A Bakers Dozen Campgrounds for an Unforgettable Arizona Wilderness Experience

Sometimes, “great outdoors” is an understatement

As the world grapples with the current reality, the great outdoors have become a welcome respite. Biking is on the rise. RVs became mobile motels for a new generation of traveler. And camping is a now go-to weekend activity for backcountry buffs and newbies alike. With fall in full swing, Arizona is an ideal camping destination. 

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its wildly diverse wilderness, the state is a massive playground for campers of all walks, whether you’re seeking a trip to one of the country’s most celebrated national parks or one of its most underrated. Here, jaw-dropping vistas can be discovered during a hike or by simply pulling off the main road. You’ll find red-rock deserts and dense forests, and dry basins—and much of it is all-seasons. Whether you’re looking to flee Phoenix or stop off for a while in the middle of a cross-country voyage, these are the Arizona campgrounds you need to hit. 

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamo Lake State Park

If you love the desert and want some year-round lake views, check out the Alamo Lake State Park campground. With six loops, this large campground has both full hookups and dry camping sites. The park also has cabins for rent with views of the water. Lake Alamo is nicely remote. It’s located less than two hours from the RV-centric town of Quartzsite.  

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

Dead Horse Ranch State Park

You can learn a lot about yourself after spending some time in the Verde River Valley. Are you the type of person that enjoys solitude under a canopy of towering cottonwood trees? Do you relish the sight of wildlife and soft sounds of a gentle river as you explore nature? Maybe you’re just looking for a gorgeous spot to take your family. A spot that will help simplify life for a while before heading back into the daily grind. Relax, recharge, and return to your “normal” life with less stress. Spending time at a place like Dead Horse Ranch will facilitate this magical transformation and, who knows? Your family might request a return trip. There are more than 100 large RV sites available. Most of the pull-through sites can accommodate 40-foot motorhomes and truck and trailer rigs up to 65 feet and include potable water and 30/50-amp service.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The View Campground, Monument Valley

Monument Valley is basically the image that comes to mind when someone who’s not from Arizona thinks of Arizona. It’s undeniably the picture of the American Southwest. And not only can you visit the iconic sandstone buttes, you can camp on the edge of the park. The View Campground certainly lives up to its name: Equipped with both RV sites and wilderness campsites, it’s positioned on the cliff side of the park which undoubtedly makes for some iconic sunrise and sunset views. 

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park

Jutting out of the Sonoran Desert some 1,500 feet, you can’t help but see Picacho Peak for miles as you drive along Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Travelers have used the peak for centuries as a landmark and continue to enjoy the state park’s 3,747 acres for hiking, rock climbing, spring wildflowers, and camping. Picacho Peak State Park’s campground has a total of 85 electric sites for both tent and RV camping.

La Paz County Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Paz County Park Campground

Nestled along the Colorado River La Paz County Park Campground is located 8 miles north of Parker off Highway 95. The campground offers 114 RV camping sites with water, electric service, and cable TV; riverfront armadas with cabana; and dry camping under large shade trees. Amenities include restroom buildings with showers, boat launches, beachfront walkway, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Neighboring the Goldfield Mountains and Tonto National Forest, Usery Mountain Regional Park spans 3,648 acres of metro Phoenix’s east Valley and offers 73 individual camping sites. All are developed sites with water and electrical hook-ups, plus a dump station, picnic table, and barbecue fire ring and can accommodate up to 45-foot RVs. Restrooms offer flush toilets and showers and group camping is also available.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, at the base of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron. The campground has 138 sites: 68 sites with electric (50/30/20 amp service) and water and the remainder non-hookup sites on paved roads for tents or RVs. Every site has a picnic table, and a fire pit with adjustable grill gate. There are no size restrictions on RVs.

Wahweep RV Park and Marina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wahweep RV Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Centrally located at Wahweap Marina, the campsites are about one-quarter mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. This RV park/campground is a great place to enjoy the winter solitude of Lake Powell. The campground offers 139 sites with 30 and 50 amp service, water, and sewer. Sites accommodate up to 45 feet.

