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

Flagstaff to Sedona…and Beyond

A roller coaster ride filled with views of breathtaking rock formations and a kaleidoscope of wildlife and foliage along Highway 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona

Flagstaff is just 27 miles north of Sedona on Arizona Route 89A (possibly one of the most visually stunning scenic drives in Arizona) and features a geographic view of Mt. Humphreys, a 12,633 foot extinct volcano that is surrounded by Ponderosa Pine trees that famously give off a vanilla aroma during the spring and summer seasons.

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This gorgeous gash in the landscape has a spectacular feature: you can drive through it! Take a scenic detour off Interstate 17 by exiting onto AZ 89A toward Sedona. A wonderful road built in 1929 it runs the entire 13-mile length of the canyon. During the 2,500-foot elevation drop into Sedona the pine trees fade in your rearview mirror as brilliant orange-and-red sandstone bluffs and steep canyon walls appear on your right.

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These formations not only surround Sedona but they appear to hover over it. (At certain points along Route 89A, the jagged mountain faces almost seem within reach.)

The forested canyon floor ranges from a mile wide at the top end to 2.5 miles at the mouth, and up to 2,000 feet deep from the creek to the tops of the highest sheer red cliffs.

State Route 179

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

In Sedona, AZ-89A splits to head west. Stay south on State Route 179 to revel in the area’s spectacular scenery. From Sedona, State Route 179 (Red Rock Scenic Byway) winds 7.5 miles south through the Coconino National Forest along some of the most gorgeous red-rock sandstone and geological formations in the country. There are several places to pull off the road and stare at the grand and vibrant otherworldly landscape.

Cathedral Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In about 3 miles, look for Cathedral Rock (6246 SR-179), the Empire State Building of Sedona’s skyline. Back on State Route 179, continue south and in less than 1 mile turn east (left) onto Chapel Road and drive 1 mile to view the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Built in 1956, the pyramidal structure juts dramatically from the surrounding red rocks.

Tlaquepaque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucked away on the banks of the gorgeous Oak Creek in Sedona, Tlaquepaque is a nod to Mexican architecture and artisan culture both in name and purpose. It’s a beautiful little arts and shopping village characterized by pretty cobblestone streets and vine-covered walls that lie under the shade of enormous sycamore trees making it an extraordinarily picturesque destination. With an unimaginably diverse range of arts and crafts, there’s something for everyone in this unique little enclave.

Red Rock Crossing

Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Back on Highway 89A just beyond the southern edge of Sedona you’ll see signs for Red Rock State Park. Make a left onto Red Rock Loop Road; just off that beautiful road, you’ll find Red Rock Crossing. The Crescent Moon Picnic Area is a green and tranquil spot with several nice walking trails and a swimming hole called Red Rock Crossing.

Red Rock State Park 

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A nature preserve and environmental education center, Red Rock State Park offers more stunning scenery. Trails throughout the park wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock. The creek meanders through the park creating a diverse riparian habitat abounding with plants and wildlife.

Tuzigoot

Tuzigoot National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stick with AZ-89A south through the town of Clarkdale where you can check out Tuzigoot National Monument an interesting pueblo ruin atop a hill just above the town. The pueblo was built by the Sinagua people, who thrived in this arid region for nearly 10 centuries. Tuzigoot, built in AD 1125, was a communal home occupied by a clan of peaceful Sinagua farmers for close to 300 years.

Jerome

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond Clarkdale, AZ 89A climbs a series of switchbacks to Jerome. This mostly abandoned mining town is perched high on the side of Mingus Mountain. In the early 1900s as many as 15,000 people lived and worked in Jerome once known as the “Wickedest Town in the West.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

The 8 Best Scenic Road Trips in America

With over 4 million miles of roads weaving their way throughout the US, there is no end of opportunities to explore

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world but of all the ways we travel the road trip might be least affected—at least from a regulatory standpoint. No one will tell you to wear a mask or take your temperature, or demand blood work before you hit the road this summer.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Utah’s red rock country to Louisiana’s peaceful national wildlife preserves, these road trips deserve a spot on your bucket list. Whether you’re looking to experience a stunning mountain view, charming local towns, or rich American history, plan your next getaway with one of these scenic road trips.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best Utah Road Trip: Scenic Byway 12

The road trip: One of the most beautiful stretches of road in the US, Scenic Byway 12 spans 124 miles in Utah’s red-rock country. The history and culture of the area blend together, making Scenic Byway 12 a journey like no other.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: Scenic Byway 12 has two entry points. The southwestern gateway is from U.S. Highway 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch, not far from Bryce Canyon National Park. The northeastern gateway is from Highway 24 in the town of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best South Dakota Road Trip: Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

The road trip: Allow four hours to drive this 68-mile byway or one day to fully experience it. This byway will lead you on a delightful adventure as it winds its way around spiraling “pig-tail” shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles and over pristine, pine-clad mountains.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: Highlights include Mount Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle’s Eye, and Cathedral Spires rock formations.

Colonial Parkway Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best Virginia Road Trip: Colonial Parkway

The road trip: The Colonial Parkway not only illustrates the English colonial experience in America, but is also an outstanding example of American parkway design. Retaining its original scenic and historic integrity to a remarkable degree, the 23-mile roadway stretches from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown.

Colonial Parkway Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: This All-American road connects Virginia’s historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best Arizona Road Trip: Red Rock Scenic Byway

The road trip: The Red Rock Scenic Byway is your gateway to the world-famous Red Rock Country of Sedona. Take 20 minutes to drive this byway, but allow several days to include all activities along the byway.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: Arguably the best way to experience the beauty of the Red Rock Country is to go into the wilderness and soak it in and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing by hiking any of over 80 trails interspersed throughout the area.

Smokian Resort on Soap Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best Washington Road Trip: Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway

The road trip: Take a ride on the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway, an amazing 150-mile road trip revealing the story of the Ice Age floods when vast reservoirs of water flooded and receded from this valley hundreds of times.

Smokian Resort on Soap Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: Between three state parks, a national wildlife refuge, visits to the Grand Coulee Dam and Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, or Othello’s Sand Hill Crane festival (23rd annual, March 20-22, 2020), you’ll find something for the whole family.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best North Dakota Road Trip: Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit

The road trip: This 36-mile scenic road trip offers about two hours of breathtaking overlooks and trailheads. As you weave through Theodore Roosevelt National Park, keep your eyes open for wildlife, such as bison, deer, antelopes, and prairie dogs.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: Walk through Ridgeline Nature Trail, go on a guided hike with a ranger, or spend the night at Cottonwood Campground.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best Louisiana Road Trip: Creole Nature Trail

The road trip: The Creole Nature Trail, one of only 43 All-American Roads in the U.S., runs 180 miles through three National Wildlife Refuges.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: The main route is U-shaped with spur roads along the Gulf shoreline and angling into other reserves like Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge and the Peveto Woods Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary. This is the Louisiana Outback.

Best Texas Road Trip: Gateway to Big Bend

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The road trip: On this 80-mile drive from Marathon to Big Bend National Park, get comfortable and take in the dry, desert landscape of Texas. You’ll enjoy views of the Chisos Mountains, various species of cacti, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a coyote.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pit stops: Big Bend National Park is the end destination, as well as the highlight of this scenic road trip with its mountains, canyons, wildlife, and more.

Worth Pondering…

There is adventure in any trip; it’s up to us to seek it out.

—Jamie Francis

Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Venture off the beaten path to take in Arizona’s diverse topography

Many of the Grand Canyon State’s most interesting and beautiful roadways unwind after a short detour off the busier roads and Interstate highways. So take the exit ramp to experience four of Arizona’s scenic drives and byways.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Officially Arizona Highway 179, this byway is only 14.5 miles long. But you could spend a whole day exploring the spectacular red rock formations, shops, galleries, restaurants, and other attractions that line this link between Interstate 17 and Sedona.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get oriented at the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center. Then head to the Village of Oak Creek (about five miles south of Sedona) to pick up picnic supplies on the way to Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. These two beloved and much-photographed landmarks are ringed by hiking and biking trails.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing to Sedona, sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude’s Chapel of the Holy Cross is a meditative and powerful retreat, with windows framing buttes and rock outcroppings. At the northern end of the drive, stroll around Tlaquepaque, an architecturally authentic Spanish Colonial village that houses galleries, retailers, and restaurants.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road tip: A Red Rock Pass ($5/day) is required for vehicles parked on National Forest land around Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. If you plan to park and explore on foot, pick up a pass and display it on the dash of your RV or toad.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apache Trail Historic Road

On this winding 41.5-mile road, just off U.S. Highway 60 near Mesa, designate a driver to keep their eyes on curves and hairpin turns while passengers “ooh” and “ahh” over the lakes, mountains, and canyons in Tonto National Forest’s wilderness areas.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part paved and part well-graded gravel, Arizona Highway 88 was an old stagecoach route that shuttled in supplies for Roosevelt Dam’s construction in the early 1900s. It begins near Goldfield Ghost Town, a re-created Wild West town, complete with gunslingers. You’ll pass Canyon Lake, where you can cruise on the Dolly Steamboat.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road tip: Due to its narrow width and tight turns, this route is not recommended for larger vehicles including RVs.

Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sonoita to Patagonia

Starting near Vail on Interstate 10, pick up this 52-mile drive south on State Route 83 through the Santa Cruz River Basin of southeastern Arizona.

Sonoita Creek State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Sonoita, visit the nearby wineries of Arizona’s burgeoning wine country. Then connect back with State Route 82 heading south and watch the landscape morph from rolling grasslands to cottonwood stands and juniper forests.

Bird watching at Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Patagonia, wander the town’s charming coffee shops and retailers. Or bring your binoculars to spot wildlife at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, a popular birding spot that’s home to more than 300 species of birds. Continue on to Patagonia Lake State Park where visitors hike, swim, fish, and camp while taking in the lush landscape of the surrounding hills.

Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kingman to Oatman (Route 66)

A visit to the old powerhouse which has been converted to a Route 66 Museum and visitor’s center is a must when in Kingman. The Powerhouse Building is also home to Arizona’s Route 66 Association.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Kingman, take the 28-mile scenic drive through the Black Mountains to Oatman. Once a gold-mining boomtown, Oatman hunkers in a craggy gulch of the Black Mountains. Rising above town is the jagged peak of white quartz known as Elephant’s Tooth.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A shadow of its former self this living ghost town offers a handful of historic buildings and photo opportunities, costumed gunfighters and 1890s style ladies. Burros from the surrounding hills wander into Oatman daily and mosey around town blocking traffic, greeting visitors, and chomping carrots sold by the local shop owners.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

On the Road to Mount Lemmon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

Stay close to nature, it will never fail you.

—Frank Lloyd Wright