Guide to 4 of Arizona’s Greenest Places

Four of the greenest spaces in Arizona

Sure, Arizona is home to more than 60 desert cactus species. But it also boasts six national forests, dozens of tranquil lakes, and 4.5 million acres of unspoiled wilderness areas. Here’s your guide to Arizona’s most verdant regions.

Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best way to explore: hike and picnic

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Madera Canyon is a north-facing valley in the Santa Rita Mountains with riparian woodland along an intermittent stream, bordered by mesquite, juniper-oak woodlands, and pine forests. With lofty mountain peaks, forested slopes, seasonal streams, and an amazing variety of plants and wildlife, Madera Canyon has become a popular recreational destination.

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Madera Canyon is known for exceptional and varied hiking trails that vary from paved, handicap-accessible trails and gentle walking paths in the lower canyon, to steep, expert trails leading to the top of 9,453-foot Mt. Wrightson. The creekside trail that begins at Whitehouse Picnic Area is fantastic for spotting birds—more than 250 species have been documented in the canyon.

Prescott National Forest

Thumb Butte Trail, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best way to explore: hike and canoe

Lynx Lake Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you drive picturesque State Route 89 through Prescott National Forest, any preconceived notions of Arizona as a vast desert will vanish. As the elevation increases, stands of desert chaparral give way to dense pine forests sprawling in every direction.

Lynx Lake, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Prescott National Forest is filled with special places including Lynx Lake and Thumb Butte.

On the edge of the forest sits Lynx Lake Recreation Area, a peaceful body of water ringed by trees. Located in the cool pines just outside of Prescott, Lynx Lake offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities including hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and picnicking.

Watson Lake and Granite Dells, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most distinguishing landmark in Prescott, Thumb Butte is famous for its towering ponderosa pines, picnic facilities, and access to world-class hiking trails. Interpretive signs orient visitors to the area’s flora and fauna, historical and cultural resources.

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best way to explore: ride the tram and hike

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the northeast edge of Tucson, Sabino Canyon offers a variety of terrain including soaring mountains and deep canyons. Tram routes provide access to Sabino and Bear canyons. Along the Sabino route riders are free to get off at any of the nine shuttle stops, do a little birding, have a picnic, or spend time along one of the many pools and cascades that grace Sabino Creek.

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If riding the tram does not stir your sense of adventure, there are miles of hiking trails that wander throughout the area and lead deeper into the Santa Catalina backcountry. The wonders of the desert foothills and rocky gorges of the Santa Catalina Mountains are marvelous and accessible.

Verde River Greenway

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best way to explore: hike and bird watch

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Verde River Greenway State Natural Area sparkles and sings—sparkles with one of Arizona’s last free-flowing rivers and sings with its large population of nesting and migrating birds. More than 100 species of nesting and migrating song birds, raptors, and waterfowl have been sighted along the greenway, with additional sightings in adjoining Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to birds, the thick stands of cottonwoods and shrubs along the banks of the winding Verde River also support numerous animals with sightings of coyotes, raccoons, mule deer, and beavers.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

Bucket List RV Trips for 2020

Where to RV in 2020

The open road awaits but the time you have to travel it isn’t open-ended. Traveling the country in a recreational vehicle frees you from constraints, but it’s a bit of a bummer if you haven’t figured out where you want to go while you’re still healthy enough to get there.

We took a spin around the navigable portions of North America and found several spots worth adding to an RV bucket list. The destinations are worth the trip, but so are the paths you’ll take to get to them.

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly 280 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon and its national park are a wonderland of rim hiking, donkey riding, and whitewater rafting. Though the North Rim of the canyon is closed until mid-May, the South Rim is open all year and features Trailer Village, where RV sites start around $55.

The Grand Canyon Bonus

Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The opium dens, bordellos, and other landmarks of Williams’, rough-and-tumble past are long gone. But some kinder, gentler vestiges of this town’s Wild West era remain. And that’s fortunate for Grand Canyon-bound visitors seeking a fun, full-service spot as a base before and after a trip to the Canyon’s South Rim, 56 miles north.

Grand Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town of 3,000 residents, considered the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is also home to the Grand Canyon Railway, an excursion train that traverses the scenic, high-desert plateau between a historic depot and the Canyon. Make the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park your home base where sites start around $36 and walk to the adjacent depot.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You could simply drive Route 9 through this national park in Utah and get a tremendous view of the natural beauty around you. But if you want to trek the Zion and Kolob canyons, visit the Zion Human History Museum, hike Kolob Arch, or take in the mountains, stay a while. Granted, you could bounce around to Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument to the northeast or the Grand Canyon to the southeast, but there’s a lot to absorb here. Also, your RV would need a permit to get through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.

Zion National Park Bonus

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The South and Watchman campgrounds in the park itself have RV access, but only Watchman has electric hookups. Neither has sewer, water, or Wi-Fi, so if those things are important, you may want to consider a place such as the Zion River Resort, the highest rated RV park near Zion. It offers full-service sites with cable TV and wireless internet service starting at $37 a day. You also get access to a spa, a fully air-conditioned social hall, and a concierge.

The Canadian Rockies

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We really don’t want to make you choose between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Instead, if you have limited time to take this trip, drive your RV from Banff to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway. Though named for the Columbia Icefields, its views of the Rockies, the valleys, the wildlife, waterfalls, glacial-silt lakes, and Icefields Skywalk are well worth the trip.

The Canadian Rockies Bonus

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV parks such as the Hinton/Jasper KOA are an option for your stay, but the national parks themselves offer RV sites in Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. They start taking reservations in mid-January for the peak summer season, so it helps to plan well in advance especially if you desire a site with utilities.

Albuquerque

Rio Grande River at Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a lot more to do here than look at filming locations for “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” Nob Hill, the ABQ BioPark, and the 2.7-mile Sandia Peak Tramway just scratch the surface of this place’s natural beauty, and the Petroglyph National Monument and Cibola National Forest are easy to explore. With nearly two dozen RV parks to choose from, it’s also an ideal destination for your home on wheels.

Albuquerque Bonus

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s the best reason to come to Albuquerque in an RV? The Balloon Fiesta that puts hundreds of hot air balloons over the city. Not only can you park your RV right near the Fiesta site, but you can stay overnight for $40 to $250 and watch the balloons from right outside your front door. Take in the sites, smell the roasting chiles, and enjoy the festivities from your own accommodations. Just be prepared to stay the minimum three-night reservation.

Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot

The Absolute Best Places to RV This December

Embrace the magic this holiday season in a warm destination

As a whole, the month of December is a whirlwind. Even as the chaos of Thanksgiving weekend begins to fade, the world is already preparing for the end-of-year holiday season.

Balancing the frenzy of shopping and family time can be daunting, but those who manage to squeeze in time to get away, will find warm weather, seasonal festivals, and beautiful landscapes in which to cap off another great year of RV travel.

December marks your last chance to cash in on this year’s travel resolution before they reset in the New Year, so let the magic of the season take you to a place near or far in your RV.

Looking to make plans for RV travel in January, February, or March in the New Year? We’ve got you covered with those recommendations, too. And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in September, October, or November.

Rockport, Texas

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport is known as “The Charm of the Texas Coast” and for good reasons. A winter hamlet that is a relaxing getaway year-round, Rockport-Fulton is known for its signature trees, clusters of giant ancient oaks sculpted by the Gulf Coast winds.

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite its small town status there are plenty of things to do. There’s fishing, golfing, and nature trails. A few places to enjoy the wildlife are at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Connie Hagar Wildlife Sanctuary, and Goose Island State Park. The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the winter host for the largest flock of whooping cranes.

Nature Coast and Crystal River, Florida

Crystal River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fed by springs that flow at a constant 72 degrees, the Crystal and Homosassa rivers are winter havens for West Indian manatees. Between 400 and 700 of these endangered aquatic mammals—they have a population of about 4,480—call the rivers home from October through mid-April.

Manatee at Homosassa Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reservedManatee at Homosassa Springs

When the Gulf waters warm up in the spring, most of the manatees venture out to their coastal homes. Manatees are gentle creatures that enjoy interacting with humans. Even though only 30 to 40 manatees stay in nearby Kings Bay year-round, more than 20 companies in Crystal River and Homosassa offer swim-with-the-manatees tours.

Homosassa Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, you can see manatees without donning a wetsuit. The 210-acre park is a rehabilitation center for injured or orphaned manatees. A 45-foot-deep natural spring, headwaters of the Homosassa River, provides the perfect habitat for recovering manatees.

