Texas Road Trips Sampler

Take a leisurely drive and avoid traffic, feel reinvigorated along the coast, and how to enjoy a north-south road trip

Ready to take the roads less traveled? Along this pair of spring road trips you have an option to avoid the traffic of Interstate 35 from DFW to the Hill Country and feel invigorated along the coast. This drive takes you along Texas’ version of the Pacific Coast Highway. If you want to see the variety of vistas that Texas has to offer then load the RV, buckle up, and get ready for these fun spring drives.

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hug the Coast Highway

Distance: 217 miles

Overall vibe: Seafood and seaside breezes

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t be fooled by the name. State Highway 35 is the antithesis to the behemoth with which it shares a number. Interstate 35 is a white-knuckle fight for highway survival while its country cousin is an easy cruise through green marshes and across bays with intermittent glimpses of the Gulf of Mexico.

Tricolored heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise known as the “Hug-the-Coast” Highway, this 35 predates I-35 by more than 40 years. With only one lane on each side most of the way, it’s a quaint retreat—a throwback to Sunday drives where the journey was the destination.

Related Article: 4 Texas Road Trips: These You Have to Take

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This slow ride begins south of Houston in West Columbia, the tiny town with the distinction of having been the capital of the Republic of Texas for about three months in 1836. 

Along the coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing on the road as Route 35 steers you straight toward Matagorda Bay. In the town of Palacios, home to birders and fishermen, stop at The Point. The hybrid convenience store and Vietnamese and Mexican restaurant has become the social hub of the town. You can grab fishing gear, breakfast tacos, and authentic Vietnamese food or grab takeout for a picnic on the docks overlooking the bay. If you’re lucky, you might catch the flash of a roseate spoonbill in flight.

Port Lavaca

Grab your fishing pole, sunscreen, and beach chair…it’s time to go to Port Lavaca. This coastal town has all the seaside fun you could ask for but without all the crowds found in other Gulf Coast locales.

Port Lavaca © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Checking out Port Lavaca’s beaches is a no brainer, regardless of whether you’re looking for a quiet barefoot stroll, hunt for shells, or kick back and relax. Start at Magnolia Beach, also known as the only natural shell beach on the Gulf Coast. Lay out a blanket and soak up the sun, or cast a line from the fishing pier. For more sandy beaches, relax in the shade of a thatch-covered cabana at Lighthouse Beach or swim or paddle board in the tranquil waters of Alamo Beach.

Related Article: Texas Road Trip Playlist: Sing Your Way across Texas

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can keep on trucking toward Rockport or take a 45-minute side trip to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This pristine sanctuary overlooking San Antonio Bay attracts more than 400 species of birds and is the winter home of the endangered whooping cranes. Heron Flats, an easy 1.5-mile walking trail, promises glimpses of leggy birds high-stepping through marshes as they seek their supper.

Big Tree © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The natural wonders continue 10 miles north of Rockport in Goose Island State Park where the Big Tree prevails. Scientists have calculated this live oak could be more than 1,000 years old—and it’s so resilient even Hurricane Harvey couldn’t knock it down.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fulton and its historic mansion and the seaside resort town Rockport are worthy stops, especially for dockside seafood at places like the Boiling Pot or Charlotte Plummer’s.

Fulton Mansion State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Rockport, it’s only 28 miles to Portland where it’s time to say goodbye to this laid-back coastal road as it merges south into the bigger US-181. 

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heading toward Corpus, you are thrust back into the rush of multiple lanes and cars in a hurry to get somewhere—a jolt after so many miles of traffic-free driving. The intensity of it brings to mind the other bigger, faster 35. It’s a reminder of just how good you’ve had it on the mellow side of the coast-hugging highway.

Related Article: Visit SIX Iconic Texas Landmarks on One Road Trip

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The DFW Metroplex-South Texas Scenic Workaround

Distance: 370 miles

Overall Vibe: Pretty as a picture

San Antonio

No matter where you are or the time of day, Interstate 35 is a crapshoot. You never know when traffic is going to back up, or why. There is an alternative for a north-south road trip: US Highway 281 running between the western Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and greater San Antonio. It is less traveled, less billboarded, and less congested—and usually, worth the extra hour especially whenever I-35 is all jammed up.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alas, US-281 is no longer a secret thanks to Google Maps and Waze. The route which goes through Hico, Hamilton, Lampasas, Burnet, and Marble Falls has unpredictable bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic. To bypass these conditions the time has come to suck it up, factor in at least two more hours of drive time, and take the long way to South Texas. Fortunately, you’ll be passing through some of the prettiest western landscapes Texas has to offer.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After leaving Dallas, make your way to downtown Fort Worth then drive 75 miles west on Interstate 30 and Interstate 20 to Exit 361, south of Strawn. Head south on State Route 16. The two-lane road starts in the Big Country and transects the Hill Country. If you’re relatively new to Texas, this is a fine introduction to some of the state’s finest natural beauty. Plus, you’ll be avoiding the horrible, ongoing interstate highway construction in Waco.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granted, SR-16 is a longer way and posted speed limits drop below 55 passing through small towns. But since each one justifies stopping for one reason or another depending on your level of curiosity and available time, slow down at least and enjoy the scenery.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On this route you’ll pass through the boomtown ghost town of Desdemona to Comanche where you can stop for a bite to eat at Stone Eagle Beer Garden. If in need of a beautifully crafted custom pair of boots set up an appointment at the family-owned and operated Kimmel Boot Company.

Related Article: Everything’s Bigger in Texas: Best Road Trips from Houston, San Antonio, and Austin

Drive past the wind farms of Priddy on your way to Goldthwaite, home to the Texas Botanical Gardens at Legacy Plaza and Mills County Historical Museum (note, the museum is only open Monday through Friday).

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue on SR-16 until you hit San Saba, the Pecan Capital of the World. If you have some time, park your car and take a walking tour of downtown and the lively main drag. Then, head to Cherokee where the bluebonnets should be in full bloom this time of year. If hungry, make a pitstop at Cherokee Corner Cafe.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next up is Llano, the heart of the granite part of the Hill Country and a traditional barbecue town with options that include the original Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que and Inman’s BBQ and catering (known for turkey sausage). Take the Farm to Market Road 965 junction to see the bulging pink granite mountain known as Enchanted Rock within Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. From here, you’ll drive to Eckert, a ghost town at the western end of the Willow City Loop wildflower drive, and Fredericksburg where all the action can be found on its charming Main Street.

Windseed Farms near Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From here, you have the option of cutting away at Fredericksburg onto US-290 and going to Austin or taking US 87-and Interstate 10 for a more direct route south to San Antonio.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

After 7 days of trial and error,

God created Texas on the 8th day.

The Best Locations to Visit this Spring According to TikTok

As warmer days approach, you might start thinking about your next vacation—and if you’re looking for an unexpected gem you might not have to look very far

International luggage delivery company MyBaggage recently published its list of the 10 most popular places in the U.S. to visit this spring based on a potentially surprising methodology: TikTok views. And for the most part, the winners weren’t typical beach destinations in Florida or tourist attractions in California or New York.

The Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rather, the list primarily featured locations near mountain ranges, national parks, and other natural attractions—mostly in the western and southern U.S.

To get the list, MyBaggage ran a series of location-based hashtag searches through TikTok and sorted the results by total views. At the time the report was compiled, videos tagged with Macon, Georgia had 53.7 million views on the app, according to MyBaggage. Texas Hill Country had 51.3 million views, by comparison.

Check out the top 10 for some great ideas on where to potentially travel this spring:

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon, Georgia

TikTok views: 53.7 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 71 F

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon, Georgia is a nature lover’s wonderland. Nestled in the middle of the state, it’s the perfect place for a getaway to experience the great outdoors. Hike through 180 acres of upland forest at Amerson River Park, pick fresh produce at Lane Southern Orchards or Dickey Farms, hop on your bike for a ride through the Historic Downtown, or kayak along the bubbling Ocmulgee River.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step back in time and visit Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Ocmulgee has had 17,000 years of continuous human habitation. Explore the museum with over 2,000 artifacts and visit the Earth Lodge with its original floors that are dated to 1015. The park’s 702 acres include fields, forests, and wetlands located along Walnut Creek and the Ocmulgee River. The Ocmulgee Wetlands allows visitors a glimpse into an ecosystem including birds, animal, reptiles, and plants. Immerse yourself in the wetlands environment by taking a stroll on the park’s boardwalk.

Related Article: The Best RV Destinations to Explore this Spring

Guadalupe River at Kerrville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country, Texas

TikTok views: 51.3 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 76 F

The Hill Country lies in southwestern central Texas. Although it has no technical geographic boundaries, it generally is defined as the area west of Austin and north of San Antonio—bordered by Interstate 35 on the east, U.S. 83 on the west, U.S. 90 on the south, and Texas State Highway 29 on the north. It is a land of steep, rolling hills; woods; streams and rivers; and small towns. Towns include San Marcos, Boerne, New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, and Johnson City.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a strong German heritage dating to the 1800s, several Hill Country towns are known for their German restaurants and bakeries. Other attractions include wineries, state parks, barbecue restaurants, festivals and fairs, and wildflowers. Canyon, Buchanan, and Marble Falls are three major lakes in the area and among the primary rivers are Medina, Guadalupe, Colorado, Pedernales, and Llano. RV parks and resorts are abundant throughout the Hill Country and along I-35 and I-10.

Related Article: The Best Stops for a Spring Road Trip

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona, Arizona

TikTok views: 28.9 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 51 F

Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona is also known as the Red Rock Country, which—as the name implies—is home to red-rock formations and canyons amongst the desert trails and cacti. The springtime offers visitors a mild temperature to enjoy those red rocks before the heat of summer sets in.

Bell Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, Red Rock Scenic Byway (Highway 179) is often called a “museum without walls.” This All-American Road winds through the evergreen-covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric red rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs, California

TikTok views: 14.8 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 79 F

Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the Coachella Valley with the snow-capped peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains as a backdrop, Palm Springs has long been an upscale escape for area visitors and famous figures. Movie stars and mob bosses ditched L.A. to vacation here during the town’s first boom in the 1920s, popularizing a Spanish-Mediterranean architectural style.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town received another tourist boost during the ’50s when this became a hip Rat-Pack hangout. They brought with them significant Mid-Century Modern architects who crafted uber-cool homes, many of which were restored in the 1990s.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, hiking, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Related Article: 12 of the Best State Parks for Spring Camping

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

Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee

TikTok views: 5.2 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 67 F

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

The Great Smoky Mountains, also a national park, are a mountain range along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee where visitors can hike, camp, go whitewater rafting, and experience remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. It’s the country’s most-visited national park. The Appalachian Trail also runs through the Great Smoky Mountains.

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

Scenic drives such as the Newfound Gap Road provide a welcome mat to countless brooks, waterfalls, overlooks, and trailheads; along winding roads where we can capture those s-curve-through-nature photographs that we love so much. 

Related Article: 10 Inexpensive Outdoor Activities for Spring

Other locations in the top 10 most popular destinations include:

  • Oregon Coast, Oregon
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
  • Garden of the Gods, Colorado
  • Port Townsend, Washington

Worth Pondering…

You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.

—Florida Georgia Line, Cruise

Scenic Byways across America Await Exploration

On the road again

On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again

On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again

“On the Road Again” is easily considered Willie Nelson’s signature song. On a flight together, Nelson was asked by the producers of the Honeysuckle Rose film to write a song about touring to be used as the movie’s theme song. By the time they had landed, the lyrics to “On the Road Again” had been composed. The song rolled up to No. 1 in 1980 and earned a spot in the Grammy Song Hall of Fame.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many aspects to travel. We go to places we’ve never been because we want to be surprised. We travel to see new sights and experience fresh things. We seek new places that might teach us about the world and ourselves.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While your plans may be for travel to a specific destination, a road trip need not be limited to getting to one location as fast as possible. Throughout America there are National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads, ready to introduce you to memorable adventures off the interstate while driving toward your primary destination.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two road designations include a collection of 150 diverse tracks identified by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as possessing intrinsic qualities that make each route particularly worthy of a driving experience.

Alabama Coastal Connection (Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A National Scenic Byway designation recognizes roads with one (or more) of six attributes contributing toward a unique travel experience. They must be scenic (natural and manmade), natural (undisturbed beauty), historic, recreational, archaeological, or culturally significant.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All-American Roads meet the same criteria, but must also feature multiple qualities of national significance. Also, All-American Roads must be considered worthy as stand-alone destinations.

Related: Introducing New Scenic Byways and All-American Roads

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“These roads are truly unique,” says Doug Hecox, a spokesman with the Federal Highway Administration. “They are special routes that offer unequalled ways to enjoy different facets of America. Sadly, too few people know they exist.”

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To get your “personal mental engine” started thinking about the possibilities, here is a sampling of these federally recognized routes to whet your appetite for adventure as you get “on the road again.”

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

State: Utah

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 123 miles

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. This All-American Road connects US-89 near Panguitch on the west with SR-24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points but it is far and away the best.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail

State: Louisiana

Designation: All-American Highway

Length: 180 miles

Often referred to as “Louisiana’s Outback,” the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.” Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, and Cajun culture await discovery along this route through the marshes of Louisiana.

Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway

States: Colorado and Utah

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 512 miles

If you have children interested in dinosaurs, this route encompasses one of the best areas in the world to find dinosaur fossils and for the public to see what paleontologists have uncovered. Key attractions include active quarries where you can watch paleontologists search for fossils embedded in stone, backcountry sites where you can view dinosaur fossils and footprints, and museums that display fossils, replicas, and information about dinosaurs. Nearby “side trips” include Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

States: North Carolina and Virginia

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 469 miles

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.

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

Santa Fe Trail and Historic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe Trail Scenic and Historic Byway

States: Colorado and New Mexico

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 565 miles

The Santa Fe Trail was one of America’s first trade routes. Operating between 1821 and 1880, it was critical to westward expansion, and remnants can still be seen along the byway. The byway partially follows the route and passes Fort Union National Monument where 170-year-old wagon ruts are still visible. Other points of interest include stage stops, trading posts (Brent’s Old Fort), pictographs, and the longest dinosaur track in North America.

Alabama Coastal Connection (Fort Gaines) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama’s Coastal Connection

State: Alabama

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 130 miles

This route and the waterways it follows are significant to the state of Alabama and the region for many reasons. Among them are the National Historic Landmarks of Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, the protected lands of the Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Gulf State Park, beaches and sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes scrub forests, freshwater swamps, and uplands.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

State: South Dakota

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 68 miles

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

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Country Byway

State: Ohio

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 76 miles

Discover the cultural and historic treasures of the Amish and northern Appalachian people as you drive around the curves and over the hills of the pastoral countryside. Experience simple living and sustainability along charming country roads, taking you to a bygone era still present, manifest in the people and their lifestyle.

White Mountain Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Mountain Trail

State: New Hampshire

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 100 miles

The White Mountain Trail offers New England’s most rugged mountain scenery as it travels through three historic “notches” or mountain passes. Views abound of villages and unspoiled National Forest. Stops include views of Mount Washington and the grand Mount Washington Hotel, mountain cascades, wildlife, and the Appalachian Trail.

Related: Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Great River Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Great River Road

States: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 3,000 miles

This byway twists and turns through 10 states as it meanders vertically through the center of the nation. It follows the entire route of the iconic Mississippi River from its Minnesota source at Lake Itasca to where it enters the Gulf of Mexico. Along the byway, there are thousands of places to visit, and more than 70 official interpretive centers such as museums and historical sites, as well as charming, small river towns and one-of-a-kind mom and pop restaurants.

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Journey Through Hallowed Ground Byway

States: Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia

Designation: National Scenic Byway

Length: 180 miles

The 180-mile Journey Through the Hallowed Ground byway corridor from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Monticello, Virginia is “Where America Happened.” It is said that this three-state route spanning Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia holds more historic sites than any other in the US. It was an active transportation route during the Revolutionary War, a critical transition zone for the Underground Railroad, and a key battleground during the Civil War.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Parkway

State: Virginia

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 23 miles

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 route connects the historic sites of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

States: California and Oregon

Designation: All-American Road

Length: 500 miles

Several scenic days await exploration along this route connecting Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lava Beds National Monument, and Tule Lake National Monument. Crater Lake National Park is also on the route. The violent eruption of the Mt. Mazama volcano 7,700 years ago was 42 times as powerful as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Lava flows sealed the bottom of the caldera, creating Crater Lake, the seventh-deepest lake in the world. Along the route, a 33-mile drive around the rim of the lake offers spectacular views.

Related: The 7 Most Scenic Drives in the Country to Add to Your Bucket List

The scenic byway also passes numerous mountain communities as it traverses the dramatic volcanic landscapes.

Worth Pondering…

Life is a Highway

Life is like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long
Come on. Give me give me give me give me yeah

—recorded by Tom Cochrane from his second studio album, Mad Mad World (1991)

The Best RV Destinations to Explore this Spring

While summer may be the obvious choice for an RV vacation, spring can be an equally memorable time for a getaway. In many parts of the country, the flowers are in full bloom and the weather becomes more inviting by the day. What’s more, depending on where you visit, the crowds will be much smaller than in summer.

So whether you’re thinking of renting an RV or getting your RV ready for the road, here are 10 prime choices for a spring getaway around the country.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amelia Island, Florida

For anyone thinking of island destinations, Amelia Island is a secret island paradise. It has lots of hiking and biking trails and sunny spots like Fernandina Beach for sunbathing, swimming, surf fishing, and shark tooth and shell hunting. Stay overnight at one of the two on-site campgrounds at Amelia Island State Park.

Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History buffs will love Fort Clinch State Park where there’s a preserved Civil War-era walled plantation that features daily tours. Check out the Amelia Island Museum of History to learn about the 4,000-year-old island. Relax with a craft Bearing Rum cocktail at Marlin & Barrel Distillery or a farm-to-table dinner at Omni Amelia Island Resort and catch a live musical theater production at Amelia Musical Playhouse.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah

As Utah’s oldest national park, Zion has lost none of its grandiosity since its opening in 1919. It’s a place of wonderment, the crown jewel of Utah’s epic national park system. Located in Southern Utah, its esteem has been well earned because of its array of vast and narrow canyons, rainbow rock formations, natural monuments, fantastic hiking, and stunning vistas. Don’t pass up on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. In a state made for road trips, the short and sweet journey is the icing on the cake.

Related Article: 6 Perfect Destinations to Take Your RV This Spring

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. Watchman Campground located in Zion Canyon and is open all year round. South Campground is closed in the winter. The Lava Point Campground is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road (closed in winter). From mid-March through late November the campgrounds are full almost every night. Reservations at Watchman Campground are recommended. Several area campgrounds are a short drive from the park. 

Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas

You can surf on the Gulf Coast in Texas but you can also surf at Monahans Sandhills State Park in West Texas. A virtual island in a Permian Basin sea, the narrow strip of dunes runs for 200 miles from just south of Monahans north into New Mexico and creates a unique habitat that’s home to a variety of wildlife and supports one of the world’s largest oak forests—albeit the oaks themselves are of the diminutive variety. The Harvard oaks that cover more than 40,000 acres here seldom rise above three feet in height even though their root structure may extend as deep as 70 to 90 feet in the dunes.

Monahans Sandhill State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park offers an interpretive center and museum, as well as picnicking and RV camping and a favorite activity of many visitors, sand surfing. The 26 campsites offer electric and water hookups, picnic table, and a shade shelter. Rent sand disks to surf the dunes or bring your horse and check out the 800-acre equestrian area. Just make sure you mark off “surfed in a desert” from your travel bucket list.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee, Georgia

One of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders, the 700-square-mile Okefenokee Swamp was once part of the ocean floor. Even the patches of land dotting the wetland are not too stable; trees often shake like they’re about to be torn from the earth and capsize. The name Okefenokee comes from a Creek word meaning “trembling earth.” Located in the middle of the swamp, in the southeast corner of Georgia, is Stephen C. Foster State Park—remote and filled with wildlife, nature, and few people, it’s a perfect camping destination. 

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

It’s true what they say about West Virginia―it really is wild and wonderful! The New River Gorge area is GORGEous (get it?) in spring; imagine tree-covered mountains in bloom with a whitewater river, one of the oldest on the continent, running through it. With more than 100 trails for hiking and biking, this national treasure is a thrill-seeker’s paradise with many opportunities to get wild. The area is known for its whitewater rafting, fishing, and BASE jumping off of the nation’s third-largest bridge. With plenty of unspoiled wilderness to enjoy, New River Gorge is a place of beauty, especially in spring. 

Related Article: Prep Your RV for Spring Travel

Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve provides opportunities for primitive camping only. Camping areas are located along the river. These primitive camping areas have no drinking water or hookups, and limited restroom facilities. RV camping is available at nearby Babcock State Park.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, the southernmost island of the Golden Isles, was purchased in 1886 by a group of wealthy families for a private retreat. The Jekyll Island Club was formed and members built a clubhouse and a neighborhood of “cottages” to be used for a few months during the winter.

Jekyll Island Club  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By 1900, The Jekyll Island Club membership included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Vanderbilts, Goodyears, Pulitzers, Goulds, and Cranes and represented over one-sixth of the world’s wealth (Mr. Crane’s cottage boasted 17 bathrooms).

Jekyll Island Campground  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island offers an abundance of recreational activities that are sure to please visitors of all ages. A variety of amenities include ten miles of white sand beaches, 63 holes of golf, an outdoor tennis complex, a waterpark, fishing pier, nature centers, 20 miles of bike trails, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Accommodations are varied and include a grand historic hotel and oceanfront properties. RV camping is available at the Jekyll Island Campground which offers 206 campsites on the Island’s north end.

Related Article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Spring

Pistachios © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Two of largest pistachio tree grooves in New Mexico, PistachioLand and Eagle Ranch are destinations that can be enjoyed by all ages. Located in the Tularosa Basin outside of Alamogordo they are easy day trips from Las Cruces and can be combined with a visit to White Sands National Park. With an average of 287 days of sunshine, outdoor activities abound throughout the area. 

World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

PistachioLand is the home of the World’s Largest Pistachio, Pistachio Tree Ranch, McGinn’s Country Store, and Arena Blanca Winery. Experience their motorized farm tour, take your photo with the World’s Largest Pistachio, shop inside their country store, sit on the porch with views of the mountains, try their free samples at the pistachio bar, enjoy the wine tasting room, and grab a sweet treat in PistachioLand ice cream parlor.

Eagle Ranch Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eagle Ranch is the home of New Mexico’s largest producing pistachio groves with approximately 13,000 trees. Wines were added to the product line in 2002. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcase how pistachios are grown and processed. A second store is conveniently located in the historic village of Mesilla.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park Colorado

The Pueblo people definitely left their mark on the American West and their way of life remains intact at sites like Mesa Verde. The region is chalk full of thousands of archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings dating back to the 5th century. Carved into cliffs sitting 8,500 feet above sea level and surrounded by inhospitable desert landscapes, the tenacity and ingenuity of these ancient people is undeniable.

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

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park entrance is about 45 minutes from Durango and the best time to see Mesa Verde is May through October when some of the dwellings allow the public to visit. Check out the tons of petroglyphs all along the Petroglyph Point Trail.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde offers great camping just 4 miles inside the park at Morefield Campground. Because there are 267 sites, there’s always plenty of space. The campground rarely fills.

Worth Pondering…

Stuff your eyes with wonder…live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

—Ray Bradbury

Road Trip Planning for the First Time RVer

Essential tips for the first time RVer

Planning your first-ever RV trip is a pretty darn exciting time. You’re about to take on the wide-open road, zipping off anywhere the wind might be calling, all with your very own private villa-on-wheels.

Of course, the exact same factors that make first-time RV trips so thrilling can also make them a little overwhelming for the eager road trip planner. That wide-open road we’re talking about is… well, wide open. There are so many places you can go, after all. It only takes a quick glance through your favorite road atlas to be struck with decision paralysis. With so many amazing sites to see, how will you ever choose?

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From hiking through the lush green forests of the Pacific Northwest to laying out a blanket in the sand on the sunny eastern shore, the US has so much to offer an RV adventurer. And if you’re already dealing with learning your rig’s ropes, putting together an itinerary can become more of a duty than a delight.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone put together a list of easy, yet exciting RV road trip ideas so you could simply choose?

RVing with Rex to the rescue! Here are some top road trip planning tips.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Time Road Trip Ideas

You know I’ve got your back here. So to make your first time RV experience easier, I came up with this list of easy American road trip ideas to help get you on the road as effortlessly as possible—or at least give you some great brainstorming material.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, which of these trips will work best for you will depend in part on where you’re starting your journey from, how much time you have available, and the type of experience you’re after. For instance, a weekend ski trip to Vermont might make perfect sense for a Boston February getaway, but it’ll be less doable if you hang your hat in Phoenix. (Or if it’s July by the time you’re reading this post, for that matter.)

Related: 6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

That said, hopefully these fun and simple road trip ideas will help make life a little bit easier when you hit the road for your first RV outing.

Ready to dive in? Here are some of my favorite first-timer options.

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quick Road Trip Ideas

If you’re looking to get off the Interstate and onto a scenic route, this list is for you! Here are some simple road trip ideas to get you going.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Southern Charm Sojourn

The American south has so much more to offer than comfort food—not that we’re turning down a plate of chicken and waffles anytime soon. One great route is to connect the following southern cities each oozing with its unique brand of charm: Savannah, Charleston, Mobile, and New Orleans. The only thing you’ll get more of than historical knowledge is Spanish moss and sunshine.

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Gulf Coast Gambol

Take a trip from Galveston to Florida’s Emerald Coast—and down to the keys, if you’ve got the time. Sweeping waterfront views and exciting cities will greet you at every stop along the way—not to mention an abundance of fresh, delicious seafood.

Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Pacific Coast Paradise

Everyone should take the time to meander all the way up (or down) California’s Pacific coast highway at some point in their lives. Whether you start in Eureka or San Diego, you’ll be treated to some of the most breathtaking byways in the country—a turbulent, crashing ocean flanking you on one side and majestic redwoods on the other. Potential stops include Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, San Luis Obispo, and a whole host of others. You honestly can’t go wrong.

Tucson Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easy Road Trip Ideas on a Budget

Want to see the world without wiping out your wallet? Yes, it is possible—especially in an RV. Not only will you be able to save on your road trip food budget by cooking your own delicious, healthy meals in your RVs kitchen, but you can also save 50 percent on campsites you stay in with a Passport America membership. Good Sam, KOA, and FMCA also offer camping discounts to members, typically 10 percent.

Related: The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

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

Check out this article on how to choose the perfect RV Park and campsite.

Looking for even more concrete ways to save money while still satisfying your inner explorer? Here are some of the best cheap road trip ideas I’ve come across.

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. State Park Promenade

There’s a lot that’s awesome about traveling in America but one thing I particularly love as an RVer is that no matter where I am there’s likely have a beautiful state park only a short drive away. State parks are filled with all sorts of outdoor activities and views to discover. (Plus, camping is likely available.)

Bartlett Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Beachy Break

You don’t have to live near an ocean to plunge your toes into the sand. Whether it’s Pennsylvania’s Lackawanna Lake or Bartlett Lake in Arizona, any lake shoreline will do—and you’ll be so busy relaxing, you won’t even have a chance to run through your travel budget on souvenirs or touristy activities.

Weekend Road Trip Ideas

Sometimes, the best family road trip ideas are the ones you can take at the last minute. Here are some quick-fix ideas when you need to get out of town… now.

Fishing Parker Canyon Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Woodsy Wonderment

Even if you make your home in a large, metropolitan area such as Houston or Phoenix, there’s likely some woods or wilderness nearby. From Atlanta it’s just a couple of hours to the mountains and Floridians can retreat to the state’s central springs. No matter what, getting away from the rush and bustle of an urban center may be what the doctor ordered!

Related: Top 7 Tragic Rookie RV Mistakes To Avoid

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Active Outdoor Outing

From extreme adventures like mountain climbing to simple biking and hiking trails, America is host to some of the best landscapes for outdoor activities in the world. Exercise and enjoyment at the same time—now that’s how to do it! Once again, you can’t go wrong with a state park where activities may include hiking, biking, boating, fishing, picnicking, swimming, and ranger-led activities.

Biking the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5 Amazing Places to Visit this Spring

Spring is here and it’s time to start thinking of where you and the family might want to visit in the RV. And it also means spring break! So whether the kids are out of school or you just have the itch to get out of town for a week or two, these are the top spring break destinations for RV road-tripping in 2022.

Disney World © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Orlando, Florida

The kids will love visiting local attractions like Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND, and Universal Studios Orlando but the theme park capital of the world has more to offer than amusement parks.

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Orlando isn’t just the world’s most magical destination. There’s plenty to enjoy outside from many beaches including Cocoa Beach to adventures like wildlife and birding, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, nature trails and parks, airboat tours, and the Canaveral National Seashore. For a more educational endeavor, visit the Kennedy Space Center.

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Powell, Arizona

Created by a manmade reservoir on the Colorado River, Lake Powell straddles the states of Utah and Arizona. Rent a boat and hit the water for some fishing, tubing, or water skiing. Picnic on the shoreline or enjoy dining in one of several restaurants on the lake.

Wahweap RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Three campgrounds operated by park concessionaires accommodate RVs at Lake Powell: Wahweap RV & Campground in south Lake Powell and Bullfrog RV & Campground and Halls Crossing RV & Campground both in north Lake Powell. All three areas offer full hookup sites and primitive camping.

Wahweap Marina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wahweap is centrally located at the Wahweap Marina which offers plenty of lake transport for rent. There are 139 full hook-up sites with access to laundry and showers as well as Wahweap Grille, Wind Café, and a gift shop. Bullfrog offers 24 RV spaces with restrooms and showers and access to the Bullfrog Marina. Check out the restaurant and gift shop at nearby Defiance House Lodge. Halls Crossing offers 24 RV sites with restrooms and showers and is located next to the amenities of the Village Store.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Planning the Best Summer Road Trip

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition National Park Service offers areas for primitive camping including Lees Ferry Campground, Lone Rock Beach Primitive Camping Area, and Stanton Creek Primitive Camping Area. These campgrounds do not take reservations and do not have phone numbers.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Shores, Alabama

For a different beach vacation than typical Florida or California, head to Gulf Shores on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Here you’ll find 32 beautiful miles of white-sand beaches including the main public beach, Gulf Place.

There are plenty of water-based activities from beach lounging to fishing, diving, boating, snorkeling, parasailing, and kayaking. Temperatures in the spring range from pleasant mid-50s to warm mid-70s.

The Wharf in Orange Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nonwater activities include biking, hiking, and ziplining. Visit the Wharf in Orange Beach for fun on their Ferris wheel, mini-golf, zipline, and movie theater. 

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A great spot for RV camping is Gulf State Park, a reasonably priced campground with private, lakefront campsites, and resort-style amenities. With almost 500 sites, the park also has 11 bathhouses, a camp store, laundry facilities, a swimming pool, tennis and pickleball courts, horseshoes, volleyball, a nature center, and a fishing pier. 

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

The Best Stops for a Spring Road Trip

Whether you park for ten minutes or ten days, what destinations do you pull off the highway for?

At some point, everyone starts to think about their dream road trip. For some, it’s a jaunt to the Grand Canyon or touring the Mighty Five in a decked-out RV. For others, it’s traveling Historic Route 66 or the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter the destination, though, everyone needs to make stops on the way. What are some of your favorites?

For my purpose, a stop is anything from a national park to a state park or a roadside attraction to a Texas BBQ joint. Anything that gets you to pull off the highway, turn off your engine, and stretch your legs a bit—whether it’s to hike a mountain trail or tour a living history museum is up to you.

My vote for the perfect road trip stop is multifaceted and an ongoing list as I travel to new places and explore America’s scenic wonders.

Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Montpelier, Vermont

Vermont Maple has been the standard by which all syrups are judged. I think you can taste eight generations of experience in Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks. The Morse Family has been making maple syrup and related products in Vermont for 200 years. And their folksy maple farm is an interesting place to visit any time of year.

Nestled on a hilltop just 2.7 miles outside of Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the U.S., Morse Farm is a throwback to a simpler, quieter time when generations of the same family worked together to carve out a living on the land.

Morse Farms Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You’ll hear an informative and fascinating presentation about the history and operation of the farm and you can take a stroll on the trail among some of the sugar maple trees. There are farm animals to feed and of course there is a gift shop with a wide assortment of the farm’s products for sale.

Open daily, with slight variation in hours by season. No admission charge. Harvesting season is mid-March to Mid-April. Ample parking is available, including pull-through parking for RVs.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Catalina State Park, Tucson, Arizona

Several hikes and activities await the visitor to Catalina State Park. One of the prettiest hikes is the Romero Canyon Trail, which climbs up to the Romero Pools with trees, rocks, and water. Visitors can also picnic, spot birds and wildlife, ride trail bikes, or take a trail ride on horseback.

Related Article: 10 Inexpensive Outdoor Activities for Spring

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Catalina State Park is located off Highway 77/Oracle Road. Best times to visit are fall through spring; summer can be very hot. A per-vehicle day-use fee is collected at the entrance station. RV camping with 50/30-amp electric service and water are available at the site. Showers and a dump station are available.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

America’s oldest landscaped gardens and a great deal of history can be found at Middleton Place, a former plantation near Charleston. The estate was the primary base of the Middleton family, who owned 19 plantations in the area (staffed by as many as 1,000 slaves). One member of the family was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The main house is in ruins but a guest house still stands furnished to give a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the plantation’s heyday.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The plantation is open year-round but during warmer weather you’ll have more opportunities to observe demonstrations of blacksmithing, pottery, and other period trades. The camellias begin blooming in February.

St. Martin de Tours Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

St Martin de Tours Church, St. Martinville, Louisiana

Cajuns refer to this as the ‘Mother Church of the Acadians’ as it was here in St. Martinville that the largest immigration of Acadians took place in 1785. The church is the focus of St Martin Square where you’ll find a number of monuments and statues. St Martinville’s wider historic district is home to 32 buildings dating from 1820-1931 and the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site.

Evangeline Oak © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Behind the church sits the statue of Evangeline, the fictional Acadian heroine immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem set in the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians.

Related Article: 12 of the Best State Parks for Spring Camping

Bernheim Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Shepherdsville, Kentucky

At 15,625 acres, Bernheim Arboretum boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. It’s also one of the area’s premier recreational venues, ideal for those individuals who enjoy strolling through nature while taking life at a pace conducive to easy enjoyment. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads or bicycle around the Arboretum, a living library of trees. Over 40 miles of trails with varying degrees of ease and difficulty weave their way through the forest at Bernheim; no matter what level you are looking for, there’s a trail for you. Some are handicap accessible.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner, Washington

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

Acorn woodpecker at Ramsey Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Hereford, Arizona

15 species of hummingbirds, the elegant trogon and the lesser long-nosed bat are just a few of the species found in this ecological crossroads operated by the Nature Conservancy. Enjoy spotting dozens of bird species or sit in shaded seating areas along Ramsey Creek and watch hummingbirds feed. Hike up the Hamburg Trail along the creek past old cabins to an overlook where it joins a network of trails in the Coronado National Forest and the Miller Peak Wilderness Area.

Open Thursday through Monday. Hours change by season. Admission charged. Parking is limited. Bookstore and gift shop, restrooms in the visitor center.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona

Get off the Interstate and drive a portion of historic Route 66 in Holbrook. Spend the night in a wigwam right on Route 66 with vintage cars parked all around! With only 15 wigwams, making a reservation is a good idea. This is a good base for a day trip to Petrified Forest National Park and Historic Route 66.

Woodford Reserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, Kentucky

If you’re looking for Kentucky majesty, you’ll be hard-pressed to find grounds more beautiful than those of the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles. Woodford can claim that it is the “oldest” distillery in Kentucky because it’s been located in the same place since 1812. Other distilleries have moved their operations over the years. Because of this, Woodford Reserve is a national historic landmark. Woodford holds special significance for me as being the first bourbon distillery visited and one of only two distilleries we have visited on two separate occasions, the other being Maker’s Mark.

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

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hoover Dam, Boulder City, Nevada

A modern wonder, Hoover Dam was constructed in the 1930s. The facts and figures are staggering: the dam is 726.4 feet high, 1244 feet wide, 660 feet thick at the base, and was constructed with 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete. The water held behind the dam in Lake Mead, North America’s largest man-made reservoir, meets the needs of more than 20 million people and generates huge amounts hydroelectric power. And yet nothing quite prepares you for the immensity of this awe-inspiring feat of engineering. Tours are available.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Town Too Tough To Die, Tombstone, Arizona

Live out all of your Wild West dreams in Tombstone, Arizona, the location of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Cowboys, cowgirls, and wannabes fill up the town’s saloons and the O.K. Corral museum puts on reenactments of Wyatt Earp’s 1881 shootout. The buildings are so well maintained and the townsfolk so authentic that at times it’s easy to think you’ve landed on a John Wayne movie set.

World’s Largest Pistachio Nut © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

World’s Largest Pistachio Nut, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Erected outside McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch in 2008, the world’s largest pistachio nut is a truly impressive piece of engineering. Standing 30 feet tall and so substantial that it required a concrete base 9 feet deep, this giant steel-and-concrete nut is now firmly established as one of New Mexico’s most distinctive roadside attractions.

Free samples at McGinn’s © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Don’t just stop for the photos, as well as an amazing selection of pistachio products, McGinn’s also sells great ice cream and a wide range of New Mexico wines and foods. Tours are available.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona

Filled with sandstone buttes that provide gentle but stimulating hiking trails and photogenic spots like the Hole in the Rock, Papago Park is a scenic wonder only 10 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Home of the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden, the park also offers many activities including archery range, golf course, fishing lagoons, and an orienteering course. That little pyramid you’ll see is the tomb of Gov. George Wiley Paul Hunt.

Blue Bell Creamery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Blue Bell Creamery, Brenham, Texas

The main attraction in Brenham is the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory, which opened in 1907. Visitors can stop by the creamery’s Ice Cream Parlor for a generous scoop, learn about the history from the visitor’s center, shop the Country Store, and watch the production from the observation deck. Be sure to take a photo with the statue of the brand’s iconic logo, a little girl leading a cow on a rope.

Moki Dugway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Moki Dugway, Mexican Hat, Utah

A winding, scenic drive along the edge of Cedar Mesa offers panoramic views. Valley of the Gods is below. Monument Valley is off in the distance. A drive to nearby Muley Point near the top overlooks the Goosenecks of the San Juan River. Built originally for trucks hauling uranium ore, this is a popular route, though not for the faint-hearted! The road is unpaved but graded. The State of Utah recommends that only vehicles less than 28 feet in length and 10,000 pounds in weight attempt to negotiate this steep (10% grade), narrow, and winding road. It’s also spelled as Mokee Dugway.

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman

Prep Your RV for Spring Travel

Spring shakedown

Spring has sprung and if you’re a seasonal RVer you’re likely itching to hit the road. Slow your roll, though. Before you head for the nearest campground, spend some time with your RV and make sure it’s prepped for the travel season ahead. This includes taking steps to dewinterize the plumbing system and so forth. It’s also a great time to perform general maintenance tasks including a close inspection of the exterior and a check of all on-board systems.
Here’s to a fun-filled spring RV season!

Family road trip to the Smoky Mountains includes hiking © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What better way to shake off winter than to enjoy a family RV trip? And what better time than now? Spring is upon us which means it is a good time to take the RV out of storage. Even if you have been using your RV over the winter, these spring shakedown tips should provide some good reminders.

A spring road trip may involve the family pet © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If the batteries were in storage, install them in the RV. Make sure to properly connect all wires. Seek assistance if necessary, as it is important not to mix up the wiring. Make sure the batteries and connections are clean, tight, and dry, and check the fluid (electrolyte) level. Plug the coach in to shore power or connect a battery charger to make sure the batteries are fully charged.

A spring road trip may involve a visit to an animal farm or zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you live in a cold climate, the first step in spring is to dewinterize the coach. Locate the low-point drains and close them if they are open. These low-point drains may be hidden behind a cabinet or panel but they should be labeled. The outside shower may also act as a low-point drain.

Related: Your RV Camping Checklist: 10 Essentials for RV Travel

A spring road trip may involve hiking © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re unable to locate all the low-point drains are, look for water pouring out from under the RV when the city water is turned on in the next step. The drains may have valves or threaded caps. Close the fresh water tank drain valve or install the drain plug. If your RV has a water pump winterization bypass, make sure to close the bypass valve (set it to normal operation).

A spring road trip may involve birding © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Close all faucets in the RV, and turn off all plumbed appliances such as water heaters, on-demand systems, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Connect and turn on the city water. Go inside the RV and turn on each hot and cold faucet one at a time until there is no aeration or pink antifreeze flowing out. Don’t forget the outside shower. If the RV has a dishwasher, flush the system by running it through a complete cycle with no dishes. For a washing machine, run it through one warm wash and spin/drain cycle.

A spring road trip may include a national park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn off the city water and fill the fresh tank. Turn on the water pump and open all faucets one more time to purge the pump and hoses. Leave the taps open until all air and antifreeze is out of the lines. Take note of any cycling of the pump after the faucets are turned off especially during the camping season. If this persists after all the air is purged (which can take a long time), it can also be an indication of plumbing leaks. Keep an eye out for wet areas and/or loose plumbing fittings.

Dewinterizing a coach may start here © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Install the water heater drain plug/anode rod (if the anode rod is more than ¾ worn, it should be replaced) and close the water heater bypass valves. These are either on a plumbing panel or at the back of the water heater. There are one, two, or three valves, so make sure you set all of them to the correct positions. The water pump cycles while the water heater fills. Once the pump stops, open the hot water faucets slowly and carefully as the air space created in the water heater often causes an initial high-pressure air release at the faucets. Do this for all hot water faucets until the air dissipates. If the RV has a water filter, release the water pressure and install a new filter in the bowl.

Related: Yes, You Can De-winterize your RV: Here is How

Check your fridge and microwave oven © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you didn’t do so last season, it is important to have a propane system inspection performed by a licensed RV dealership. The professional technician inspects the LP system to make sure no leaks exist, the appliances are in good shape, and the operating pressure is correct. An annual inspection helps to keep the propane system and appliances working properly and safely.

Connect and turn on city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn on the propane and test-fire the appliances. It is a good idea to light a stove burner first, as this allows you to observe when the propane displaces the air. Make sure the furnace and water heater light, reach the correct air or water temperature, and then go out. Ensure the furnace repeats its cycle. Light the fridge, but note that it may take a few tries to light due to air in the lines.

Connect to sewer and flush the system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Test the air conditioner and fridge 120-volt functions as well as other appliances such as the washer/dryer, dishwasher, fireplace, etc. Test the 12-volt lights and fixtures looking for proper operation and burned-out bulbs. If the RV has a 120-volt energy source for the water heater, start with the electric element before firing it on propane. Make sure it starts to get warm on 120 volts and then flash it up on propane.

Look for signs of winter damage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Look for any signs of moisture, mold, or mildew inside the unit. If you find any, clean and dry the area, and ascertain whether it is condensation or a water leak that needs to be addressed. If you are not sure, you can have an RV service center inspect it or see whether it recurs during your travels. Clean and dust the inside of the unit, make the beds, and repack anything you removed during storage.

Make the bed and pack for a spring road trip © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have a generator and didn’t do so in the fall, change the oil and filter. Unplug the shore power, start the generator, and make sure it runs properly and supplies power to the RV.

Test the awning for proper operation. Perform a visual check of the sealants on the outside of the RV that may have opened during or before storage.

Related: Prep Your RV for Summer Travel

All ready for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inspect the tires for cracks, abnormal wear, or other damage. Since RV tires generally age out before they wear out, they should be replaced within about seven years of ownership. Note that tire manufacturers recommend not running on tires more than 10 years old regardless of how good they look and recommend professional inspections on a regular basis. A tire shop can give you the best advice on this.

Spring has sprung © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The manufacturing date is embossed on all tires in a four-digit format with week and year of manufacture. Don’t take chances with old or damaged tires on your RV. For more on tire safety, click here.

Check the outside lights and make sure the emergency breakaway switch plunger operates properly and is undamaged. Inspect the seven-way trailer plug on your truck and trailer and make sure the pins and sockets are clean, dry, and undamaged. Have the trailer brakes and bearings inspected and repacked annually.

Spring has sprung © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Test the slideouts for proper operation including topper awnings. If possible and safe to do so, carefully mount the roof of the RV to inspect the sealants and roof components. Going up on the roof generally is best left to a professional for safety reasons.

If you have a motorhome, check all engine fluids, belts, etc., and get a service if necessary. Start the engine to ensure it is running properly and is charging both battery banks.

Springtime in the Rockies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Note that not all of the above may apply to your RV depending on type of RV, age of the RV, and options the manufacturer included.

Make note of any deficiencies you encounter. This allows you to either investigate them yourself or provide a detailed list to your RV service provider and/or vehicle mechanic.

Wild rose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have other items on your spring shakedown checklist, add these to my suggestions. Following these tips should bring you better peace of mind for your spring and summer travels.

Read Next: 12 of the Best State Parks for Spring Camping

Worth Pondering…

You don’t need to have all the answers. What you need to do is be curious and open-minded enough to learn.

—David Fialkow, co-founder of General Catalyst

30 Tips for Spring Break Road Trips

A road trip guide

So, you’re planning a road trip for spring break. You’ve got so many options when it comes to where you’ll go and what you’ll do along the way.

Road trips are fun because they can be something that is planned for a while or just planned last minute. You can kind of just have a loose plan and still have a great time.

Additionally, road trips are a great way to meet all kinds of new people. Whether you’re just road tripping to visit friends or relatives or your whole trip is just a big circle, here are 30 tips for spring break road trips.

RV rental at Wahweap Campground in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Rent an RV

Get an RV! If you can fit get into your budget, getting an RV makes a road trip oh such a simple thing. No bathroom stops, a full kitchen, even a place to sleep. An RV can combine several expenses into one. It’s a fun way to travel.

2. Or a rental car

Think about a rental car if an RV isn’t in your budget. Mileage is unlimited and you won’t have to worry about maintenance before during or after your trip.

Wild burros roam the hills along Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Plan your route ahead of time

Plan your route before you leave. Download a map of the area you’ll be traveling, so you can still get directions without a wireless signal.

4. Clean the RV/car before you go

Clean your vehicle before you leave. Start your trip off with a nice clean car or recreational vehicle, all organized for the fun times ahead.

Related: Get Your Rig Ready for Spring Camping

Blue Bell ice cream anyone? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Pack the car the night before

If traveling by car, pack the car the night before. Put the things you will need first into the car last. That way they’re easily accessible when you need them. Things like snacks, water, blankets, and pillows should all be in inside the car with you rather than in the truck.

6. Pillows and blankets

Bring pillows and blankets. Road trips, whether in a car or RV, need blankets and pillows. Snuggle up put on your headphones and listen to some jams when it’s not your turn to drive.

7. Fuel up the day before

Fill up with gas (or diesel) the day before you plan to leave. Having everything ready before you leave makes the start of the trip seamless.

Kalaches are great for snacking and, oh so delicious © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Road Trip snacks

Road Trip snacks. Get your favorite snacks. Also grab high protein snacks to keep you going. Relying on fuel stop snacks are expensive and can limit your options.

9. Paper towels and hand wipes

Paper towels and hand wipes for those snacks. I despise being sticky. I need to rinse or have wipes for my hands.

Road trip playlist © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Make a road trip playlist

Music is a must for road trips. Downloading your playlist will make it accessible when you travel out of your cell phone’s coverage area. For the ultimate road trip play list, click here.

Related: Cleaning Your RV Exterior

11. Hoodies, sweaters, and sneakers

Being comfy in the RV or car (and with snacks) is a must. Hoodies, sweaters, and sneakers give me the ability to cool off or warm up a bit when everyone else in the vehicle feels fine.

Hiking in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Hiking boots

I like to be comfortable and prepared. A road trip may lead me to explore rough terrain. I believe every road trip should include at least one nature adventure. The more the better though.

Springtime in the Skagit Valley, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Bring drinking water

Be sure to bring water bottles and at least a gallon jug per person. You may need to wash your hands or drink it if you end up stuck somewhere for an extended period.

14. Top off your fluids

If bringing your own vehicle, check the fluid levels a couple of days before you go. Coolant, oil, and windshield wiper fluid should be topped off. Be sure you won’t need an oil change in the midst of your trip. If so, get that done before you leave too.

Not a good way to treat your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Check your tire pressure

When you fill your tank the day before, check your tire pressure too.

16. Bring cash

Stop at your bank and pick up some cash. You may not wish to charge everything. You may also need cash for tipping or for buying things in smaller towns. Always carry cash as a backup.

Spring along the Penal Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Tool kit

Carry a basic tool kit and stow on the curb side if traveling by RV. Include the following basic tools: High visibility cones, reflectors and/or vest, wheel chocks, tire pressure gauge, assorted wrenches and screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, duct/gorilla tape, work gloves. You should also keep jumper cables and extra fluids (windshield washer, oil, and coolant). If you’re driving in winter you should also keep an ice scraper, shovel, and traction aid (cat litter or sand).

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

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Consider AAA

You can’t go wrong with an AAA membership. You are covered anywhere in the US and Canada, even if you aren’t on a road trip. In addition to roadside assistance, they offer road maps and trip-planning services.

19. First Aid Kit

Your first aid kit should include: Bandages (different sizes), sterile gauze (different sizes), rolled bandages, triangular bandage, cleansing wipes, tape, safety pins, tweezers, scissors, skin rash cream, anti-itch cream, antiseptic cream, sunburn cream, painkillers, antihistamine, ice packs, emergency blanket, disposable sterile gloves, and first aid manual. You should also have any prescription medications on hand. 

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Flashlights

A flashlight is essential to help you get around in the dark. It can also be used as a signal. Make sure you keep at least one per person and have spare batteries. 

21. Cell Phone Charger

Cell phones are incredibly useful in emergency situations—you can communicate with loved ones, seek emergency help, figure out where you are, and get important information and updates. Always keep a phone charger in your RV emergency kit.

Consider the needs of your pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

23. Pet Emergency Kit

If you have pets, you shouldn’t forget to include them in your emergency kit: Pet food, medications, toys, blanket, collapsible food/water bowls, cat litter and pan (if you have a cat), leash, collar/harness, and copy of your pet’s vaccination and medical records.

The World’s Largest Roadrunner is located on I-10 at Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

24. Break up driving with roadside attractions

Break up the driving with numerous stops along the way. All manner of strange and interesting roadside attractions are found across the country. The highways are dotted with oddities that are as head-scratching as they are alluring: highly specific museums dedicated to whatever or gigantic versions of everyday items plunked into a field for no particular reason. For more on roadside attractions, click here.

Related: The 16 Best National Parks for Families to Explore this Spring

Travel with safety in mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. Do the speed limit

Do the speed limit, especially in small towns. They are sticklers for obeying all traffic laws, especially their (sometimes seemingly unnecessarily) slow speed limits, just outside of town.

26. Avoid rush hour traffic

Avoid driving through cities during high traffic times. Highway gridlock and city traffic jams can suck the fun right out of a road trip. Plan ahead to avoid areas of heavy traffic during rush hour (roughly between 7:30 and 9:30 in the mornings and from 3:00 to 7:00 in the evenings).

Old Town Temecula (California) makes a great stop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

27. Don’t be afraid to make some stops

As eager as you might be to reach your destination, the random stops you make along the way are what will make your trip truly memorable. Visiting local businesses will give you a truer sense of the area you’re traveling in and could point you in some directions you didn’t know about before. Not to mention that getting out of the car (or RV) to stretch your legs is essential to ensuring everyone’s comfort the entire way.

28. Travel during daylight hours

It is best to travel during daylight hours. This is the best time to see everything around and it’s the safest time to drive too. A safe road trip is the ultimate goal.

El Morro National Monument is a short distance off I-40 in western New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

29. Consider sights off the main highway

Driving a bit off route for sightseeing can be worth it.  Dark sky communities, for example, are always worth a stop. These are places where you can see the Milky Way. These communities keep artificial light to a minimum, so you can better see the night’s sky.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

30. Be flexible

Things don’t always go exactly as planned. The adventure is all in your attitude whether that’s a flat tire or a spontaneous invitation to join others at a campfire. Take (calculated) risks and enjoy the moment!

Worth Pondering…

I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.

—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1968)

10 Inexpensive Outdoor Activities for Spring

Not everything comes with a massive price tag in the spring and these activities are affordable and fun

This is the moment we’ve been waiting all winter for! Spring is finally here! Spring means outdoor activities and often it means travel.

Spring is the perfect time of year for outdoor activities. Not too cold, not too hot, and in many cases not yet crowded with summer travelers.

Tulips in blossom is a sure sign of spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Believe me, the older one gets, the more we feel the cold! So, with winter behind us, it’s time to open up the windows and feel that warm spring air.

Look around you and you’ll notice that everybody seems to have an extra spring in their step with those glum winter moods now lifted. There’s a lot to love about spring including RV travel. Spring might just be the best time to travel. Why? Read on.

Rhododendrons in spring bloom © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, the number one reason to travel in spring is the warmer weather. While you may not be guaranteed summer-like temperatures unless you head to Florida or Arizona or perhaps Texas, the weather in spring can be very pleasant especially the later in the season you travel.

Related: The 16 Best National Parks for Families to Explore this Spring

Summer heat can often be unbearably hot which is another reason spring travel is so appealing.

Mexican poppies along Pinal Parkway in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the arrival of warmer weather, hiking trails reopen, parks become picnic grounds again, children are out playing, and we can start enjoying activities on the lakes and in the forests again.

Be it camping, boating, or hiking, springtime is the best time to enjoy the great outdoors.

An aromatic and visual delight, spring is a rainbow of colors and a bouquet of smells where flowers bloom, skies are blue, birds return from the north, and animals come out from their winter hibernation with newborns in tow.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, these can get costly. But, money is not necessary to enjoy the warm winds, beautiful flowers, and sunny days of springtime. There are many spring activities that are easy on the pocketbook and some are even free. Listed below are ten inexpensive outdoor activities for springtime in an RV.

Spring camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring camping

Talking about camping, America has so much to offer. It is a perfect way to enjoy a mixture of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, kayaking, picnicking, and birding.

Depending on where you live and when you go, spring can still be a chilly time of year for camping. But isn’t that what campfires and s’mores are for?

Related: Spring Is the Season to Hike Arizona State Parks

Spring camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picnicking

Take your meals outside this spring. The prettier the setting is the better. Springtime is ideal for picnicking while surrounded by beautiful green fields, serene waters, and blooming flowers.

Local parks make an obvious option.

Rhododendrons in spring bloom © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is a great way to catch up with friends and talk about life with good food. Accordingly, it is also great to combine hiking with picnicking as trekking can create stunning views. There are many public parks in America for a less expensive picnic with breathtaking landscapes. Other parks also host live performances, especially at night.

Hiking Catalina State Park in Arizona Tulips in blossom is a sure sign of spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Hiking requires little in the way of equipment although you do need reliable hiking shoes and possibly a backpack or hiking poles. You get to enjoy the great outdoors while getting a little exercise.

Hiking Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tulips in blossom is a sure sign of spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Time to lace up your hiking boots! Maybe a strenuous trek up a mighty peak is what you’re after. Or maybe you see yourself walking along an ancient trail that our ancestors used. Perhaps meandering down a boardwalk is more your speed.

Related: Springtime in the Smokies

There are over 21,000 combined miles of trails for you to explore in the National Park Service. Whether you’re looking for rugged slopes or a flat, smooth boardwalk, there’s a national park trail for you. State parks also offer many opportunities to hit the trail. Get ready, adventure awaits!

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

Biking

Biking, like hiking, is a fantastic way to experience both easy and challenging trails throughout the spring season.

Biking through national parks and state parks is a great way to see beautiful scenery and discover new places. Cyclists can travel by roads (which are sometimes car-free) and, in some parks, on select trails. There are many places in parks where cars cannot go but you can cover more ground and visit new places on a bike. Some parks offer bike rentals and others provide guided biking activities.

Fishing Parker Canyon Lake in southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishing

A wide range of people go fishing and if you ask different people why it is their favorite hobby, they will likely answer that fishing gives them relief from stress and they feel free. Freedom is what you experience when you go fishing. Whether you fish in a stream or lake, you experience and appreciate an environment that is entirely different from your ordinary life. When you interact with nature, you become a part of it.

Fishing is an excellent hobby for the whole family and people of all ages. It may appear to be a simple hobby, but the tactics mastered make it a delightful way to spend time in a beautiful setting.

Gambel’s quail in the Sonoran Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding

If you’ve been considering joining the ranks of the 47 million birders in the U. S., there’s no better time than the present to take the plunge—or at least dip your toes in. You can find birds most everywhere: any green space or open water source will do.

Sandhill cranes migrate each spring and fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring and fall bird migration are ideal for observing rare bird species; it is also stunning to see large groups of birds congregating during these seasons. There are many areas in America where anyone can go bird watching, most are free.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beach trips

Beach trips in the spring offer a different experience than in summer. You probably won’t be riding waves or sunbathing depending on the temperature but beach towns offer more than just tanning and swimming.

Lovers Key State Park in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most people enjoy walking on the beach. Dogs love it even more making a beach trip perfect for those with pals of the canine persuasion. You can play beach sports like volleyball, fly kites, go running, or pack a picnic lunch or dinner. Or of course, you can go kayaking or canoeing.

Beach towns tend to be quieter in the spring with lower costs. So skip the crowds and costs of summer beach trips and take your next beach vacation this spring.

Tulips in blossom is a sure sign of spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gardening

Whether you view your RV as holiday accommodation and transportation or as your snowbird or full-time home, growing your own food inside your vehicle is easier than you may imagine. Keeping a garden while traveling can be challenging but it also helps ground you and brings in wonders like fresh herbs and produce or simply beautifies and detoxifies a closed space like an RV. Continue reading for tips on RV gardening.

Related: Beautifully Bizarre Joshua Tree Has Springtime Written All Over it

Wildlife World Zoo in the Phoenix West Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visiting a zoo

Zoos frequently have lower admission rates during the off-season and lesser crowds than in summer. Visiting the zoo during springtime will allow people to experience seeing more newborn species and more interactive animals because there will only be a lesser audience. Top zoos in America include the San Diego Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo (free admission), St. Louis Zoo, ZooAmerica (Hershey, Pennsylvania), and the National Zoo.

Spring wildflowers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Create and fly a kite

One of the most fun and creative activities with kids is creating their kites from scratch through the materials available at home. Spring is considered a kite-flying season as the wind becomes steady and constant. Kites range in price from $14 to $85 depending on the model, but it gets much more exciting if the kite is handcrafted. After creatively making the kite, find a more expansive and steady wind spot with less crowds.

Spring wildflowers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Final word

Every spring, most of us can’t wait to get outside for fresh air. But after an exceptionally cold and snowy winter, getting outdoors feels all the more urgent. You don’t have to spend a fortune to do it, either. Many spring outdoor activities are free or low-cost.

Worth Pondering…

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing, as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver, Bazougey

America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Spring Road Trip

Discover America’s scenic byways on a spring road trip adventure

There’s nothing quite like packing up your car or recreation vehicle and heading out onto the open road. With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the country, how do you choose where to travel?

In much the same way Congress set aside lands to be protected as national parks, the Department of Transportation has designated a network of spectacular drives that are protected as part of America’s Byways collection. Currently, the collection contains 184 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads in 48 states. To become part of America’s Byways collection, a road must-have features that don’t exist anywhere else in the United States and be unique and important enough to be destinations unto themselves.

Without further ado, here are 10 of the most scenic and culturally significant byways in America for your spring road trip adventure.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: North Carolina, Tennessee

Length: 41 miles

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Appalachian Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage, as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. Popular stops along and near the Skyway include Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Lake, and many Cherokee sites. This byway in particular is known for its fall colors.

Related Article: Introducing New Scenic Byways and All-American Roads

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2000)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: Georgia

Length: 40 miles

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest surrounds this route as it encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Winding through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians, you will find vistas atop Brasstown Bald that are jaw-dropping and the cooling mists of waterfalls are plentiful. Everywhere scenic wonders fill this region. Colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, and dazzling fall colors are some of what you will see. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Designation: All-American Road (1996/2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural, Natural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 180 miles

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you drive the Creole Nature Trail, the prairies and marshes of Louisiana’s Outback may appear peaceful and tranquil, but don’t be fooled. These lands and waters—both salt and fresh—are teeming with life and activity. There are 28 species of mammals, more than 400 species of birds, 35 amphibians and reptiles, 132 species of fish, and thousands of migrating butterflies in the spring and fall.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

Designation: All-American Road (1996)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: North Carolina, Virginia

Length: 469 miles

Related Article: Scenic Route It Is

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.

Museum of Appalachia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Norris Freeway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Recreation

Location: Tennessee

Length: 21 miles

Museum of Appalachia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Norris Freeway, located in eastern Tennessee, is steeped in American innovation history. The byway crosses over the Norris Dam which was built to control the flooding in the Clinch and Powell River Watershed. Nearby is the Museum of Appalachia. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum portrays an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village and offers cultural and historical exhibits as well as a home-style restaurant.

Related Article: Road Trip: The 15 Most Scenic Drives in America

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock All American Road

Designation: All-American Road (2005)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic, Recreation

Location: Arizona

Length: 8 miles

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, this route is often called a “museum without walls.” The byway winds through the evergreen covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.

Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (1998)

Intrinsic Qualities: Scenic

Location: South Carolina

Length: 112 miles

Michael Gaffney Cabin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the best ways to see the Upcountry is to hit the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway (SC-11). This will take you from the Georgia/South Carolina border at Lake Hartwell through the rolling hills of Piedmont all the way to historic Gaffney. A replica of the city’s founder homestead, The Michael Gaffney Cabin, is located in the heart of downtown.

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

Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2021)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural

Location: Louisiana

Length: 183 miles

Related Article: Life is a Byway: The Roads Less Traveled

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

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 three parishes, St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary, along LA-182 and LA-31. With an authentic, walk-able oil rig; stately historic homes; swamp and paddle tours; and tasty Cajun fare, the scenic self-guided tour has something for everyone from the history buff to the avid outdoorsman.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

Designation: All-American Road (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Historic, Scenic

Location: Utah

Length: 123 miles

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. This All-American Road connects US-89 near Panguitch on the west with SR-24 near Torrey on the northeast. It is not the quickest route between these two points but it far and away the best.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Country Byway

Designation: National Scenic Byway (2002)

Intrinsic Qualities: Cultural

Location: Ohio

Length: 160 miles

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

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 160-mile Amish Country Byway boasts views of natural vistas along winding curves and over rolling hills. In addition, this charming country byway offers visitors a fine selection of Amish country cooking as well as sites featuring the culture and history of Amish and German people. Celebrate the lifestyle of a place and people who defy modern conveniences while enjoying the simple pleasures of farm life and country living.

Worth Pondering…

Our four simple rules: No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food (two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)

—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads