Best Places for RV Travel this May

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

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has impacted RV travel right now. As RVers, travel is our way of life and, if you’re like us, you’re feeling the frustration of being limited to one location without the freedom to travel. 2020 is certainly presenting new challenges and now, more than ever, we realize that the freedom to travel is something we can’t take for granted. Now is a great time to start thinking of places you’d like to go—especially bucket-list destinations.

Blue Bell ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

May is a very nurturing month with mild temperatures that encourage people to enjoy the outdoors. The month name comes from a Greek goddess this time, Maia, the daughter of famous Greek god and goddess Atlas and Hermes.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Can’t you almost taste it? Summer’s citrusy zing in May’s advancing warmth and brightening light. In northern states and Canada, it’s a time to start braving lunch on park benches, jackets in place of thick coats. Mercifully, the rest of America is emerging into summer proper, everywhere from Utah high desert to Texas and Kentucky. Even Canada’s warming up! So why wait a minute longer? It’s high time you hit the road.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a lot to love about May: sunnier days, more time outside, and farmer’s markets just beginning to shine.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in February, March, and April. Also check out our recommendations from May 2019.

California

Placerville alon the Gold Rush Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come May we’re California-dreamin’—of Lassen Volcanic National Park, Temecula, and Gold Rush Country. If you harbor Jack Kerouac fantasies then take an all-American road trip through the state or along Big Sur. Conversely, the cities and towns of California are diverse and interesting enough individually. The smaller towns dotted along this sunny state such as Redding and Placerville exude enough charm to keep you occupied.

Utah

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If your mind’s-eye picture of Utah is of luminous red-rock canyons shaded with ponderosa pines and craggy old juniper trees, you’re pretty close to reality. Throw in some waterfalls, rivers both roaring and languid, lonely highways stretching deep into a wild landscape, and tall mountains framing it all, and you’re even closer. In terms of jaw-dropping geology and Native American settlements, Utah looks and feels ancient and hallowed. It’s a state where the word “awesome” isn’t an overstatement. You’ll find awe everywhere, even beyond its famous Mighty Five national parks.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

World’s Largest Crawfish at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the start of every May, thousands of tourists descend upon the 8,139-resident town of Breaux Bridge, aka the “Crawfish Capital of the World” and birthplace of crawfish étouffée for the annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival (May 1-3, 2020). The Crawfish Festival has also become one of the largest gatherings of world famous Cajun musicians. All weekend long you can hear the sound of authentic Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop music rising from the festival.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park

My Old Kentucky Home © 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.

Mesilla

Mesilla San Albino Basilica © 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. 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.

Tour the Blue Bell creamery 

Blue Bell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Bell fans travel from all over to see the making of their favorite ice cream. At The Little Creamery in Brenham, visitors can watch the manufacturing process from an observation deck while attendants narrate and provide fun facts, and then check out the Visitors Center to read up on the company’s history and see artifacts. The self-guided tours conclude with $1 scoops from the parlor. In addition to regular favorites, the creamery also serves special flavors like Milk ‘n’ Cookies and Cake Batter.

Worth Pondering…

Colors are the smile of nature.

—Leigh Hunt

Absolutely Best Road Trips from Las Vegas

If you’re tired of hanging out at the Strip, within a few hours, you can be at some of the most amazing landscapes the US has to offer

With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) everyone’s lives—yours and ours—were thrown into a scrambled state of flux. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack the RV again and head out on our next adventure. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you think Las Vegas is just this one lonely spot in the middle of the desert—well, you’re probably right. But here’s the good news. It’s the perfect starting point for taking more than a few good road trips. So if you’re getting bored of the casinos and glitz of Sin City pack up your toad and hit the road for some interesting and fun filled getaways within a few hours’ drive.

Best Quick Escape: Lake Mead, Nevada

Distance from Las Vegas: One hour

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a national park just minutes from Las Vegas that has Joshua trees, slot canyons, and night skies illuminated by the Milky Way. Lake Mead is the closest body of water of any significance to Las Vegas making it the first choice for swimming, boating, and jet skiing. With striking landscapes and brilliant blue waters, this year-round playground spreads across 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons, valleys and two vast lakes.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Entry to the Lake Mead National Recreation is $25 per person (or $15 per person walking or bicycling) and good for seven days. A day pass for the Lake Mead Resort & Marina is $10 per vehicle but if you plan on coming back, the yearly pass is a far better deal at $30.

Best Cultural Getaway: Sedona, Arizona 

Distance from Las Vegas: Four hours and 30 minutes

Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona and Red Rock Country has more than 300 miles of trails for hiking and biking, surrounded by green pine trees that contrast sharply with the deep red hues of buttes and canyon walls.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some consider Sedona to be in a vortex with the energy of nature especially strong in four locations: Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon. So get in touch with your spirituality or, at the very least, bring a yoga mat and absorb the scenery in a way that works for you. Sedona is also home to more than 80 art shops and galleries, showcasing the best local talent.

Best Riverside Getaway: Laughlin, Nevada

Distance from Las Vegas: One hour and 30 minutes

Laughlan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated on the Colorado River, Laughlin has been transformed from a small mining town into an attractive tourist destination. While its neon lights are no match for Vegas, it does have numerous things to offer such as a scenic river walk, tons of outdoor activities, and the Laughlin River Run, a massive annual motorcycle event. You’ll be in hog heaven.

Laughlan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a river cruise or find a moment of zen at the mystical Laughlin Labyrinths, nine stone mazes that are both intriguing and energizing.

Vista del Sol RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking for a place to stay? Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort offers 740 spaces with full hook-ups, laundry facilities, showers, and free shuttles to the casino. Or cross the river and go for a spectacular view at the new Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona.

Best Getaway for Hiking: Zion National Park, Utah

Distance from Las Vegas: Two hours and 30 minutes

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit the road and travel through Nevada, Arizona, and finally Utah to Zion National Park as the desert suddenly gets a lot more colorful. You’ll find yourself walking among trees, waterfalls, rocks, and a towering canyon. Don’t overlook the winter months—peak solitude season with fewer crowds to go along with the sunsets and stargazing. Just bundle up at night. 

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not all hiking trails are created equal. The infamous Angels Landing is a 2.5-mile hike with steep and narrow pathways. It even comes with a warning sign with the number of people who have died on the trail.

Best Modern Marvel Getaway: Hoover Dam, Nevada/Arizona

Distance from Las Vegas: 45 minutes

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hoover Dam may be the most intriguing slab of concrete in the world. Highway travelers used to drive right over it but traffic is now diverted to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which offers a cool view but isn’t quite the same experience. Tours run daily, ready to give a nuts-and-bolts look at how the whole thing operates, producing electricity for California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Mike O’Calhaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boulder City is the closest town to the dam and has a small tourism industry based around the engineering masterpiece, the construction of which pretty much set the stage for modern Las Vegas. It’s one of the few communities in the entire state where gambling is not legal.

Most Awe-Inspiring Getaway: Grand Canyon, Arizona

Distance from Las Vegas: Four hours (45 minutes by helicopter)

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You know the deal. The Grand Canyon is the biggest hole in the ground in the U. S. making it a prime destination. There are more than a few tours that originate from Las Vegas including some by helicopter.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The South Rim is heavily visited and is run by the National Park Service. The Hualapai Tribe runs the West Rim and operates the famous skywalk. The remote North Rim is stunning but a pain to reach. No matter where you end up, please don’t fall down the canyon while trying to take a photo. It happens.

Worth Pondering…

Las Vegas is a 24-hour city. It never stops.

—Eli Roth

Best Places for RV Travel this April

April is an amazing month for RV travel

With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) everyone’s lives—yours and ours—were thrown into a scrambled state of flux. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack the RV again and head out on our next adventure. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Like the previous month, April was a victim of calendar shifting by the Romans. April was supposed to be the second month on the calendar after March, because after all, Aprillis is a derivative of the Latin base word apero- which means second. April was celebrated as the second month of the year, whereas now it’s the fourth month and is seen as the real beginning of spring in the U.S.

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Could April be the best of all worlds? Summer comes early to Arizona. It’s also the best time of year to catch some bona fide bucket-list natural wonders from the Grand Canyon to the Petrified Forest. Simply put: there’s an RV destination for you, no matter your jam.

Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in January, February, and March. Also check out our recommendations from April 2019.

South Carolina

Great Swamp Sanctuary, Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina begins as a wall of mountains on its western border as the Southern Appalachians rise dramatically from the piedmont below. The terrain mellows into river valleys as it moves east until it hits the coast and becomes wild again with untouched barrier islands, sandy beaches, and rough surf coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. Water sports obviously dominate the coastal scene with untold miles of brackish rivers to paddle while the mountains have become a hotbed of cycling and hiking.

Texas

Davis Mountains of West Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring is a lovely time of year in Texas. The weather is not yet too intensely hot, the skies are blue and clear, and things start to move outdoors—festivals, gigs, parties, eating, and drinking. The weather in Marfa, out in the High Texan Desert, is just right for walking the many miles around Donald Judd’s large-scale installations and land art out under the desert sun (at this time of year, not too harsh), and just right too for staying in a vintage van or airstream at El Cosmico.

Florida

Seaside, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The winter-sun state is wonderful in spring and autumn. It’s one of the best places to go on holiday in April for beach breaks or outdoor adventures with long sunny days and warm-but-not-hot weather—just right for tailing alligators through the mangroves or galloping around a cattle ranch, cruising around Miami’s art district or having a classic family beach holiday on the Gulf of Mexico.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is magic! Skagit Valley Farmers invite visitors to take a scenic drive through the valley and experience the art of farming during the month-long Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Tulips have been farmed here since the early 1900s and today, over a million bulbs are planted at RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town alone. The Magic Skagit Valley’s natural wonders also include shorelines, bays, islands, mountains, the Skagit River and one of the largest and most diverse agricultural communities west of the Cascade mountain range.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park is America’s most spectacular landscape, a 277-mile long, 5,000 foot deep kaleidoscopic gorge of the Colorado River that cuts through the high desert plains of Arizona like a golden knife. Written into these sheer cliffs is one of the most complete geological records on the planet—nearly two billion years of the earth’s history etched into stone from the Kaibab Limestone laid down at its summit 260 million years ago to the 1.8-billion-year-old Vishnu Schist at its base. Studying the rocks, layer by layer, you can almost see desert become swamp, oceans advance and retreat, and mountains rise and fall again. It’s like looking at time itself.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who knew petrified wood could be so beautiful? While you might think the Grand Canyon is the only stunning place in Arizona, this spot will prove you wrong. Petrified Forest National Park is a unique preserve where you can enjoy a number of breathtaking views. The park is full of colorful badlands and is a great place to go backpacking or simply enjoy a day hike.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Repeatedly hailed America’s most charming and friendliest city, this Southern Belle offers cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriages. And springtime is the perfect moment before steamy summer envelops the Deep South. Try jazz-club-hopping in the French Quarter, slurp fresh oysters on the seafront, and don’t miss the colorful Georgians of Rainbow Row. Better still, April’s annual Festival of Houses and Gardens invites you inside some of the city’s most incredible antebellum homes. Go have a snoop.

Worth Pondering…

Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.
—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 

Stunningly Beautiful Places in the Southwest

The sheer variety of the Southwest makes it a fascinating and awe-inspiring place to explore

The land in the Southwest is so utterly different and strange to the East Coast of small hills, cities, and humid summers that it can feel like an entirely separate country at times.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the stereotype of the area is that it’s all barren desert—which isn’t entirely inaccurate—there’s a lot more variation and personality in the Southwest than the backdrops of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons would suggest.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With special attention to the reigning favorites and a few of our own sprinkled in, here are the most beautiful places in the Southwest.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of all the places to visit in the Southwest, Sedona may be the most beautiful. The Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive climbs 4,500 feet from Sedona, but before you begin stop at the stunning Oak Creek Vista. Along the way, you’ll see evergreens, red rocks, and wildlife. Red Rock State Park features a range of trails, from flat walks near Oak Creek to ascending paths with impressive views.

Springdale and Rockville, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These two towns are practically in Zion National Park, which is one of the most scenic places to visit in the Southwest. Ever hiked in a river? Now’s your chance in the Narrows, a gorge surrounded by thousand-feet-tall walls. Don’t forget your camera for the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, 57 miles of mountainous magnificence. For an unforgettable journey, put it on your list immediately!

Mexican Hat, Utah

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As synonymous with cinema Westerns as John Wayne, Monument Valley embodies the westward expansion more than any other American landscape. The noble spires, dusty red and orange, jut upward toward wide-open skies, which morph into fiery swaths of color come sunset. If you’ve ever had dreams of taking to open land on horseback, this beautiful Southwest spot is a must. Be sure to stay for sunset.

Ajo, Arizona

Ajo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its rich tradition as a former copper mining hub, Ajo is a casual town with relaxed charm. Enjoy its mild climate, low humidity, and clear skies. Take in the historic Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Downtown Historic District, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and panoramic views. Ajo is surrounded by 12 million acres of public and tribal land waiting to be explored. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge offer expansive hiking, camping, and birding places.

Moab, Utah

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moab is known for its natural beauty and fun escapes for adventure lovers. Moab is a quick drive from two national parks and home to the most popular state park in Utah (hint: you won’t find better views anywhere). Just five miles from Moab is Arches National Park, so named due to its natural sandstone arches and rock formations. “The Island in the Sky” is an elevated piece of Canyonlands, the largest national park in Utah. Dead Horse State Park features a famous point with amazing views.

Cortez, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The southwestern Colorado town of Cortez, one of America’s richest archaeological centers, lies between the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park and Ute Mountain Tribal Park. After you visit these sites, you’ll leave steeped in the history of the Ancestral Puebloan people, from the places they lived to the tools they used in everyday life. The expertly carved cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde—from Cliff Palace to Spruce Tree house—take you back 700 years to the Ancestral Puebloans who shaped them, and have been preserved by rock that was deposited around 78 million years ago.

Twentynine Palms, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twentynine Palms is the home of Joshua Tree National Park headquarters and north entrance and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the world’s largest Marine Corps training base. The city is known for its clear skies, brilliant star-filled nights, desert and mountain vistas, wide open spaces, murals, and gateway to Mojave National Preserve.

Worth Pondering…

Oh, I could have lived anywhere in the world, if I hadn’t seen the West.

—Joyce Woodson

Best Places for RV Travel this March

It is almost spring and you can just feel it…kind of

March does sound like Mars the planet, and that is why the month is so named. Festivals in Rome often took place in March because it was the soonest that it was warm enough to begin a war and Mars is the Roman god of war. But Romans also messed with the calendar a few times before the Roman Empire fell because March was the first month in the calendar, initially, before it got stuck being the third month.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A spring fling is best taken before the school’s-out crowds of Easter. And, as luck would have it, March is when many destinations begin to bloom. Deserts of the Southwest bask in perfect temperatures, the calm before the summer sizzle. Elsewhere, there are springtime celebrations to mark the joy of a new season. It’s shoulder season at beach escapes everywhere from Florida to Southern California.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in January and February. Also check out our recommendations from March 2019.

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

Louisiana

New Orleans’s light burns so bright that it tends to cast a shadow on the rest of Louisiana, but rest assured, when you step away from the Big Easy, things truly get wild. And you will likely get wet: more than 18 percent of the state is covered in water, offering endless miles of rivers, coastline, bayou, and swamp to fish and explore. But there’s also plenty of hiking with wooden platforms that guide you through Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, islands to explore off the mainland in the Gulf, and 21 state parks scattered throughout Cajun Country.

Fairhope, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairhope, Alabama

This gem on Mobile Bay along the shimmering Gulf of Mexico has a sweet little downtown complete with a waterfront park, pair of lovely beaches, and fishing pier. An added (and somewhat secret) charm: Point Clear just to the south, with a stunning bayside walking path that begins from the equally picturesque and gracious Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a unique park because it combines two desert ecosystems. Plants, animals, and fascinating views are all part of the deal at Joshua Tree. For the best views possible, catch the sunset at the park and watch the sky transform from stunning shades of pink and orange to a clear, dark blue canopy sprinkled with stars.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mississippi: Bay St. Louis

There’s St. Louis, and then there’s Bay St. Louis which dubs itself “a place apart.” Here, beach life collides with folk art. Catch the Arts Alive event in March when dozens of artists’ studios collide for a community-enriching arts festival that features local works, live music, theater, literature, and lots of food.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park

The Wild West is alive and well in southern Arizona. Saguaro National Park is best-known for its symbolic saguaro cacti. You know the ones with two-pronged arms you see in all those John Wayne films? That’s the saguaro!

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah

Savannah, Georgia, is a charming historic Southern town on the Atlantic coast, just across the Savannah River from South Carolina. The city is known for its beautiful municipal parks, historical features such as antebellum homes, and the horse-drawn carriages that ferry passengers around the cobblestoned streets of the historic district. Stroll the ancient oak-lined paths of Forsyth Park and then take a walk through the Juliette Gordon Low Historic District followed by comfort food at a Southern cafe and you’ll never want to leave Savannah. February is the end of Savannah’s low season and a great time to beat the crowds as long as you are willing to don a jacket.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

In March the soft rains continued, and each storm waited courteously until its predecessor sunk beneath the ground.

—John Steinbeck, East of Eden 

National Parks that are Beautiful & Empty in Winter

National parks are always breathtaking—no matter the time of year—but there’s a particular serenity and beauty you can only experience when visiting these gems in the wintertime

Between 2016 and 2017, 331 million people (almost the entire population of America itself) visited a U.S. national park. This was the highest number ever recorded and most came in summer.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Avoid the selfie-sticks, lone line-ups, and peak-season prices by visiting during the winter months. Here are 10 National Park Service sites worthy of a winter visit.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the winter months, Bryce Canyon‘s pièce de résistance is its natural amphitheatre, where pink-hued hoodoo rock formations clash against the dazzlingly bright snow. The shelter provided by these geological masterpieces also makes this a great spot to escape the icy winds of the high country. Bryce is an International Dark Sky Park and between now and March you can sign up for ranger-led full moon snowshoe hikes.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah

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

One hundred fifty years ago, John Wesley Powell described Glen Canyon as a “land of beauty and glory” and named it for its many glens and alcoves near the river. About 100 years later the canyon was flooded by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River forming a lake named for the one-armed explorer. With 2,000 miles of shoreline, Lake Powell offers boating, kayaking, and fishing amid rugged red rock canyons and mesas.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, and oases. Explore the desert scenery, granite monoliths (popular with rock climbers), petroglyphs from early Native Americans, old mines, and ranches. The park provides an introduction to the variety and complexity of the desert environment and a vivid contrast between the higher Mojave and lower Sonoran deserts that range in elevation from 900 feet to 5,185 feet at Keys View.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon‘s residents are a hardy bunch—visit in winter and you’ll spot Abert’s squirrels on nut-foraging expeditions, bald eagles soaring above snow-dusted ridges, and mule deer making their way through the ponderosa pines. Many animals develop additional finery during these colder months. One example is Abert’s squirrels, which grow extra tufts of fur on their ears to keep out the cold. Furry-eared rodents aside, there are lots of other reasons to visit in winter, including hikes along the park’s beautiful low-elevation trails (which have less snow and ice) such as the South Rim’s Hermit Trail.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park is named after a stretch of 118 miles of Rio Grande River, part of which forms a large bend in the river. Big Bend offers a variety of activities for the outdoor enthusiasts including backpacking, river trips, horseback riding, biking, and camping. The park is home to more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 75 species of mammals, and 56 species of reptiles.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument celebrates the life and landscape of the Sonoran Desert. This is a showcase for creatures who have adapted themselves to the extreme temperatures, intense sunlight, and little rainfall that characterize this Southwest region. Twenty-six species of cactus live here including the giant saguaro and the park’s namesake. This is the only place in the U. S. where the organ pipe cactus grows wild.

Pinnacles National Park, California

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Formed by volcanoes 23 million years ago, Pinnacles National Park is located in central California near the Salinas Valley. The park covers more than 26,000 acres and hosted 230,000 visitors in 2018. By comparison, its neighbor Yosemite National Park welcomed more than four million visitors.

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 2,000 natural arches dot east-central Utah, an impressive number unequalled anywhere in the world. But if you’ve been to Arches National Park years ago, you haven’t seen it as it is today; the forces that shaped the landscape continue carving, elongating, and widening each formation until its inevitable collapse. Notable landmarks include Landscape Arch, the North and South Windows, and Balanced Rock.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park preserves the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining on the continent. In addition to being a designated Wilderness Area, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Globally Important Bird Area, and a National Natural Landmark, Congaree is home to a exhibit area within the Harry Hampton Visitor Center, a 2.4 mile boardwalk loop trail, and canoe paddling trails.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Warm days and cool nights make winter an ideal time to visit Saguaro. The park has two areas separated by the city of Tucson. The Rincon Mountain District (East) has a lovely loop drive that offers numerous photo ops. There’s also a visitor’s center, gift shop, and miles of hiking trails. The Tucson Mountain District (West) also has a scenic loop drive and many hiking trails, including some with petroglyphs at Signal Mountain.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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.