Okefenokee Swamp is like No Other Place in the World

Alligators, otters, and bears abound in this sprawling mass of wetlands

Regarding rich biodiversity and pristine natural beauty, the United States is home to many incredible destinations scattered across all 50 states. While iconic national parks like the Great Smoky Mountains, Zion, Joshua Tree, and the Grand Canyon have earned worldwide acclaim, one particularly fascinating natural feature has flown largely under the radar. Measuring in at over 400,000 acres of pristine wetlands sprawled across southern Georgia Okefenokee Swamp is one of the last great bastions of wilderness left in the southern U.S.

The name Okefenokee comes from a Creek Indian word meaning trembling earth. During the Seminole Wars, Native Americans hid in the Okefenokee Swamp to escape capture. The leader of these refugees was a chieftain known as Billy Bowlegs. Billy’s Island was one of his refuges and legend says the island was named for him.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the years, Billy’s Island was home to a tenacious family of squatters, the Lees, who refused to abandon their claimed land until forced by court order. In 1909, Hebard Lumber Company came and began cutting centuries-old cypress trees. 

The Hebard family sold the property to the government in 1937; the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was created that same year.

Despite its massive size, few access points offer visitors a glimpse into the untamed wilderness of North America’s largest blackwater swamp. However, for those wishing to spend a weekend searching for native Southern flora and fauna, Stephen C. Foster State Park offers unrivaled opportunity in the remote reaches of southern Georgia. While this certified Dark Sky Park and Natural Wonder of Georgia is a top destination, the entire region was a much different place in the distant past.

Millions of years ago, the area was under the ocean. It’s possible that, during this time, the saucer-shaped depression the Okefenokee Swamp would later occupy was formed. After the ocean receded, freshwater replaced saltwater and plant life and peat deposits began to fill in the depression. A mosaic of habitats like wet prairies, dense cypress forest, and upland pine forests are found throughout this 438,000-acre wetland.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For those planning to explore this diverse array of natural habitats, there’s no shortage of lodging options scattered all across the park grounds. There are over 60 sites available for RVs or anyone brave enough to rough it in their own personal tent while anybody in need of more upscale accommodations can book one of the park’s nine fully-furnished cottages. Equipped with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a personal backyard fire pit these spacious dwellings are perfect for immersing oneself in the natural world without having to go totally prehistoric.

Many sites offer scrubs and trees to afford privacy. The wide grassy hiking trail that runs behind the campsites is a natural haven. Birds of various kinds flutter between the moss laden oaks and cypress trees. Saw palmetto and blackberry vines are a large part of the undergrowth. Plaques along the trail tell the story of Spanish moss and the native trees and scrubs. 

It’s not really a swamp. It’s the headwaters of both the Suwannee and the Saint Marys rivers. It’s just easier to say swamp than natural wetlands preserve.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Extensive open areas at the core of the refuge like the Chesser, Grand, and Mizell Prairies branch off the man-made Suwannee Canal accessed via the main entrance to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, 11 miles southwest of Folkston. The prairies are excellent spots for sportfishing and birding and guided boat tours of the area leave from the Okefenokee

Refuge concession Okefenokee Adventures works in partnership with the refuge to provide guided boat trips; rent camping gear, bicycles, motorboats and canoes; operate a gift shop; collect entrance fees; and provide food service.

Truly the best way to get a close look at the swamp inhabitants is to take a boat tour from Okefenokee Adventures. Their regular boat is a 24-foot Carolina skiff and there’s one step down into it from the dock. Additionally, you need to have a good balance in order to maneuver to a seat as the boat rocks a lot. An accessible pontoon boat is also available but it might not be the next boat out.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This boat has level access for wheelchair users and folding seats for able-bodied passengers. Both boats have a canopy for protection from the midday sun. Best bet is to check in the gift shop about the availability of the accessible boat as soon as you arrive then enjoy the visitor center while you wait.

The 90-minute tour goes through the Suwannee Canal as the naturalist points out the flora and fauna and gives passengers a short history of the area. Expect to see turtles, herons, ibis, hawks, and lots of alligators along the way. And if you visit in the fall, you’ll also likely see the migrant Sandhill Cranes.

The concession also has equipment rentals and food is available at the Camp Cornelia Cafe. The visitor center has a film, exhibits, and a mechanized mannequin that tells stories about life in Okefenokee (it sounds hokey, but it’s surprisingly informative). A boardwalk takes you over the water to a 50-foot observation tower. Hikers, bicyclists, and private motor vehicles are welcome on Swamp Island Drive; several interpretive walking trails may be taken along the way.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Save some time to explore the refuge on foot on one of the three accessible trails along the eight-mile-long Swamp Island Drive. It’s easy to find—just follow the signs as you leave the main parking lot.

The Upland Discovery Trail is the first trail you’ll come upon along the drive. There’s a paved parking area with accessible parking on the right with level access to the trail across the street. The quarter-mile trail is made of hard-packed dirt and although there are some exposed roots along the way they are easy to dodge. The worst obstructions are at the beginning of the trail so if you make it past the first ten feet, you’re good to go. Be sure and look for the trees marked with the white bands and they mark either a roosting or nesting spot of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Our guide steered the pontoon boat to a patch of grasses and peat in the process of forming land to show how the name Land of Trembling Earth came about. When he poked at the small island with his paddle, it trembled. With these little pockets of almost-land dotting the surface of the lake, it’s easy to see how a person could become lost in this place that’s more water than land.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’re likely to see alligators and birds as you travel about 2 miles into the lake from the dock. Although it’s named Billy’s Lake, the path amid the many islands looks more like a creek ranging from 35 to 155 feet wide. We ventured into a narrow offshoot of water called Minnie’s Run. Here, our guide maneuvered between giant cypress trees with branches that often brush the sides and top of our little boat. Throughout the waterway, we encountered several types of water lilies. The most distinctive, the American white water lily has dozens of narrow white petals surrounding a bright yellow center. 

Wood signs with arrows direct us where to turn to reach certain places in the swamp. Five Sisters is another marker that boaters use for navigating the area. It’s a cluster of five cypress trees, three of them living and two dead representing five sisters who once lived deep in the swamp. It’s here that we spot a small alligator swimming with just its eyes and the top of the head visible. 

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I asked about some of the other wildlife found in the park including deer, bears, foxes, snakes, bobcats, and otters. He said the best time to see a bear is when the blackberries are ripe or when there are a lot of acorns on the ground. Bobcats are early morning and late evening prowlers.

Of course, no trip to Okefenokee is complete without venturing into the remote depths of the swamp in search of wildlife—a feat that’s best accomplished on a guided motorboat tour. With a Stephen C. Foster State Park ranger versed in the ins and outs of the swamp as your pilot this is by far the best way to acquaint yourself with the many creatures that call the park home.

There are around 620 species of plants, 39 fish, 37 amphibians, 64 reptiles, 234 birds, and 50 mammal species known in the swamp today. Alligators, white-tailed deer, and turkey are regularly seen around the park during the day. Most nights, barred owls hoot across the campground, and after an evening rain shower many species of frogs will call out.

In spring, swallow-tailed kites arrive from their wintering grounds in South America to nest and are frequently seen acrobatically flying over the park. During the winter, river otters are more commonly seen in the main waterways and sandhill cranes are frequently heard calling from marshy areas throughout the swamp.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While some may be drawn to the park in search of the South’s larger mammal inhabitants including bobcats, black bears, and gray foxes these particular beasts tend to steer clear of any human activity. They’re therefore seldom seen by visitors—though you may be able to catch a glimpse of one if you’re particularly lucky. For avid bird watchers, a particularly prized sight is the red-cockaded woodpecker. These mottled creatures tend to gravitate towards mature pine forests and they’re currently endangered in the state of Georgia.

Okefenokee Swamp may be one of the state’s most iconic natural features but it’s far from the only one worth visiting in the region. For a truly memorable time add a second preserve to the list after you’ve thoroughly explored Stephen C. Foster State Park.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A few minutes’ north of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge boundaries, Laura S. Walker State Park offers visitors the opportunity to spot gopher tortoises, pitcher plants, and all manner of wading birds and it even comes equipped with its own 18-hole golf course. Meanwhile, those who make the journey to Georgia’s idyllic seashore can find Cumberland Island, a pristine coastal getaway that’s rife with sandy beaches.

Georgia might earn most of its acclaim thanks to its world-class cities but the state has far more to offer than simply Atlanta and Savannah. Stephen C. Foster State Park may be a little difficult to get to but there are few things in life more satisfying than sitting still in a kayak in the heart of the swamp surrounded by nothing but the gentle hum of Georgia’s native wildlife.

For more tips on exploring this area, check out these blog posts:

Worth Pondering…

Choose only one master—nature.

—Rembrandt

The Best State Parks in the South (2024)

From Gulf State Park in Alabama to Babcock State Park in West Virginia, hikers, campers, and outdoor adventurers will want to add these 14 state parks in the South to their outdoor adventure list

If the great outdoors is calling your name, set out for an adventure in one of the South’s best state parks. These state parks are some of my favorite destinations for getting outside and exploring nature. They span the region and represent an exciting array of landscapes.

Find your way to these outdoor destinations and you’ll be met with mountains, gorges, beaches, rivers, swinging bridges, marshes, hiking trails, campgrounds, and plenty of fresh air. Some are more remote and offer a real escape from the bustle of everyday life while others are just a stone’s throw from cities and small towns, making them easy weekend getaways.