Manatee at Homosassa Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An underwater observatory allows close-up views of manatees and freshwater and saltwater fish attracted by the spring. The park is also a showcase for Florida’s native wildlife, such as alligators, wood storks, and pink flamingos.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly 800,000 acres of desert east of the Coachella Valley (think, Palm Springs), Joshua Tree National Park rewards visitors with a full range of peculiar treasures: spiky yuccas, spiny cacti, spindly ocotillos, gangly Joshua trees, and dramatic geological formations, including Jumbo Rocks.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you drive up Pinto Basin Road, past the Cholla Cactus Garden, you’ll cross the transition zone between two major desert ecosystems: The lower Colorado Desert merges into the higher Mojave Desert, and cholla cactus and ocotillos give way to Joshua trees.

Joshua Tree National Park from Keys View © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An even bigger wow can be had at Keys View. To the west, distant San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak—both topping 10,000 feet—scrape the sky. Looking south, you can spy the Salton Sea.

Catalina State Park, Arizona

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, one of the many gems in the Arizona State Park system, offers beautiful vistas of the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Catalina Mountains with riparian canyons, lush washes, and dense cactus forests. The environment at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers great camping, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home.

Brunswick and the Golden Isles, Georgia

The Golden Isles © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four of the beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to become an exclusive winter retreat, known as the Jekyll Island Club. Members included such notable figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall Field. Jekyll Island, with its cottage colony and clubhouse, was viewed as a little paradise, where members and guests pursued “a life of elegant leisure.” Today, the former Club grounds comprise a 240-acre site with 34 historic structures.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

—Henry David Thoreau

The Absolute Best Places to RV This November

The eleventh month of each year brings beautiful fall foliage, a pre-holiday calm, and tons of things to give thanks for—especially when it comes to RV travel

November may seem like an inconvenient time to vacation due to Thanksgiving at the end of the month, but there are benefits for RV travel during this shoulder season. Crowds at popular destinations are a thing of the past.

From cool fall breezes to pre-holiday calm, November offers plenty of reasons to give thanks while RVing.

Okenenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With these five November travel ideas, you’ll be plenty relaxed before all the holiday hoopla.

And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in August, September, or October.

Civil War Battlefield

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though all the survivors from the Civil War are now gone, it’s still a great way to honor veterans and learn some history at the same time. Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, is perhaps the epitome of Civil War battlefields. It was the largest, bloodiest battle of the Civil War with 50,000 casualties.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though the conflict took place more than 150 years ago, it’s still a powerful reminder of the sacrifice and strife that took place and that almost tore apart the nation.

Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Lake Okeechobee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sometimes referred to as Florida’s inland sea, Lake Okeechobee is central to a region of Florida historically known for its agriculture, but in recent times also equated with superior fishing, boating, and trails. Waterways on either side run into the “Big O,” as the lake is called, making it part of a152-mile boating passage way through the middle of the state known as the Okeechobee Waterway.

Sugar cane harvesting © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clewiston, on the 750 square-mile lake’s southern shore, has the most to offer travelers, especially those intent on hooking into the lake’s legendary largemouth bass and speckled perch. Fishing guides and resorts help out with that goal. Blue gills, Okeechobee catfish, and black crappies are other local catches.

Clewiston Inn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clewiston is also known as “America’s Sweetest Town,” so be sure to do the Sugarland Express tour of a local farm and mill (you even get to chew on some sugarcane) and a three-hour boat cruise that explains the lake’s historic and natural heritage.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On Jan. 17, 1781, the Americans won a decisive battle against the better-trained British Army. The battle was over in less than an hour. This victory gave the Patriots the moral support needed to continue fighting and win the Revolution just nine months later. Featured at the battlefield are a walking trail and marked road tour, picnic grounds, and a visitor center with exhibits, memorabilia, and a multi-image presentation.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The British sustained one of the worst disasters of their Southern campaign, and the Patriots finally defeated “Bloody” Tarleton. General Daniel Morgan displayed brilliant tactics in the disposition of his forces, making effective use of both militia and Continental troops to envelop and rout the British. Most of Tarleton’s army were killed or captured, and the rest fled. The Battle of Cowpens was the event which started Cornwallis on his road to Yorktown.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bosque del Apache stands out as one of the country’s most accessible and popular national wildlife preserves—for wildlife and human visitors alike—providing a seasonal home, November through March, for up to 12,000 sandhill cranes, 32,000 snow geese, and nearly 40,000 ducks.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many thousands of bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers from around the nation and beyond follow them here. And there’s no better time or way to appreciate all that the 57,000-acre refuge has to offer than attending the annual Festival of the Cranes, the week before Thanksgiving.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

Okenenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine a place where unusual creatures swim through mirror-top waters and exotic plants sprout from floating islands—a place where thousands of creatures serenade the setting of the sun each day.

Okenenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okefenokee offers so much, one could spend a lifetime and still not see and do everything. Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters, while cypress knees rise upward from the glass-like surface. Here, paddlers and photographers enjoy breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife.

Worth Pondering…

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.

—Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Absolute Best Places to RV This October

October is one of the absolute best months for RV travel

October is here and that means Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day weekend on the States side, trips to the countryside to enjoy the autumn leaves and spooky Halloween decorations, fall activities, and parties. Many campgrounds have amazing Halloween activities planned so if you’re looking for a unique experience, check out one of the parks to get your scare on!

Consider the following destinations where fewer crowds or special events make this the right time to go.

Here are five great places for RV travel in October 2019.

And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in July, August, and September. Also check out our recommendations from October 2018.

Crowley, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana

Louisianians can always find a reason to celebrate. Throughout the year, music, food, history, and holidays inspire more than 400 Louisiana festivals and events of all sizes occurring throughout the state and each one is an opportunity to #FeedYourSoul.

Home of Tabasco on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tamales are toasted in Zwolle each October when the Zwolle Tamale Fiesta celebrates the Spanish and Native Amerian heritage. Still hungry? Head to LaPlace for the Andouille Festival, Crowley for the Rice Festival, and Bridge City for the Gumbo Festival, all held in October.

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

Another hands-down favorite food item makes the festival roster at the NOLA Beignet Festival. Held early October, the Crescent City pays homage to the famous pillowy pastry while raising awareness for autism.

Ambrosia Bakery in Baton Rouge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another fall festival that celebrates Louisiana’s one-of-a-kind culture is the free, three-day Festivals Acadiens et Créoles in Lafayette’s Girard Park in mid-October. This is really three festivals in one, each celebrating a different aspect of Cajun and Creole culture.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask anyone to name Utah’s five National Parks, and odds are Capitol Reef is the one they forget among its arched-and-canyoned cousins. You should remember Capitol Reef for the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile wrinkle in the earth and a feature you won’t find elsewhere in the state.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s also been designated as a “Gold Tier” Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, so camping here will yield some of the prettiest stars you’ve ever seen. At just over a million visitors last year, it offers much of the red rocks and striking geology of other Utah parks, without the crowds.

Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Austin is obviously great, but it’s also obviously saturated with hipsters. Hill County, on the other hand, is a whole other bag. Head a half-hour out of town and you’ll find yourself in the midst of true Texan quirk. Once you’ve put Austin in the rearview mirror, consider this area your next epic road trip.

Gruene Dance Hall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop in the historic town of Gruene for live music and imbibin’ at Gruene Hall, which is pretty much everything you want from a Texas roadhouse. Fredericksburg is a bizarre little haven of German culture, complete with biergarten; after that, we say you whip out the inner tube and spend hours floating down Guadalupe River.

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

Cowboys, German beer fests, and lazy rivers, check—now it’s on to the 15 wineries along Fredericksburg Wine Road 290. To wrap it all up, head to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to climb an ancient pink granite peak and survey all that you’ve just visited. 

New River Gorge, West Virginia

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For 364 days out of the year, West Virginians occupy their time with backwoods activities that sometimes involve eating squirrels (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). But one day in October—the aptly named Bridge Day—they toss themselves off a big-ass bridge overlooking the New River Gorge. It’s an event that draws about 80,000 extreme-sports enthusiasts and onlookers annually, but it’s only one of the reasons to experience the New River Gorge.

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

See also the gorgeous views of a river winding around monolithic rock formations like Endless Wall and Junkyard Cliff. In terms of potential things you will ever see, the gorge is pretty spectacular.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even though the town has been named the “Best Town EVER” by Outside Magazine twice, the indoor options here are becoming just as formidable as those out of doors. Plus, it doesn’t really seem that people are getting the message about how great this place is.

Chattanooga Choo-Choo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not only is the Tennessee Aquarium home to baby penguins, but the Tennessee Stillhouse literally got laws rewritten so it could become the first legal distillery in Chattanooga in over a century. And, the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel has reopened (after a $20 million renovation) with two restaurants, a live-music venue, and even a comedy club.

Worth Pondering…

Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.

—Confucius

More Under-the-radar Gems to Discover

Don’t miss these eight underrated travel spots

From sleepy small towns with loads of culture and character to natural wonders, be sure to check out these secret travel spots before they blow up. And be sure to catch up on our under-the-radar gems from an earlier post.

Mississippi: Bay St. Louis

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s St. Louis, and then there’s Bay St. Louis, which dubs itself “a place apart.” Here, beach life collides with folk art. The arts, sense of community, unique dining opportunities, local downtown shops, beautiful sprawling beaches, and stunning bay views all make for a highly desirable destination, which is reflected in the decision to include Bay St. Louis in this list of under-the-radar gems to discover.

Alberta: Writing-on-Stone

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A sightseeing and historic destination, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is located on the banks of the Milk River in south-central Alberta. The incredible landscape of hoodoos, coulees, and native rock paintings is a photographer’s paradise. The Blackfoot First Nation people used sharp rocks, horns of animals, and wood from trees to carve their drawings into the sandstone cliffs. For color—like red, orange, and yellow—they would use a mixture of crushed iron ore and animal fat.

Georgia: Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is home to a herd of feral, free-ranging horses. Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history. Built by the Carnegies, the ruins of the opulent 59-room, Queen Anne-style Dungeness are a must-see for visitors. The stories of the people weave a captivating tale of wealth, poverty, privilege, and sacrifice.

British Columbia: Okanagan Wine Country

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where can you drink great wines amid breathtaking natural beauty without blowing out a couple of credit cards (think Napa)? Easy: go to Canada to the Okanagan wine region in British Columbia. It’s possibly the most scenic wine region in North America, and a place where RVers and other normal people can afford to taste wine. Two towns are standouts for their concentration of vineyards and wineries: Oliver and Osoyoos. Together they boast 39 wineries that extend from the lush valley into the semi-arid mountains that surround the area.

New Hampshire: Castle in the Clouds

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built on a mountainside overlooking New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, the Moultonborough mansion originally named Lucknow has aptly been called Castle in the Clouds since it opened to the public in 1957. The beautiful Arts and Crafts–style home was built in 1913 as the luxury Ossipee Mountain retreat of Thomas Plant, a millionaire shoe-manufacturing mogul.

New Mexico: Mesilla

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the town of Mesilla, in Southern New Mexico, is home to a mere 2,196 people, it’s a fascinating place to visit. Here you’ll find well-preserved architecture, history worth delving into, and high quality restaurants.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The plaza is the heart of Mesilla and that’s a good place to start exploring. In fact, it’s a national historic landmark. The San Albino Basilica dominates one side of the plaza. This Romanesque church was built in 1906 although its bells are older, dating back to the 1870s and 1880s.

Kentucky: My Old Kentucky Home State Park

My Old Kentucky Home State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My Old Kentucky Home State Park honors the home that was the symbol of Stephen Foster’s most endearing song, the stately mansion on the Rowan Estate known as Federal Hill. Tour the estate and admire the beautiful grounds from the 39-site campground near Bardstown.

Indiana: Shipshewana

Shipshewana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Shipshewana area is celebrated for being home to the third largest Amish community in the United States, for having the Midwest’s largest flea market, and for its reputation of hand-crafted wares. Enjoy buggy rides, visit an Amish working dairy farm, and experience delicious Amish cooking in beautiful Northern Indiana-Amish/Mennonite Country.

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, experience the freedom of the open road, and discover under-the-radar hidden gems.

10 Alternatives to Crowded Outdoor Instagram Spots

Skip the masses at popular vistas and landmarks and opt for these nearby (empty!) locales instead

We’ve all been there—you’re huddled onto the crowded summit of a popular peak, at the base of that iconic waterfall, or crammed into a tiny pullout along that scenic road through a well-known national park, and everyone is snapping the same photo. You followed the masses and found yourself a beautiful vista. Well done. Now wouldn’t you like a little solitude to go with the view? It’s time to get off the beaten path. Here’s where to go. 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aside from being home to the world’s largest tree (by volume) and protecting vast areas of towering inland redwoods, a big part of Sequoia’s appeal is that it isn’t all that crowded. Take a stroll under the big trees in the Giant Forest, view wildlife in Crescent Meadows, or climb to the top of Moro Rock.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods is a scenic backcountry area is southeastern Utah, near Mexican Hat. It is a hidden gem with scenery similar to that of nearby Monument Valley. Valley of the Gods offers isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. It is located on BLM land and is open for hiking, backpacking, and camping.

Big Bend Country

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over 150 miles of hiking trails are available to explore the peaks of the Chisos Mountains or Santa Elena Canyon, but you can also take a short stroll and soak in therapeutic hot springs after a long day of sightseeing. Not up for hiking? No problem! Take a scenic drive along 100 miles of paved road that stretches through Big Bend National Park.

Bayou Teche

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

Following the path of a former channel of the Mississippi River, Bayou Teche Byway winds its way through lush swamps and moss-draped bayous. From its southernmost point in Morgan City to its northern end in Arnaudville, the byway crosses beautiful marshes and fields of sugar cane, connecting lovely towns that have well-preserved historic districts.

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newspaper Rock is located 15 miles west of U.S. 191 along the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway en route to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The rock is called Tse’ Hane in Navajo, or “rock that tells a story.” There are hundreds of petroglyphs here that feature a mixture of forms, including pictures resembling humans, animals, tools, and more esoteric, abstract things.

Head Underground  

Caverns of Sonora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Halfway between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park off Interstate 10, the Caverns of Sonora is a prime locale to hide from the blazing Texas sun. Keep in mind: While the temperature 155 feet below the surface is 72 degrees year-round, high humidity levels mean it can feel more like 85.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With 16,137 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone. Purchased by German immigrant Isaac W. Bernheim in 1929, the land was dedicated as a gift to the people of his new homeland.

Whitehall, New York

Whitehall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whitehall is the town at the junction between the Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain and is considered the birthplace of the American Navy. The Skenesborough Museum located right at the terminal wall is a must stop for anyone interested in the history of the formation of the U. S., early travel, early wars, and the building of the canals. Also the Skeene Manor located atop the hill across from the terminal wall offers tours and meals.

Feel the Beauty and Serenity of an Ancient Forest

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from around the world, Audubon’s 18,000-acre sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Frances Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem untouched for millennia. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You won’t find Teddy at the top of the national parks most-visited list. But since the 26th president was a pioneer of the national parks, the least we can do is appreciate his namesake chunk of land in North Dakota. You’ll want to keep your eyes open for wildlife—bison, pronghorns, elk, wild horses, mule deer, and prairie dogs frequently roam the landscape.

Worth Pondering…

Life is short and the world is wide.
—Simon Raven

10 Family-Friendly Road Trip Destinations

Here are 10 of our favorite family-friendly destinations for summer travel

With the summer days already getting shorter, families across the country are packing up their RVs and heading outdoors to experience the country via a road trip. From the massive sequoias of California to the caverns of New Mexico to the charming streets of Charleston, South Carolina, the U.S. offers countless stops that can make a road trip unforgettable.

Here are 10 family-friendly road trip destinations worthy of travel this summer.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, a vast, isolated national park along the Texas-Mexico border, is home to mountains, deserts, canyons, and hundreds of bird species. Visitors can see dramatic canyons, historic sites, and wildlife in one of the less-visited national parks in the U.S. Its isolation makes it ideal for stargazing and visitors can hike through deserts and along rivers in over 150 miles of trails.

Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A must-see destination in the American heartland, the reservoir of Lake Powell lies on the Colorado River, mostly in Utah but with some of it stretching into Arizona. Two million people come here every year to bask in endless sunshine, warm water, and spectacular scenery and to marvel at the surrounding Mars-like terrain.

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aside from being home to the world’s largest tree (by volume) and protecting vast areas of towering redwoods, a big part of Sequoia’s appeal is that it isn’t all that crowded. Take a stroll under the big trees in the Giant Forest, view wildlife in Crescent Meadows, or climb to the top of Moro Rock

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The horseshoe-shaped, russet rock hoodoo formations of Bryce Canyon National Park are a true sight to behold. This is one of the world’s highest concentrations of hoodoos and their colors alternate between shades of purple, red, orange, and white. One of the most rewarding ways to admire these geological wonders is to hike to Sunrise Point and its panoramic lookouts where you can witness the magic of the sunlight hitting the rocks.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The red rock majesty of Utah is on triumphant display on State Route 12 winding between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks. The 124-mile strip has funky small towns and very few entry points, so it takes a map and determination to witness the steep sandstone canyons and bluffs of purple sage and to tackle the narrow cliff-hanging ridgeline road called The Hogback.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just two trails (and an elevator) exist for visitors to explore Carlsbad Caverns on their own. The Big Room Trail, the largest single chamber by volume in North America can be accessed via a 1.25-mile trail or a .6-mile shortcut. The relatively flat terrain weaves through a series of curious hanging stalactites and passes through park gems like the Hall of Giants, Bottomless Pit, and Crystal Spring Dome. The park also offers a few ranger-guided cave tours and star walks.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s no secret that Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun on a family-friendly beach or explore the history of this Southern gem, a Charleston getaway is one you’ll never forget. Walk alongside Charleston harbor on the Battery and in White Point Gardens, visit the Holy City’s famed St. Philips graveyard, or experience what life was like in the Lowcountry hundreds of years ago at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive four hours east of the Grand Canyon (and its 6,254,238 annual visitors) and explore the considerably quieter (just 825,660 visitors) Canyon de Chelly. As a bonus, park access is free and so are the ranger-led tours that introduce you to the canyon’s remarkable history and the indigenous tribes that have called it home for centuries.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Blue Mountains from 75 overlooks along the 105-mile scenic Skyline Drive, fish in one of 70 mountain streams, or take your pick of over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Park highlights include Rapidan Camp, President Hoover’s summer White House, Hawksbill Mountain (the highest point in the park), and Dark Hollow Falls, a popular walk to a 70-foot waterfall.

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is home to a herd of feral, free-ranging horses. Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history.

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.

The Absolute Best Places to RV This Summer

Nothing says summer travel like a road trip, whether you’re venturing to a nearby favorite spot or setting out in search of distant adventures

Deciding where to take that long-anticipated summer RV vacation can be a daunting challenge.

Where will you be this summer? Here are five destinations that promise to deliver family adventure and magical memories.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, New Mexico

El Moro National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re in the mood for dry heat and history up close, the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is calling. West of Albuquerque is Chaco Canyon, an important ceremonial site for the Pueblo peoples between 850 and 1250 A.D. After taking in the incredible expanse of the canyon, drive south to El Moro National Monument. Ogle the 2,000 or so signatures weary travelers have carved into the sandstone over centuries.

Aztec Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue east through the Zuni Reservation to Zuni Pueblo, an arts community still practicing ancestral traditions and ways of life. Cap off this winding 360-mile desert tour in Farmington, where you can see Aztec Ruins National Monument and Salmon Ruins, both of which date back to the 1050s.

The Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Together, the Black Hills and Badlands National Park in South Dakota offer 5 million acres of grassland, forest, and rock formations. Might we recommend not hitting it all in one day? Instead, start out on the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway near the town of Interior. Check out the millions-year-old (literally) jagged geographic deposits before heading north to Spearfish Canyon, home of sky-high pink limestone and gorgeous waterfalls.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meander down through Black Hills National Forest to check out Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Set aside a few days for the entire 232-mile journey because you’ll probably find yourself either driving slowly to take it all in or stopping every few miles to hike or take photos.

Lake Powell, Arizona

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northern Arizona is the home of red rocks and stone formations, but Lake Powell is where things start to get really interesting. It’s like visiting the Grand Canyon, if the Grand Canyon was underwater. Stretching the Utah/Arizona border, this 186-mile lake houses 96 canyons, many of which you can drive down and have all to yourself. 

Rafting the Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll also find the Rainbow Bridge (the world’s largest natural bridge) on the water, as well as free-flowing waterfalls, if you’re lucky enough to catch some rain. 

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spend a week on the lake with your friends and family, boating through slot canyons, anchoring on deserted beaches, and camping under the stars. Most houseboats come with waterslides attached to the back of them, and many have BBQs and hot tubs on the roof, too.

Don’t miss Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, just outside of the town of Page, on your way in or out.

Amador County, California

Amador Flower Farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California is awash in world-class wine regions. And while classy restaurants and dozens of breweries make the other areas—like Santa Rosa—great places to spend some time, little Amador County southeast of Sacramento is a throwback to what Napa and Sonoma once was.

Cooper Vineyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here you can drive through the tiny towns of Plymouth and Jackson and visit tiny, family-owned wineries tasting vinos you won’t find elsewhere. The restaurants in Amador might not boast the famous chefs, but Taste in Plymouth can hold its own against any spot in Napa. And a stop at the Amador Brewing Company will help add a little variety to your wine-heavy routine.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Road trips have beginnings and ends, but it’s what’s in between that counts.

Where Do You Want To RV This Summer?

There is nothing that compares to the freedom of the open road, especially when following it takes you to some of the most magnificent scenery and interesting places in the United States and Canada

The toughest question in the English language, other than “Who’s texting you at this hour?” is the old saw: Where do you want to RV this summer? The United States and Canada are vast.

So in a year like this, when everyone could use a quick timeout from our fellow travelers, are you still daydreaming of the same old spots? Even if you haven’t done the Grand Canyon and Yosemite yet, it’s worth asking whether they’re really on your must-hit list—or if it’s a list you’ve inherited from past travelers.

This year, do travel by RV. Be the change you want to see in the world—by going out and seeing the United States and Canada. But don’t get stuck looking only as far as the old standbys. If you find yourself in Zion, or at the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone, you’ll also find gobs of tourists. There are ace destinations that fly under the radar of many RVers and other travelers. In any of these locales, if you do go, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the trip sooner.

Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Underdeveloped beaches that are actually warm have become harder to find in America than a pay phone. One of the best on the East Coast, however, is on this tiny island, where campsites outnumber vacation rentals and the day’s main activity usually involves sitting around on the beach.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto is a place for beach purists, for families who want to get away from somewhere small but still enjoy the isolation. Aside from one fantastic golf course, Edisto is pretty much all about relaxation. And that’s how anyone who lives there or visits likes it.

Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you’d expect from the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, this 6,527-square-mile park has lots to offer. Like sawtooth mountain peaks, crashing waterfalls, and nearly 600 miles of hiking trails.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though 97 percent of the park is considered wilderness, there’s still plenty to see off the Icefields Parkway, including the soak-worthy Miette Hot Springs, thundering Athabasca Falls, and the Columbia Icefields, which include the Athabasca Glacier, where you can hop a ride onto the glacier itself aboard the massive six-wheel Ice Explorer buses.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands, near Moab, has always been upstaged by its more famous neighbors, Grand Canyon to the south and Arches to the north; and yet it merits a visit just as much as they do. Ancient waters and relentless winds have carved intricate canyons, pillars, stairs, and narrow paths through the sandstone, creating a stunning park that’s best explored on foot or bicycle. There are very few paved roads throughout the park’s 527 square miles.

Chattanooga, Tennesse

Chattanooga on the Tennessee River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sure, it’s a fun place to say out loud, but that’s probably the extent of thought you’ve given to Chattanooga. Your loss. Its current tourism tagline is “Best Town Ever,” which is actually not far off. Absolutely plan on climbing around on Lookout Mountain (a trip up on the steep Incline Railway is worth the line).

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The indoor options here are becoming just as formidable as those out of doors. Plus, it doesn’t really seem that people are getting the message about how great this place is.

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not only is the Tennessee Aquarium home to baby penguins, but the Tennessee Stillhouse literally got laws rewritten so it could become the first legal distillery in Chattanooga in over a century. And the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel has reopened (after a $20 million renovation) with two restaurants, a live-music venue, and even a comedy club.

Black Hills, South Dakota

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving through this corner of South Dakota takes you through some of the most rugged, distinctive, and beautiful land in America.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Black Hills are home to the giant stone faces of Mount Rushmore National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is the land of Deadwood and the final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and hundreds of American Indians killed at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. It’s also steeped in a rich gold-mining history.

The Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol