RVing through the Seasons: Tips and Considerations

Traveling in an RV is an unparalleled experience. There’s almost no bad time of year to travel.

Some consider RVing to be a seasonal activity. Many part-time RVers de-winterize their RV as things warm up in preparation for the summer vacation season. After a fun season of RVing, they winterize and store the RV again when the weather turns cooler.

But RVing can continue throughout the year. Each season has its beauty and unique draws. There are special things to see and do in each season that can only be experienced during that time of year. But along with those fun experiences also come some considerations to keep in mind. Various tips and tricks can enable you to get the most out of RVing through all the seasons.

Whether you are a full-timer or take your RV out on a part-time basis for fun adventures, I hope the information below helps you enjoy RVing throughout the year.

Spring wildflowers in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring

Ah, springtime. When the warmer weather comes, the travel itch isn’t far behind.

Spring is an amazing time to hit the road in your RV. The bugs aren’t in full force yet. The days are warm and the evenings cool—which is perfect for campfires. The waterfalls are at their most powerful. And the campgrounds aren’t packed yet. 

Springtime is a time of growth and renewal with a lot of exciting things to see and experience. As many RVers leave their winter destinations or bring their RVs out of storage if not full-time, it’s an excellent time to do some inspection and care of your RV and continue to hit the road for more adventures.

Spring wildflowers in Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring tips & tricks

Spring is a time to de-winterize your RV if applicable and check for any new leaks that have potentially formed over the winter. Even if not, it is an opportunity to do some spring cleaning inside and out and take time for routine or annual maintenance.

Watch out and be prepared for the severe weather that occurs in some areas in the spring. With winter thawing and springtime rains encountering mud or flooding is more common.

Mexican poppies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for spring travel

View Mexican poppies and other wildflowers in southern California and Arizona, bluebonnets in central Texas, tulips in the Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington, and cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.

It was 1947 when the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants first decamped to Arizona for pre-season warm-ups in spring, kicking off a tradition that now brings 15 MLB teams to take up temporary residence in the Phoenix area.

After Washington, DC’s famed cherry blossoms have peaked, you can still get your flower fix with a trip to Virginia’s stunning Shenandoah National Park with its 850 species of wildflowers.

Prairie dogs, white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, elk, and bighorn sheep roam free in South Dakota’s Custer State Park. Come spring, you may even cross paths with the newest additions to the park—baby wildlife.

>> Read more on RV travel in spring:

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer

Summertime means summer travel, especially among the RV-loving set. These three bright, beautiful months offer some of the very best motorhome and travel trailer adventures possible.

Summer is all about hitting the road with your friends or family to explore somewhere new.

If you’re planning an RV getaway with family, summertime may be the best option. After all, the kids are on vacation and the warm weather gives you and your family more opportunities to have fun. How does a water-themed RV vacation sound? 

Taking an RV vacation during the summer months also gives you and your family a great chance to visit fun amusement parks during the journey. Also, if you plan well, you can prepare a travel route that also includes stops at concerts, music festivals, or sports events that the entire family can enjoy.

If you do plan to camp in your RV during the summer be prepared for crowded campgrounds and RV parks. Be sure to plan your trips early and make reservations before the campgrounds become full.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer tips & tricks

It’s always a good idea to make certain preparations ahead of time including a basic itinerary, securing camping sites, and ensuring you’re up to date with your regular maintenance schedule.

Once you’ve got the maintenance out of the way, move on to your packing list. What do you need to bring aboard? Summer heat means fun activities like paddling, cycling, or hiking. Be sure to add whatever gear you need to make it happen to your packing list whether that means big equipment like a kayak or bicycle, or just your best pair of lightweight trail shoes and a wide-brimmed hat. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

A consideration for summer is that humidity can be very high during this season depending on where you recreate.

Don’t underestimate the power of a fan which helps to move the air around. This can make you feel cooler as can a cold drink. Keep the ice cubes stocked in your freezer or buy a countertop ice maker. A cool beverage can do wonders.

To maximize your outdoor shade space you can add an awning screen or room. This helps when you want to be outside at a time when the sun may be shining at an angle that your awning doesn’t block.

Kemah Boardwalk, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for summer travel

Take your family for a swim at a beach and play in the sand or get in a kayak or on a paddleboard.

Summers in Texas can be hot and humid but the cool waters of the Gulf of Mexico are inviting all year long. Galveston Island features 32 miles of beaches for those looking to relax in the sun. But the barrier island is also home to historic architecture, a vibrant art scene, excellent seafood restaurants, and fun, quirky shops.

Pigeon Forge is a family-friendly destination with something to offer visitors of all ages. Options include off-road trail rides, whitewater rafting, zip-lining, and go-karting. And when you’re ready to stretch your legs and take in some scenic views, head over to Great Smoky Mountain National Park where you’ll find hundreds of miles of hiking trails and endless roads to explore.

West Virginia is an underrated summer RV destination. The town of Fayetteville is a great place for RVers looking for outdoor adventures. One of the biggest attractions in the area is one of America’s newest national park, New River Gorge.

Banff and Jasper National Parks in Western Canada offer some of the most breathtaking scenery and impressive hiking in the world.

>> Read more on RV travel in summer:

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall

While summer is the peak season for most campers and RVers, fall might be a better time to hit the road. From mid-September through early November, temperatures are milder, humidity is lower, campgrounds and RV parks are less crowded, fall foliage is ablaze, and pesky bugs like mosquitos and black flies are not as prevalent.

Additionally, water temperatures are still warm and fishing conditions improve. The weeks after Labor Day (the unofficial end of summer) are an excellent time to travel in your RV. Also, Halloween presents some very attractive options during this season. 

For many RVers, autumn is considered the perfect season for RVing. During this well-loved season, the leaves change colors and fall to the ground as the air becomes crisper with cooler temperatures that are just right for traveling in an RV. It’s also typically less busy than the summer travel season allowing many to avoid crowds and long lines. If you’re looking for a great time to take your family on vacation, fall is definitely it!

Stowe Community Church, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall tips & tricks

Fall can best be enjoyed by just making a few adjustments to maximize your enjoyment of RVing during cooler weather. Get out your cooler weather clothes as the season changes.

A couple chairs, a cozy blanket, and a campfire are all you need to sit outside for hours.

Some may say it’s not a campfire if it’s not a wood fire but a propane fire pit can be a game changer. A propane campfire can be turned on or off at a moment’s notice and campfire smoke is never a problem.

Slow cookers are useful for RVers year-round but are especially handy in cooler weather when we have the urge for warm soups and other hearty meals. After a full day of exploring the fall foliage come back to your campsite and an RV already smelling amazing from an almost ready slow-cooked meal.

Be sure to check ahead on any campgrounds you plan to stay in as fall progresses. Make sure they remain open and haven’t turned off the water if you are planning on needing that.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for fall travel

The northeast is an easy answer for where to RV in the fall with its vibrant fall leaves in all colors. Not only does the northeast do fall colors right but the covered bridges and maple syrup farms and products feel quintessentially fall.

Head to Acadia National Park in Maine but leave enough time to sufficiently explore Vermont and New Hampshire as well. Visit a sugar house such as Sugarbush Farm to try their maple syrup. Come back in the spring to see the full maple season production but the sugar house is open all year. Read exhibits and take a walking path through the woods. Here you will see how the trees are tapped and the sap lines are run.

Colorful falls are certainly not exclusive to the northeast. You could follow the colors south along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains for more fall colors.

Whereas the above mentioned areas showcase leaves of all colors, there is just something about the bright yellow aspen leaves of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. You will be treated to a sea of gold as the hillsides are blanketed in golden leaves.

Wherever you travel, there are apple or pumpkin orchards, farms, and farmers markets with fall’s harvest bounty, corn mazes, and other fall festivities to be enjoyed.

>> Read more on RV travel in fall:

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter

Snowflakes falling, blanketing the landscape in white, puffy coats, warm hats, and hot chocolate all come to mind when thinking of winter. There is a reason for the term winter wonderland. Winter can be beautiful but in an RV it can often present the most challenges.

Winter tips & tricks

In winter, all things are made easier if you can avoid the extremes and have an RV that is at least somewhat capable of cold-weather camping.

If you camp in the cold, you’ll need to prepare for it. If you’re hooking up to city water, you’ll need a heated hose that plugs into an AC outlet at your campsite. A heated hose keeps water from freezing at the source while it’s flowing into your RV. 

Because hot air rises and cold air sinks, floors often feel extra chilly, especially in the morning. Fortunately, there are several ways to insulate under your feet such as interior rugs and runners, carpet tiles, and floor mats.

Your propane furnace is the most efficient way to heat the inside and underbelly of your RV. Another option is a portable electric space heater. Electric heaters can supplement your RV furnace if you’re plugged into AC power. They can conserve propane and lower your energy bill depending on the electric costs in your location. 

And many RVers escape the cold like a snowbird and have some fun in the sun.

Snowbirds head south for winter. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips & destinations for winter travel

Winter favorites for RVers include Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas. Each snowbird destination has pros and cons. For example, during winter the Southeast enjoys a humid, warm tropical climate but in return for that shorts and sandals weather you will get to deal with humidity and fire ants. On the other hand, Western snowbirds will pay for sunny afternoons with prickly plants, wind storms, dust, and chilly nighttime temperatures.

Before choosing a destination, consider the type of climate and landscapes you enjoy as well as the environmental conditions you are most and least willing to tolerate.

>> Read more on RV travel in winter:

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

 General tips for all seasons

There are a couple of additional tips for RVing throughout the year that apply to all seasons and not already mentioned above.

A weather app that you can have access to on your phone is useful year-round to be aware of weather and be notified of storms and any severe weather. This can help you decide whether to travel to an area if it is time to leave or even immediately seek safe shelter.

Make sure that your RV and other vehicles are up to date on their maintenance and care ready for the season and safe traveling. You don’t want your home-on-wheels or mode of transportation to break down on the way or present safety issues to you or your family.

Check out the seasonal and regional food in the areas you travel. Each time of year brings in-season fruits and vegetables that are fresh and flavorful and special dishes and treats are often available to enjoy local and seasonal specialties.

Look for season-specific and themed festivals and events as you travel. This may help to determine which time of year to visit a place so that we are there in time to enjoy a certain experience.

Conclusion

I could go on and on about the benefits of RVing in each of the seasons, ways to maximize your RVing throughout the year, and list out wonderful places to visit. Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for your RV trips or maybe made you want to see a part of the country in a season you hadn’t previously considered.

Worth Pondering…

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Planning your Summer Road Trip Begins NOW

Mapping your route and stocking up on gear in advance will pay off when you hit the road

In February’s cold, dark days, a summer road trip might be the farthest thing from your mind. Without the need to book a flight or coordinate other transportation, it’s easy to rely on spontaneity for a last-minute escape once the weather warms up. The beauty of an RV road trip is its structured freedom: you can do anything you want just as long as you are willing and able to drive.

But pushing off your planning until sunnier days could affect your vacation down the road. Investing a little time now will go a long way toward making the most out of your summer.

If plotting a course feels daunting, start by clustering destinations that will you give you something concrete to plan around. Depending on the number of days you expect to travel, you can add or remove stops along the way.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For example, a trip through three national parks in New Mexico and TexasWhite Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Guadalupe Mountains—could be knocked out in a long weekend. Tack on Big Bend National Park for an additional few days to account for the extra mileage and time to explore.

A classic way to plan a road trip is to follow one of America’s best-known vacation drives such as Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, or the Lewis and Clark Expedition Trail. Though they may seem cliché these drives are still famous for a reason: They capture the history of America. You can use social media to find modern attractions along these well-tread routes.

Search for geotags along the route for crowdsourced advice on what to visit while you pass through. Use hiking apps like All Trails to explore what nature recommendations people have outside of national park suggestions. Start following accounts of bloggers or local experts who post about the areas you’re visiting. To keep yourself from overcommitting, keep a list of these potential food stops, campgrounds, roadside attractions, and nature areas along the way to reference when you need options.

Whether you’re planning to follow a well-known path or keep a looser schedule, become familiar with your major waypoints by April. This will give you time to research lesser-known sights and dig for local suggestions. By the time you hit the road, you’ll have the confidence to make quick (but informed) decisions.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make reservations at national parks

While reserving a spot inside a national park isn’t the only way to camp near popular nature sites, it is well worth the foresight if you can book a few nights ahead of time.

Every park has its own schedule of openings, reservation requirements, and campsite availability so the best advice is to closely track a few parks for announcements. While some national parks save a portion of their campsite reservations to be released a week before booking, most park reservations open six months in advance.

Most National Parks reserve a few spots per campground as a first-come, first-serve option. They can be impossible to predict so do not rely on their availability if you are set on camping inside the park. Note that reservations often become available at 8 a.m. in the time zone of that park.

Permits for popular hikes and activities also become available at this time at Recreation.gov.

Timed entry reservations will still be required at a handful of popular parks during the peak summer months: Yosemite, Arches, Zion, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Haleakalā National Parks will all require some reservation to enter.

For complete details read 10 National Parks That Require Early Reservations for 2024 Visits

To the National Park Service’s credit, these required dates cluster around the most popular weeks and holidays and there are usually exceptions like entering a park before 5 a.m. that still allow for some flexibility if you can’t score a reservation in time.

Friday’s Fried Chicken, Shiner, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buy gear and supplies

A backpack, good walking shoes or hiking boots, wide-brimmed hat, and sun protection are all important regardless of how much outdoor activity you’re planning. It’s not just the outdoor gear to keep an eye out on—road trip essentials range from storage options to electronics to RV supplies.

Be sure to stock up on household and RV-related items: paper products, water filter, plastic bags, tissues, disinfecting wipes, and a fully stocked first aid kit.

That’s why I wrote this article: 35 Little Things to Remember to Pack for Your RV Road Trip

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your vehicle

Don’t forget about a checklist for your RV. A tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, and a roadside tool kit can all come in handy even if you’re renting an RV. And always keep a paper atlas on hand in case you’re out of cell service range.

Beyond the typical under-the-hood checks—engine oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic oil, coolant, and washer fluid—be sure to check your lightbulbs and brake reactivity, even in rentals. Spending hours on the road can decrease your focus and reaction time so ensure that the RV will be safe and comfortable. That’s why you should follow the 330 Rule.

The biggest investment to make in your pre-road trip vehicle is a new set of tires especially if you tend to only drive in the city. If you’re planning on driving or pulling a camper, van or RV and have been putting off upgrading your tires consider buying tires with a longer tread life or thicker tread for more diverse terrain.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some helpful resources when it comes to tire safety:

Worth Pondering…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Miyamoto Musashi

Ascend to the Top of the World in Banff National Park

Dizzying views in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

It’s easy to see why Banff National Park was once advertised as 50 Switzerlands in one. The mountain range—comprising bizarrely jagged peaks many exceeding 12,000 feet—goes on for thousands of miles. And so many valleys between are filled with pools of water—each a different shade of glowing, ethereal teal.

Banff is renowned for skiing in winter though some heights have enough snow to backcountry ski all year long, even in July while the valleys offer perfectly crisp hikes in spring and fall. Come summer, the balmy 70-degree weather keeps you from sweating too much as you ascend peaks or enjoy sparkling pools in the valleys.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visiting here is a real two-for-one deal since immediately next to Banff is Jasper National Park located in such proximity that it’s difficult to tell where one park ends and the other begins. Plus, if you somehow tire of gondolas soaring above a sea of trees, incredibly scenic drives, glacier hikes, tasteful lodge towns, or tea houses serving steaming treats and drinks directly on the trail, the nearby cities of Edmonton and Calgary offer innovative restaurants, bars, and art. No matter how much time you have, here’s what to cram into your trip to Banff.

Start and end in a buzzing city

To get to Banff, drive your car or RV from Calgary to the national park. But, instead of doubling back to the Stampede City an ideal option would be to continue onward through the park and onto Jasper and onto Edmonton to hit up both cities. Both are newer cities with sky-scraper-filled downtowns; Calgary is on the more polished side while Edmonton feels artsy and green.

Edmonton City Hall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Edmonton, you’ll notice a chain of parks running through the center of the city thanks to protected land on both sides of the North Saskatchewan River. Locals bike, walk, or scooter around the 40 miles of pathways weaving through pine trees and descending down to glacier-blue water. You’ll find art scattered through the park and the city some of which is created by indigenous artists and celebrates Métis First Nations or the Cree language. Whether you hike, kayak, or sign on for a dinner or party on a river boat on the North Saskatchewan, no worries about trekking all the way back uphill at the end of the day—you can ride the funicular instead.

Whyte Avenue is the street to check out while you’re in town with its restaurants, indie theater, beer gardens, farmer’s markets, and street art. Here you’ll find a bar in an old train station, board game cafes, arcade bars, and restaurants dishing ramen, ice cream, vegan eats, curries, Cajun food, and more.

Rogers Place in the Ice District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Across town there’s some newer development in the ICE District, a 25-acre mixed-use development project located in the heart of downtown Edmonton. ICE District is a modern, urban destination and gathering space and ranks as the largest mixed-use sports and entertainment district in Canada and the 2nd largest in North America after Hudson Yards in New York. ICE District is home to a mix of premium office space, high-end residences, a luxury hotel, boutique shops and restaurants, all anchored by Rogers Place, a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility that is home to the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

The other option is Calgary. Also known as Cowtown to the rest of Canada, this cosmopolitan city is rooted in its wild Western heritage. It’s also Canada’s energy centre—both economically and culturally. You’ll never find yourself bored in Calgary.

Calgary’s downtown has everything you’d expect from a big city: shopping, fine dining, museums and endless entertainment options. The surrounding neighbourhoods each have a unique identity, with boutiques, breweries and a bevy of public art. Two large rivers wind throughout it all, forever nourishing its parks and people.

You’ll also find gentle rafting and kayaking on the Bow River, a haunted ghost tour around the city, and chuck wagon races at the Calgary Stampede (July 7-16, 2023) where old wooden food carts go neck and neck. Check out the cool neighborhood of Kensington for nightlife.

Located in the heart of the city, the Calgary Tower offers a spectacular 360-degree view. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind view of Calgary on the incredible glass floor and see the bustling streets below. An informative and inspiring multi-media tour is available for free and accessible from your mobile device.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take in the drive

Getting anywhere in or around Banff and Jasper means you’re doing a scenic drive so I won’t even bother recommending specific routes—though you’ll probably take the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) and the Trans Canada Highway.

In any case, just follow your maps app and be ready to look up a lot. Even the driver will be wowed—while still focusing intently on the road and keeping hands on the wheel at exactly the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, of course. Don’t be surprised if a massive elk stands majestically by the road allowing puny humans to snap their little photos. And yes, there are bears here, but whether you see them from a car or on the trail they’re not particularly interested in humans but you’ll still need to use caution.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit up tea houses and gondolas while hiking in Banff

Whenever you decide to stop the car, it’s time for open-air adventure. The most popular destination for hikers and non-hikers alike is Lake Louise, or Ho-Run-Num-Nay, meaning the lake of little fish. This is where you’ll find the most Instagram posts as well as kayak trips on the turquoise water. One excellent hike in this area is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail which is a moderate 6-mile roundtrip walk from Lake Louise up about 1,000 feet to a lovely tea house serving cakes, warm entrees, hot cocoa, and—of course—tea. The hike to Lake Agnes Tea House also starts from Lake Louise and is easier to reach at only 4.7 miles roundtrip though the less crowded Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House is more rustic and rewarding.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just across from Ho-Run-Num-Nay is the Lake Louise Summer Gondola that runs through early October. From the top dropoff point you can hike one of the many trails on the summit or dine at the ski lodge that’s open year round.

For an easy but stunning hike in Banff, try Johnston Canyon Lower Falls which is a flat 1-mile walk on boardwalks suspended over a river in a narrow canyon. You’ll feel like you’re levitating above the river until you get to a small cave and waterfall at the end where teal blue water gushes into shimmering pools. You can continue onwards from there to Upper Falls for higher vistas. And close to town, Stoney Squaw is another short 2-mile hike that’s steeper and more secluded with few people and many tree roots along the trail. You’ll mostly be surrounded by pines the entire time except for some quick views at the top so this is one for the forest bathers out there.

Columbia Icefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climb up glaciers and into hot springs in Jasper

Walking on top of a glacier is a rare experience—and one that’s getting even rarer since many of them are melting away. Going on a trek with a responsible tourism group allows visitors the chance of a lifetime. The glaciers from the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park are shrinking but they’re still hypnotic to gaze upon as they sit like eerie, silent giants. 

On this incredible experience you’ll travel on a massive Ice Explorer all-terrain vehicle to the Athabasca Glacier, a 10,000-year-old sheet of ice where you can walk on, feel, and drink from the glacier.

Whether or not you opt to walk on the icefield—for which a guide is required, lest you fall into one of the deep cracks—you can also hike a short trail that takes you to the edge of the glacier. The hikes start at the Glacier View Lodge which is an elegant place to stay and see the bluish ice from the hotel’s huge floor-to-ceiling windows. From here, you can also purchase tickets for the Skywalk where visitors walk out onto a glass platform suspended 900 feet above the rugged glacial landscape.

Glacial Skywal© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If even the thought of a glacier hike is chilling, there’s also plenty of heat to be had in Jasper. The Sulphur Skyline Trail is a jaw-dropping hike that ends in hot springs. About 5 miles roundtrip and with around a 2,000-foot elevation gain this hike climbs gradually up inclines and switchbacks until you’re suddenly beholding the world from its crown. You’ll want to be extra careful with your footing at the very top since it’s somewhat gravely. Or just skip the whole thing and sit in the natural Miette Hot Springs at the foot of the trail surrounded by all the peaks you can admire regardless of whether you decide to climb them.

The Bald Hills trail is another iconic hike in Jasper with huge views at the top. The majority of the 8-mile route goes through forests, either steeply to the left or on an easier fire road to the right until emerging for the ridgeline view. The trail starts and stops by Maligne Lake where you can opt to go on a boat cruise.

Elk grazing in Jasper Townsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Relax each evening in a lodge town

A couple of towns located within the national parks exemplify the best version of lodge towns. While there are certainly many tourists, the villages don’t feel plasticky; there’s an authenticity to the wood and fireplaces that perhaps comes with weathering many long winters. The main towns are eponymously named Banff and Jasper. You’ll find numerous shops and restaurants all within wooden mountain houses. Tour operators pick guests up directly from the hotels in town and make it easy to get around the national park without having to drive or fight for parking at trailheads.

If you get back to town and still have the stamina to take in more mountain views, bike trails are the best way to explore the immediate area—which can be done via e-bike for those who want to see the sights but whose legs have called it quits. At Snowtips-Bactrax in Banff, workers will outfit you with either a mountain or electric bike and offer maps and suggestions of which routes to take from the center of town depending on how long you want to ride. One nearby option with a glorious vista is Lake Minnewanka Loop which goes up and down some hills in a 15-mile route along protected bike lanes and a low-traffic road.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Jasper has plenty to offer as well, Banff is the perfect home base to return to after a long day of excursions. The Three Bears Brewery is a highlight where the food is as inventive as the beer. Order the lamb rib with pomegranate glaze and a hint of chili oil which is an outrageous dish you’ll keep dreaming about on the trails. And though the beer menu is extensive with hoppy trail brews and local pine pilsners, the restaurant’s signature drinks are infused beers. Using teas like rooibos and fruit such as blueberries or peaches, brewers experiment with flavors that come out fresh from the on-site infusion chamber. Look for fruity combos in warmer months and a peppermint stout as the seasons get colder.

For a final dose of relaxation, one highly suggested activity is to soak in a steam room full of eucalyptus. Steam rooms might seem like they’re the same all over the world but the humble mini-spa that’s free (I repeat, free) for guests of Peaks Hotel & Suites must have a rejuvenating secret beyond just a lovely smell.

RVs in the national parks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The new hotel in Banff is beautifully designed with rustic-chic vibes, small private balconies, and free hot cocoa by the gas fireplace—but their indoor pool and plunge pools are transformative after mountain climbing. The potent eucalyptus in all that steam seems to penetrate both your muscles and lungs for a deep hiking recovery that’ll have you ready to get back at it in no time.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

Banff National Park: Know Before You Go

The Swiss Alps have nothing on the stunning Canadian Rockies

Head north for epic views.

It’s easy to see why Banff National Park was once advertised as 50 Switzerlands in one. Each massive mountain piercing the sky in Banff is a reason to stare, each with its unique shape. And so many valleys between are filled with pools of water—each a different shade of ethereal glow—or a glacier slipping slowly from an icefield.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sure, Banff is renowned for skiing come winter (though some heights have enough snow to backcountry ski all year long, even in July), but the valleys are pleasantly warm throughout summer and offer pleasantly crisp hikes in fall. The Canadian national park is covered in larch conifers, the only evergreen to change colors and shed its needles in fall.

The area has enough going on to keep you busy for days or even weeks. Immediately north of Banff, you’ll find Jasper National Park, located in such proximity that it’s difficult to tell where one park ends and the other begins, a real two-for-one deal. Plus, if you somehow tire of gondolas soaring above a sea of trees, incredibly scenic drives, glacier hikes, and Banff’s tasteful lodge towns, the nearby cities of Edmonton and Calgary offer innovative restaurants, bars, and art. No matter how much time you have, here’s what to cram into your trip to Banff.

Edmonton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start and end in a buzzing city

To get to Banff, you can drive out of either Edmonton or Calgary to the national park. Both are newer cities with sky-scraper-filled downtowns; Edmonton feels artsy and green while Calgary is a little more polished.

In Edmonton, look for the enormous parks system running through the center of the city, thanks to protected land on both sides of the North Saskatchewan River. Locals bike, walk, or scooter around the 40 miles of pathways weaving through the trees and descending to blue water. Whether you hike, kayak, or sign on for a dinner or party on a river boat in North Saskatchewan, no worries about trekking back uphill at the end of the day—you can ride the funicular instead.

Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whyte Avenue is the street to check out while you’re in town with its restaurants, indie theater, beer gardens, farmer’s markets, and street art. Here you’ll find a bar in an old train station, board game cafes, arcade bars, and restaurants dishing ramen, ice cream, vegan eats, curries, Cajun food, and more.

The other option is Calgary. You’ll also find gentle rafting and kayaking on the Bow River, a haunted ghost tour around the city, and chuck wagon races at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the world-famous Calgary Stampede (July 7-13, 2023 where old wooden food carts go neck and neck.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take in the drive

Getting anywhere in or around Banff and Jasper means you’re doing a scenic drive so I won’t recommend specific routes—though you’ll probably take the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) and the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1). In any case, just follow your maps app and be ready to look up a lot. Even the driver will be wowed—while still focusing intently on the road and keeping hands on the wheel at exactly the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, of course.

Don’t be surprised if a massive elk stands majestically by the road allowing puny humans to snap their little photos. And yes, there are bears here but whether you see them from a car or on the trail they’re not particularly interested in humans.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit up tea houses and gondolas while hiking in Banff

Whenever you decide to stop the car, it’s time for an open-air adventure. The most popular destination for hikers and non-hikers alike is Lake Louise, or Ho-Run-Num-Nay, meaning the lake of little fish. This is where you’ll find the most Instagram posts as well as kayak trips on the turquoise water.

One excellent hike in this area is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail which is a moderate 6-mile roundtrip hike from Lake Louise up about 1,000 feet to a lovely tea house serving cakes, warm entrees, hot cocoa, and—of course—tea. The hike to Lake Agnes Tea House also starts from Lake Louise and is easier to reach at only 4.7 miles roundtrip.

If you don’t want to pack your trekking poles and lunch or stress about where to find the best wildlife spotting, stopping points, and photo opportunities, companies like Discover Banff Tours offer guided hikes to take all the worry out of the outdoors.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just across from Ho-Run-Num-Nay is the Lake Louise Gondola that runs through early October. From the top dropoff point you can hike one of the many trails on the summit or dine at the ski lodge that’s open year round.

For an easy but stunning hike in Banff, try Johnson Canyon Lower Falls which is a flat 1-mile walk on boardwalks suspended over a river in a narrow canyon. You’ll feel like you’re levitating above the river until you get to a small cave and waterfall at the end where teal blue water gushes into shimmering pools. You can continue onwards from there to Upper Falls for higher vistas.

And close to town, Stoney Squaw is another short 2-mile hike that’s steeper and more secluded with few people and many tree roots along the trail. You’ll mostly be surrounded by pines the entire time except for some quick views at the top so this is one for the forest bathers out there.

Columbia Icefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climb up glaciers and into hot springs in Jasper

Walking on top of a glacier is a rare experience—and one that’s getting even rarer since many of them are melting away. Going on a trek with a responsible tourism group allows visitors the chance of a lifetime. The glaciers from the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park are shrinking but they’re still hypnotic to gaze upon as they sit like eerie, silent giants.

Whether or not you opt to walk on the icefield—for which a guide is required lest you fall into one of the deep cracks—you can also hike a short trail that takes you to the edge of the glacier. The hikes start at the Glacier View Lodge which is an elegant place to stay and see the bluish ice from the hotel’s huge floor-to-ceiling windows. From here, you can also purchase tickets for the Skywalk where visitors walk out onto a glass platform suspended 900 feet above the rugged glacial landscape.

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If even the thought of a glacier hike is chilling there’s also plenty of heat to be had in Jasper. The Sulphur Skyline Trail is a stunning hike that ends in hot springs. About 5 miles roundtrip and with around a 2,000-foot elevation gain this hike climbs gradually up inclines and switchbacks until you’re suddenly beholding the world from its crown. You’ll want to be extra careful with your footing at the very top since it’s somewhat gravely.

Or just skip the whole thing and sit in the natural Miette Hot Springs at the foot of the trail, surrounded by all the peaks you can admire regardless of whether you decide to climb them. At time of writing Miette Hot Springs was closed due to a road washout resulting in the closure of Miette Road. Check with Parks Canada for an update on the reopening of Miette Road.

The Bald Hills trail is another iconic hike in Jasper with huge views at the top. The majority of the 8-mile route goes through forests, either steeply to the left or on an easier fire road to the right until emerging for the ridgeline view. The trail starts and stops by Maligne Lake where you can opt to go on a boat cruise.

Jasper Townsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Relax each evening in a lodge town

A couple of towns located within the national parks exemplify the best version of lodge towns. While there are certainly many tourists, the villages don’t feel overdone; there’s an authenticity to the buildings that perhaps comes with weathering many long winters. The main towns are Banff and Jasper. You’ll find numerous shops and restaurants all within wooden mountain houses. Tour operators pick guests up directly from the hotels in town and make it easy to get around the national park without having to drive or fight for parking at trailheads.

Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you get back to town and still have the stamina to take in more mountain views, bike trails are the best way to explore the immediate area—which can be done via e-bike for those who want to see the sights but whose legs have called it quits. One nearby option with a glorious vista is Lake Minnewanka Loop which goes up and down some hills in a 15-mile route along protected bike lanes and a low-traffic road.

Rocky mountain sheep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Jasper has plenty to offer as well, Banff is the perfect home base to return to after a long day of excursions. Three Bears Brewery is a highlight where the food is as inventive as the beer. Whatever you do, order the lamb rib with pomegranate glaze and a hint of chili oil, which is an outrageous dish you’ll keep dreaming about on the trails. And though the beer menu is extensive, with hoppy trail brews and local pine pilsners, the restaurant’s signature drinks are infused beers. Using teas like rooibos and fruit such as blueberries or peaches, brewers experiment with flavors that come out fresh from the on-site infusion chamber. Look out for a peppermint stout as the seasons get colder.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

10 Amazing Places to RV in August 2023

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in August

The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it.
—Theodore Roosevelt

Joy may not typically be thought of as something we can demand but these words of wisdom from the 26th U.S. president offer us the opportunity to shift our perspectives on the concept. Moments of joyfulness abound—this month, let’s all insist upon experiencing them.

Good morning and welcome to August. It really is the best month and not just because my birthday is in it. It’s the perfect time to…

This August, I’ll not lament the fleeting days of summer. No, I will embrace it: There is still much to see and do—and places to travel in an RV. August is a time for lazy exploration and taking advantage of the last drops of the season while recharging for the months ahead. There are routes to be taken, mountains to climb, seafood to be eaten, and lakes to discover. Get out there and make the most of it.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in June and July. Also, check out my recommendations from August 2022 and September 2022.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Where the buffalo roam

When it comes to wildlife preserves, South Dakota’s Custer State Park is on par with just about any national park in the country. It is home to a large herd of bison that roam the sprawling landscape there just as they did hundreds of years ago.

But there are plenty of other wild creatures to see in the park as well. The animals commonly found there include elk, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs along with white-tailed and mule deer. You might even spot some of the park’s wild burros which famously approach passing vehicles looking for a handout.

>> Get more tips for visiting Custer State Park

Spotted Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Spotted Lake

Canada‘s Spotted Lake is famous for its summer style which is heavy on the polka dots. That’s because the lake’s water actually evaporates every summer. It leaves behind large spots which are colorful deposits of a dozen minerals.

The photo above shows enigmatic Spotted Lake near Osoyoos, British Columbia. It could also be called Doubletake Lake since that’s likely what many people do when they witness this odd body of water. Its spots result from a high concentration of a number of different minerals including magnesium sulfate, calcium, and sodium sulfates. At least a dozen other minerals are found in the lake’s water in varying concentrations.

By late summer, much of the water evaporates and only a mineral stew remains. It’s primarily crystals of magnesium sulfate that contributes to the spotty appearance. Different minerals yield different colors.

Originally known to the First Nations of the Okanagan Valley as Ktlil’k, Spotted Lake was for centuries and remains revered as a sacred site thought to provide therapeutic waters. 

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Columbia Icefield

Nestled among the towering mountain peaks in the border of Banff and Jasper National Park is the famous Columbia Icefield. This extensive valley of interconnected glaciers is home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world and is an once-in-a-lifetime adventure you don’t want to miss.

Hop onto an Ice Explorer and tour the Athabasca Glacier or take a guided walking tour to explore the glacier safely on foot. While at the icefields, check out the Skywalk, a 1,312-foot long walkway that sits 918 feet above the valley. At the top, you’ll be able to walk out to a platform made entirely of glass to experience unobstructed views around and beneath you. You’ll feel like you’re walking on air, while taking in the fresh mountain air at the same time.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Canadian Rockies

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. A taste of Bavaria in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Like taking a trip to Germany, only in North America, Helen, Georgia, is a Bavarian-inspired village town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Incorporated in 1913, Helen was once a logging town on the decline; however, it slowly reemerged as a Bavarian alpine town in 1968 that now provides tourists the chance to experience Germany in the Appalachians instead of the Alps.

Helen has many recreational and cultural activities. Its annual Oktoberfest in the fall is a favorite tradition filled with festivities. However, for visitors looking to spend their summer vacation in Helen, the city also offers tubing, the Anna Ruby Falls, zip-lining, and Unicoi State Park which offers trails for hiking and biking, swimming, and boating on Unicoi Lake.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Shenendoah Night Sky Festival

Conveniently located within a day’s drive from two-thirds of Americans, Shenandoah National Park’s Night Sky Festival (August 11-13, 2023) is a low-lift way to dabble in astronomy if you’re at all curious. The nearly 200,000-acre park located among the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia will host ranger talks, public stargazing sessions, lectures, presentations, and activities for kids.

If you plan on attending one of the outdoor evening activities, be sure to be prepared for the weather and bring a flashlight with a red filter. All events are free with park admission.

>> Get more tips for visiting Shenandoah National Park

Wood stork © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Wood stork may soon be off the Endangered Species List

Getting kicked off a list may sound like a bad thing but when that list is of critically endangered species, it’s certainly good news. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed removing the wood stork, a wading bird native to the Americas from the list following decades of conservation efforts.

The wood stork was first listed in 1984 when it was on the brink of extinction with less than 5,000 breeding pairs. Today, thanks to expanded environmental protections in Florida’s Everglades and the nearby Big Cypress National Preserve that number has doubled to more than 10,000. USFWS emphasized that the wood stork’s rebound indicates an even greater need to continue protecting the species and the habitats it calls home.

Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. There’s a new Camp Margaritaville RV Resort in Louisiana with a swim-up bar, renovated luxury cabins, and a Bark Park for dogs

Gas up the rig and pop Louisiana into the GPS because it’s time to visit Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge. Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge has 452 RV sites and 25 new luxury cabins.

Last winter, Camp Margaritaville announced it was transitioning the Cajun Palms RV Resort into Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Breaux Bridge. The resort reopened as Margaritaville property on May 23. It’s located 15 miles east of Lafayette in Henderson.

The RV resort invites guests to pull up and unplug. They can hang by one of the resort’s three pools—each comes with private cabanas. One even has a swim-up bar) Plus there’s an adults-only hot tub for guests 21 years old and older.

It’s also ideal for a family getaway as it has a water park for little ones, cornhole, minigolf, and a playground that opened in June. There are also arts and crafts sessions—think sand art, tie-dye, and ceramics.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Splashing around at Blanco State Park

Blanco State Park is unique for several reasons. In addition to being one of Texas’ first state parks, it’s also one of the smallest state parks in the state and is entirely located within Blanco city limits.

The Blanco River has drawn area residents for hundreds of years, in part because the springs offer a consistent water source during droughts. The Blanco River attracted Native Americans, the Spanish, and early settlers to its waters. Springs in the park provided water even when the river was dry. In 1721, the Spanish named the river Blanco for its white limestone banks.

Settlers arrived in the area in the 1800s. They established ranches, grazed cattle, and built homes near the Blanco River. Ranchers donated or sold their land to create Blanco State Park in 1933. With 104.6 acres, it is one of the smallest state parks in Texas.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Queen of the Copper Camps

Twenty miles north of the Mexican border and about an hour’s drive from Tucson, Bisbee is a funky artist haven with copper mining town roots. It sits nearly a mile high in the Mule Mountains which means it’s 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler in the summer than it is in Arizona’s major cities. Victorian homes and buildings are perched precariously on the town’s steep mountainside which has over 350 staircases carved right into it for access.  

Once known as the Queen of the Copper Camps, Bisbee has proven to be one of the richest mineral sites in the world producing nearly three million ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper as well as significant amounts of silver, lead, and zinc.

Discover Bisbee’s past by visiting the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and taking the Queen Mine Tour. The tour will bring visitors underground to explore the mine on an ore ride while they learn more about the stories of the miners who worked here. Those who have an interest in the paranormal can book one of several ghost tours in Bisbee to hear the eerily fascinating reports of unexplained happenings and even sightings of spirits donning Victorian attire. Public art features prominently throughout town, from colorful murals and mosaic walls to cars that have been transformed into unique works of art.

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

10. Climb a Mountain 

Mount Lemmon, an oasis in the middle of the desert, is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. The area offers hiking, camping, and fishing. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Sky center.

>> Get more tips for visiting Mount Lemon

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

20 Scenic Road Trips to Take This Summer in Every Part of America

No matter where you are, an unforgettable road trip is never far away

Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination. For these 20 road trips, that is definitely true.

America is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, it is home to mountains, prairies, canyons, deserts, lakes, beaches, forests, and just about any natural landscape you can imagine. If you like road trips, a lot of these incredible landscapes are accessible by road with tons of sights to see and other adventures waiting around each bend. If you’re not a fan of road trips, well, this list might change your mind.

Every corner of the United States has some incredible sights to see and whether you’re looking for history, nature, interesting small towns, or anything in between, there’s a scenic drive for you. Take advantage of the warm weather and check out these summertime drives; the adventures won’t disappoint.

Best Scenic Road Trips in the Northwest

Spirit River Memorial Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Washington: Spirit Lake Memorial Highway 

The Spirit Lake Memorial Highway is the only scenic byway in the U.S. that penetrates a fresh volcanic blast zone. This scenic and historic route is a 52-mile journey into the scene of epic destruction that Mount St. Helens caused when it erupted on May 18, 1980. Along the route are four distinct interpretive and tour centers: Silver Lake, Hoffstadt Bluffs, the Weyerhaeuser Forest Learning Center, and Johnston Ridge. Each one tells a different part of the story from the natural history before the May 1980 eruption, the aftermath, reforestation efforts, and the natural recovery of plants and animals. 

Best Scenic Road Trips in the Northeast

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vermont: Green Mountain Byway

The Green Mountain Byway travels from Stowe to Waterbury between mountain ridges. Little River, Smugglers Notch, Waterbury Center state parks, and Mount Mansfield and Putnam state forests are along the route. Stowe is a premier four-season resort destination particularly known for its alpine and Nordic recreation, mountain biking, and hiking. Here, the Von Trapp family (of Sound of Music fame) attracted worldwide attention more than 50 years ago. Along with beautiful scenery, a large variety of attractions for all ages and tastes including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and Vermont Ski Museum.

Ocean Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rhode Island: Ocean Drive

This loop around the island’s coast is full of seaside views, charm, and historic homes to excite the imagination. Along Harrison and Ocean Avenues, a plethora of 1865-1914 mansions from the Gilded Age come into view that were once summer homes and getaways for the financially and socially elite but now many of the Newport Mansions are open to public tours. For outdoor fun, stop at Brenton Point State Park to enjoy the water or a nice picnic spread.

Lancaster County Amish Country Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pennsylvania: Lancaster County Amish Country Drive

A visit to Amish country is a worthwhile addition to your summer drive plans. When all else fails and you’re looking for the idyllic peacefulness of a pure country drive, circle around the city of Lancaster and see some of the gloriously beautiful landscapes. Unplug and experience communities of people who aren’t affected by the hustle and bustle of modern life, instead keeping their treasured traditions alive and strong to this day.

Best Scenic Road Trips in the Midwest

Heritage Trail Driving Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana: Heritage Trail Driving Tour

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

Peter Norbeck Scenic Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota: Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Embracing South Dakota’s pastoral landscapes, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway winds its way from Rapid City terminating at Mount Rushmore. This 70-mile route graces travelers with landmarks like the intriguing Needles Eye and the monumental Rushmore Presidents. En route, small towns like Keystone and Custer dot the journey lending aid if a leg stretch is overdue. Amidst this, Sylvan Lake, a man-made marvel provides a serene break. Its creation is attributed to Peter Norbeck and his predecessors. Norbeck was the byway’s namesake as well as South Dakota’s former governor in the early 20th century. Lastly, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally the first week in August (August 4-13, 2023) showcases the byway’s lively side, drawing motor enthusiasts nationwide.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ohio: Amish Country Byway

On a map, routes 39, 62, 515, and 60 form a sort of eyeglasses shape throughout Holmes County in Ohio. That’s fitting because exploring these four roads is a great way to explore Amish Country. These routes make up the Amish Country Scenic Byway, designated in June 2002 as a National Scenic Byway. These 72 miles of roadways are recognized for their unique cultural and historic significance. Along these roadways, you will be treated to the typical, yet breathtaking sights of Amish Country: teams of huge, blonde Belgians pulling wagons of hay, farmers working in the fields, and of course, beautiful views of lush, green farmland, large white houses, and red barns.

Best Scenic Road Trips in the Southwest

Gold Rush Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California: Gold Rush Highway

Follow in the footsteps of miners and prospectors through California’s Gold Country along Highway 49—a road named after the gold seekers or 49ers who made their way to the state during the 1849 Gold Rush. Plan for five days to provide time to strike its rich panning for gold in the region’s rivers. You’ll also want to spend time exploring the rocky meadows and pine-covered foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Apache Trail

This historic road covers some of the most rugged terrains in Arizona. The land surrounding the road rises steeply to the north to form the Four Peaks Wilderness Area and to the south to form the Superstition Wilderness Area. Steep-sided canyons, rock outcroppings, and magnificent geologic formations are all along the road. Water played a major role in creating the beauty of the area, and it also provides numerous recreation opportunities. Fish Creek Canyon is perhaps the most awe-inspiring section. The road hangs on the side of this high-walled canyon and winds its way along tremendous precipices that sink sheer for hundreds of feet below.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah: Scenic Byway 12

An All-American Road, Highway 12 is one of the most scenic highways in America. It winds through canyons, red rock cliffs, pine and aspen forests, alpine mountains, national parks, state parks, a national monument, and quaint rural towns. On your 119 mile drive, you’ll discover the vast Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and the beauty of Boulder Mountain.

Palms to Pines Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California: Palms to Pines Highway

The Coachella Valley is known for its beautiful scenery and warm weather but just a few miles to the south is a scenic drive that offers high mountain wilderness—a two-hour journey (to Mountain Center) provided you don’t stop to admire the gorgeous sights along the way. Palm trees give way to piñon pines and firs as the byway climbs into Santa Rosa and the San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road 

The Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road was designated by the Arizona Department of Transportation in 1984. This route follows US 89A through the scenic canyon made popular in the 1920s when it was discovered by Hollywood. This scenic road offers a rare opportunity to study a variety of elements within a short distance. The road traverses seven major plant communities as a result of elevation changes, temperature variation, and precipitation. It begins near the town of Sedona and runs in a northerly direction through Oak Creek Canyon to the top of the Mogollon Rim, traveling areas rich with geologic formations similar to the Grand Canyon

Scenic Highway 28 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico: Scenic Highway 28

Roughly paralleling the Rio Grande River, New Mexico Highway 28 travels from Mesilla to Canutillo (at the New Mexico-Texas state line). Along the drive, the Stahmann Farms pecan trees have grown over the roadway making for a sight straight out of a fairytale. Highway 28 is also home to Chopes Bar & Café, known for its tasty New Mexican food. Rio Grande Winery Vineyard & Winery and La Viña Winery are also hot spots along the roadway and very much a testament to New Mexico’s thriving, the centuries-old wine industry.

La Sal Mountain Scenic Loop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah: La Sal Mountain Loop

From the alpine ridges of the La Sal Mountains to the red rock desert and sandstone pinnacles of Castle Rock, this back road is an adventure. This 60-mile route is paved and starts about 8 miles south of Moab off US-191 and loops through the mountains down to Castle Valley and SR 128 where it follows the Colorado River back to Moab. It takes about 3 hours to complete this drive. The narrow winding road while suitable for passenger cars is not suitable for large RVs. The La Sals are the most photographed mountain range in Utah, providing a dramatic background to the red rock mesas, buttes, and arches below.

Best Scenic Road Trips in the Southeast

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia: Colonial Parkway

The Colonial Parkway, a scenic roadway that spans 23 miles serves as a time machine transporting visitors to the colonial era of Virginia. Connecting three significant historic sites, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, this picturesque drive offers a glimpse into the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. The Colonial Parkway winds along the Virginia Peninsula linking three pivotal sites in American history. This well-preserved roadway takes travelers on a journey through time, immersing them in the story of America’s colonial beginnings. With its carefully designed architecture, stunning views of the James River, and access to iconic landmarks, the Colonial Parkway provides a unique opportunity to explore Virginia’s colonial heritage and gain a deeper understanding of the nation’s roots.

Jim Beam American Stillhouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky: Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway

Here’s a must-do for every American history buff. Explore the land of Honest Abe’s youth as well as several significant Civil War sites. Learn what Lincoln’s log cabin life was really like at the Lincoln Museum in Hodgenville, Kentucky; then visit Lincoln’s birthplace and the original Lincoln Memorial at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park. If you’re so inclined, you can pair these educational adventures with a stop or two at one of the many breweries and distilleries the area is famous for such as Jim Beam’s American Stillhouse.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana: Creole Nature Trail

One place in Southwest Louisiana that never ceases to amaze is the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-miles-long scenic byway where natural wonderlands abound. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s Last Great Wildernesses. The Creole Nature Trail features four wildlife refuges, three national and one state: Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, and Rockefeller Refuge While there are five entrances to the Creole Nature Trail, the most popular entrances are off I-10 in Sulphur (Exit 20) and just east of Lake Charles at Louisiana Highway 397 (Exit 36).

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tennessee: Newfound Gap Road

When you get on Newfound Gap, you won’t believe the wealth of overlooks, picnic areas, and trails to explore. Take this spectacular road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park to experience the pristine wilderness that drives millions of Americans to this wildly popular park year after year. The views get more and more breathtaking, putting a lifetime’s worth of astonishing natural eye candy into a couple gallons of driving.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Carolina and Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway

A meandering road snaking for 469 miles along the crest of Blue Ridge Mountains from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides access to more than 100 trailheads and over 300 miles of trails. It passes through a range of habitats that support more plant species than any other park in the country: over 4,000 species of plants, 2,000 kinds of fungi, 500 types of mosses and lichens, and the most varieties of salamanders anywhere in the world.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia: Skyline Drive

This stunning drive runs a length of 105 miles north and south through Shenandoah National Park along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Despite its lower latitude, in the winter driving conditions can be rather sketchy, with its altitude bringing in more snow, ice, and cold.

In the summer this ice gives way to views of green rising high out of the Shenandoah Valley. While driving through the elevated winding road, you’ll feel tucked away in the green forest at the top of the ridge and then be rewarded with expansive views of the valley far below at the many scenic viewpoints along the road. In the fall and winter, though, you’ll see even less crowds and even better colors.

Bayou Teche © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana: Bayou Teche Byway

For a road trip that boasts both scenery and history, this is the perfect route. From its southernmost point in Morgan City to its northern end in Arnaudville, the byway crosses beautiful marshes and fields of sugar cane connecting small towns with well-preserved historic districts. Cafés and dance halls serve up Cajun and zydeco music along with boiled crawfish and étouffée.

Road trip planning

Road trips take a little planning. Here are a few tips that will help make your scenic road trip a success:

Worth Pondering…

The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot

30 Tips for Making the Most of Your National Park Trip

Tips for making your next trip to a national park even more amazing

Mountains, seashores, grasslands, wetlands, coral reefs, and glaciers.

With sweeping vistas, stunning wildlife, and rugged landscapes, America’s national parks are truly a collection of national wonders. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or are a regular at the country’s national parks, planning ahead is the best way to ensure your trip goes off without a hitch.

Following are 30 ways to ensure that your trip to a U.S. national park is great from planning your route in advance to making sure you bring the right supplies and why it’s really important to pay attention to those safety rules. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Choose a time to visit that’s best for your park and travel style

First and foremost, make sure that the park you choose is open at the time of year that you’d like to visit. Several national parks are located in regions that can be dangerous, inaccessible, or uncomfortable if you select the wrong time. For example, you may not want to experience Death Valley National Park—the driest, hottest and lowest national park—in the heat of summer. Some parks such as Lassen Volcanic National Park are completely snowed in and unavailable in the winter.

2. Find out if the park you want to visit requires reservations

During peak seasons, many parks require timed-entry reservations that can be made in advance on each park’s website. You may not need to make that reservation in advance but checking before your trip is a good way to avoid disappointment at the gates. 

Camping in Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. …especially if you want to go camping

Because many parks have limited camping space, reservations fill up quickly especially on major holiday weekends. It’s best to start checking at least a few months in advance for camping sites and though a last-minute spot might open up, don’t count on getting lucky at many of the busiest parks.  

4. Research the best hikes

National parks offer some of the country’s best hiking opportunities and websites like AllTrails can help you find hikes that suit your abilities and sightseeing wishes. By planning your hikes in advance, you’ll be able to strategize and maximize your time in the park. For more on hiking in national parks check out these articles:

Scenic drive in Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. …and don’t forget about the scenic drives

If hiking’s not your thing, don’t let that keep you from checking out the country’s incredible national parks. Almost all the parks offer scenic drives, many of which will get you up close and personal with nature without requiring a long trek. These scenic drives make an ideal start:

6. Consider traveling during shoulder season to beat the crowds

During the busy season, crowded parking lots and so many tourists can put a damper on your enjoyment of the outdoors. Consider planning your trip during shoulder season or just before or after the busiest times for the park you’d like to visit. A quick Google search will reveal when the park is busiest and also let you know about any weather conditions that may result in closures or other limitations on your visit to the park. 

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Prepare yourself for the elements

Hiking even short trails at national parks requires the right equipment and weather conditions can change rapidly depending on the climate. Make sure you’ve got good shoes, essentials like a rain jacket and sunscreen, and a first-aid kit in the event of any mishaps. 

8. Bring plenty of snacks and water

Most national parks don’t boast a ton of services like restaurants which means that you’ll need to bring your own (healthy) snacks. Water is especially important, especially if you plan to hike — plan on bringing about 1 gallon per person even if you’re just going on short walks, and more if you have more strenuous activities in mind. 

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. …and don’t forget to pack out all your trash

Leave no trace is an essential principle of being outdoors responsibly and that means getting rid of all your trash—all of it! Pack a trash bag in the car and toss your waste in only approved containers. Don’t toss out food scraps, either. They may be a detriment to the animals that live in the park. 

10. Be respectful of wild animals and keep your distance

The animals you encounter in national parks are wild; they’re living in their natural habitats and they behave accordingly. Respect the full-time inhabitants in the parks. Don’t attempt to touch them or point a selfie stick at them. Don’t chase them and stay the recommended number of feet away from them. Even though they’re cute or really majestic, never touch a wild animal, no matter how small or docile it seems. Wild animals are wild and contact with humans can endanger their lives — and the lives of the human.

11. …and take good care of the land you’re visiting

National parks are protected sites and the rules exist for a reason. Stay only on marked trails, don’t take rocks or other souvenirs from the ground, and never carve into any trees or rock formations. 

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Consider buying an annual park pass to save money

If you’re planning to visit multiple national parks this year, consider investing in an annual park pass. Costing around $80 per year, these passes provide access to all parks managed by the National Park Service (NPS) along with parks managed by other agencies, and are a real bargain considering that many can cost upwards of $20 per visit. 

13. Check to see if you qualify for any national park discounts

Veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and some students are eligible for discounted national park passes, some of which are good for a lifetime. Check out the NPS website for details on these discounts. 

14. Don’t forget to fill up your gas tank before beginning the drive

As with snacks, gas stations aren’t always abundant near national parks and you’re probably going to do a ton of driving. Fill up the tank before you head out and make sure to keep an eye on the gas gauge throughout your trip. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Know your limits in the outdoors and operate within them

The beautiful scenery of many national parks can also mean some pretty rugged, unforgiving terrain. If you’re not an experienced hiker, make sure to stick to shorter, safer treks, and don’t forget to bring plenty of water and a wide-brimmed hat. Don’t take unnecessary or stupid risks. And don’t expect to rely on your devices if you get into trouble; in some national parks, cell and data service is negligible. Know your limits and stay within them, especially with children.

16. …and follow all the safety guidelines

In national parks, the rules are there to both preserve the gorgeous landscapes and also keep you alive. In addition to avoiding fines and other penalties, closely following all posted safety guidelines will also prevent you from ending up in a seriously dangerous situation. 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Don’t expect great cell phone service

Thanks to the remote nature of most national parks, cell phone service can be sketchy, especially at high altitudes or in really rural areas. Make sure to download offline maps from your favorite navigation app, or make use of the paper maps provided at most ranger stations. 

18. Travel the right time of the year

Whether you’re looking for great fall foliage or a warm trip in the summer, choosing the right time of year at your park is essential. Going too early (or late) can mean road and trail closures so make sure to do your research in advance. 

19. Check in with park rangers when you first arrive

Stop at the visitor center when you first arrive. Often, you’ll find interesting exhibits and artifacts that will help you learn more about the land you’re visiting. The park rangers there will have current insider information that you’ll need such as which hiking trails, roads, and areas of the park are closed and what special ranger programs are being offered during your stay. Park rangers can also help you figure out what hidden trails to try or the best place to watch the sunset (or sunrise). Consider a ranger-led hike or nature talk. While there, pick up any needed guidebooks and maps.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Practice trail etiquette

Stay on designated trails. By doing so, you’ll help prevent erosion and damage to vegetation. Do not litter, pick flowers, or use the outdoors as your personal gift shop. Be aware of your surroundings and make room for quickly approaching groups, fast-paced cyclists, or horseback riders. Take a moment to move to the side and politely let them pass.

 21. Stay at a national park lodge

If you really want to immerse yourself in a national park, consider staying on property. Many parks offer hotels and other lodging and of course camping is an option. Being in grand old lodges literally surrounds you with park history. An added benefit is that you have the early mornings and late evenings in the park. There’s nothing like waking up and seeing the Grand Canyon or Zion Canyon right in front of you.

22. Camp for at least one night—or several

The ultimate thing to do when visiting a national park is to camp under the stars. By unplugging, you’re forced to be present, you more easily connect with nature, and you engage with other people more fully. But, do plan in advance and book a site early.

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

23. Tend to campfires and cooking stoves with the utmost care 

In 2013, a hunter’s illegal fire got out of control in the Stanislaus National Forest in California. For nine weeks, this Rim Fire burned the backcountry areas of Yosemite National Park consuming 257,314 acres. In 2018, Yosemite National Park closed for the first time since 1990 due to the nearby Ferguson Fire which burned 96,901 acres. In that same year, the Howe Ridge Fire, ignited by a thunderstorm, burned more than 12,000 acres of Glacier National Park. Read more on wildfire safety.

24. Have a mission in mind…

When in nature, there’s a lot to be said for being spontaneous and making discoveries by chance rather than overscheduling yourself. But when you show up at a national park and don’t have any idea about what you want to do, you might end up not doing much. On the other hand, making a list of everything you want to do in a sprawling national park can be overwhelming and cause you to become overly concerned with time allotments. So, go with at least one mission in mind to accomplish on your trip.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. … But don’t forget there are wonders—and place to wander—away from the famous sites 

Rather than sticking to the most popular sites, go out a bit and hit the trails (or water), particularly those routes that are longer than three miles. They may not be listed as the park’s top must-see locations but they’re almost guaranteed to be just as spectacular, yet apart from the crowds.

26. Journal every day

Make sure to record your memories in a journal each day so you don’t forget the good times—and the bad. They’re all part of your experience and your story. Journaling is also a great way of releasing any anxiety or stress.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

27. Go with a good attitude

Remember that the national parks belong to all of us. Its part of their appeal and what makes them so special. Undoubtedly, there will be times when the places you’re visiting will get uncomfortably crowded. Meet those challenges with a smile. It’s important to remember our joint venture in these places and play well with others.

28. Passport to your national parks

A National Parks Passport is a really fun memento and a great way to mark each park you’ve visited. You pay $10 for the passport and each park will have a stamp you can put in your book. You can look back and see the exact date you visited different places.

29. Share your experience

If it’s possible, take a family member or a friend along with you on your adventure; there’s no better way to share your experience.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

30. Leave the park better than you found it

My final piece of advice is to leave the park better than you found it. This also means knowing and committing to the National Park Service’s Leave No Trace principles. They range from minimizing campfire impacts to disposing of waste properly. By being a good steward of these national treasures, those who come after us can continue to enjoy them as we do now.

In my opinion, visiting just one national park is almost impossible. They quickly become addictive.

Worth Pondering…

I encourage everybody to hop on Google and type in national park in whatever state they live in and see the beauty that lies in their own backyard. It’s that simple.

—Jordan Fisher, American actor and musician

All about Canada, Eh?

Planning an RV trip to the Great White North

The second largest country in the world, Canada has plenty to be proud of: beautiful natural parks, a rich and diverse culture and heritage, a coastline spanning three oceans, Old World charm, and New World ideas, hockey.

Yes, that’s right! In today’s post I shine the spotlight on Canada. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help you plan your next trip to the second-largest country in the world. With its sprawling wilderness and endless beauty, you would be hard-pressed to not enjoy your stay.

So, as the clicks add up while you’re heading to The Peg (Winnipeg) or wherever your plans take you, be sure to treat yourself to a Timmies Double Double and some Timbits from Tim Hortons.

Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Crossing the Border

What awaits you at the Canada-United States border? If you’re thinking of taking an RV trip from one country to the other, make sure you hone up on current border crossing requirements. Know the rules for each country including similarities and differences to experience a smooth, hassle-free crossing. 

Having correct documentation is the key. To drive across the border, you’ll have to present identification to border-crossing officials. Acceptable forms of ID include a passport, a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, or an enhanced driver’s license. American citizens entering Canada also may use paperwork that shows proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate. For Canadian citizens crossing the border into the United States, a birth certificate is acceptable identification only for children under 16. Each passenger in your vehicle needs appropriate identification.

Have copies of the registration and insurance information for each of your vehicles as well. Bring proof of up-to-date rabies vaccinations for your dogs and cats on board. As for COVID-19 requirements, Canada has removed their rules for those arriving from the United States has done the same. 

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

What can I bring? When entering the United States, you’re required to disclose the following items to border-crossing officials: firearms, fruits and vegetables, plants and cut flowers, meat and animal products, and live animals. Numerous foods are restricted or prohibited such as most fruits and vegetables (unless commercially canned) and many milk/dairy and poultry/egg products. Canada also maintains a list of restricted/prohibited food items. Both countries prohibit bringing in firewood as well as soil (make sure any camping equipment is free of soil and pests). Most Canadian provinces and territories prohibit radar detectors also. According to Ezbordercrossing.com, both countries have strict firearms protocols.

At the border, open the windows in your RV so the interior is visible. Remove your sunglasses. Turn off phones and the radio. Clearly and courteously communicate your reasons for travel, travel dates, and destinations to border officials.  

Declare all money or currency equal to or over CAN$10,000. It is not illegal to bring such amounts into Canada but you must declare it on arrival.

Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Exploring Canada

The Great White North offers so much to see and do. Canada is full of national parks, lakes, mountain ranges, coastal views, and great camping locations. Here’s a sampling of sites worth seeing.

Banff is Canada’s most famous national park and the oldest national park in the country. Banff was designated as a national park in 1885 after the discovery of its hot springs by employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Located in Alberta just 1 hour and 30 minutes west of Calgary, Banff national park is nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

RVs in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

There is a reason everyone flocks to Banff. With snowcapped mountains, glacier lakes, and world-class four-season activities, it’s Canada’s outdoor playground. Banff National Park is so beautiful that one of its most famous lakes, Moraine Lake was depicted on Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.

Another location is Jasper National Park in Alberta, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and the second-largest dark-sky preserve in the world. An extensive network of trails provides views of its abundant wildlife.

Icefields Parkway, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Driving along the Icefields Parkway, you will be able to see parts of the Columbia Icefields—the biggest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. It feeds six large glaciers and covers 125 square miles. Athabasca Glacier is one of the six and it is the most visited glacier in North America due to ease of access. The Icefield Interpretive Centre and paid tours are nearby and definitely recommended as a stop on your road trip.

Vaseaux Lake, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Folks who love wineries, beaches, and bird-watching may gravitate to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The region receives less than 12 inches of rain and two inches of snow annually and is the hottest and driest place in Canada. On the horizon are mountains of green foliage, aqua blue lakes, and, in the distance, rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

In central British Columbia, Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

In Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park features a unique mountain landscape that resembles a massive gorge. The park which was forged by colliding continents and grinding glaciers will surely take your breath away.

You can’t visit Newfoundland without a stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland’s charming capital city filled with windswept hikes, delicious eats, charming landmarks, whale watching, and iceberg hunting, yes, iceberg hunting! 

Long drives in Nova Scotia are definitely desired more than they are dreaded. One of the most scenic routes in Canada is Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail; this 185 mile (298 km) highway runs along the Cape Breton coast line. Stop at the famous Ingonish Beach where you can jump from ocean saltwater to fresh lake water with just a few steps.

Do this drive in the fall and you will be stunned by the natural beauty of the fall trees and the coastal views along the way. If you’re looking for stop along the drive, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Cape Breton. Hike or camp at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, play a round of golf at Highlands Links, peruse artisan shops along the trail, or book your spot on a sea kayaking, cycling, or whale watching tour.

Penticton in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

With its breathtaking northern coastline, beautiful red sand, and incredible seafood cuisine, it’s no surprise that Prince Edward Island is a popular maritime destination. Dip your toes in the ocean at Cavendish beach, one of P.E.I’s major summertime destinations.

Here you can also visit the famous green-roofed farmhouse and find the Anne of Green Gables Historic site. Golf lovers can enjoy the coastal view while playing a round of Golf at the Green Gables Golf Course. For a scenic drive, Points East Coastal Drive explores the eastern end of the island where beautiful beaches, rare dune systems, and lighthouses mark the coastline.

Fort Assiniboine National Historic Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Quebec City has a special feature that makes it unique in Canada (and the U.S., for that matter): it has walls. Quebec City is the only city north of Mexico that still has fortified walls. First the French and later the English built up Quebec City’s fortifications between the 17th and the 19th centuries.

Quebec’s entire historic district including the ramparts has since been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can also tour the Citadelle de Quebec which is the largest active military fortress in Canada. Don’t miss visiting the iconic Chateau Frontenac, also a national historic site.

Niagara Falls is made up of three falls with Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three on the Canadian side. Enjoy clear views of Horseshoe Falls and stay past sundown for a chance to see the falls illuminated any night of the year. During the summer and early winter staying past sundown will see you treated to a fireworks show.

Don’t leave the Niagara region without visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake. Begin exploring this famous wine region with the gorgeous scenic drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Summer is peak season but fall harvest season and January’s Icewine Festival can also be great times to visit.

Black Hills, an Okanagan Valley winery, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Manitoba is known for its golden prairies, magic skies, and hundreds of thousands of lakes. Asessippi Provincial Park offers camping facilities, trails for hiking and snowmobiling, boating, swimming and water sports on the lake, and some of the best walleye fishing in the province, all accompanied by breathtaking views.

Elk in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Saskatchewan is home to two national parks that are very different from one another: Prince Albert National Park in the northern boreal forest and Grasslands National Park in the prairie grassland natural region. The two national parks are perfect examples of the provinces varied landscape. Just over six hours separating the two parks it is the perfect way to see a wide variety of what Saskatchewan has to offer while visiting this prairie province.

The year is still young. Consider a trip to the Great White North in 2023!

Worth Pondering…
My truck tore across Montana
Ian Tyson sang a lonesome lullaby
And so I cranked up the radio
Cause there’s just a little more to go
For I’d cross the border at that Sweet Grass sign
I’m Alberta Bound.

—Lyrics and recording by Alberta born Country Music singer, Paul Brandt, 2004

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Next RV Road Trip

A helpful guide for planning an affordable RV trip including budgeting techniques, free places to camp, and useful travel discounts

Going on an RV trip doesn’t have to mean big spending or months of saving. With a little bit of research, careful planning, and some simple techniques, you’ll quickly realize just how affordable an RV trip can be.

Rental RVs at Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Advice for non-RV owners

For many non-RV owners, the cost associated with renting an RV for a trip might seem sky high. And while it’s true that renting an RV can sometimes be more expensive than booking a hotel room, there are actually more opportunities to save with an RV.

You have the ability to cook all meals which greatly reduces the amount of money you have to spend on food. You can pack extra gear (bikes, kayaks, canoes, surfboards) and eliminate the need to rent these items elsewhere.

If you’re traveling with a family or large group, it might be tough to squeeze everyone into one hotel room (most standard hotel rooms can accommodate four people). And some hotels don’t even allow pets or charge an extra pet fee. But with a wide variety of RV sizes and layouts to choose from you’re likely to find one that fits your whole crew—dog included—without having to pay double.

Class A motorhome and toad at a rest area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Before you hit the road

While most people think of food, fuel, and campground costs when putting together a travel budget, one factor that is often forgotten—but is still extremely important—is maintenance. Taking good care of your RV goes a long way in preventing major, costly repairs.

Just like a car, your RV’s oil should be changed regularly and the tires inspected daily. If something in your rig needs fixing, do it sooner rather than later. Letting a problem sit for too long can end up costing you more in the long run.

Double-check that your insurance and roadside assistance plans cover not only your tow vehicle/toad but also your RV. There’s nothing worse than breaking down and finding out that your insurance won’t pay to tow your rig to a repair facility.

Fall colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Plan around peak travel times

When considering prospective destinations, take note of the peak travel seasons and accessibility—for example, fall foliage in New England or holiday weekends at national parks. Peak seasons will not only impact reservations and campgrounds rates but fuel and grocery prices as well which can vary based on demand and time of year. Tours and entry fees may also fluctuate by season, day of week, or even time of day.

To help save money, when possible travel during shoulder seasons (commonly early spring and late fall) and visit the most popular destinations on weekdays or during slower hours. If you’re thinking about taking a longer trip—a few weeks or even a few months—consider staying in one place for more than a few days. Most RV parks and campgrounds offer weekly and monthly rates which will reduce your per night cost. Minimizing your driving time and staying put can help keep the cost of fuel down as well.

Newfound Gap Road, an RV-friendly route through Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Be mindful of fuel prices

When deciding which route to take, try to use an online fuel calculator to help budget. 

Once your RV-friendly route is set, search for fuel stations along the way and compare prices. Even if the difference is only a few cents per gallon, the cost can add up quickly when you’re averaging 8 to 10 miles per gallon. Try to fill up well in advance of national parks and other popular tourist destinations, top off your tank before you hit a stretch of road with limited fuel stations (these have a tendency to be more expensive), and keep any border crossings in mind. Fuel prices vary by state based on taxes, types of fuel, and other variables like real estate.

Boondocking along Utah Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Venture off the beaten path

Humans are programmed to do what is familiar and popular, including visiting well-known tourist destinations. However, with a little extra research you can often find a similar view, a little-visited roadside attraction, a self-guided tour, or an alternative hike without the added crowds or cost.

Also, keep in mind is that not every night has to be spent at a five-star luxury RV resort. While you may want to budget for one or two nights at a more upscale place, your other nights could be budget camping or boondocking on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. 

To prevent trespassing or illegal overnight stays, always read posted signs and generally don’t stay longer than 14 days. 

6. Pack for various situations

Always check the forecast before you leave including average temperatures and storm seasons. Being prepared for various weather conditions will prevent unnecessary shopping trips for warmer clothes, rain gear, or alternative footwear. Travel with an umbrella, a rain jacket, waterproof pants, and warm layers just in case. Other essentials include a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, bug spray, and extra batteries as these tend to be more expensive at travel plazas and RV parks.

Driving Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Plan inexpensive driving routes

You’re always going to spend money on a road trip but the route you take heavily influences how much you spend on things like fuel and overnight stays. For example, the highest fuel prices are in Washington and California. You still want to find pleasant campsites with electrical, sewage, and water access, if possible, but compare prices to locate the cheapest campsite in each area.

Other considerations you should have when planning an RV route include:

  • Points of interest along the route
  • Cheap gas station/truck stops availability
  • Avoiding areas of congestion and toll roads

When researching your route and destinations, look into various pass options for state and national parks. Figure out how often you will visit to determine whether paying for each entry is cheaper or purchasing a multi-visit pass, such as America the Beautiful.

8. Cook in the RV

An RV is a home on wheels which means you can limit the cost associated with restaurants by cooking your own food. However, if you do want to eat at a local restaurant, consider eating there for lunch instead of dinner—lunch menus allow you to experience the regional food without paying the premium pricing.

Include some healthy road trip snacks and beverages. This will prevent you from pulling over to buy higher-priced, less-nutritious gas station treats. Additionally, food prices will vary by location. Produce, meat, and dairy are almost always more expensive in remote areas and can be harder to find, so stock up before you go.

Make use of campground grills and enjoy the ever-changing scenery with home-cooked meals. A small crockpot or slow cooker can be another great time and money saver when it comes to food on the go.

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

9. Keep your tires properly inflated

It may not be something that you associate with saving money but keeping the tires on your RV properly inflated will not only make it easier to drive and handle but it will save you money over the cost of the trip on fuel, as well. The U.S. Department of Energy states that for every 1-psi drop in tire pressure, you can expect your gas mileage to lower by 0.4 percent. This can certainly add up over a lengthy trip, so take the extra time to make sure your tires are properly inflated.

RVers should give a visual inspection of their tires before every travel day and at each stop along the way. But that’s not all! It may seem tedious but you should also check your RV tire pressure before you hit the road—every time!

Tucson/Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Consider a membership

There are many different RV clubs and other types of travel memberships including Good Sam and Passport America. One of the biggest benefits of joining is the discounted camping rates. Some other cost-saving perks include promotions at RV retail stores, fuel savings, propane discounts, and free dump station privileges. Other memberships to consider include Thousand Trails, Escapees, Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, and KOA (Kampgrounds of America).

If you and your family enjoy visiting museums, botanical gardens, plantariums, and science centers, consider a membership. Reciprocal museum memberships allow you to visit other participating museums which grant free or heavily discounted entry to members.

Worth Pondering…

Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think.

—Lawrence Durrell

The Best National Parks to Visit in August

Wondering where to travel in August? Why not opt for a nature getaway and visit one of America’s National Parks in August!

The national parks are a treasure—beautiful, wild, and full of wonders to see. But there’s more to experience than taking in gorgeous scenery from your vehicle or lookout points. National parks are natural playgrounds, full of possible adventures.

The most famous offerings of the National Park Service (NPS) are the 63 national parks including ArchesGreat Smoky Mountains, and Grand Canyon. But there are 424 NPS units across the country that also includes national monuments, national seashoresnational recreation areas, national battlefields, and national memorials. These sites are outside the main focus of this guide.

Planning a trip to the US national parks in August and don’t know which ones to visit? August is a busy time to visit the national parks but crowd levels aren’t quite at their peak (that typically happens in July for many parks).

In this guide, I cover five great parks to visit plus four bonus parks.

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

About this National Park series

This article is part of a series about the best national parks to visit each month. In this series, every national park is listed at least once and many are listed multiple times. It is a series of 12 articles, one for each month of the year.

These articles take into account weather, crowd levels, the best time to go hiking, special events, road closures, and my personal experiences in the parks. Based on these factors, I picked out what I think are the optimal times to visit each park. Since I haven’t been to all of the national parks I include only the parks we have visited on at lease one occasion.

For an overview of the best time to visit each national park, check out my Best National Parks by Season guide. This guide will cover the best time to visit each national park based on these factors. First are the links to my posts about the best parks to visit, month-by-month. This is followed by a list that illustrates the best time to visit each national park based on weather and crowd levels. Please note this overview will be posted following the completion of this 12 month guide in February 2024.

And at the end of this article, I have links to the other guides in my Best National Parks by Month series.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visiting the National Parks in August

Like July, August is a very busy time to visit the US national parks. The combination of great weather and summer vacations makes August one of the most popular times of the year for travel in the US. Fortunately, in many places, crowd levels aren’t quite as large as they were in July. And the later in August you go, the quieter the parks will be.

If you only have the summer to plan a trip to the national parks either because of your children’s school schedule or your own work schedule, June and August tend to be quieter than July. There are some exceptions to this rule but in general you’re better off waiting until August and even the end of August for lower crowds in the parks.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The information I provide for each national park does not include temporary road closures, since these dates are constantly changing. Roads can close in the national parks at any time, so I recommend getting updates on the National Park Service website while planning your trip. 

Best National Parks in August

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Location: New Mexico

An underground fantasy land of limestone chambers, stalactites and stalagmites, and long, twisting tunnels is located in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico.

From late May through October you can watch the Bat Flight program. At the Bat Flight Amphitheater, grab a seat and watch as the bats emerge by the thousands from the natural entrance of the cave. The best time to see the bats is in August and September when the baby bats join the show. The Bat Flight Program takes place every evening and it is weather dependent.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why visit Carlsbad Caverns in August: To watch the Bat Flight Program when bats emerge by the thousands from the natural entrance of the cave.

Weather: In August, the average high is 90°F and the average low is 66°F. August is one of the wettest months of the year with 2 inches of rainfall. The average temperature throughout the cave is 68°F and the relative humidity remains close to a constant 100 percent.

Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:20 am and sunset is at 7:40 pm.

Top experiences: Tour the caverns on your own or on a ranger-guided tour. You can also go star gazing, hike a surface trail, or go on a scenic drive. 

How much time do you need? A half to a full day is all you need to explore the caverns on your own and/or take a ranger-guided tour.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your visit

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

2 & 3. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Location: California

Kings Canyon preserves Grant Grove which is home to General Grant, the second largest tree in the world and Kings Canyon which is a glacially carved valley.

Sitting right beside Kings Canyon is Sequoia National Park. It is here that you will walk among towering sequoia trees and see the largest tree in the world, the General Sherman.

These two national parks can be visited together in two busy but memorable days. It’s a great add-on to a California road trip.

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

Why visit Kings Canyon & Sequoia in August: The weather is fantastic and this park makes a great addition to a California road trip. Summer is a busy time to visit these two parks but August typically gets fewer visitors than July. 

Weather: The average high is 80°F and the average low is 53°F. Rainfall is very low.

Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is 6:15 am and sunset is 7:45 pm.

Top experiences: Visit Grant Grove and drive the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, visit Zumwalt Meadows, see the General Sherman Tree, hike Moro Rock, and visit Crescent Meadows.

Ultimate experience: Explore the backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park. 77 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail runs through Kings Canyon National Park making this a top backpacking destination in the US.

How many days do you need? To see the highlights of both parks, two day is all you need but to explore further add a couple more.

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

Plan your visit

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Location: California

This national park protects Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. In Lassen Volcanic, you’ll see steaming fumaroles, pretty lakes, colorful landscapes, and Lassen Peak.

Why visit Lassen Volcanic in August: The weather is great for hiking and crowds are a bit lower than those in July.

Weather: In July, the average high is 85°F and the average low is 40°F. Rainfall is low.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:15 am and sunset is at 8 pm.

Top experiences: Walk Bumpass Hell Trail (isn’t that the best name for a hiking trail?), capture the reflection of Lassen Peak in Manzanita Lake, go for a scenic drive on Lassen Park Highway, visit Kings Creek Falls and Mill Creek Falls, visit Devils Kitchen, and hike to the top of Lassen Peak.

Ultimate adventure: Hike to the summit of Brokeoff Mountain for panoramic views of the park. Note, this hike is best attempted in late summer to early fall when the trail is free of snow.

How many days do you need? One day is just enough time to see the highlights but plan on spending two to three days here to hike several more trails and thoroughly explore the park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your visit

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Location: North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a picturesque wilderness of grasslands and badlands. Bison, feral horses, pronghorns, and elk roam the landscapes, hiking trails meander through the colorful bentonite hills, and scenic roads take visitors to numerous stunning overlooks.

This national park is made up of three separate units: the South Unit, the North Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. Of the three, the South Unit is the more popular. In the North Unit, the views of the badlands are beautiful, there are several short, fun trails to hike, and there is a very good chance you will spot bison and other wildlife right from your car.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why visit Theodore Roosevelt in August: For those seeking out a little solitude in nature, the somewhat out of the way location of Theodore Roosevelt National Park can be a blessing in disguise. While many national parks are battling traffic congestion and parking problems during the peak summer season, you may see more bison than people during your time at this amazing national park. While summer is the busiest time at the park, though by national park standards, it’s still not very busy. 

Weather: Summer also brings the warmest weather with high temperatures averaging in the 80s, and sometimes into the 90s. Rainfall is relatively low with about 2 inches of rain falling in August.

Sunrise & sunset (South Unit): Sunrise is at 5 am and sunset is at 8:50 pm. The South Unit is in the Mountain Time Zone and the North Unit is in the Central Time Zone.

Top experiences: Hike the Caprock Coulee Trail, enjoy the view from Sperati Point and the Wind Canyon Trail, drive the Scenic Drive in both units, visit the Petrified Forest, hike the Ekblom and Big Plateau Loop, and visit River Bend Overlook.

How many days do you need? If you want to explore both the North and South Units, you will need at least two days in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (one day for each unit).

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your visit

Bonus! 4 NPS sites to visit in August

Volcanic
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

National park-like amenities tell the story of America’s most infamous active volcano. Gorgeous wildflower-packed views of the volcano can be enjoyed in spots like Bear Meadows while those seeking a closer view of the crater rim may drive to the Windy Ridge viewpoint or even summit the rim of the 8,365-foot volcano with a permit.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Breaks National Monument

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking this is Bryce Canyon National Park. It looks almost identical to its more famous national park cousin which is located about an hour to the east. Yet with less than a quarter of the annual visitation of Bryce, this small but mighty national monument makes a worthy alternative for those seeking color-packed canyon views stretching across three miles at an elevation of around 10,000 feet.

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

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Encompassing over 1.25 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area stretches for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah. Outdoor activities are what Glen Canyon is all about. There is something for everyone’s taste. 

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Four of the five surviving Spanish colonial missions in and around San Antonio comprise the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The park and its missions offer visitors a look at the oldest unrestored stone church in the country—Mission Concepción, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada.

More Information about the National Parks

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best National Parks to visit by month

January: Best National Parks to Visit in January
February: Best National Parks to Visit in February
March: Best National Parks to Visit in March
April: Best National Parks to Visit in April
May: Best National Parks to Visit in May
June: Best National Parks to Visit in June
July: Best National Parks to Visit in July
August: Best National Parks to Visit in August
September: Best National Parks to Visit in September
October: Best National Parks to Visit in October
November: Best National Parks to Visit in November
December: Best National Parks to Visit in December

Worth Pondering…

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

—John Lubbock