Whether you’re looking for picturesque hiking routes, dramatic waterfalls, secluded camping sites, or sandy spots to settle in and see the sunset, there’s a park here that’s destined for your bucket list. Explore the great Southern outdoors this year and make new memories in the South’s best state parks.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Hunting Island is a secluded semitropical barrier island near Beaufort and one of the state’s most popular state parks. Lots of land and maritime wildlife love the park, too, and inhabit its five miles of pristine beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, and a slew of saltwater lagoons. Trek up 130 feet to the famous Hunting Island Lighthouse for breathtaking panoramic views.

Here are some articles to help:

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida

Established in 1963 as the United States’ first undersea park, this unique state park offers a firsthand glimpse of Florida’s Coral Reef, a 350-mile coral reef system that runs from the Dry Tortugas to St. Lucie on the Atlantic coast. For 70 nautical miles around Key Largo, marine life and habitats can be seen in several ways: snorkeling and scuba diving lessons and tours, glass-bottom boat tours, and canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding trails.

On land, boardwalks and paths meander through mangroves and tropical hardwood forests, and the visitor center holds six saltwater aquariums for more up-close views.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park, Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of north Mobile Bay and is a day-use, picnicking, and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors. Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman and a self-guided walk on the boardwalk will give visitors an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Meaher’s campground has 61 RV campsites with 20-, 30-, and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hook-ups. There are 10 improved tent sites with water and 20-amp electrical connections. The park also has four cozy bay-side cabins (one is handicap accessible) overlooking Ducker Bay. The campground features a modern bathhouse with laundry facilities.

If you need ideas, check out: Where the Rivers Meet the Sea: Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and Meaher State Park

Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina

You can see Hanging Rock’s namesake long before you reach the entrance to the park: Rising miles out of the Sauratown Mountain Range is the frequently photographed quartzite outcropping that most travelers hike to at least once. Of course, the park is much more than that. Encompassing roughly 9,000 mountainous acres and home to 20 miles of trails—including the 2.7-mile Hanging Rock loop—it’s a hiker’s paradise. Several small waterfalls, a small lake (with a swimming beach), and mountain biking trails are also big draws.

Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Babcock State Park, West Virginia

Babcock State Park is a must-see vacation destination—especially in the fall. Autumn colors line the historic Glade Creek Grist Mill, and lush, forest-lined hiking trails are at their peak. Visitors to the park can stay in a cozy mountain cabin or explore the charming small towns nearby.” 

Here’s a helpful resource: The Wild, Wonderful Waters of New River Gorge! Round out your trip with a visit to Babcock State Park & Glade Creek Grist Mill!

Chicot State Park, Louisiana

An ecological wonderland, Chicot—Louisiana’s largest state park—is a 6,400-acre mix of swampland, waterways, and hill country. Within the park is Lake Chicot, which has an eight-mile canoe trail and a 600-acre arboretum where indigenous species (sycamores and beech, magnolia, and crane fly orchids) are carefully preserved.

One of Chicot’s many highlights: is the 20-mile backpacking trail that circles Lake Chicot. (There are six first-come, first-serve backcountry sites along the trail.) Walking the lakeside trails in fall, when the cypress trees that seem to sprout from the lake change color, is especially magical.

Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

This state park on the South Carolina coast includes both beach and inland wetland terrain, which makes it a destination for wildlife watching. Several nature trails allow access to the landscape and its inhabitants: Be on the lookout for seafaring birds such as egrets, herons, and ospreys plus other animals like alligators and sea turtles, which live in and around the area.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Alabama

With the Gulf of Mexico on its Southern border, 3.5 miles of white sand beaches, three lakes within the park, and nine ecosystems on its 28-mile paved trail system, Gulf State Park is popular with anglers, beach bums, and naturalists alike. Visitors can fish, swim, and paddle on Lake Shelby, see native flora and fauna at the Nature Center on Middle Lake and flit around the Butterfly Garden east of Little Lake.

At nearly 2,500 feet long, the Fishing and Education Pier is the largest in the Gulf as well as Alabama’s only public gulf pier. Normally open for fishing or strolling, the pier is currently undergoing repairs and is expected to reopen in summer 2024.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park, Georgia

Vogel, one of Georgia’s oldest state parks, sits at the base of Blood Mountain inside Chattahoochee National Forest. The park is particularly popular during the autumn months when the Blue Ridge Mountains put on a colorful display of fall foliage. RV campers can choose from 90 campsites with electric hookups.

If you need ideas, check out: Vogel State Park on My Mind

Goose Island State Park, Texas

Brown pelicans, whooping cranes, camping, fishing, and the waters of Aransas, Copano, and St. Charles bays draw visitors here. Fish from the shore, boat, or the 1,620-foot long fishing pier. The CCC built Goose Island, Texas’ first coastal state park. It sits on the southern tip of the Lamar Peninsula. Dramatic wind-sculpted trees dominate the park.

Be sure to visit the Big Tree which has been standing sentinel on the coast for centuries. In 1969, it was named the State Champion Coastal Live Oak.

Choose from 44 campsites by the bay or 57 sites nestled under oak trees all with water and electricity. Every camping loop has restrooms with showers. The park also has 25 walk-in tent sites without electricity, and a group camp for youth groups.

Check this out to learn more: Life by the Bay: Goose Island State Park

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

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

Entering the enchanting Okefenokee Swamp—one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders—Stephen C. Foster State Park presents an incredible display of diverse wildlife, unique scenic views, and rousing outdoor adventure. Canoeing or kayaking through the swamp is the park’s main attraction. It’s an otherworldly experience gliding through the reflections of Spanish moss dangling from the trees above. Turtles, deer, wood storks, herons, and black bears are a few of the creatures you may see here but the most frequent sighting is the American Alligator.

The park offers 66 RV and tent campsites with electricity as well as nine two-bedroom cottages that can hold 6 to 8 people. In addition 10 Eco Lodge bedrooms are available for rent. The RV sites range in size from 15 and 25-foot back-ins to 50-foot pull-through sites.

Here are some helpful resources:

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Myakka River State Park, Florida

Myakka River State Park offers a variety of experiences: Day-trippers come for the airboat ride, tram ride, canopy walkway, and stop at the water-front café. Adventurers head for the 39 miles of hiking trails, excellent paved and unpaved biking trails, or scenic rivers and lakes for kayaking.

Given you need ample time to see and do it all, you can camp in one of 80 camping sites or book one of five rustic log cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.

That’s why I wrote Myakka River State Park: Place of Abundance Offering Varied Experiences

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Located on Edisto Island, Edisto Beach State Park is one of four oceanfront parks in South Carolina. Edisto Island lies about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies.

 Its 1.25-mile public beach is ideal for swimmers and beachcombers—and also a nesting site for loggerhead turtles.

The state park is situated neatly between a salt marsh and the beach making it possible to hear the waves lapping at the shore regardless of whether you’re staying in an RV, tent, or cabin. Located in the town of Edisto Beach, it’s just a short walk or bike ride from the grocery store, gas station, restaurants, and shops.

Check this out to learn more: Edisto Beach State Park: Unspoiled Paradise

Highland Hammock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highlands Hammock State Park, Florida

Supporting a beautiful yet delicate ecosystem, central Florida’s Highlands Hammock possesses a unique collection of plant and animal life. The park features 15 distinct natural communities in its more than 9,000 acres with a diversity of habitats. 

Eight of the nine trails are located on the loop drive and visitors can easily extend their walks as several connect via a bridge or catwalk. Trails run through the hydric hammock, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, and pine Flatwoods

The family campground offers water and electric hookups, a dump station, access to restrooms with shower facilities, laundry, and dishwashing areas. Campsites have picnic tables and fire rings. Sites vary from being open and sunny to partially or fully shaded and range in length from 20 to 50 feet.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Michael Frome

The Best RV Camping November 2023

Explore the guide to find some of the best in November camping across America

Where should you park yourself and your RV this month? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Maybe you’re an experienced RV enthusiast, or maybe you’ve never been in one—regardless, these RV parks are worth your attention. After finding the perfect campground, you can look into RV prices, and the different types of RVs, and learn how to plan a road trip. Who knows, maybe you’ll love it so much you’ll convert to full-time RV living.

I didn’t just choose these RV parks by throwing a dart at a map. As an RVer with more than 25 years of experience traveling the highways and byways of America and Western Canada—learning about camping and exploring some of the best hiking trails along the way—I can say with confidence that I know what makes a great RV campground. From stunning views and accommodating amenities to friendly staff and clean facilities, the little things add up when you’re RV camping. And these campgrounds are truly the cream of the crop.

Here are 10 of the top RV parks and campgrounds to explore in November: one of these parks might be just what you’re looking for. So, sit back, relax, and get ready for your next adventure at one of these incredible RV parks!

RVing with Rex selected this list of parks from those personally visited.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in September and October. Also, check out my recommendations from November 2022 and December 2022.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Picacho Peak State Park, Eloy, Arizona

Visitors traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park. Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak and, often in the spring, overlook a sea of wildflowers. The park offers a visitor center with exhibits a park store, a playground, historical markers, a campground, and picnic areas.

Many hiking trails traverse the desert landscape and offer hikers both scenic and challenging hikes. The campground has a total of 85 electric sites suitable for RVs and/or tents. Four sites are handicapped-accessible. No water or sewer hookups are available. Access to all sites is paved. Sites are fairly level and are located in a natural Sonoran Desert setting.

Hollywood Casino RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Hollywood Casino RV Park, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Hollywood Casino RV Park offers the tranquil beauty of the outdoors with waterfront views and on-site shuttle service to the casino with three restaurants. The park is big-rig friendly featuring 80 back-in sites and 14 back-to-back pull-through sites.

Our site backed to a treed area on a bayou and is in the 55-60 foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV. All interior roads and sites are concrete. Site amenities include a metal picnic table and BBQ grill on a concrete slab and garbage canister.

Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Located a half mile off I-75 (Exit 1), Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga offers 170 campsites with water, sewer, 30/50 amp electric, and cable TV connections. Most sites are pull-through, graveled, and level with some sites up to 70 feet for big rigs. Amenities include a newly renovated pool, fast-speed Internet, playground, bathhouse, laundry room, facility, meeting room, outdoor pavilion, and dog park.

Our pull-through site was in the 65-foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and Cable TV centrally located. Interior roads and individual sites are gravel. Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga is located on a Civil War battlefield which served as a skirmish site in 1863 preceding the Battle of Chickamauga.

Orange Groove RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Orange Groove RV Park. Bakersfield, California

Orange Groove RV Park is a unique full-service RV park and resort. It’s a 40-acre orchard on the eastern edge of Bakersfield where you park your RV between row after row of beautiful orange trees. Easy-on, easy-off (SR-58 at Exit 119), the 177 pull-through sites are 65 feet and 90 feet long plus extra wide which makes coming and going a breeze. You just pull right in, pick an orange and enjoy.

All utilities including 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Our Wi-Fi was super fast (Site #160). We’ve previously stayed in the following sites: 135, 136, 154, 158, and 162. This park is a popular overnight stop for snowbirds with many arriving after dark. The nearby California Fruit Depot offers free samples, good quality, and excellent prices for Medjool dates, oranges, grapefruit, pistachios, and more.

Lakeside RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana

Easy-on, easy-off (Interstate 12, Exit 22), Lakeside RV Park is big-rig friendly with 127 back-in and pull-through sites. Our back-in site was in the 55-60 foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, and sewer centrally located. Site amenities include a picnic table and fire pit.

The park features a beautiful 17-acre fishing lake, a large pool with lounge chairs, a family game room, laundry facilities, an enclosed dog park, a children’s playground, modern bath facilities, free Wi-Fi, and two large lake-view open-air pavilions. All interior roads and sites are concrete.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Meaher State Park, Spanish Fort, Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of Mobile Bay and offers picnic facilities and modern camping sites with utilities. Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman. A self-guided walk on two nature trails includes a boardwalk with an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile Delta.

Meaher’s campground has 61 RV campsites with 20-, 30- and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hookups. The campground features a modern bathhouse with laundry facilities. Located near Meaher State Park is the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center; which features a natural history museum, live native wildlife, a theater, a gift shop, and canoe/kayak rentals. 

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

7. Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

The Okefenokee Swamp is the backdrop for a unique camping experience among the swampy lowlands and wildlife of south Georgia at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo. A certified dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association, this park has minimal light pollution so guests can experience some of the darkest skies in the Southeast. Stand beneath a sky full of stars and see the Milky Way stretched out above you while watching for the occasional meteor streaking across the night sky.

Whispering Oaks RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas

Whispering Oaks RV Park sits on 6 beautiful acres with large live oak trees. Located on I-10 midway between San Antonio and Houston (Exit 219), the park offers 51 large, level, full hook-up sites including 42 pull-through spaces. All sites have 30/50-amp service, fire rings, and picnic tables, and can accommodate any size rig including 45-footers with toads. Interior roads are asphalt and sites are gravel with grass between sites. High-speed Wi-Fi is available throughout the park.

Barnyard RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina

Barnyard RV Park offers 129-level and grassy sites with paved interior roads. All sites include water, sewer, electric (30 and 50 amp), and cable TV. Most sites are pull-through and can accommodate large units including a tow car. Amenities include bath and laundry facilities, Wi-Fi available at the site, and a dog park.

Barnyard RV Park is located 8 miles from downtown Columbia. From Interstate 20, take Exit 111 west on US-1 to the park. On weekends, experience Southern hospitality at the huge Barnyard Flea Market. The RV Park is located behind the Flea Market.

Rincon West RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Rincon West RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona

Situated near the beautiful Tucson Mountains, Rincon Country West has 1100 spaces, including deluxe, pull-through RV sites, and a train depot. Amenities include full hookups with 30/50 amp electricity, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, gated entry, private mailboxes, gated entry, laundry, showers, heated pool and spas, exercise room, woodworking shop, pottery room, lapidary room, card room, arts and crafts and sewing rooms, billiard room, tennis, pickleball, shuffleboard, and bocce ball.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

11 Best Things to do this Summer in Georgia

Road trips to water parks, quirky landmarks, drive-in movies and many more of the hottest ways to explore Georgia this summer

Summertime in the Peach State is unlike anywhere else. Sure, it can be hot but there are plenty of ways to cool down. No matter what part of Georgia you’ll be visiting, you’re sure to have a great time. I have a few suggestions to add to your list.

1. Cool off in the water

What better way to beat the summer heat than by wading into the ocean, jumping in a lake, playing at one of Georgia’s water parks, or taking a dip in an RV park’s swimming pool?

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Georgia Coast

Kayak around a historic lighthouse at Tybee Island, photograph Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, explore historic Sapelo Island, and much more on the Georgia Coast.

Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

The water park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands opens every May as another way to enjoy the lake with mat racing slides, a zipline, and water activities for little ones.

Georgia’s Lake Country

Head to Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair for watersports, fishing, golf, and cool morning breezes. You’ll love all of the water activities as well as great dining, shopping, and nearby sightseeing in Eatonton, Greensboro, Madison, and Milledgeville.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Six Flags White Water

Six Flags White Water in Marietta is a longtime favorite with nearly 70 acres of slides, tube rides, and a wave pool.

SoakYa Water Park at Lake Winnepesaukah

At Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park and SoakYa Water Park in Rossville, swimmers can relax at the beach lagoon, race on the slides, and splash in the interactive kids’ area.

Spivey Splash at Clayton County International Park

Cruise along the state’s largest lazy river at Spivey Splash waterpark at the Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro. Kids will love cooling off on the splash pad, flow rider, water slides and pool, and testing their skills on the ropes course.

Splash in the Boro

At Splash in the Boro Family Water Park in Statesboro, swimmers can float on the lazy river, brave the water slides, and bob in the wave pool.

Summer Waves Water Park

On Jekyll Island, swimmers can take a break from the beach at Summer Waves Water Park to brave the Pirates Passage flume, drift down Turtle Creek, and wade into the kiddie pool.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Camping

Georgia is an ideal playground for those who like a variety of camping adventures. Georgia’s state park system allows you to enjoy a variety of camping experiences across the state and many other campgrounds and attractions offer inviting settings for sleeping under the stars.

Park your RV or set up your tent at campsites in the North Georgia mountains to explore miles of hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and undisturbed forests. Or go camping on the Georgia coast near beaches, boating, fishing, and more water activities. Throughout the state, rolling hills, lakes, and rivers offer the perfect conditions for camping trips filled with fun.

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

Stephen C. Foster State Park

The Okefenokee Swamp is the backdrop for a unique camping experience among the swampy lowlands and wildlife of southern Georgia at Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo. A certified dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association, this park has minimal light pollution so guests can experience some of the darkest skies in the Southeast. Stand beneath a sky full of stars and see the Milky Way stretched out above you.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park

Camp along Wolf Creek and enjoy the babble of tumbling waters lulling you to sleep at night after exploring North Georgia’s beloved mountain playground at Vogel State Park near Blairsville. With 34 cottages; 90 tents, trailer, and RV campsites; and primitive backpacking sites, visitors have a range of overnight accommodations. Swim, boat, and fish in Lake Trahlyta and explore hiking trails to waterfalls, playing miniature golf, and stepping back into history at the Civilian Conservation Corps museum.

Soar through the trees © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Soar through the trees

Feeling adventurous? Georgia has a number of thrilling ziplines for all experience levels.

Banning Mills Screaming Eagle canopy tours has the largest, continuous zip line canopy tour in the world.

In Columbus, you can zip from Georgia to Alabama with Blue Heron Zipline Adventure Park.

Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge soar above North Georgia with two towers and three sky bridges.

Farmers market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Hit up the farmers markets

Take advantage of the state’s agricultural bounty by visiting one of the many Georgia Grown farmers markets, like Dublin’s Market on Madison, the Atlanta State Farmers Market, Oconee Farmers Market, and the Cordele State Farmers Market, the major watermelon distribution hub for the Southeast. They’re easy to find in nearly every region. You’ll find fresh produce, meats, seafood, prepared foods, and crafts. It’s a great way to pick up ingredients to cook for friends and family. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is a good place to start looking.

5. Plan a road trip to see quirky landmarks

Georgia has some truly unique attractions that are worth a road trip in their own right. There are quirky artist havens like Pasaquan in Buena Vista and Summerville’s Paradise Garden created by Howard Finster, one of America’s most widely known and prolific self-taught artists.

The Ashburn Peanut is a beloved landmark for those driving south along I-75 while the Plains Peanut has the same smile as President Jimmy Carter. While in Plains, be sure to tour the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park to learn more about America’s 39th president.

The Doll’s Head Trail is a funky Atlanta hike and the faces carved into trees on St. Simons Island make for a mystical treasure hunt.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Catch a drive-in movie

Although there aren’t many drive-in theaters left, summertime is great for catching an outdoor film in Georgia. Gather your friends, chairs, and snacks for a new or second-run movie. Swan Drive In in Blue Ridge, Starlight in Atlanta, Jesup Drive In in Jesup, Tiger Drive In in Tiger, and Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater in Trenton are ones you can check out around the state. Wilderness has the world’s largest screen!

7. Eat a peach

Nothing says Georgia more than peaches. Summer is the best time to get them from roadside stands and in restaurants. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the state fruit whether in fried pies, milkshakes, peach wine, jams, or straight from the tree.

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

8. Make a run for it

An Atlanta (and Georgia) tradition is the world’s largest 10K race: the AJC Peachtree Road Race. It winds from Buckhead to Midtown every July 4. Runners also can participate virtually by running 6.2 miles wherever they choose. Even if you’re not up for the race itself, make a sign to cheer on the competitors.

9. Go on a farm stay

Get up close with the animals at one of Georgia’s farm stays and guest ranches. In Bluffton, White Oak Pastures is a working cattle farm with guest cabins.

In Madison, Crafdal Farm Alpacas lets you stay in rustic cabins on the same property as alpacas, and Southern Cross Guest Ranch is a dude ranch with horseback riding.

Bavarian village of Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Tour a historic home

Choose a part of the state and there’s a historic home you can learn about.

In Atlanta, it might be the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center which film fans will recognize as President Snow’s mansion in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In Macon, tour the 18,000-square-foot Hay House known as the Palace of the South.

Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, the Callaway family home, and the Little White House in Warm Springs where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt retreated also can’t be missed.

11. Chow down on ice cream

Cool off with a cool treat! Georgia has some fantastic ice cream establishments.

You’ve likely heard of Leopold’s in Savannah which usually has a line down the street. The parlor has been scooping ice cream since 1919 including its famous Tutti Frutti flavor (rum ice cream with candied fruit and freshly roasted Georgia pecans).

Lane Southern Orchards makes peach ice cream as does Jaemor Farms where you’ll want to add a fresh fried pie to your order.

In Atlanta, Jake’s Ice Cream is a must-stop if you’re walking the Atlanta Beltline and in the Grant Park neighborhood be sure to stop into one of Historic Oakland Cemetery’s newest neighbors, oh-so-sweet Cereal and Cream.

Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If a Georgia getaway is on your mind this summer you’ll want to check out these posts:

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

First Day Hikes 2023: 10 Fantastic Hikes to Ring in the New Year

What better way to kick off the New Year than by getting a jump start burning off those extra holiday calories in the great outdoors?

On New Year’s Day, America’s State Parks will once again be celebrating with a First Day Hike. These hikes provide a means for individuals and families to welcome the coming year in the outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature. For many it has become a tradition.

Distance and rigor vary from park to park but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for the whole family. People are invited to savor the beauty of the state park’s natural resources so they may be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s State Parks have been entrusted to preserve a variety of magnificent places from California to Georgia. Hikers can experience a plethora of outdoor recreation activities including mountain and hill climbing, walks along lakes and beaches, exploration of trails through great forests, wildlife expeditions, birdwatching, and more.

Furthermore, exercise and outdoor activities rejuvenate the mind and body, promoting overall mental and physical health and wellness. Many believe that time spent in nature enhances creativity and lifts our moods.

Alabama

What better way to kick off the New Year than by getting a jump start burning off those extra holiday calories in the great outdoors?

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Day Hike at the Nature Center

Gulf State Park, Ocean Shores

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 10 a.m. to 12 noon

Ring in the first day of the New Year on a hike with the naturalists at Alabama’s Gulf State Park. Meet in the parking lot of the Nature Center for this event. The hike begins on Bear Creek to Gopher Tortoise Trail then turn onto Lake Shelby Overlook. These trails weave through freshwater swamp and lake habitats with a chance to see birds, turtles, alligators, and more. The hike will be approximately 3 miles round trip on a paved, flat trail. This is an easy grade hike perfect for all ages and experience levels.

Bring sturdy shoes, water, binoculars and a camera, layered clothes (it may warm up as you start hiking). Leashed pets are welcome to join.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Join the park naturalist on a guided hike through the park to celebrate the New Year. The hike begins at Pavilion 3 (by the bathhouse; parking across the street) then head off on trails and enjoy the wildlife and diversity of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. From there, the hike follows the trail to the back beach while discussing the history of the park, Native American Culture, and the ecological importance of the delta.

Bring weather-appropriate clothing, close-toed shoes (that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty), water, snacks, and a camera and/or binoculars. Leashed pets are welcome.

Get more tips for visiting Meaher State Park

Arizona

We’re only days away from 2023. Start the New Year right and achieve your goals plus spend time in some of Arizona’s amazing parks. Remember to wear the appropriate shoes, bring plenty of water, a camera, and your sense of adventure.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

This 1.6-mile hike takes you from the Discovery Trail to a portion of the Siphon Draw Trail and back to the start on the Mountain Bike Trail, all within the park boundary. It is a low-elevation excursion but with some rocky areas and some parts of the trail are narrow.

Meet at Saguaro Day Use. Make sure you have good shoes and water. Pets are not allowed on these guided hikes.

Get more tips for visiting Lost Dutchman State Park

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Hike the Calloway trail up to an overlook below the face of Picacho Peak. This trail is moderately difficult. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water. Elevation gain will be 300 feet, 1.5 miles round-trip, and roughly 1.5 hours.

Registration is recommended; however, walk-ups will be allowed based on available space. A maximum number of participants is 20. Meet at Harrington Loop. Feel free to contact the ranger station for any questions.

Get more tips for visiting Picacho Peak State Park

California

Nature has been proven to boost our moods and make us feel healthy. Start 2023 by taking in spectacular views and breathing some fresh air on a First Day Hike.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Starting at the Visitor Center explore desert plants, crypto-biotic crust, and signs of animals as we walk cross-country to the ½-mile Panorama Overlook Trail. Ascend by switch-backs about 200 feet up the moderate-strenuous trail to a scenic overlook of the Borrego Valley and Fonts Point with a chance to see bighorn sheep. At the viewpoint, reflect on your new year with a lighthearted introspection guided by Park Interpretive Specialist Regina Reiter. Walk down the mountain as the sun sets on your first day of 2023.

Wear sturdy shoes, bring at least 1 liter of water, a hat, and a flashlight. Trekking poles are helpful.

Get more tips for visiting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Calvaras Big Trees State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Calvaras Big Trees State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Learn about giant sequoia trees and the winter season and hike a section of the North Grove Trail. This may be a snowshoe hike if it snows. Plan to hike up to 2 miles; however, the length of the hike may vary based on conditions.

Meet at the Warming Hut near the Visitor Center. Dress in layers and bring snow/rain gear if needed. Wear good hiking boots/shoes. Bring water. Bring snowshoes if you have them.

Georgia

The perfect way to jump-start those New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and explore Georgia is to participate in a First Day Hike. When you go, tag your photos with #FirstDayHikes so folks can see where you’ve been.

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

Swamp Island Loop First Day Hike

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Start your 2023 with a refreshing stroll around this little island park in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. Start with the .75-mile Trembling Earth Boardwalk Loop. Those wishing to see more can continue with the ranger around the island perimeter for another 2.25 miles along the Jones Island and Upland Pine Trails.

This is a relaxed, family friendly hike with time to listen for and admire wildlife along the way.

Get more tips for visiting Stephen C. Foster State Park

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bear Hair Gap Trail First Day Hike

Vogel State Park, Blairsville

Located 11 miles south of Blairsville via Highway 19/129

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon

Bear Hair Gap Trail is a 4.1-mile partial loop over the lower ridge of Blood Mountain with an overlook of the park. The trail travels onto the Chattahoochee National Forest. Hiking time is 2 to 4 hours; medium difficulty with a 12 percent grade in places. To register call the Visitors Center at 706-745-2628.

Meet at the Visitors Center. Pets are allowed (must be on a 6-foot leash and waste must be picked up and disposed of in a waste receptacle when back to Vogel State Park). Small children may have difficulty walking this trail.

Get more tips for visiting Vogel State Park

Texas

Celebrate 100 years of Texas State Parks in 2023 with a First Day Hike on New Year’s Day.

First Day hikes vary from short, leisurely nature walks on forested trails, boardwalk strolls through wetlands or to the beach, or climbs into the mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert. They offer both guided and self-guided hikes. Some First Day Hikes aren’t hikes at all: They also lead bike rides, paddling tours, and even horseback rides. After your hike, stop at the visitor center to report on your hike and collect a memento of your visit.

Lockhart State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart State Park First Day Sunrise Hike

Located 4 miles southwest of Lockhart (Barbecue Capital of Texas) on Highway 183 and FM 20

Sunday, January 1, 2023. 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Start your New Year off right with an early morning hike at Lockhart State Park

Hike at dawn and set good intentions for the year to come. All ages and abilities are welcome. The hike is less than 1 mile (~0.8 miles) on moderately challenging terrain. No registration is required. Meet your guide at the Chisholm Trailhead. After leaving Park HQ, continue straight on Park Road 10 for about a ½ mile. The Chisholm Trailhead is past the golf course on your left-hand side.

Palmetto State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palmetto State Park First Day Hike

Located 11 miles northwest of Gonzales on Highway 183

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Start the year off right, with some peace of mind at your own pace. Join in on this annual tradition of ringing in the New Year by going on a hike. Take this hike at your own pace and breathe in that fresh air to clear your mind. 

Bring sturdy closed-toed shoes, water, and dress for the weather. With this self-guided hike, choose any of the open trails, and once you have completed your journey, head on back to the Headquarters building to pick up your First Day Hike Sticker. This is self-guided, so explore the park. Trails to pick from include but are not limited to:

  • Palmetto Interpretive: 0.30 miles
  • Mesquite Flats Trail: 1.1 miles 
  • San Marcos River Trail: 1.3 miles  

Get more tips for visiting Palmetto State Park

Worth Pondering…

New Year brings blessings yet to behold.

—Lailah Gifty Akita

12 of the Best State Parks for Winter Camping

Parks contain the magic of life. Pass it on.

National Parks are a treasure and worth putting on your travel list. But while you’re dreaming, consider adding State Parks, too. It takes a little planning (every state has a different reservation system) but well worth the effort.

You may dream of seeing the geysers of Yellowstone or the overwhelming greatness of the Grand Canyon but chances are you have a handful of little wonders in your backyard. State parks like Dead Horse Point in Utah hold their own against the neighboring Arches National Park (or Canyonlands, for that matter) while California’s Anza-Borrego State Park is arguably just as wild as the well-known Joshua Tree National Park. Plus, state parks tend to be less crowded and more affordable, two things that bode well for overnight guests.

Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a well-developed RV site with all the bells and whistles or a wooded tent spot far from any sort of road or development, there’s a state park campsite for you. To lend a hand—there are over 10,000 state parks, after all—I’ve profiled a list of some of the best campsites in state parks that are known for their popularity and unique beauty.

No matter your level of camping expertise, spend the night beneath a canopy of stars and awake to a wondrous landscape when you park your RV or pitch a tent at some of America’s beautiful campgrounds from the beaches to the desert to the mountains.

Before I dive in, take a moment to review the following state park camping tips.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

State Park Camping Tips

State parks may not see the heavy traffic of national parks but in most cases, you’ll still want to plan to secure your camping spot. Each state runs its own reservation system which may be online, via phone, or even in person. And some parks are first-come, first served, so you won’t want to show up too late in the day.

Before you pack up and head out, make sure to research the available amenities— some state park campgrounds are extremely primitive requiring you to pack in your own water and pack out your trash while others have full RV hookups, hot showers, and laundry.

Related article: The 10 Best State Park Camping For Snowbirds

And finally, be sure to respect any wildlife you encounter, manage your campfire responsibly, and follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

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

State Park Camping Reservations

Making reservations at state parks, especially when planning a trip that crosses multiple states, can be both complex and frustrating. Each state, and in some cases, individual parks, makes its own rules for when and how they’ll take reservations for camping sites.

Georgia State Parks allow for reservations up to 13 months in advance and require a 50 percent deposit for most reservations. Reservations can be made over the phone or online. Mississippi’s state parks have one of the most generous reservation windows and can be booked 24 months in advance. The parks also welcome walk-ins when there is availability. The vast majority of Alaska State Park campgrounds are first-come, first-served, with a few exceptions.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park, Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of north Mobile Bay and is a day-use, picnicking, and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors. Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman and a self-guided walk on the boardwalk will give visitors an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher’s campground has 61 RV campsites with 20-, 30-, and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hook-ups. There are 10 improved tent sites with water and 20-amp electrical connections. The park also has four cozy bay-side cabins (one is handicap accessible) overlooking Ducker Bay. The campground features a modern bathhouse with laundry facilities.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Located near the Superstition Mountains and about 40 miles east of Phoenix is Arizona’s Lost Dutchman State Park. As you might suspect, the park is full of towering red rock formations, cacti, and enough hiking trails to keep you occupied for days.

Related article: I’m Dreaming of a State Park Christmas…

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The campground has 135 sites and three group camping areas: 68 sites with electric (20/30/50 amp service) and water and the remainder of non-hookup sites on paved roads for tents or RVs. Every site has a picnic table and a fire pit with an adjustable grill gate. There are no size restrictions on RVs. Well-mannered pets on leashes are welcome but please pick after your pets.

Campsite reservations are available. There is a $5 non-refundable reservation fee per campsite.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, Arizona

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invite camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails that wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet. The park is located within minutes of the Tucson metropolitan area.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina offers 120 campsites with electric and water hookups. Each campsite has a picnic table and BBQ grill. Roads and parking slips are paved. Campgrounds have modern flush restrooms with hot, clean showers, and RV dump stations are available in the park. There is no limit on the length of RVs at this park, but reservations are limited to 14 consecutive nights.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Myakka River State Park, Florida

Seven miles of paved road wind through shady hammocks, along grassy marshes, and the shore of the Upper Myakka Lake. See wildlife up-close on a 45-minute boat tour. The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park offers 76 campsites with water and electric service, most sites have 30 amps. A wastewater dump station is located near Old Prairie campground. All campsites are located within 40 yards of restroom facilities with hot showers. All sites are dirt base; few sites have vegetation buffers. Six primitive campsites are located along 37 miles of trails.

Highlands Hammock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highlands Hammock State Park, Florida

Supporting a beautiful yet delicate ecosystem, central Florida’s Highlands Hammock possesses a unique collection of plant and animal life. With more rare and endemic species than any other Florida State Park, Highlands Hammock is a place where wilderness and history are preserved. The park features 15 distinct natural communities in its more than 9,000 acres with a diversity of habitat for wading birds, raptors, songbirds, migratory birds, and ducks. 

Highlands Hammock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eight of the nine trails are located on the loop drive and visitors can easily extend their walks as several connect via a bridge or catwalk. Trails run through hydric hammock, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, and pine flatwoods. Be sure to travel the 3-mile bike loop or take the tram for those who prefer to sit back and leisurely take it all in.  

Related article: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

The family campground offers water and electric hookups, a dump station, access to restrooms with shower facilities, laundry, and dishwashing areas. Campsites have picnic tables and fire rings. Sites vary from being open and sunny to partially or fully shaded and range in length from 20 to 50 feet. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. In addition primitive tent camping and youth camping areas are available.

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

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

Entering the enchanting Okefenokee Swamp—one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders—Stephen C. Foster State Park presents an incredible display of diverse wildlife, unique scenic views, and rousing outdoor adventure. Canoeing or kayaking through the swamp is the park’s main attraction. It’s an otherworldly experience gliding through the reflections of Spanish moss dangling from the trees above. Turtles, deer, wood storks, herons, and black bears are a few of the creatures you may see here but the most frequent sighting is the American Alligator.

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

The park offers 66 RV and tent campsites with electricity as well as nine two-bedroom cottages that can hold 6 to 8 people. In addition 10 Eco Lodge bedrooms are available for rent. The RV sites range in size from 15 and 25-foot back-ins to 50-foot pull-through sites.

Galveston Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island State Park, Texas

With both beach and bay sides, Galveston Island State Park offers activities for every coast lover. You can swim, fish, picnic, bird watch, hike, mountain bike, paddle, camp, geocache, study nature, or just relax! Hike or bike four miles of trails through the park’s varied habitats. Stop at the observation platform or photo blinds, and stroll boardwalks over dunes and marshes.

Galveston Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20 water and electric (50/30-amp hookup) sites are available on the bayside of the park with 1.5 miles of beach to explore. Sites are close together with a communal pavilion and shared ground fire rings. Restrooms with showers are about 150 yards away. These sites are for RV camping only. Weekly and monthly camping rates are available from November to February.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guadalupe River State Park, Texas

Many folks come here to swim, but the park is more than a great swimming hole. With four miles of river frontage, the Guadalupe River takes center stage at the park. Step away from the river to find the more peaceful areas. On the river you can swim, fish, tube, and canoe. While on land you can camp, hike, ride mountain bikes or horses, picnic, geocache, and bird watching. Explore 13 miles of hike and bike trails. Trails range from the 2.86-mile Painted Bunting Trail to the 0.3 Mile River Overlook Trail which leads you to a scenic overlook of the river.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park provides 85 water and electric campsites and nine walk-in tent sites. Turkey Sink Campground offers 48 sites with 50 amp electric service. Cedar Sage Campgrounds offers 37 sites with 30 amp electricity. Campground amenities include a picnic table, fire ring with grill, tent pad with restrooms with showers located nearby.

Goliad River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goliad State Park, Texas

The whitewashed walls of Mission Espíritu Santo tower over the park. Workers with the Civilian Con­ser­vation Corps restored this Spanish colonial-era mission in the 1930s. Tour the colorful chapel and exhibits, ring the church bell and learn about the mission’s ranching heritage.

Take a drive west to visit the ruins of Mission Rosario. Stop by El Camino Real de Los Tejas Visitors Center which features exhibits on the historic Spanish “King’s Road.” Just a short walk south on the Angel of Goliad Trail, you’ll learn the story of Ignacio Seguin Zaragoza, the hero of the Battle of Puebla at the Zaragoza Birthplace State Historic Site.

Goliad River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up camp at Goliad. Located toward the front of the park near the Mission, the Karankawa camping area offers 20 pull-through sites with enough space to accommodate most large RVs. All sites offer full hookups with 20/30/50 amp electric service, a picnic table, a lantern post, and a fire ring with a removable grill. Restrooms with showers are located nearby.

Goliad River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Jacales Camping Area located near the Group Hall offers 14 sites with 20/30/50 amp electricity and water. These sites are suitable both tent and RV camping. Restrooms with showers are located nearby.

Also, there are 14 sites are in the Vaquero and Longhorn tent camping areas along the banks of San Antonio River and 10 walk-in tent sites in the Jacales Camping Area. 

Lockhart State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart State Park, Texas

Spend a relaxing night camping under the stars. Tee off on the historic golf course built by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps over 80 years ago. Look for geocaches and wildlife while exploring the hiking trails. Stroll the easy Clear Fork Trail for views of the creek, plants, wild­life, and check dams built by the CCC to create fishing holes. Or hike the short but challenging Persimmon Trail. Try your luck fishing in Clear Fork Creek year-round and swimming in the pool in summer. Pick up a souvenir at our park store. Drive into Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas.

Lockhart State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reserve a campsite with water and electricity or full hookups. Eight full hookup sites with 30/50-am electricity are available. These sites can now accommodate RVs up to 40 feet and are in the Fairway View Camping Area. Eight sites with 30-amp electric and water are also available. These sites are in a wooded area with large trees along a creek and are in the Clear Fork Creek Camping Area. Campground amenities include a picnic table, fire ring, upright grill, and washroom with showers nearby. A dump station is located nearby.

Palmetto State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palmetto State Park, Texas

A little piece of the tropics lies just an hour from Austin and San Antonio. With multiple sources of water including the San Marcos River, Palmetto State Park is a haven for a wide variety of animals and plants. Look for dwarf palmettos, the park’s namesake, growing under the trees.

Palmetto State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can swim, tube, fish, and canoe here. Besides the flowing river, the park also has an oxbow lake, an artesian well, and swamps. Hike or bike the trails, camp, geocache, go birding or study nature. Hike the Palmetto Trail which winds through a stand of dwarf palmettos. Canoe the San Marcos River. The river has a steady current but no rapids; check river conditions at the park. Bring your canoe and arrange your shuttles.

Palmetto State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose one of our 19 tent sites or 17 RV sites. The RV sites are long back-ins and offer a 30/50 amp electric and water hookup, picnic table, outdoor grill, fire ring, and lantern post. Restrooms with showers are located nearby. The maximum length of the vehicle is 65 feet. The tenting sites have enough space for families with multiple tents or families camping together. Or rent the air-conditioned cabin (for up to six people). The cabin is next to the San Marcos River near the small fishing pond and four-acre lake with a pathway down to the river for fishing and swimming.

Quail Creek State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quail Creek State Park, Utah

Boasting some of the warmest waters in the state and a mild winter climate, Quail Creek lures boaters and anglers year-round. Quail Creek reservoir was completed in 1985 to provide irrigation and culinary water to the St. George area. Most of the water in the reservoir does not come from Quail Creek but is diverted from the Virgin River and transported through a buried pipeline.

Related article: The Absolutely Best State Park for RVers

Quail Creek State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two dams form the reservoir. The main dam is an earth-fill embankment dam. The south dam is a roller-compacted concrete dam, constructed to replace the original earth-fill dam that failed in the early hours of New Year’s Day 1989.

The maximum depth of Quail Creek can reach 120 feet, so it is cold enough to sustain the stocked rainbow trout, bullhead catfish, and crappie. Largemouth bass, which is also stocked, and bluegill thrive in the warmer, upper layers of the reservoir.

Quail Creek State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quail Creek offers nine partial hookup sites, 13 standard sites, and one group camping area.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Michael Frome

It’s Fall Y’all in Georgia State Parks

Cooler temps, cozy blankets, sweet s’mores, campfires and more! Fall is one of the best times to enjoy camping with family and friends in Georgia State Parks.

Crimson reds, rustic oranges, and bright yellows mark the highly anticipated start of fall in Georgia’s State Parks. Nature lovers can opt outside to take in the kaleidoscopic scenery with family and friends from atop overlooks, underneath waterfalls, in kayaks, RVs, or tents. Whatever adventure you seek, there are activities that everyone can fall for at Georgia’s State Parks. Venture out to discover why these parks are a must-visit for autumn.

It’s fall in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the “Leaf Watch 2022” travel planner, visitors can find information on the perfect Georgia State Parks for viewing fall foliage at GaStateParks.org/LeafWatch. The site also includes hiking tips, autumn events, and updates from park rangers. Visitors are encouraged to tag their most Instagram-worthy photos with #GaLeafWatch and #GaStateParks for a chance to be featured on the Leaf Watch website.

Laura S. Walker State Park

Sleep under the stars: For those looking for the perfect spot to toast s’mores and truly enjoy crisp, cool fall air there is no better time to gather around the campfire than fall. Regardless of equipment whether it be a motorhome or a trailer or the preferred method of getting there—via foot, boat or car—Georgia State Parks have campsites for all tastes.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay in the heart of autumn beauty and the middle of the action at Black Rock Mountain, F. D. Roosevelt, or Tallulah Gorge state parks. A few unique camping spots include Chattahoochee Bend and High Falls where visitors can paddle into their site; lakefront locations at Tugaloo, Elijah Clark, and Seminole; or tent platforms at Victoria Bryant and Fort Mountain. Camp with a steed at equestrian campsites at Hard Labor Creek, A.H. Stephens, General Coffee, and Watson Mill Bridge state parks. 

More on Georgia State Parks: Best Georgia State Parks: Plan Now for a Spring or Summer Getaway

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

Leaf peeping at top overlooks: Track vibrant fall color as it moves across the Peach State at some top parks for leaf peeping. Top overlooks to experience glorious fall foliage await in Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Amicalola Falls, Vogel, Unicoi, F.D. Roosevelt, and Tallulah Gorge state parks. Visit these hot spots to revel in the dazzling display of fall color in late October through November depending on weather and temperatures.

Those who enjoy venturing off the beaten path will particularly enjoy the lesser-known state parks for viewing fall color: Moccasin Creek, James H. Sloppy Floyd, Victoria Bryant, Chattahoochee Bend, and Watson Mill Bridge. 

It’s fall in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go chasing waterfalls: Waterfalls are Georgia’s State Parks’ calling card. Pick and choose from one of Georgia’s many awe-inspiring waterfalls perfectly positioned around the state. Watch from atop an overlook or a bridge below at the whitewater cascading down as the rocks reflect bright reds and oranges of fall.

At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Cloudland Canyon has two waterfalls that tumble over layers of sandstone and shale into pools below. Visitors also can discover these wonders of nature at Fort Mountain, Black Rock Mountain, High Falls, Tallulah Gorge, and Vogel state parks. Best of all, the cooler fall temperatures make the hike to reach these falls even more worth it.

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishing in Georgia’s State Parks: Reel it in this fall. From trout to spotted bass, striped bass, and crappie, Georgia’s State Parks offer some of the best fly fishing, trout fishing, and bass fishing in the country. Pick from a wide variety of parks to get the adventure started.

More on Georgia State Parks: 4 Best Georgia State & National Parks

Are you new to fishing? The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Fishing Tackle Loaner Program provides a way for budding anglers to try fishing without having to purchase any equipment. Available at 24 Georgia State Parks the program provides rods, reels, and tackle box equipment. Interested visitors can inquire at the park office and check out the equipment for the day.

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

Fall water adventures: At Hard Labor Creek, Stephen C. Foster, George L. Smith, and Indian Springs, water lovers who prefer leaf peeping from a kayak are in for a treat. Paddling tours of lakes let visitors enjoy autumn color from a different perspective, including copper-colored cypress trees reflecting off tannin-tinted ponds. Sign up for a ranger-led paddle or rent a canoe to explore solo. 

Fort Mountain, Vogel, and Unicoi rent equipment for paddling their small mountain lakes. These are good locations for beginners to practice paddling skills. Visitors at Fort McAllister can rent canoes to explore Redbird Creek with its sawgrass, fiddler crabs, and occasional dolphins. Paddlers who bring their boats to Crooked River can enjoy the abundant wildlife and the shortest route to Cumberland Island National Seashore (across the Intracoastal Waterway).

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster is the western entrance to the famed Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It features more “open” water than the grassy plains of the eastern entrance. Rent canoes or kayaks to explore Minnie’s Lake, Billy’s Island, or “the narrows.” Alligators, deer, ibis, herons, and egrets are commonly seen within the swamp. Reed Bingham, George L. Smith, Magnolia Springs, Laura S. Walker, and Little Ocmulgee also have pretty lakes where Spanish moss, cypress trees, and lily pads reflect off the dark water.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Horseback riding at F.D. Roosevelt State Park: Trot through the Georgia countryside on guided rides surrounded by brilliant fall foliage and breathtaking views of Georgia hardwoods, mossy rock gardens, and Pine Mountain valley.

Some Georgia State Parks welcome horseback riders offering miles of horseback riding trails, equestrian campsites, horse stalls, or riding rings. Guided rides are available at Don Carter and F.D. Roosevelt State Parks. Most horseback riding trails are loop rides with links to other trails allowing you to customize your adventure. A.H. Stephens, Cloudland Canyon, F.D. Roosevelt, Fort Mountain, General Coffee, Hard Labor Creek, Don Carter, and Watson Mill Bridge offer horseback riding trails.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore on two wheels: Bicycles are welcome at most state parks and some parks rent bikes. State law requires that riders 15 and younger must wear a helmet.

More on Georgia State Parks: Laura S. Walker State Park: A Place to Reconnect With Nature

Bikers will get their fill of fall thrills as they speed down invigorating hills and breeze past colorful overlooks at Fort Mountain and Cloudland Canyon state parks. Race past bright fall colors and scenic views in the forests of Panola Mountain and Red Top Mountain. These parks belong to Georgia’s Muddy Spokes Club, a series of mountain biking trails created to challenge experienced and casual cyclists alike to tackle 68 miles of trails in 11 state parks. 

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Find paved trails at Panola Mountain and Tallulah Gorge state parks. Hard-surfaced trails are located at Red Top Mountain, Skidaway Island, Smithgall Woods, and Magnolia Springs state parks and Hart State Park.

Mountain bikers may test their endurance at Cloudland Canyon, Hard Labor Creek, Fort Mountain, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi, Richard B. Russell, Mistletoe, Fort Yargo, Watson Mill Bridge, and Victoria Bryant state parks.

More on Georgia State Parks: Spotlight on Georgia: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

It’s fall in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bike rentals are available at A.H. Stephens, Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Crooked River, Florence Marina, Fort McAllister, General Coffee, Georgia Veterans, Laura S. Walker, Little Ocmulgee, Magnolia Springs, Panola Mountain, Reed Bingham, Richard B. Russell, Skidaway Island, and Vogel state parks. Contact the park for pricing.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

The Best Stops for a Fall 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.

Smitty’s Market, Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas BBQ, Lockhart, Texas

Houston and Austin can quibble all they want about who has the best barbecue, but the clear winner is Lockhart. This small town 35 miles south of Austin is the Barbecue Capital of Texas—and that’s not just a municipal marketing ploy. The Texas State Legislature passed a resolution in 2003 officially giving Lockhart the title. Hundreds of thousands of people make the trek to Lockhart every year where four barbecue joints cook up mouth-watering meats made by legendary pitmasters. Here, meat is served in boxes by the pound and eaten off butcher paper on long, wooden tables.

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Related article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Fall

Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat, Utah

Drive the 17-mile dirt road through Valley of the Gods and you’re left wondering why its more famous neighbor, Monument Valley, attracts visitors in almost infinitely greater numbers. Valley of the Gods features spectacular mesas, buttes, and spires, but none of the crowds; it’s possible you won’t see another vehicle as you make your way past rock formations such as Lady In A Tub, Setting Hen Butte, and Seven Sailors.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The west entrance is situated on Utah Hwy 261, 10 miles north of Mexican Hat; the east entrance begins on US Hwy 163 about 7 miles east of Mexican Hat. The road through the park is level-graded dirt; a high clearance vehicle is generally recommended.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 1,400 years ago, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde as their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late 1200s, they left their homes and moved away in the span of a generation or two. Mesa Verde National Park preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bardstown, Kentucky

It’s no surprise that Bardstown has been named one of the most beautiful small towns in America more than once. With several well-known bourbon distilleries, wineries, and historic sites, Kentucky’s second-oldest town has a lot to offer the traveler.

Barton 1792 Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’re here for the bourbon, right? Start your tours with a trip to the oldest fully functioning distillery in Bardstown, Barton 1792 Distillery, famous for its signature 1792 Bourbon. Visitors can tour the property’s 196 acres, which showcase more than 25 barrel-aging warehouses, a picturesque stillhouse, and an award-winning distillery. Tours are complimentary and so are the tastings at this local distillery.

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

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo, Georgia

Located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, this remote park offers access to the breathtaking wealth of flora and fauna of America’s largest black water swamp. Reserve a place on one of the guided pontoon boat tours and enter a primeval world of moss-draped trees, ibis, storks, turtles, and of course the American Alligator, an estimated 12,000 of which live within the refuge. A boardwalk trail next to the boat dock makes it easy to explore a small area of the swamp on foot.

Related article: Leafy Scenes: 12 of the Best Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

Stephen C. Foster State Park is a certified dark sky park allowing guests to experience some of the darkest skies in the southeast. Nine cottages are available to rent, and there’s a campsite for tents, trailers, and motorhomes.

Hubbell Trading Post © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado, Arizona

Famously known as the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation (it’s been here since 1876), Hubbell Trading Post is a part historic site, part museum/gallery, and part thriving retail operation specializing in authentic Navajo rugs, jewelry, and pottery. A visit to the adjacent Hubbell family home with an impressive collection of Southwestern art and Native American arts and crafts is recommended.

Mission Concepcion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mission Concepcion, San Antonio, Texas

A functioning Catholic church intermittently since 1731, Mission Concepcion is a picturesque historic structure that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, only a short distance from San Antonio’s most famous mission, The Alamo. It’s worth dropping by for a look and some photos. In particular, keep an eye out for the remnants of the frescoes that were painted on the building when it was constructed, but have badly faded over time.

Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

Near the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, established in 1607, Jamestown Settlement preserves and recreates life at the time. There are four components to the complex. As you enter, there are museum exhibits featuring artifacts and interpretations of the lives of the colonists, the natives, and the Africans who were forcibly brought along.

Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing outside, you come to a recreated Powhatan village; farther down the path, you come to a recreated colonial fort; then on down to the water, you’ll see, and be able to board, replicas of the three ships that brought the settlers. In each of these outdoor locations, there are interpreters attired in appropriate garb to answer your questions and demonstrate period skills, from cooking to preparing an animal hide to firing a rifle.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Martin Swamp Tours, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Swamp tours are a must-do for anyone visiting Louisiana and Lake Martin is home to one of the state’s most impressive collections of wildlife. No one can make guarantees where nature’s concerned but a trip out onto this beautiful, man-made lake is likely to bring close-up views of birds including egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, and eagles as well as the ‘gators for which the region is famous. Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours offer trips out into the cypress swamps every day. Their guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and full of character.

Related article: Stunning Fall Drives across America

Navajo Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Navajo Bridge, Page, Arizona

The two beautiful Navajo Bridges that span the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon may look identical but they were built more than 65 years apart. The first bridge opened to traffic in 1929 and was, at the time, the highest steel arch bridge in the world. However, it was not designed to carry modern day traffic and its replacement more than twice as wide opened in 1995. Rather than dismantling the original bridge, they left it in place to allow pedestrians to enjoy the spectacular view of the river 467 feet below. Take time to visit the interpretive center on the west side of the bridge.

Wilson Arch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wilson Arch, Monticello, Utah

One of the pleasures of driving this part of Utah (in particular the section of US Route 191 running north from Bluff through Blanding, Monticello, and Moab) is happening upon the incredible rock formations that seem to appear around every corner. This one, Wilson Arch, was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley. It’s an easy hike up to the arch and makes for great photos.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg, Texas

Step back in time to learn about Fredericksburg’s German heritage at Pioneer Museum. The 3.5-acre site gives a glimpse into the lives of the early German settlers in the frontier town of Fredericksburg from the 1840s to the 1920s. Visit the National Museum of Pacific War, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific Theater during World War II. With interactive exhibits and endless galleries and stunning grounds, the museum will inspire all generations.

National Museum of Pacific War © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy Fredericksburg’s diverse culinary scene. From German food to burgers to fine dining, Fredericksburg has something for everyone’s taste. Sip wine at any of the more than 50 wineries in the Fredericksburg area, enjoy a self-guided trip down Wine Road 290 on your own or opt for a wine tour with any of our local wine tour companies. 

New River Gorge Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge Bridge, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

At 3,030-feet this is the world’s third longest single arch bridge. At 876 feet above the river, it is also one of the tallest. The visitor center has picnic areas and hiking trails with spectacular views of bridge and gorge. White water rafting and hiking are popular in summer.

Bridge Day, on the third Saturday in October (October 15, 2022), features B.A.S.E. jumpers and rappellers in a festival atmosphere. New River Gorge Bridge is located on U.S. Highway 19 between Summersville and Beckley.

Historic Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic Oatman, Arizona

Once a thriving mining town, then a virtual ghost town when Route 66 was bypassed, Oatman has been reborn as a popular tourist destination for its Old West flavor. Many of its historic buildings still stand including the Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent a night of their honeymoon and where the lobby is covered by thousands of dollar bills that tourists have attached to the walls and ceilings.

Related article: 10 of the Best Small Towns to Visit this Fall

Historic Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are cowboy shootouts and gift shops galore. But above all, there are the burros, descendants of animals released in the hills by miners. They function today as the semi-official stop lights wandering the narrow streets and poking their heads into car windows looking for handouts.

Hurricane © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hurricane, Utah

Despite its name, you’re likely to find beautiful weather in Hurricane. And that’s a good thing when you consider the outdoor adventures available just a stone’s throw from the small town. Take advantage of the proximity to Sand Hollow Reservoir and Sand Hollow State Park. Of course, Hurricane is also a home base for many travelers to Zion National Park, so you’ll want to bring your hiking boots for the park’s most notable trails, like Angel’s Landing, Emerald Pools, and The Narrows.

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

Exploring a State Park or National Park this Summer! How to Choose?

In state parks and national parks alike you’ll find things like caves and waterfalls, mountains and valleys, wide-open fields, and pristine lakes and seashores

There’s one thing you know for certain: you’re looking to get away, get outdoors, and go exploring. But where are you going? Chances are you want to visit a place where the natural world is front and center which means state parks and national parks are two of your best options. These special, protected environments are available for public use and offer plenty of opportunities for exploration, recreation, and adventure. Whatever outdoor activities you’re enthusiastic about it’s guaranteed that both national and state parks afford plenty of access to a variety of great places to pursue them.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But in any case, you have no bad options! No matter which type of park you choose to visit, you’ll be able to explore endless trails, campsites, and outdoor adventure opportunities. So make your choice and get out there!

In the southeastern corner of Georgia lies the Okefenokee Swamp, a 438,000-acre wetland. The cypress-filled wilderness—with its labyrinth of black canals inhabited by some 12,000 gators—is a long drive from anywhere. The Native Americans aptly called the swamp the “land of trembling earth” because the unstable peat deposits covering much of the swamp floor tremble when stepped on.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanish moss-laced trees sway in the breeze. A carpet of yellow bonnet lilies floats on top of the glossy dark waters of this refuge, home not only to alligators but also to turtles, black bears, herons, and many other creatures. At night, you hear the barred owls hooting deep within the forest.

More on state parks: 16 of the Best State Parks in America

One noise missing is the beep-beep of mobile devices. Cell phone service is spotty at best and honestly, you’ll be delighted by a break from the digital world. 

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

Visitors have three main entry points to choose from, each about two hours from the next. Stephen C. Foster State Park is the western entrance to the Okefenokee. It’s nestled within the much larger Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge but it offers much that the bigger reserve does not include campsites with electrical hookups, running water, and access until 10 p.m.—a plus for the stargazers attracted by its International Dark Sky designation in 2016. The park is 18 miles from the closest town of Fargo, Georgia.

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

Park staff removed 13 streetlights and switched many bulbs to light-emitting diodes (LED). They worked with a local power company to install state-of-the-art lighting which casts downward rather than outward. The staff even retrofitted outdoor lighting on park cabins to be motion-activated.

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

These days, Okefenokee’s 120 acres of state park have more fans than ever. Since the pandemic started, they’ve seen an uptick in visitation even in the summer when numbers are normally low. That’s no anomaly. As travelers seek new options for enjoying the outdoors, state parks across the country have reported rising attendance.

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

Surprisingly, as of 2019, they were already welcoming about 2.5 times more visitors than their higher-profile, federally funded counterparts despite having only 16 percent of the acreage. While many state campgrounds do book up fast, a relatively local audience means that visitors at this southern George park tend to be more evenly distributed throughout the year which preserves the low-key, less crowded atmosphere. People can be out relaxing in nature without encountering the Instagram swarms angling for photo ops in the more famous parks.

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

Crowd volume is also helped by the simple fact that there are more state-run options for travelers to choose from. America’s State Parks alliance tallied nearly 6,800 reserves while the National Park System manages just 423.

More on state parks: 12 of the Best State Parks for Summer Camping

As national parks introduce timed entry tickets and day-use reservations in an attempt to tackle overtourism these laid-back siblings feel all the more inviting. Of course, 50 states mean 50 different systems for camping permits, and from park to park amenities are even more variable. Some sites are tricked out with golf courses, zip lining, and RV hookups; others, such as Maine’s Baxter and California’s Sonoma Coast state parks don’t even have running water.

McKinney Falls State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As demand grows, so, too, do the choices. Texas’s first new state park in 25 years, Palo Pinto Mountains will open next year on nearly 5,000 acres halfway between Abilene and Fort Worth. Visitors will be able to hike, bike, and ride horses over the hills. There will be fishing and canoeing on Tucker Lake and campsites where you can stargaze. Once the park opens, one of the first things visitors will see is a sweeping view of the hills from a road built along a ridge. That was on purpose—to awe people on their way in and out.

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And Michigan just announced $250 million in funding for state parks including $26.2 million to create one in Flint—a key investment in the community as it continues to move past its water crisis.

Older sites are getting new energy, too. Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee opened a $40.4 million, 85-room lodge this past January.

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

In five Minnesota parks, all-terrain electric wheelchairs with continuous-track treads for navigating rugged ground will be bookable as of this summer.

More on state parks: The 15 Best State Parks for RV Camping

Still, state parks grapple with the same challenges national ones do—and then some. One big concern is having enough help to manage maintenance, ticketing, and other operations.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pennsylvania recently announced the creation of three new state parks. The state’s 2022-23 spending plan includes $56 million to add the new state parks to what is currently a 121-park system. The three will be the first new state parks in Pennsylvania since 2005 not counting Washington Crossing which was transferred from the state Historical and Museum Commission. The money will also help develop the state’s first park for the use of all-terrain vehicles and similar motorized recreational vehicles.

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

Delaware State Parks which have been filled with a growing number of visitors in the past few years is getting $3.2 million to upgrade some facilities. The goal is to increase the number of attractions in the popular state parks drawing even more tourists to the state. A record-breaking 8 million people visited state parks in 2021 exceeding previous attendance numbers. State officials say this year’s numbers are on track to top that total. Since 2011, reservations and occupancy for camping nights in the parks have grown 124 percent. In 2011, 67,000 nights were reserved, while last year, total reservations approached 150,000.

More on state parks: 7 of the Best State Parks in Texas to Take Your RV

Worth Pondering…

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.

—August Fruge

The Best RV Camping August 2022

Explore the guide to find some of the best in August camping

But where should you park your RV? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Here are 10 of the top locations to explore in August. RVing with Rex selected this list of 5-star RV resorts from parks personally visited.

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

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort, Salem, Oregon

With a combination of 24 back-in sites (35 feet long x 20 feet wide) and 115 pull-through sites (75 feet long x 14 feet wide) available year-round even the biggest rigs will have no issue finding a suitable spot. All sites include electric (20, 30, and 50 amp), water, sewer, wired and wireless Internet, and coax television hookups along with a picnic table. Park amenities include a fitness room, seasonal pool, year-round spa, laundry facility, secure showers/bathrooms, and book library. The resort is located a short distance off Interstate 5 at Exit 258.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Located in the rugged Black Hills of South Dakota, Custer State Park protects 71,000 acres of terrain and a herd of some 1,300 bison—one of the largest publicly owned herds on the planet and known to stop traffic along the park’s Wildlife Loop Road from time to time. The park has nine campgrounds to choose from, including the popular Sylvan Lake Campground. Many sites include electric hookups and dump stations.

Wahweep RV Park & Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wahweep RV Park and Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona

Centrally located at Wahweap Marina, the campsites are about one-quarter mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. This RV park/campground is a great place to enjoy the off-season solitude of Lake Powell. The campground offers 139 sites with 30 and 50-amp service, water, and sewer. Sites accommodate up to 45 feet. The season is an ideal time to visit nearby attractions including Rainbow Bridge, Antelope Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, and Horseshoe Bend. 

Whispering Hills RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky

Whispering Hills RV Park is nestled in the heart of horse country in Georgetown, north of Lexington. The park is located approximately 2.5 miles off I-75 at Exit 129. Whispering Hills offers 230 full-service sites including nine new premium pull-through sites in the 70-90 foot range. Amenities include a swimming pool, basketball court, laundry facility, book exchange, fishing pond, bathhouses, picnic tables, and fire rings at most sites. Our pull-through site was in the 60-foot range. Most back-in sites tend to be considerably shorter and slope downward. Interior roads and sites are gravel.

Columbia Riverfront RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington

Developed in 2006 by former RVers, Columbia Riverfront RV Park is a 5-star resort. A quiet getaway on ten acres of beautifully maintained property right on the sandy beach of the Columbia River, Columbia Riverfront is big-rig friendly. With a view of the Columbia River out of our windshield, our pull-in site was 45 feet in length with room for the toad. Utilities including 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable are centrally located. Pull-through sites in the 85-95 foot range are also available. Wi-Fi works well. Interior roads are paved and sites are crushed gravel and level. Columbia Riverfront is located 22 miles north of Portland, Oregon, in Woodland off I-5 (Exit 22); west 3.25 miles on Dike Access and Dike roads.

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort is a luxury RV Resort nestled along the banks of the beautiful French Broad River. A 5-star resort with 25 riverfronts (drive-in sites) and 30 river views (back-in sites), Two Rivers Landing offers 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV conveniently located centrally. Interior roads are paved; individual sites are concrete, 70 feet in length, and 22 feet wide. All sites are surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Our drive-in site faced the river. Wi-Fi worked well. A beautiful sunset looking out our front window. This is resort living at its best.

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia

The Jekyll Island Campground is the most affordable, convenient accommodation located near Driftwood Beach. Choose from RV and tent sites as well as amenities like free Wi-Fi, shower facilities, and onsite laundry. The campground offers 175 campsites on 18 wooded acres on the island’s north end. Options range from tent sites to full hook-up, pull-through RV sites with electricity, cable TV, water, and sewage. Wi-Fi and DSL internet are free for registered guests. The campground also will offer private yurt experiences beginning in 2023.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia

Downtown Fort Langley is only a short walk across the Fraser River Bridge from Fort Camping which is part of Pathfinder Camp Resorts. With over 155 short-term RV sites as well as tent cabins, Fort Camping is located in the heart of a fast-growing and popular tourist town which offers endless activities onsite as well as fine dining and shopping experiences nearby. Pathfinder Camp Resorts operate Fort Camping under a license granted by Metro Vancouver Regional District.

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

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

This southern Georgia state park is known for being one of the primary entrances to the legendary Okefenokee Swamp. The camping is great and comfortable here and the paddling and photographic opportunities are top-notch. Add to that the fact that the fishing in the lake is excellent for warmouth, bluegill, catfish, and chain pickerel. Choose from 65 campsites with electricity, nine cottages, a lodge, or a pioneer camp, and be ready for a cool experience.

Reunion Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reunion Lake RV Resort, Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Reunion Lake RV Resort is a gated resort with top-rated facilities and service and all-concrete roadways. Built around a scenic lake the park offers an adult pool with a swim-up bar, poolside cabanas, a lazy river with a tiki bar, a giant hot tub, a fitness center, a family pool, basketball, and pickleball courts, a fenced-in dog park. Our Premium pull-through site will accommodate any size rig.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin