5 of the Most Visited National Parks…and Where to Go Instead

Many national parks are overflowing with visitors. To get away from the crowds, seek an alternate route.

Since it was signed in 1906, the United States Antiquities Act has conserved millions of acres across 61 national parks. These protected areas encompass some of the country’s most extraordinary landscapes which have unsurprisingly prompted growing tourism numbers in the most popular parks. Competing with these throngs of tourists while is far from ideal. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of less crowded, yet equally scenic, alternatives to America’s most popular national parks.

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

If you like Grand Canyon National Park, try Bryce Canyon National Park instead

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is a bucket-list destination for travelers worldwide. This recognition comes at a cost, though, with 6.38 million arrivals to the park in 2018. Consider instead heading due north to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated along the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, the park’s terrain has been shaped and eroded by the harsh high-altitude elements. The resulting hoodoos, jagged formations, and massive horseshoe amphitheaters are an astonishing sight to behold. Bryce Canyon’s extensive trail network is sure to satisfy any type of hiker. The park’s elevation ranges between a lofty 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level making for milder summer temperatures compared to the Grand Canyon.

If you like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, try Shenandoah National Park instead

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A whopping 11.4 million people visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2018. Heading six hours north along the Appalachian Mountains, hikers and drivers can find equally scenic roadways, stunning mountain vistas, and epic trails at Shenandoah National Park. Though it’s not exactly an off-the-beaten path destination, Shenandoah’s 1.2 million visitors are a mere trickle compared to its southern neighbor.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanning 105 miles between the Front Royal and Rockfish Gap entrances, winding Skyline Drive allows visitors to leisurely enjoy the park’s scenery from their car and choose from numerous trailheads for day hikes. Hiking options abound, with over 500 miles of marked trails, including a substantial section of the famed Appalachian Trail.

If you like Zion National Park, try Capitol Reef National Park instead

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion’s famed Narrows and towering cliffs are nothing short of breathtaking. If you’re craving more solitude among southern Utah’s geological wonders, consider heading three hours northeast to Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef’s Scenic Drive takes in some of the most picturesque stretches of the park. Frequent pullouts permit plenty of stops for photos or embarking on a day hike. Turn down Grand Wash Road to hike a quarter-mile to Cassidy Arch where Butch Cassidy was rumored to have camped out.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most conspicuous reminder of settlers is at Fruita where orchards and a few restored buildings serve as the last remnants of the Mormon town of 50. Depending on the season visitors can pick their own fruit including cherries, pears, and apricots.

If you like Yellowstone National Park, try Theodore Roosevelt National Park instead

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yellowstone’s wealth of attractions—unique wildlife, spouting geysers, volcanic landscapes, and churning rivers—are unmatched by any single national park. For similar wildlife spotting opportunities away from the crowds head east to the lesser-known Theodore Roosevelt National Park which sees just 749,000 annual visitors compared to Yellowstone’s 4.1 million.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty-nine American bison were reintroduced here in 1956, with herd numbers today totaling several hundred between the park’s north and south units. For the best chance of seeing bison, make your way around the Scenic Loop Drive in the south unit but be sure to maintain a respectable distance from the massive creatures. Fortunately, bison prefer to graze the nutritious grasslands surrounding prairie dog communities, and thus, you may spot both species.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond the park’s critters, there is an abundance of scenic views and impressive rock formations to enjoy. Visiting at sunrise or sunset is an ideal time to appreciate the multitude of colors emanating from bands of minerals in the rugged rock face.

If you like Yosemite National Park, try Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park instead

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although Sequoia and Kings Canyon’s natural beauty rival its northerly neighbor, it only received 1.2 million visitors in 2018 compared to Yosemite’s four million. The dramatic landscape testifies to nature’s size, beauty, and diversity—huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees. These two parks lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada east of the San Joaquin Valley.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You expect giant trees and huge canyons—and you won’t be disappointed. Within these parks, you can experience a spectacular range in elevation from warm foothills to cold alpine peaks. The largest and finest groves of giant sequoias grow at the sometimes snowy mid-elevations, along with extraordinarily diverse plants and animals living in extremely varied conditions.

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

Get Immersed in Caves: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes

The Chihuahuan Desert, studded with spiky plants and lizards, offers little hint that what Will Rogers called the “Grand Canyon with a roof on it” waits underground. Yet, at this desert’s northern reaches, underneath the Guadalupe Mountains, lies one of the deepest, largest, and most ornate caverns ever found.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus, and desert wildlife are the treasures above the ground in the Chihuahuan Desert. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 limestone caves that are outstanding in the profusion, diversity, and beauty of their formations.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most of the formations—or speleothems—found inside Carlsbad Cavern today were active and growing during the last ice age when instead of a desert above the cave, there were pine forests. Water molded this underworld four to six million years ago. Some 250 million years ago, the region lay underneath the inland arm of an ancient sea. Near the shore grew a limestone reef. By the time the sea withdrew, the reef stood hundreds of feet high, later to be buried under thousands of feet of soil.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some 15 to 20 million years ago, the ground uplifted. Naturally occurring sulfuric acid seeped into cracks in the limestone, gradually enlarging them to form a honeycomb of chambers. Millions of years passed before the cave decoration began. Then, drop by drop, limestone-laden moisture created an extraordinary variety of formations—some six stories tall; others tiny and delicate.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cave scientists have explored more than 30 miles of passageways of the main cavern of Carlsbad, and investigation continues. Visitors may tour three of these miles on a paved trail. Slaughter Canyon Cave provides the hardy an opportunity to play caver, albeit with a guide. The park has more than a hundred other caves open primarily to specialists.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One full day allows you time to tour the main cavern and take a nature walk or a drive before watching the bats fly at sunset. For a second day’s activity, reserve space on a tour of Slaughter Canyon Cave, if you’re ready for a more rugged caving experience.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the Visitor Center, select either the Natural Entrance Tour or the Big Room Tour (both are 1.25-mile walks). Try the first unless you have walking, breathing, or heart problems. It starts at the natural entrance and is mostly downhill, except for one stretch where you climb 83 feet; an elevator whisks you back to ground level. The Natural Entrance Tour is more intimate and may be less crowded than the Big Room.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The cave climate is cool and averages about 56°F year-round. You may want to bring a light jacket or sweater. Comfortable, rubber-soled shoes with good traction are appropriate.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park was first designated a National Monument in 1923. It became a National Park in 1930. Carlsbad Caverns was also designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Some visitors think the park’s most spectacular sight is the one seen at the cave’s mouth. More than a quarter million Brazilian (Mexican) free-tailed bats summer in a section of the cave, and around sunset they spiral up from the entrance to hunt for insects.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The nightly exodus led to the discovery of the cave in modern times. Around the turn of the 20th century, miners began to excavate bat guano—a potent fertilizer—for shipment to the citrus groves of southern California. One of the guano miners, James Larkin White, became the first to explore and publicize the caverns beyond Bat Cave.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The main cavern gets crowded, especially in summer and on major holiday weekends. Either spring or fall, when the desert’s in bloom, is an excellent time to go. You’ll see the bats fly from April or mid-May through October.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park above ground looming south to Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is off US 62/180, 20 miles southwest of Carlsbad and 164 miles east of El Paso, Texas. For the visitor center, turn west at Whites City and drive seven miles.

Worth Pondering…

The beauty, the weirdness, the grandeur … absolved my mind of all thoughts of a world above. I forgot time, place and distance.

—Jim White

Choose Your National Park Campground Carefully

How to find a suitable camping site in a National Park?

The rustic accommodations of national park campsites get us closer to nature than private campgrounds outside the park. But opting for that primitive experience often puts RVers in the middle of that classic Goldilocks conundrum.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Without good planning, you just don’t know if a campground can accommodate your home on wheels. If you can count the number of times you have spent an entire afternoon jumping from one site to another, trying to find one that fits, you’re not alone.

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

As the owner of a 38-foot motorhome, I’m somewhat envious of truck campers, camping vans, and small motorhomes able to tuck themselves in a cozy gem of a campsite that could never accommodate our rig. The truth is, bigger is not better when it comes to RVing in national parks. The smaller your rig, the more campsite choices you have, including some amazing backcountry campsites where large rigs could never tread.

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

Many owners of RVs larger than ours are successful at squeezing into the pint-sized campsites at national parks, but we prefer to avoid being the afternoon entertainment when we arrive somewhere. 

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

The best RV type for national parks is a unit that’s 30-feet or less including the toad (or tow) vehicle. The short, narrow parking sites in most national park campgrounds make navigation difficult in anything larger. That’s not to say your 40-foot motorhome won’t ever be able to camp in national parks, it just means that you’ll need to work harder to find a suitable campsite.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to find the best national park campsite for your RV

If you’re one of America’s nine million RV owners and desire a national park experience, reserve a spot as far in advance as possible at Recreation.gov. Wherever you roam in the national park system, the RV-friendly spots are always the first to go. Spontaneous travel offers some amazing benefits, but showing up at a national park’s campground without a reservation is a recipe for disappointment.

From Joshua Tree to Arches and beyond, planning pays off for national park RV camping and it’s easier when you know the answers to these questions:

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort, Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will the campground accommodate my needs?

If your RV is self-contained with holding tanks, toilet facilities, and perhaps solar panels, you can go just about anywhere. But if you’re in a more basic rig without them, a designated campground with water and bathroom facilities is pretty much a necessity. And if you rely on generator power, you’ll need a campground that allows their use. Not all do in the national park system, so always verify that the one you want to visit has generator hours and other creature comforts you desire.

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

What is the length of my RV?

Don’t rely on the RV manufacturer’s sticker to tell you the length of your rig. That number usually only factors in the interior length dimension of the RV rather than the exterior measurement from front to back bumper. Your toad, or tow vehicle, adds additional length that impacts where you can camp.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To find out your actual length, measure your RV. You want to know the total number of feet for your RV and secondary vehicle, if any. Measure from the front bumper of the first vehicle to the back bumper of the second one. If you have bicycles or a cargo box hitched to the rear, add those in too. Also measure the height from the highest point on your roof, and total width with slides extended, if applicable. Many campsites have thick tree canopies with limited clearance for high profile vehicles.

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

What is the maximum RV length for the campsite I want?

You’ll see that number for every campsite on Recreation.gov, but it only refers to the vehicle being parked at the site. You may or may not be able to fit a second vehicle on the parking site. Before reserving a spot, contact the park to get a better idea of the campground’s ease of use for an RV like yours.

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

Do parking hazards exist?

Even when site dimensions look acceptable, natural obstacles may prevent you from maneuvering into the site. If there’s any question about fitting into a site, look carefully at Recreation.gov photos or download a Google Earth map to confirm that you can navigate that space without scraping a tree or boulder.

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

If you’re already at the campground, observe and note if the rig’s back end will hang over the parking site or encroach on your neighbor’s landscaping.

Many RVers will say that a small rig is best for one location while super-sized RV owners may say they don’t have a problem accessing that same spot. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

Worth Pondering…

Our wish to you is this: drive a little slower, take the backroads sometimes, and stay a little longer. Enjoy, learn, relax, and then…plan your next RV journey.

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

America’s greatest outdoor treasures are slowly starting to reopen

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

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

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

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—Eric Metaxas

Adventure in Albuquerque: Petroglyph National Monument

A petroglyph is an image on stone, created by removing part of the surface of the rock by pecking, carving, etching, or abrading with a tool or harder stone

Greetings on day 1,999 of lockdown! Oh, wait, that’s not correct. It just feels that way.

Just remember, this isn’t forever, but you have to know what’s out there before you can step back into the world of RV travel. Today we keep the fire going as we head to the Land of Enchantment.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Standing amid a jumble of basalt boulders, I paused after pulling myself up a steep climb of coffee-colored rock. We’re hiking appropriately named Boca Negra Canyon of the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, and so far the rock art hasn’t exactly been jumping out at me. But as I pause to rest and finally consider the beauty of the canyon, petroglyphs begin to emerge before me.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Round faces, turtles and birds, brands and crosses, and lightning bolt-like patterns appear plain as day where I was looking on the fly just moments before. Sometimes you cover more ground and observe more beauty when standing still.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These images are inseparable from the greater cultural landscape, from the spirits of the people who created them, and from all who appreciate them today.

While it may be tempting to reach out your hand, don’t touch! Oils from your skin can permanently damage the petroglyphs.

Petroglyph National Monument and Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument comprises 7,236 acres of a volcanic basalt escarpment created by ancient lava flows along 17 miles of Albuquerque’s west escarpment, known as the West Mesa. The monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources, including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites, and an estimated 25,000 images carved into these dark rock outcroppings.

Petroglyph National Monument and Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 150,000 year ago lava seeped from an enormous fissure here, covering the landscape like a prehistoric parking lot. Over time, cooling and erosion cracked the hardened lava. In many areas the ripples of once-hot lava can be seen in rock fragments.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By pecking the flat basalt, ancient artists found they could chisel away the dark desert varnish that had coated the rock and expose lighter rock beneath, creating a contrast that is still striking today. Basalt has a high iron content, and the rocks’ dark interior is basically rust. Creating a petroglyph was no small undertaking, as it took considerable time to etch the rock.

The National Park Service Las Imagenes Visitor Center and book store is located off Unser Boulevard at Western Trail. We began our visit here with a brief orientation to the monument and checked the schedule for ranger guided tours and special events before lacing up our hiking boots and hitting the trail at Boca Negra Canyon, a 70-acre section of the monument. Each trail offers a diverse view of the cultural and natural landscape within the monument.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located two miles north of the visitor center on Unser Boulevard, Boca Negra Canyon provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is the most popular section of the monument, and is the only fully-developed area with restroom facilities, shade, and a drinking fountain. A nominal parking fee is charged by the City of Albuquerque.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mostly, the national monument’s expanse of open space is undeveloped save for interpretative signs and facilities along the few developed trails at Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and the volcano’s trails. Otherwise, silence and isolation are yours just minutes from New Mexico’s largest city.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located one mile south of the visitor center on Unser Boulevard, Rinconada Canyon is one of the few places, where at the end of the trail you can be out of sight of the city.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A 2½-mile round-trip sandy trail follows the base of the escarpment where you can view more than 800 petroglyphs. This trail area has no water, so bring your own. You are advised to stop at the visitor center for an orientation and map before hiking this trail.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The northernmost area of the monument, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, means “canyon of marked rocks”. Piedras Marcadas is home to the densest concentration of petroglyphs along the monument’s 17-mile escarpment, with an estimated 5,000 images. This area may be entered from a small parking lot west of Golf Course Road.

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This trail area has no water, so bring your own. You are advised to stop at the visitor center for an orientation and map before hiking this trail.

Worth Pondering…

Each of these rocks is alive, keeper of a message left by the ancestors…There are spirits, guardians; there is medicine…

—William F. Weahkee, Pueblo Elder

When Will National Parks Reopen? Some Are Now Open.

From Florida to Utah, national and state parks that have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic have begun detailing how they will reopen

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic lockdowns ease and Americans look to hit the road, national and state parks are among the first destinations to welcome them. Three national parks will open their gates in coming days and the National Park Service announced last week that it would start “increasing access and services in a phased approach across all units of the National Park System.”

Petrified Forest National Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In many cases, parks will reopen as they closed—by varying timetables, depending on the park and its region. The agency said the decisions would follow federal CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance as well as that provided by regional and local health authorities.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah opened trails around the red-rock spires of the Bryce Amphitheater on Wednesday (May 6). The main park road and all viewpoints along the way will be open from the entrance to Rainbow Point. However, the visitor center and fee booth, campgrounds, backcountry trails, park concession facilities, and restrooms remain closed (except for one at Sunset Point), a park announcement said.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Everglades National Park in Florida reopened some boat launch ramps, campgrounds, and restrooms Monday (May 4); Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee will allow visitors on most roads and trails starting tomorrow (May 9).

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

Everglades reopened access to the main park road from the Homestead entrance to Flamingo; external restrooms at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center; Flamingo Marina and boat launch ramps; Flamingo Marina Store, restrooms, and gas pumps; Flamingo Fish Cleaning Station and restroom; and Chekika Day Use Area (roads and surrounding areas only). In addition, entry fees are waived.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia reopened their beaches, public docking spaces, and trails this past Saturday (May 2). However, the park’s Ice House Museum, Sea Camp Ranger Station, Plum Orchard Mansion, campgrounds (including wilderness camp sites), the mainland visitor center, and the mainland museum remain closed.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This has been a very difficult time for our community, our families, and our world. The park is thrilled to be able to take this small step forward with the hope it will help provide some with an opportunity to find peace and joy in visiting the seashore,” said Superintendent Gary Ingram.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah slowly allowed visitors back into the park on Tuesday (May 5), though some of the most popular areas will remain closed for the time being. The park will reopen access to day use in the South District (Waterpocket Fold) and overnight stays in Cedar Mesa campground, day use in the North District (Cathedral Valley) and overnight stays in Cathedral Valley campground, and non-trailhead Pullouts along Highway 24 for scenic viewing.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We are pleased to begin reopening the park to our communities and visitors and hope this helps our local businesses re-open their operations with assurance that the park is moving towards phased re-opening access. We look forward to seeing you in the broad expanses of the northern and southern portions of this spectacular park” said Superintendent Sue Fritzke.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other national parks with plans to partially reopen this week Include Stone River National Battlefield in Tennessee, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and neighboring Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado, Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, and Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park in Utah recently announced on its Web site that it will be reopening its gates next week (Wednesday, May 13). In a brief message on the park’s website, Zion National Park said it will reopen access to select areas. Access will be day-use and only in select parts of the park that have yet to be specified. Visitor access will be limited to available parking in some areas. Further details have not yet been released, but the park said it will release additional details in the coming days.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some parks never officially closed (like Channel Islands). Some, like Yosemite, are such magnets for visitors that superintendents felt obliged to close them relatively early. Still others, like the Grand Canyon, closed later despite heavy visitor traffic.

At other parks, it’s harder to be sure what’s happening when.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But in hopes of reopening soon, The Xanterra Travel Collection which operates hotels and concessions in a number of parks—including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, and Glacier—said that it would reopen the bulk of its park properties on June 15. 

Check with individual parks for specific details since, in many cases, visitor centers, concessions, and bathroom facilities might be closed.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay six feet away from others (“social distancing”) and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If a park, beach, or recreational facility is open for public use, visiting is okay as long as you practice social distancing and everyday steps such as washing hands often and covering coughs and sneezes. Follow these actions when visiting a park, beach, or recreational facility:

  • Stay at least six feet from others at all times. This might make some open areas, trails, and paths better to use. Do not go into a crowded area.
  • Avoid gathering with others outside of your household.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol to use if soap and water are not available
White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s it from me for today. Hope you found this edition of RVing with Rex to be enlightening!

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Might Soon-ish likely be Sort of Over: Virtual Travel and the Revival of the RV Road Trip

If grocery stores are permitted to remain open while employing physical distancing guidelines surely spacious national and state parks and recreation areas can easily accommodate those who wish to treat their physical and mental health in the great outdoors

America is slowly but surely reopening for business. The start of May saw more than a dozen states relaxing lockdown measures that were imposed as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic began. While Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee began relaxing rules earlier in the week these states followed suit as of Friday to varying degrees: Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

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

The coronavirus crisis is creating health and economic concerns for just about everyone. A bit further down the priority list, it’s also impacting travel plans for a lot of people.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Francisco-based Destination Analysts is tracking American travel sentiment as the travel industry continues to grapple with COVID-19 fallout and to look for clues to normalcy’s return. During a web event hosted by Visit Santa Barbara, results from their 4th week of analysis based on a survey of 1216 travelers fielded April 3 through 5 were released. Even amidst the daily tally of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths, 41 percent have tentative plans to travel in July and/or August. Sixty-nine percent of US travelers say they miss traveling and are anxious to hit the road again, a number that continues to rise.

Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For major sectors of the travel industry, the new numbers show that safety and health concerns have made hesitation soar. For example, more than 86 percent of travelers feel unsafe about cruising, 85 percent feel unsafe about international travel, 81 percent are concerned about flying, between 75 percent and 77 percent are second-guessing going to amusements parks and restaurants, and close to 70 percent are not sure about the safety of staying at a hotel.

Davis Mountains, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People are feeling more comfortable with road trips and outdoors activities like hiking and biking which suggests to me that when travel begins to return, local and regional travel will rebound first. When will “normal” travel activity return? I’m thinking June as a likely marker for a gradual turnaround with summer offering a travel deals bonanza and fall becoming the “new summer” for many travelers.

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More people will visit national and state parks and be in the outdoors away from crowds in the wake of the coronavirus. The types of vacations they take will likely change too. Road trips are poised to make a resurgence and more people are expected to gravitate to the great outdoors and similar social distancing-friendly destinations. Low fuel prices and the peace of mind and flexibility that come with being in your own vehicle will make RV road trips an especially appealing vacation option.

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

When the highly lethal and infectious Spanish flu swept through the country a century ago, U.S. national park visitation numbers which had been growing substantially took a dip in 1918 as the pandemic started. What happened next could be a sign of how travelers will respond to the coronavirus. The 1918 flu pandemic, thought to be the deadliest in human history, killed at least 50 million people worldwide (the equivalent of 200 million today) with half a million of those in the United States.

Raccoon State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The number in 1918 went down to 436,000 (most analysts concur that Spanish flu, not World War I, drove the bulk of the decrease). People were either too sick or too scared to travel. Then, in 1919, it jumped to 781,000. In 1920, when the pandemic was basically over it jumped again, another 250,000 to over 1 million. From there on, it was fairly stable.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This suggests to me that we’ll go through a period when travel is very slow and as people start to feel comfortable again we’ll see an explosion of travel in general.

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With social distancing the new normal, more travelers will seek out more remote, off-the-beaten path destinations to provide a little more elbow room between them and other travelers. Once this thing is over we’ll see RV travel go through the roof. People will have such a lust of going out there to see the country.

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Power of Nature: Arches National Park Offers Endless Beauty

Visit Arches to discover a landscape of contrasting colors, land forms, and textures unlike any other in the world

We know COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting RV travel plans right now. For a little inspiration we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

With towering red rock formations, natural stone arches, and 77,000 acres of land to explore, Arches National Park lives up to its name. The park is minutes from the city of Moab. Deciding what to see can be somewhat overwhelming as the crescent-shaped rocks seem to be everywhere. So far, there are 2,000 confirmed rust-colored natural formations in the park.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best times to visit Arches National Park are April-May and September-October. The National Parks Service states on its website that traffic can get congested and parking can be a problem from March through October. However, we visited in late October and the park was not overcrowded, parking was not an issue, and it was cool but comfortable.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delicate Arch is the most famous and popular arch in the world and is seen on TV and in photographs many times over. People come from all over the world to get a glimpse of this iconic stone. Visitors cannot see the arch from the car, however—there are a couple of viewing points to see the arch without a long walk. If you are hiking to the arch, allow at least two to three hours. At Delicate Arch is a historic homestead from the turn of the 20th century, Wolfe Ranch. On the hike the homestead can be seen, as well as Ute Indian petroglyphs.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Windows Section of the park is an area where Turret Arch, Double Arch, and North and South Windows are located. These are some of the largest arches in the park.

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

Balanced Rock can be seen from the road and those wanting a short hike can walk around it and get views of the Windows Section.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Devils Garden is home to a variety of arches that are connected by hiking trails. Landscape Arch is located at the end of the Devils Garden Trail. Possibly even more delicate than Delicate Arch, this 290-foot sandstone spiderweb makes you feel like you might be the last person to see it intact. It’s an easy 0.8-mile hike from the Devils Garden Trailhead with numerous other arches you can add on to your hike.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers are seen shortly after passing the visitors center and making your way up the steep winding road. The canyon walls of Park Avenue stand tall with the thin, statuesque rocks resembling a big-city street lined with skyscrapers. You can walk among massive monoliths and towering walls and see views of the nearby La Sal Mountains. Beyond the viewpoint, the trail descends steeply into the spectacular canyon and continues one mile to Courthouse Towers.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether your visit is for one day or a week, taking the scenic drive is the best way to see the highlights. Driving all the paved roads in the park would take about 4.5 hours with time to stop at each viewpoint.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you only have a short time to drive, go as far as you can and it is easy to turn around and go back to town or make your way to the next destination. Maps are available at the visitors’ center.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking opportunities are abundant. Hikers can spend days on the trails which vary in length and skill level ranging from a 50-yard nature trail to a several-hour hike.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moab offers visitors many places to camp, eat, and play. Outdoor activities include Colorado River rafting, canyoneering, golfing, rock climbing, slick-rock biking, and more.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Moab and Arches visitors can go to Canyonlands National Park. Also close by are Dead Horse Point State Park and Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Worth Pondering…

Time, geologic time, looks out at us from the rocks as from no other objects in the landscape.

—John Burroughs

National Parks Week: 3 Scenic Park Drives Everyone Should Do at Least Once

From Great Smoky Mountains and Petrified Forest to Zion National Park these scenic drives are worth the trip

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has impacted RV travel right now. As RVers, travel is our way of life and, if you’re like us, you’re feeling the frustration of being limited to one location without the freedom to travel. 2020 is certainly presenting new challenges and now, more than ever, we realize that the freedom to travel is something we can’t take for granted. Now is a great time to start thinking of places you’d like to go—especially bucket-list destinations.

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

National Park Week is celebrated each year in April as a reminder of America’s rich heritage of lands set aside for preservation and enjoyment. Taking a scenic drive through the national parks is a perfect way to appreciate their beauty and timelessness so we have selected a few favorites.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lovers of the outdoors might take advantage of hiking and camping in the parks while others want to experience the beauty of the parks in a more relaxed way. For everyone a road trip is an ideal start. The parks are often remote so prep the RV, fuel up, and plan your outing with these tips.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest national park in the East, Great Smoky Mountains is also America’s most-visited national park. Wildlife, forests, hiking trails, streams, wildflowers, and more than 90 historic structures make this park unique and popular. The hazy morning mist gave the mountains their name and waterfalls throughout the park including one that you can actually walk behind attract hikers to its more than 800 miles of trails.

Scenic Drives

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 270 miles of road, mostly paved, offer a variety of scenic drives. Guide booklets are available at the park’s four visitor centers. Cades Cove is one of the most visited areas of the park and it can be accessed after a scenic 25-mile drive from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail nearly six miles of winding one-way road through the forest includes views of mountains, rushing streams, wildlife, and historic buildings.

If You’re Not a Hiker

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A waterfall called the “Place of a Thousand Drips” can be seen from the car at Stop 15 near the end of Roaring Fork Nature Trail. Meigs Falls can also be seen from the parking area on Little River Road near Cades Cove.

Petrified Forest Road, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This national park features trees dating back more than 200 million years that have turned to stone by absorbing minerals from the water that once surrounded them. The park also includes fossilized flora and fauna, petroglyphs, wildflowers, colorful rock formations, and wildlife. Hiking trails allow visitors to see the petrified wood, petroglyphs, and fossils.

Scenic Drives

Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trip from one end of the park to the other is about 28 miles. There’s so much to see from the Painted Desert in the north to the southern half of the drive where most of the petrified wood lies. Hiking trails along the way take visitors close to the sights. Starting in the north at Exit 311 off I-40, stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center to see an 18-minute film, hands-on exhibits, and a short walking trail.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your next stop should be the Painted Desert Inn now a National Historic Landmark and museum. Originally built with petrified wood, the Inn has been restored and in summer there’s an ice cream parlor, a reminder of the Inn’s days as a popular stop on Route 66. Continue south to the Rainbow Forest Museum near the park’s southern entrance for paleontological exhibits and access to several hiking trails, including the one to Agate House.

If You’re Not a Hiker

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 28-mile drive passes through a variety of environments, colorful rock formations, and scenic pullouts with spectacular views. At the Crystal Forest Trail, petrified logs can easily be seen within steps of the parking area. It’s possible to spot wildlife along the drive as well.

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is known for spectacular scenery that includes colorful mountains, peaks, sandstone formations, canyons, waterfalls, cliffs, and wildlife. Zion’s popularity has led to vehicle limitations and two shuttle routes for transportation through the park from March to November.

Scenic Drive

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 54-mile route starts at the intersection of Highway 9 and I-15 about nine miles east of St. George and ends at the Mt. Carmel Junction. From November until March, you’ll be able to drive the entire route but from spring through fall the Zion Canyon section is closed to cars. Take the free shuttle which makes nine stops and takes about an hour and a half..

If You’re Not a Hiker

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion’s shuttles are ideal to see the breathtaking scenery. Stops include the Zion Human History Museum, Zion Lodge, and Canyon Junction where guests can enjoy 360-degree views.

Worth Pondering…

However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure. —Michael Frome

National Parks Week: Teetering in the Unknown

From Shenandoah and Arches to Joshua Tree National Park these scenic drives are worth the trip

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has impacted RV travel right now. As RVers, travel is our way of life and, if you’re like us, you’re feeling the frustration of being limited to one location without the freedom to travel. 2020 is certainly presenting new challenges and now, more than ever, we realize that the freedom to travel is something we can’t take for granted. Now is a great time to start thinking of places you’d like to go—especially national parks.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The late travel icon Anthony Bourdain might have said it best: “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.” It’s about that friction of nervous excitement, that exultant moment, giving way to revelation as you open your senses to somewhere different and new. That’s the mark of an RV trip well taken.

White National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Teetering in the unknown” doesn’t necessarily mean winging it—you need to know where to go before you actually go and just as important the why and the when. That’s where we come in. We littered our motorhome with maps to find the three coolest road trips in honor of National Parks Week.

Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state of Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park set along the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state. The park features a range of environments including forests, wetlands, and mountain peaks as well as waterfalls, hiking trails, picnic areas, and wildlife.

Scenic Drive

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Starting at the Front Royal Entrance, you’ll get to the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center in about four miles. Take in the view and make plans for hikes to take and waterfalls to see. Skyline Drive is the starting point for a variety of hiking trails many of which permit dogs making Shenandoah one of the most pet-friendly national parks.

If You’re Not a Hiker

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll very likely spot wildlife like bears, deer, groundhogs, or wild turkeys crossing the road from your car and many overlooks from the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains provide stunning views.

Scenic Drive, Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In southeastern Utah, near the town of Moab, is a wonderland of more than 2,000 sandstone arches, set in a picturesque landscape of soaring fins and spires. The arches come in all sizes, ranging from an opening of only three feet to the 306-foot span of Landscape Arch, one of the largest in North America.

Scenic Drives

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 18-mile Scenic Drive climbs a steep cliff and winds along the arid terrain along the first amazing glimpses of red rock features. The road initially passes the Park Avenue area and then Courthouse Towers. The road then comes to the rolling landscape of Petrified Dunes before arriving at Balanced Rock, where a 55-foot-high boulder sits precariously on a narrow pedestal.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turnoffs lead to the Windows section and Wolfe Ranch and the Delicate Arch viewpoints. Once again on the main road, the Scenic Drive provides overlooks for Salt Valley and Fiery Furnace. Fiery Furnace is home to a fascinating labyrinth of ridges and narrow canyons. The Scenic Drive ends at Devil’s Garden area, site of the park’s campground and the trailhead for the popular Devils Garden Trail.

If You’re Not a Hiker

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures unlike any other in the world, the park also features massive sandstone fins, giant balanced rocks, and hundreds of towering pinnacles—all in vibrant oranges, reds, and other colors.

Geology Tour Road, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is located in southeastern California about an hour east of Palm Springs. Named for the twisted trees that reminded early Mormon settlers of arms reaching up in prayer, Joshua Tree includes parts of both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Striking rock formations, boulders, and varied terrain make Joshua Tree popular with hikers, campers, and rock climbers. The weather ranges from very hot summers to colder winters and occasional snow.

Scenic Drives

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park can be entered from the north at either Joshua Tree or Twenty-nine Palms. From the south the entrance is from I-10 and the first Visitor Center is at Cottonwood. Stop at the Cholla Cactus Garden where you can walk (carefully) on a path among the prickly cacti. Geology Tour Road is an 18-mile drive through some of the park’s most fascinating landscapes. The Keys View detour takes you to an elevation of 5,185 feet for views of the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea, and San Jacinto Peak.

If You’re Not a Hiker

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll be surrounded by views of rocks, hills, Joshua Trees, and more on the drive through the park. The panoramic sights from Keys View can be seen from the parking area.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.

—Confucius