History and Culture along Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway

Immerse yourself in Acadian culture

The Bayou Teche Scenic Byway received the prestigious designation of National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration on February 16, 2021.

Located along the Bayou Teche National Water and Paddle Trail in the heart of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, the byway is home to an incredibly beautiful natural landscape and winds through four parishes—Iberia, St. Landry, St. Martin, and St. Mary.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To receive a national designation, a road must possess intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant. The road, the attractions, and the amenities along the route must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Teche Byway stretches down through South Louisiana like a snake that can’t make up its wind which way to coil. Native Chitimacha believed a giant snake carved out the waterway creating the zigzag path now popular with paddlers. Historian Harnett T. Kane once said the bayou is “past in Louisiana,” a witness to historic events and the varied people who called the Teche home: Creoles, Cajuns, Native Americans, and Africans, among others.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unique natural beauty and history of Bayou Teche Byway is why a 125-mile route through three parishes—St. Mary, Iberia, and St. Martin—has been designated a Scenic Byway. Here you’ll find breathtaking scenic views of live oak trees draping moss over the placid waters and unique wildlife and migratory birds visiting through the Mississippi Flyway.

Evangeline Memorial along the Bayou Teche in St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bayou attracts thousands each year for its fall Tour du Teche annual race for canoes, kayaks, and pirogues (the traditional Cajun canoe) along with many other paddle races. The Brownell Memorial Park and Carillon Tower in Morgan City and the 9,000-acre Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge are musts for nature lovers. Brownell offers cabins for rent and tent camping and RV spots and the refuge features four hiking trails in addition to canoe launches.

Bayou Tech at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the Bayou Teche Byway’s banks are numerous historic towns from the predominantly French towns along the upper Teche such as Breaux Bridge and St. Martinville to the more Anglo-Saxon culture of Franklin with its more than 100 historic properties many on the National Register of Historic Properties and several open for tours.

Mural in Acadian Memorial Museum, St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Museums include the Chitimacha Museum and the Charenton Heritage Museum in Charenton providing history on the bayou and its native inhabitants, the Jeanerette Museum offering 200 years of the sugarcane industry and other history, and the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition in Morgan City.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Morgan City to Franklin

Stroll Morgan City’s historic district where you can browse antique shops or view the Atchafalaya River from a wharf-side pavilion. For a closer look at the Great Atchafalaya Basin (and maybe a ’gator or two), take a guided swamp tour in nearby Patterson. There you’ll also find a branch of the Louisiana State Museum noted for its displays on aviation and the cypress industry. Next stop: Franklin, whose more than 400 historic properties include the Grevemberg House Museum, a gracious antebellum townhouse filled with Civil War artifacts and antique toys. Pause for a hamburger or po-boy at Iberia Cash Groceries then visit Charenton where the Chitimacha Museum reveals the history of Bayou Teche’s early inhabitants.

Tabasco factory on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Franklin to New Iberia

In the town of Jeanerette, be sure to sample the French bread and ginger cakes at LeJeune’s Bakery whose owners still use the bakery’s original 19th-century recipes. Farther along the byway in New Iberia stands Shadows-on-the-Teche. The antebellum home built by a wealthy sugar planter now is a museum surrounded by graceful live oaks. Near New Iberia, tour the Avery Island factory where world-famous Tabasco pepper sauce is made. The plant’s founder also created a 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary here. Stroll through azaleas and camellias, glimpse a deer in the garden, and step onto a boardwalk for a view of resident alligators.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Iberia to Arnaudville

As you make your way toward Arnaudville, stop in St. Martinville and Breaux Bridge. The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville recalls the chilling expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia as told by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in “Evangeline.”

Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Breaux Bridge, visit Café des Amis, where the menu includes beignets, couche-couche (battered cornmeal cooked in a hot skillet and topped with milk or syrup), andouille or cheese grits, and crawfish étouffée—and that’s just for breakfast. About 10 minutes from here is Lafayette, considered the unofficial capital of Cajun country.

A trip along Bayou Teche is a good way to sample Louisiana hospitality, hear toe-tapping music, and as the locals say “pass a good time.”

Worth Pondering…

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou

—Lyrics and recording by Hank Williams, Sr., 1954

The Amazing Story of Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

Palm trees give way to piñon pines and firs as the byway climbs into Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

An impossibly long trailer negotiating hairpin mountain turns does not seem to be the stuff of successful movies, yet Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had a big hit with the 1953 film, “The Long, Long Trailer”. The studio was wary of the film, thinking that people could stay home and watch the couple on TV for free.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arnaz reportedly made a $25,000 bet that the movie would make more money than the highest-grossing comedy at the time, “Father of the Bride,” starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. Arnaz was right. The movie grossed an astonishing $3.9 million as people were thrilled to see Lucy and Desi up to their antics in living color.

Coachella Valley from the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The very long trailer used in the film was a 36-foot Redman New Moon model which could barely be turned around the sharp mountain curves featured in the movie. Many of the scenes were filmed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on Portal Road to Mt. Whitney but some were shot on the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, State Route 74, which climbs from Palm Desert to Mountain Center up a remarkably steep and tortuous grade.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palms to Pines Road started from the Gillette Ranch on what was then called the Palm Springs-Indio road. Construction started in September 1929 and finished August 1933. A total of 37.1 miles requiring 747,600 cubic yards of excavation and was paid for by funds from Riverside County and the U.S. Forest Service. Before the road, the Palms to Pines Trail was used by horseback riders and intrepid outdoorsmen having been originally scratched into the steep escarpment by M.S. Gordon around 1917 following ancient Cahuilla trails.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wilson S. Howell became a familiar figure not only in Coachella Valley but throughout the county in the years of crusading for the new road. He took a 10-cent school protractor and cutting the mountainside vegetation for an improvised surveyor’s stand, he sighted a feasible way up the mountain side through wild shrubbery. Today the highway is an established route of travel, one of the most enchanting in the country.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Howell believed in San Jacinto Mountain and in Coachella valley—and in their linking highway. He acquired 2,000 acres equal distance from Hemet, Indio, and Palm Springs. Howell likely owned the land first and was a booster of the road in order to make his holdings more valuable by luring patrons up the mountain to his little Ribbonwood outpost. Either way, he certainly was the “patron spirit of the Palms-to-Pines highway.”

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For almost two years before construction began on the highway in 1929, several different factions clamored for routes that would benefit them. Three routes were in contention. One was prohibitively expensive. Another was advocated by Palm Springs businessmen who wanted a route that would go directly through Palm Canyon. Others wanted a route that would go through Pinyon Flats. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce even tried to influence the decision by hinting that they would not make a proposed financial contribution if the highway did not go through Palm Canyon. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians nixed the Palm Canyon route and the road was put through Pinyon Flats from Palm Desert. 

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Coachella Valley is known for its beautiful scenery and warm weather but just a few miles to the south is a scenic drive that offers high mountain wilderness—a two-hour journey (to Mountain Center) provided you don’t stop to admire the gorgeous sights along the way.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We began our trip at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains Visitor Center, located on Highway 74 in Palm Desert. Pick up a map and some visitor information but take note: the Visitor Center is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Rising abruptly from the desert floor, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument reaches an elevation of 10,834 feet.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Departing the Visitor Center heading south on Highway 74, we almost immediately begin winding our way up the mountain in a series of switchbacks. There are beautiful views spanning Coachella Valley and ample opportunity to take them in. Part way up the mountain is a large viewpoint with plenty of parking where we stopped to take in the sights and snap a few photos.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As we continued up the mountain, the road began to unwind itself and we started to notice a change in vegetation. Short gangly pinyon pines began to emerge from out of the rocks and as the highway unfurled through the small towns of Pinyon Pines and Pinyon Crest, it became evident how these places got their names.

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The highway through this region began to unfold like a roller coaster with a series of wide ripples. Again, the vegetation changed and we noticed more pine trees as the land becomes less rocky. 

Along the Palms to Pine Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highways 74 and 371 meet in Paradise Valley. The Paradise Valley Cafe is a popular place for travelers. For backpackers the Pacific Trail passing nearby. Here’s where we departed Highway 74 driving southeast on Highway 371 to Cahuilla and Aguanga and Highway 79 south to Warner Springs and Santa Ysabel. Our destination: the mountain town of Julian for its famous apple pies.

Worth Pondering…

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you miss the sense of where you’re going and why.

—Eddie Cantor

Creole Nature Trail: Where Natural Wonderlands Abound

Experience the Louisiana Outback along the Creole Nature Trail

One place in Southwest Louisiana that never ceases to amaze is the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-miles-long scenic byway where natural wonderlands abound. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s Last Great Wildernesses.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of America’s Byway’s system, the Creole Nature Trail is known for its distinct waters, pristine blue skies, and stops along the drive adorned with plenty of wildlife and bird watching that can either fill an entire weekend, or simply a day trip. Featuring stops of picturesque landscapes beyond transcription, the Creole Nature Trail, an All American Road, sees hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, all passing through this delicate ecosystem.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The marshland, bayous, prairies, and coastal shores along the Gulf of Mexico teem with wildlife including alligators and birds. These lands and waters support 28 species of mammals, more than 400 species of birds, millions of monarch butterflies, 35 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 132 species of fish.

A+ Motel & RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We used A+ Motel & RV Park in Sulphur as our home base while driving the Creole Nature Trail and exploring the area. New in 2008, A+ is big rig friendly with 28 pull-through and back-in sites and conveniently located 30/50-amp electric service, water, and sewer connections, and cable TV.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are five entrances to the Creole Nature Trail, the most popular entrances are off I-10 in Sulphur (Exit 20) and just east of Lake Charles at Louisiana Highway 397 (Exit 36).

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trail loops through 180 miles of bayous and marshlands and along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico before once again heading north. The remaining entrances are located on Louisiana Highway 82 at the Texas state line in the west and the Vermilion Parish line on the east; exit 36 from Interstate 10; and exit 6A on I-210 just north of the Lake Charles Regional Airport on Louisiana Highway 385.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the Creole Nature Trail is primarily a driving route, there are numerous stops where you can take advantage of a nature walk. Each of these excursion areas provides excellent wildlife and birding photography opportunities.

The Creole Nature Trail features four wildlife refuges, three national and one state: Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, and Rockefeller Refuge.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 and is the largest coastal marsh refuge on the Gulf of Mexico. The primary management objective of the refuge is to preserve a large area of coastal wetlands for wintering and migrating waterfowl from both the Mississippi and Central Flyways. This refuge is a major nursery area for many estuarine-dependent marine species as well as home to alligators and other reptiles, mammals, and numerous wading, water, and marsh birds.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Numerous recreational opportunities are available year round. Hiking, wildlife observation, and photography are popular at the Wetland Walkway and Blue Goose Trail. The Wetland Walkway is a 1.5 mile walking trail including a section of boardwalk across a freshwater marsh, an observation tower with viewing scopes, five trail rest shelters with benches, interpretive signs, and a restroom facility.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Goose Trail is a one mile foot path that leads through a brackish marsh community to the edge of Calcasieu Lake. The area includes an observation tower, restroom, and numerous interpretive signs about the area.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, the Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center features exhibits about Sabine, Cameron Prairie, Lacassine, and Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuges, and their coastal habitats and inhabitants. Exhibits include a diorama theater with Cajun animatronic characters, a scale model of a water control structure for hands-on learning about marsh management, natural habitat dioramas, impressive alligator displays, an interactive computer, and a fiber-optic migration exhibit.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On your next adventure out, consider a scenic drive on the Creole Nature Trail; you never know what may be waiting to be seen.

Worth Pondering…

It’s not just a drive.

It’s an experience.

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Scenic Highway 28

Experiencing the history and culinary delights of the Southwest along a legendary trail that connects the centuries

The Don Juan de Onate Trail invites today’s travelers to follow in the hoof prints of the Spanish conquistador and his band of 400 colonizers in 1598 as they journeyed from New Spain (Mexico) north to find the fabled Cities of Gold in what is now northern New Mexico. 

Mesilla Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Onate and his men, traveling El Camino Real (The Royal Road) that stretched from Mexico City to northern New Mexico reached Paso del Norte (El Paso) on April 30. He claimed the land in the name of the King of Spain and continued days later along the Rio Grande to eventually establish the first Spanish capital at Okkay Owingeh Pueblo. The drive along the trail (Highway 28) is one of the Las Cruces area’s most scenic routes crossing and flanking the Rio Grande from El Paso to historic Old Mesilla.

Mesilla Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mesilla Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, represents an excellent spot to understand the area’s bicultural roots and begin an afternoon trek along the Don Juan de Onate Trail. The 1848 Treaty of Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War and established the village as part of Mexico. Mesilla became part of the United States in 1854 with the signing of the Gadsen Purchase on the plaza. 

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A number of historic 19th century stucco-clad adobe structures clustered around the plaza impart the look and feel of Old Mexico. Wander the plaza to learn about the colorful past of what in the 1880s was the largest town between San Diego and San Antonio.  Mesilla’s dirt streets saw the passing of the likes of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and other Wild West legends. The sprawling La Posta Restaurant just off the plaza preserves the only station still standing on the Old Butterfield Trail (1850-1861).

Spotted Dog Brewery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today’s thirsty traveler might want to make a quick stop less than a mile from the plaza on Highway 28 at The Spotted Dog Brewery to try one of more than a dozen handcrafted beers. Continuing south through the fertile Mesilla Valley, the rural two-lane road passes fields of corn and cotton on its way through several small villages including San Miguel whose picturesque church and cemetery beckons to passing shutterbugs.

Stahmann Farms pecan trees © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Further south, we slip beneath a verdant canopy of pecan trees that mark the world’s largest, family-owned pecan orchard, Stahmann Farms. Signs warn against the temptation to stop along the highway and pick up a few of the tasty nuggets from more than 180,000 trees that represent southern New Mexico’s largest crop.

Mesilla Valley cotton fields © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Further down the trail sits the community of La Mesa, home to a National Register of Historic Places property—Chope’s Café and Bar.  The rustic complex of three adobe buildings erected by the Benavides family, the oldest dating to circa 1880, is another must-see for any out-of-town guest. Here you can rub elbows with local Harley Davidson club riders and La Mesa farmers while watching sports on several big screen TVs and listening to country and rock classics on the digital jukebox.

Mesilla Valley red chili crop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A little further along El Camino Real are several stops on the Mesilla Valley Wine Trail in what is known as the oldest wine producing region in the United States: La Vina (the state’s oldest), Mesa Vista (one of the newest), and Sombra Antigua which operates amid the state’s oldest commercial vineyard. 

Rio Grande Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the return trip we make a stop at the Rio Grande Winery just a few miles south of Mesilla only to learn that it’s closed for tasting Monday through Thursday. What sets Rio Grande Vineyards & Winery apart from similar establishments in southern New Mexico is the incomparable view of the Organ Mountains. In their tasting Room, visitors may view a number of old photographs of their family, talk with the winemaker, or just relax and enjoy the grand view of the Majestic Organ Mountains and of course enjoy a Taste of New Mexico.

San Albino Cemetary along Scenic Byway 28 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After the afternoon, I realize that like the Spanish explorer of more than 400 years ago, I may not have found the Cities of Gold, but I struck it rich in experiencing the history, wines, and culinary delights of the Southwest along a legendary trail that connects the centuries.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Stunning Fall Drives across America

A dozen scenic routes across America—each of which we’ve driven through the years—will blast the blues from your soul and you’ll appreciate the season anew

America’s interstate system makes it relatively quick to travel from coast to coast—at least compared to the Lewis and Clark days. By some estimates, a cross-country road trip can be done in less than a week—if you’re willing to drive around 10 hours a day. But during this autumn season you’d be making a big mistake if you didn’t slow down and soak up the scenery. The reds, yellows, and oranges of the foliage blanket parts of the country for just a few short weeks. Plus, there are pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and all kinds of fall fun to make the journey even more memorable.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While people often plan major vacations far from home during leaf-peeping season, the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on many travelers’ usual plans. That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on this seasonal show, though. Every state has fantastic drive through gorgeous autumnal scenery that is sure to make your jaw drop. To help you enjoy some of the nation’s finest RVing with Rex compiled a list of stunning fall drives across America.

There’s truly no region of the country without a road trip worth taking this time of year.

Ready to hit the road for an autumnal adventure? Click through to see these stunning fall drives.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Red Rock Scenic Byway

Red is among the quintessential fall colors and when in Arizona there’s no better place to be surrounded by this autumnal hue than on the Red Rock Scenic Byway. It serves as the gateway to Sedona’s famous rock formations. Plus, visitors can also see well-preserved prehistoric petroglyphs on their road trip.

Gold Rush Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California: Highway 49

Throughout its length, the Gold Rush Trail winds through many of the towns that sprang up during the Gold Rush as it twists and climbs past panoramic vistas. Rocky meadows, oaks, and white pines accent the hills while tall firs and ponderosa pine stud higher slopes. The old mining towns along the Trail retain their early architecture and charm—living reminders of the rich history of the Mother Lode. Placerville, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Jackson, San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Murphys all retain their 1850’s flavor.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia: Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway

Make sure you pack a lunch if you’re embarking on Georgia’s Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway—it brims with picnic-worthy spots. The byway looks out onto the Chattahoochee National Forest where you’re sure to see lovely foliage. The best views, though, can be found at the top of Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest point and a spectacular place to see the fall colors.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana: Creole Nature Trail

Bring a cooler if you’re hitting the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road in Louisiana—the route is chock-full of places to stock up on fresh seafood. The road provides an up-close view of nature’s bounty, including Gulf of Mexico beaches, wildlife refuges, wetlands, and small fishing communities during one of the most beautiful times of year.

Heritage Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana: Heritage Driving Tour

The 90-mile Heritage Trail Driving Tour winds through Amish Country taking you down rural highways, country lanes, and charming main streets. Stop in Shipshewana to stroll the shop-lined streets where you’ll find handcrafted items, baked goods, and the Midwest’s largest flea market. Enjoy a delightful Amish meal at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury or Amish Acres in Nappanee.

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mississippi: Highway 90

Highway 90 spans from West Texas to East Florida but one of the most gorgeous sections of the road can be found in Coastal Mississippi. From Waveland and Bay St. Louis to Moss Point, you’ll cross two magnificent bay bridges and travel through tiny towns with tons of Southern charm. Plan to make time for outdoor attractions along the way including marsh tours, sunset music cruises, and fishing charters to enjoy the temperate fall weather.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Carolina and Tennessee: Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests thus the name ‘Chero…hala’. Connecting Tellico Plains, Tennessee to Robbinsville, North Carolina, the Cherohala Skyway was opened and dedicated in 1996. This beautiful route has since been designated a National Scenic Byway. The elevations range from 900 feet at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

Botany Bay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina: Botany Bay Road

We would not put a stretch of road that clocked in at just 6.5 miles if it wasn’t really, really something to see. Botany Bay Road is the entrance to a plantation-turned-wildlife-management area. Slow down to a crawl—safety first—and watch the trees lacing together overhead in an eerie, Sleepy Hollow kind of way. Drive back and forth a few times, why not. When you’ve taken all the photos you can stand, don’t worry—we didn’t bring you here just for 6.5 miles of road. You’re on Edisto Island, one of the most beautiful places in all of South Carolina.

Cades Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tennessee: Cades Cove Loop Road

Experience the verdant valley of Cades Cove in the Great Smokies of Tennessee during peak fall foliage season. The 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road showcases the region’s autumnal beauty, historic sites, and viewing of white-tailed deer, coyotes, turkey, black bears, and other wildlife.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah: Highway 12 Scenic Byway

From Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Dixie National Forest, you’ll pass one epic site after another on a trip on Utah’s Highway 12. Fall brings about some of the best weather to make the journey plus plenty of stunning scenery.

Stone Valley Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vermont: Stone Valley Scenic Byway

For a fall drive that truly feels like an escape head out on Vermont’s Stone Valley Scenic Byway. The 30-mile route follows the Green Mountain range up through the center of the state where you’ll see rustic farmlands bedecked in fall colors, valley pasturelands, and lake shores.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia: Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile journey along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. The landscape is spectacular in the fall with trees transforming into every shade of yellow and red imaginable and piles of crunchy leaves lining the drive like confetti. Skyline Drive’s nearly 70 overlooks give you practically endless opportunities to soak up the scenery.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

Amish Country Heritage Trail

Elkhart County is Amish country and is best experienced along its Heritage Trail, a four season scenic drive

Discover stunning views, historical sites, and Amish heritage along the scenic backroads. Explore country lanes dotted with Amish-owned shops showcasing handcrafted and homemade.

Many of the towns along the Amish Country Heritage Trail date back 150 years or more. Among these are Middlebury, tiny Shipshewana known for a enormous flea market where 1,000 vendors peddle their wares twice a week from May through September, and Goshen. There’s also lovely Nappanee, a bustling community of woodworking shops that has been dubbed one of America’s “Top 10 Small Towns”.

Amish Farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Due to the Amish lifestyle you can almost believe you’ve stepped back in time a century or more. No utility wires lace farmhouses to poles, women in old-fashioned bonnets and long skirts bend to their task of hoeing gardens, men in 19th-century attire trudge behind horse-drawn plows across wide fields, and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on country lanes fills the air with staccato rhythms.

Newmar Service Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Heritage Trail could easily be driven in a few hours, but there are way too many interesting stops for that. We spent a week exploring the area while the warranty issues on our 2019 Dutch Star were addressed at the new state-of-the-art Newmar Service Center in Nappanee.

Amish Acres © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Nappanee is home to numerous woodworking shops, restaurants, antique stores, and Amish Acres, a restored 80-acre Old Order Amish farmstead. The farmstead has been an Amish farm for nearly a century. The historic complex consists of 18 restored buildings including the quaint farmhouse, a pair of log cabins, a smokehouse, and an enormous barn-turned restaurant where meals are served family style with seating for 500.

Nappanee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But Amish Acres is probably best known for the 402-seat Round Barn Theatre. It occupies a barn built in 1911 that has been transformed into a state-of-the-art theater. The theater is the national home of the musical “Plain and Fancy”, and in rotation, five other musicals are performed here.

Olympia Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Leaving Nappanee, we drove northeast to Goshen. Admire the classic courthouse in the heart of town. Peek into the bunker-like police booth on the Corner of Main and Lincoln dating back to the days when John Dillinger was the bane of bankers. Don’t miss the Olympic Candy Kitchen, “the sweetest little place in town,” for a soda at the old-fashioned fountain or some handmade chocolates.

The Old Bag Factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Built in 1896 the Old Bag Factory is home to producing artists, antiques, specialty shops, and cafes. The historic character of the complex provides a unique and charming setting for the specialty shops it houses.

Das Dutchman Essenhaus © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Following Country Road 22 northeast took us to Middlebury. Our destination, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, is an enormous complex that includes a bakery and a handful of village shops. Leisurely stroll across the colorful campus; discover Indiana’s largest family restaurant which offers both family-style and buffet and menu dining options. 

Amish carriage with horse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From Middlebury we headed east on Country Road 16 toward Shipshewana. We shared the road with dozens of black carriages drawn by spirited horses, many of which stop—as we did at Dutch Country Market, Rise ‘n Roll Bakery, and Heritage Ridge Creamery.

Rise ‘n Roll Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Rise ‘n Roll Bakery offered up display cases full of loaves of wheat bread, pies, cookies, and donuts.

Heritage Ridge Creamery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

We watched cheese being made at Heritage Ridge Creamery, then sampled and purchased it at the retail shop.

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Back on the asphalt, we continued southwest to Shipshewana. The small town hosts some million visitors a year for its auctions, theater, history, more than 100 shops offering fine Amish woodwork and food, and twice-a-week Shipshewana Flea Market, the largest of its kind in the Midwest.

Menno-Hof © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

To learn about Amish history, we toured Menno-Hof, also in Shipshewana. Through multi-image presentations, historical environments, and other displays, we traveled back 500 years to the origins of the Amish-Mennonite story.

Yoder’s Popcorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

We continued 4 miles south along Indiana Highway 5, stopping at Yoder’s Popcorn, for popcorn the way you remember it. Try their renowned Tiny Tender Popcorn. Then it’s back to our condo-on-wheels at the Newmar Service Center in Nappanee.

Worth Pondering…

The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change.

—Nancy Sleeth, Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life

Scenic Route It Is

When it comes to RVing most folks know the timeless mantra, “It’s not about the destination; it’s the journey”

With travel restrictions being lifted across the U.S. and Canada, it’s time to start dreaming about your next journey. As you figure out where that adventure may lead, consider what you want to see along the way.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How about choosing the scenic route? It might take longer, but we promise it is worth it!  And even as travel restrictions are being lifted, it might be a while before gatherings and events take place. So, scenic route it is!

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is something magical about the open road as you watch the world pass by through the window of your RV. Sometimes the journey from point A to point B is a dreaded chore, but if you’re traveling along any of these scenic roads you’ll want to soak up every second of the drive. Just make sure to take your eyes off the landscape and watch the road every now and then! 

Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As states begin to reopen, consider planning an entire trip around one of these routes, making stops along the way and helping contribute to the local economies of each small town.

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

Red Rock Scenic Byway Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Scenic Byway, Arizona

Just outside of Sedona, the Red Rock Scenic Byway boasts everything from breathtakingly beautiful rock formations to ancient Native American cliff dwellings. If you’re a believer in the supernatural, you’ll find the Byway is sprinkled with what like-minded folk refer to as “vortexes” of spiritual energy—two of the biggest are Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, formations which are stunning regardless of your personal beliefs.

Route 66

Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel back in time to vintage Americana along Route 66. This highway was the route many travelers took during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s looking for a better life. Stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica, much of Route 66 is still drivable and loaded with vintage neon signs, deserted gas stations, classic diners, and interesting people. Recently, many locations on Route 66 are getting revitalized providing even more photo opportunities.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee

Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile National Scenic Byway that connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina. This highway starts at 800 feet in elevation and climbs over mountains as high as 5,390 feet at Santeetlah Overlook on the state border. Enjoy mile-high vistas and great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. It is a 2-laned road with wide shoulders and 15 scenic overlooks.

Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Lemmon Highway, Arizona

Climbing more than 6,000 feet, Mount Lemmon Highway begins with forests of saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert and ends in a cool, coniferous forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains. 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. This scenic drive begins at the northeastern edge of Tucson.

Along the Gold Rush Trail in Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California Highway 49

Throughout its length, the Gold Rush Trail winds through many of the towns that sprung up during the Gold Rush as it twists and climbs past panoramic vistas. Rocky meadows, oaks, and white pines accent the hills while tall firs and ponderosa pine stud higher slopes. The old mining towns along the Trail retain their early architecture and charm—living reminders of the rich history of the Mother Lode. Placerville, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Jackson, San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Murphys all retain their 1850’s flavor.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Needles Highway, South Dakota

Driving the Needles Highway isn’t about getting to the next destination—it’s about taking in the scenery. Highway 87 in South Dakota might not be that long, but it’s 14 miles of really awesome road that twists and turns its way through some of South Dakota’s most stunning natural scenery. This curvaceous stretch of narrow pavement, known as Needles Highway, travels through unique rock formations in the southeastern portion of Black Hills National Forest.

Botany Bay Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Road, South Carolina

We would not put a stretch of road that clocked in at just 6.5 miles if it wasn’t really, really something to see. Botany Bay Road is the entrance to a plantation-turned-wildlife-management area. Slow down to a crawl—safety first—and watch the trees lacing together overhead in an eerie, Sleepy Hollow kind of way. Drive back and forth a few times, why not. When you’ve taken all the photos you can stand, don’t worry—we didn’t bring you here just for 6.5 miles of road. You’re on Edisto Island, one of the most beautiful places in all of South Carolina.

Worth Pondering…

The journey and not the destination is the joy of RVing.

Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef: A Great American Road Trip

The All American Road, Utah Scenic Byway 12 is one of the most beautiful drives in America! To top it off, it connects two beautiful national parks!

Scenic Byway 12 has it all: isolated canyons, grand plateaus that rise 9,000-feet above sea level, deep valleys that plunge to 4,000-feet, and the natural and man-made history to prove it. This 122-mile byway is one of the most scenic in the nation and Utah’s first All American Road takes you from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef. Some TripAdvisor reviewers describe the scenic drive as “something out of a movie” or “like a trip to another planet.”

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12 begins to the west in Panguitch and ends in Torrey to the northeast. It connects Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks, but getting from point A to point B is only a fraction of the fun. The real adventure lies in what you’ll encounter along the way. From the hoodoos to red rocks and a scenic overlook near the road’s summit at 9,000 feet, travelers enjoy breathtaking views that provide countless opportunities for exploration.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Locals say you can do it in three hours or three days. Others say it will take three years to fully take advantage of all it has to offer. To get the most out of your travels, it’s better to take your time. Here’s a glance at what you might encounter along what’s known as “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway.”

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though there’s more than one way to enjoy Scenic Byway 12, one suggested itinerary is to travel from west to east. The adventure begins in Panguitch and takes you through a scenic drive of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known for its hoodoo-filled red rock desert that contrasts with high alpine forests, Bryce Canyon is the perfect place for hiking, camping, and horseback riding. You can learn about the park’s unique geology through their ranger programs or take guided hikes under a full moon. Shuttles travel back and forth the length of the park from the visitor center 17 miles south to Rainbow Point, with plenty to do at every stop along the way.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, you’ll find some of the most beautiful parts of Southern Utah. The town of Escalante is located along Scenic Byway 12 in the south-central part of the state—about 90 minutes south of Capitol Reef National Park.

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

This charming little town has seen an uptick in visitors since the designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante as a National Monument in 1996. It’s the perfect destination for hiking, camping, fishing, canyoneering, horseback riding, and four-wheeling. Travelers are frequently awestruck by the ancient multi-hued rock formations and the twisting, turning narrows of its famous slot canyons.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hikers will enjoy dipping their toes in cool riverbeds, hiking miles of soft-sand trails, and gazing at the inscriptions of humans who stood in the same spot thousands of years ago. For a trip to prehistoric times, take the family to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park where ancient petrified trees, dinosaur bones, ammonite and shell fossils abound.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town itself offers a handful of down-home cafes and diners. As an added bonus, while most of Southern Utah experiences sweltering summer heat, Escalante’s higher elevation makes for more moderate temperatures—most of the time. But it’s always a good idea to prepare for an unexpected rainstorm.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park is a great way to cap off your Great American Road Trip adventure. While you’re taking in the view of stunning overlooks, you can discover abandoned Mormon outposts, explore unearthed Fremont Indian villages and petroglyphs, and wind through the slot canyons.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though the park itself is alluring, there’s also charm in the surrounding areas with its small towns, secluded getaways, and rich history. You can pick fruit directly from the orchard in Fruita, wander aimlessly through a valley full of red rock goblins, camp out under the stars, and stroll an art gallery in Torrey.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As beautiful as it is in the day, the park is even more stunning at night. Capitol Reef is an official International Dark Sky Park which means you can see incredible views of the Milky Way Galaxy in the pitch-black night sky.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you get ready to pack up the RV, don’t forget to check road conditions and other travel information you may need for your trip. And to ensure a fun and safe experience, it’s a good idea to check current COVID-19 precautions so you can plan for the road ahead.

Worth Pondering…

Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.

Get in your RV and Go! Scenic Drives in America

Are you ready to pack up and hit some of the most scenic drives in America? Then get in your RV and go. These highways and byways are high on our bucket lists.

No mode of travel is more American than the road trip. It’s a national rite of passage. Getting tired of sitting at home? Get in your RV and go for a drive. America offers beautiful and breathtaking scenic drives you can take with the family. Some of the roadside attractions may still be closed because of the pandemic but the vistas are ever-present and beautiful as always.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are dozens of travel quotes we could use to preface this list, but we’re going to assume that you already know that traveling isn’t always about where you end up―it is just as much about how you get there. With travel restrictions due to COVID-19, there has never been a better time to take a scenic drive just for the experience.

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

Dating back to Model T days, folks have been hitting the wide-open road to explore every nook and cranny of the 3,000 miles that lie from sea to shining sea. From mountain roads with hairpin turns to stunning seaside escapes to good ol’ Americana history, here are six epic road trips to travel this summer.

Historic Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66: Illinois to California

During the 1940s and ’50s, the 2,500-mile stretch of road from Chicago to Santa Monica, California was the American road trip. That changed with the development of the interstate system which rerouted large portions of the highway to larger interstates.

Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even so, tourists from around the globe still follow the famous path (or at least sections of it) past vintage neon signs, retro roadside motels, multiple national parks including the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon, as well as kitschy Americana stops such as Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona and cool art installations such as Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

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

Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia and North Carolina

Spanning 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, this stunning parkway winds its way through the forested peaks that belong to some of the oldest mountains in America.

Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area is lush and green through the spring and summer months, but the road is most spectacular in autumn when the rolling landscape is painted with fiery shades of red, yellow, and orange usually at its crest late-October to mid-November.

Route 89 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 89: Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana

Far less famous than Route 66 but just as gorgeous, Route 89 is sometimes called the National Park to Park Highway. Truly ambitious road warriors can take the road less traveled by starting in Arizona, moving through Utah and up to Wyoming and Montana.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The highway passes 150 towns, cities, and reservations, seven national parks (including the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Yellowstone), and three giant geographic regions (Basin and Range, Colorado Plateau, and the Rockies).

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Country Byway: Ohio

The 72-mile Amish Country Byway boasts views of natural vistas along winding curves and over rolling hills. On a map, routes 39, 62, 515, and 60 form a sort of “eyeglasses” shape throughout Holmes County. That’s fitting, because exploring these four roads is a great way to explore Amish Country.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along these roadways, you will be treated to the typical, yet breathtaking sights of Amish Country: teams of huge, blonde Belgians pulling wagons of hay, farmers working in the fields, large white houses, and red barns. In addition, this charming country byway offers visitors a fine selection of Amish country cooking as well as historic sites featuring the history of Amish and German people.  Because of the unique agriculture and culture of Amish Country, you must share the road with Amish buggies, agriculture equipment, and cyclists.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12: Utah

Utah is a place unlike anywhere else in the world! With so many sights to see, Scenic Byway 12 is the perfect road to take you right through the heart of it all. It passes through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Boulder Mountain with gorgeous views at every turn in between.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This highway cuts right through the center of the state, making it the ideal route to take when you’re on an RV trip visiting Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, and Capitol Reef. 

El Camino Real: New Mexico

Historic Mesilla along El Comino Real © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1598, Don Juan de Onate led 500 colonists through the remote and unfamiliar country now known as New Mexico. The route Onate followed became El Camino Real, “the royal road.” 

Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe along along El Comino Real © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The byway begins just north of Las Cruces, in Fort Selden, built in the mid-1800s to protect local settlers and travelers on El Camino Real and continues to cross 90 miles of flat but waterless and dangerous desert, the Jornada del Muerto (“journey of the dead man”) before reaching Socorro. The road then heads north to Albuquerque and Santa Fe reaching its end at San Juan Pueblo, the first capital of New Mexico and the end of Don Juan de Onate’s journey. 

 Worth Pondering…

The journey, and not the destination, is the joy of RVing.

Needles Highway: National Scenic Byway in the Black Hills

Driving the Needles Highway isn’t about getting to the next destination—it’s about taking in the scenery

Highway 87 in South Dakota might not be that long, but it’s 14 miles of really awesome road that twists and turns its way through some of South Dakota’s most stunning natural scenery. This curvaceous stretch of narrow pavement, known as Needles Highway, travels through unique rock formations in the southeastern portion of Black Hills National Forest.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We traveled southbound from Medora and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota south into South Dakota for about four hours. Eventually, the oil derricks and rigs dotting the North Dakotan landscape gave way to vast and open tracks of South Dakota.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s a desolate place with a hauntingly beautiful feel. It consists of mostly flat and wild grassland. Colorful buttes and mesas pop up here and there. But then the Black Hills start.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is nothing quite like the Black Hills of South Dakota. Around Black Hills National Forest, one finds numerous well-known sites including Mount Rushmore, the work-in-progress Crazy Horse memorial, the town of Sturgis—famous for the Motorcycle Rally attracting 50,000 motorcyclists each year for ten days of wild partying, and Deadwood (famous for its gold mining and heavy-handed gambling past, also the resting place of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane). Of course, all of these sites are interesting and merit a visit of their own, but, when it comes to natural beauty, few can match the Needles Highway.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First arriving in the Black Hills, the thought “Black Hills Shmack Hills, what’s the big deal?” might be a fleeting thought. Trust me, just be patient and give it a little time because the 1.2 million acres of Ponderosa Pine forests and mountains will charm and win you over. You need to pay for a park pass upon entering—$10.00 per vehicle—and the pass is good for all South Dakota parks for seven days from the date of purchase.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Something that makes the Black Hills unique is that the landscape is distinctly different from the high-altitude flat grasslands surrounding it. In fact, it is dubbed “an island in the plains”. The area is geologically old and stable but pockets of upheaval and volcanic activity have given rise to the hills. While they’re not super high in elevation, the centrally located Black Elk Peak does get up to and impressive 7,242 feet. And there are hiking trails and activities galore.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Needles Highway is a National Scenic Byway completed in 1922 that was considered to be an impossible road to construct due to the series of sharp turns and tunnels that needed to be cut through solid rock while maintaining the integrity of the area. The road’s name comes from the needlelike granite formations that seem to pierce the horizon along the highway.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to slow down to take it all in. Winding drives throughout the park are most enjoyable at a slower pace. Allow ample time to travel at a safe speed—generally 25 miles per hour or slower. Expect travel time of about 45 to 60 minutes to enjoy the Needles Highway.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Needles Highway remains open from April through October. Due to the narrowness of the road, the byway is closed during winter months.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Needles Highway is only 14 miles long but there are several great places to stay nearby. Custer State Park is packed with adventure but it’s also a great place to rest and recuperate. There are nine individual campgrounds for tent camping, RV camping, even camping for horses, so you’ll easily find a match for your camping needs. Several of Custer’s camping options come with electric and water hookups to meet all camping needs.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

—John Muir