s best rock climbing is found here.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next stop, Windy Point offers the most amazing views along the entire scenic drive. Wind-sculpted rock formations, views of the Huachuca, Patagonia, and Santa Rita Mountains, and the Tucson Basin await at 6,400 feet elevation.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Geology Point Vista, offers another spectacular viewpoint. Sweeping panoramas and precariously perched rocks create a surreal and photogenic landscape.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From here, you climb through forests of ponderosa pine, fir, and spruce. Rose Canyon Lake is stocked with trout and surrounded by absolute beauty; this seven-acre lake is a perfect stop for fishing, picnics, and camping in the Rose Canyon Campground.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shortly afterwards, you arrive at the San Pedro Vista which overlooks the San Pedro River Valley. From this stop, enjoy the 4-mile hike around Green Mountain to the General Hitchcock Campground.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shortly after the viewpoint is the Palisade Visitor Center. Self-guided displays inform about the Coronado National Forest and it’s a great location to get more information about hikes. Two of the most popular are the Butterfly Trail and Crystal Springs Trail with trailheads one mile from the center. Both trails are long, but you need not do the entire trail to enjoy the shaded, dense forests. Butterfly Trail features such a diverse biology, it has been designated a Research Natural Area. If you are up for a challenge, the medium-to-difficult Crystal Springs Trail will bring you to Mount Lemmon’s summit.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience the sky up close at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter. There are daytime and after-dark programs using their 32-inch Schulman Telescope. Reservations are required. The SkyCenter is at an elevation of 9,157 feet.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This scenic drive officially ends in a small town mostly filled with summer chalets, appropriately named Summerhaven. A great retreat for people to escape the summer desert heat.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While here, consider a few short side trips. For spectacular views in every season, Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, the southernmost ski area in the country, can be reached via East Ski Run Road. The ski hill offers an opportunity to ride the ski lift for breathtaking vistas at 9,100 feet. Continue a few miles further and turn onto Summit Road. At the road end is the actual summit of Mount Lemmon, an amazing way to end this scenic drive.

The Forest Service has done a great job with the road and attractions along the route including campgrounds, picnic areas, trailheads, pullouts, vista points, and interpretive overlooks.

Worth Pondering…

Stay close to nature, it will never fail you.

—Frank Lloyd Wright