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Tank Mountains Regional Park

Maricopa County’s largest regional park, White Tank Mountain Regional Park covers almost 30,000 acres in the West Valley and features 40 individual sites for tent or RV camping. All are developed sites with water and electrical hook-ups, plus a dump station, picnic table, and barbecue fire ring and can accommodate up to a 45-foot RV. Amenities also include restrooms with flush toilets and showers.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia Lake State Park

Tucked away in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona, Patagonia Lake State Park is a hidden treasure. The park offers a campground, beach, picnic area with ramadas, tables and grills, a creek trail, boat ramps, and a marina. The campground overlooks the lake where anglers catch crappie, bass, bluegill, catfish, and trout. The park is popular for water skiing, fishing, camping, picnicking, and hiking. 105 developed campsites with a picnic table and fire ring/grill. Select sites also have a ramada. Sites offer 20/30 amp and 50 amp electric service. Campsite lengths vary but most can accommodate any size RV.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invites camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails which wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet. The camping area offers 120 electric and water sites with a picnic table and BBQ grill. Amenities include modern flush restrooms with hot showers and RV dump stations. There is no limit on the length of RVs at this park

Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals, including its namesake. Twin Peaks Campground offers 208 sites that are generally level, widely spaced, and landscaped by natural desert growth. The campsites will easily accommodate big rigs and are available on a first-come first-served basis. As well, Alamo Campground has four well-spaced, primitive spots.

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon is nestled in the northwest face of the Santa Rita Mountains 30 miles southeast of Tucson. A renowned location for bird watching, Madera Canyon is a major resting place for migrating species while the extensive trail system of the Santa Rita Mountains is easily accessed from the Canyon’s campground and picnic areas. A three mile paved road winds up the lower reaches of the canyon beside Madera Creek ending at a fork in the stream just before the land rises much more steeply. Along the way are three picnic areas, a side road to a campground, and five trailheads. Nearly 100 miles of paths climb the valley sides to springs, viewpoints, old mines, and summits including Mount Wrightson.

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before. I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, the sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Absolutely Best National Parks to Escape the Insanely Crazy Crowds

They rarely make Instagram but vast national monuments offer spectacular beauty and wilderness adventure

Well into the pandemic, many people are seeking solitude in nature. What could be lovelier, after months of isolation at home, than setting out along a rugged conifer-shaded trail, breathing in the fresh alpine air, and listening to a chorus of songbirds? 

There’s just one catch: if everybody’s getting outside, it’s hard to find a spot all to yourself. That’s true even at many of the 419 destinations in the U.S. National Park System which continues to grapple with how to manage growing crowds.

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

Even before this year many of the country’s most famous parks such as Zion and the Grand Canyon restricted access to busy areas by requiring visitors to use free shuttle buses. On summer weekends finding a parking space at the top trailheads in Shenandoah or the Great Smoky Mountains is nearly impossible. Once you actually reach an overlook with a breathtaking view—think Great Smoky Mountain’s Clingmans Dome or Joshua Tree’s Jumbo Rocks—securing a patch of solitude to contemplate the panorama can require jockeying nimbly amid clamoring crowds and jousting selfie sticks.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This year, national park attendance was down due to the pandemic. Many parks drastically reduced access. But, the problem of trying to visit them remains the same as before: too much demand.

But the wilderness areas that the federal government added to its portfolio over the years mostly as national monuments tend to be farther off the beaten path and less hyped than the natural wonders immortalized in Ansel Adams prints. 

Santa Rosa an San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The landscapes of these newer monuments are not the same kinds of shiny treasures that were designated during the early years of the national park system. The park system now recognizes that land is worth protecting for a wide range of reasons from geology and biodiversity to culture and history.

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One reason for this trend is that U.S. presidents can designate national monuments while creating and funding a national park requires an act of Congress. Presidents since Theodore Roosevelt have used the 1906 Antiquities Act to confer national monument status on areas of “historic or scientific interest” including wilderness lands such as Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains in California. Since 1996, when President Bill Clinton revived the use of the law to protect large tracts of land, presidents have designated nearly 40 federal wilderness areas as national monuments.

Valley of the Gods, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Within them, opportunities for awesome hiking, climbing, camping, boating, and wildlife-viewing abound. In southeastern Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, the ancient indigenous cliff dwellings of River House Ruin and soaring red rock spires of the Valley of the Gods glow luminously in the dawn and dusk sunlight. In California, the undulating wildflower meadows of Carrizo Plain and Berryessa Snow Mountain national monuments erupt with brilliant profusions of poppies, Indian paintbrush, and goldfields, especially after a fresh rain.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks near Las Cruces, New Mexico might spy bighorn sheep and golden eagles. Northern Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument includes some of New England’s least developed backcountry, an unspoiled place to kayak and hike.

El Morro National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the new national monuments have given visitors millions of uncrowded natural acres to explore, they’ve presented some logistical challenges. The Antiquities Act contains no provisions for funding and managing national monuments. Many belong to the Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands program rather than the better-funded National Park Service. So they tend to lack national parks’ websites, state-of-the-art visitor centers, rustic-chic lodges and restaurants, and well-maintained roads and trails. They employ few full-time staffers, and their modest visitor centers are often open only seasonally or on weekends.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To fill the gap, dozens of nonprofit “friends-of” organizations have emerged. These newer federal lands receive less funding and rely heavily on Friends groups to get things done such as interpretive work, publishing visitor information, and educating the public. The nonprofits have organized trail cleanup days, seasonal events, and fund raisers.

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

To plan a visit to a national monument, it’s best to consult both the park’s website and the “friends-of” website. Arriving prepared with proper gear, sufficient food and water, and paper maps (since cell service may be nonexistent) are the keys to safely enjoying your visit.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There will always be a thirst for touring the nation’s iconic parks—for hiking in the canyons of Zion or scampering among the natural arches and pinnacles of Arches National Park. But travelers who’ve hiked New Mexico’s otherworldly Malpais National Monument or driven National Scenic Byway 12 through southeastern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument without having to navigate throngs of people may never again think the same way about visiting America’s iconic national parks.

Worth Pondering…

Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

— John Muir

Getting Back to Nature: How Forest Bathing Can Make Us Feel Better

Our collective “back to nature” response to the coronavirus outbreak is an important reminder of the irreplaceable value of our parks and natural lands

It took an event that forced the nation to stay at home to remind us how much we need to be outside. The spread of COVID-19 has required that we limit our contact with other people leading many of us to seek out connection with the natural world. From national parks and state parks to local hiking trails, Americans have been pouring out of their homes to enjoy places of peace and beauty.

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

In an earlier article I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods including enjoying nature. Subsequently, I listed numerous fun and healthy ways to enjoy nature including forest bathing.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tonic of the wilderness was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shinrin-Yoku is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It started in Japan in the 1980s and has become an important piece of their preventative health care measures.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest bathing is taking time to unwind and connect with nature to improve your health. Simply put: Forest bathing is retreating to nature to immerse in the forest atmosphere. The idea is pretty straightforward… When you take time to visit a natural area and take a walk in a relaxed way, there are rejuvenating, restorative, and calming effects on your mind and body.

Corkscrew Sanctuary, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Healed By . . . Trees?

Spending time walking in a forest has positive effects on your body and mind. Following are some conclusions based on various studies conducted by doctors and psychologists.

Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Physical benefits of a walk in a forest:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Enhanced immune response
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep
Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mental benefits of a walk in a forest:

  • Improved mood
  • Improved short-term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Improved concentration
  • Enhanced creativity
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How can walking in a forest do all that? Scientists say some of it has to do with the chemicals plants give off to protect themselves from insects and to fight diseases. These chemicals have antibacterial and antifungal qualities and when we inhale them our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell that kills tumor- and virus-infected cells. Another reason is simple: Forests reduce stress, the root cause of many ailments.

Raccoon State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Simply living around trees and looking at them is beneficial as well. A medical study found a 12 percent lower mortality rate for people who lived near green spaces with fewer incidences of a wide variety of diseases than people who lived in urban areas.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest (See poem below), North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, next time you’re near a swath of towering timber go right on under their welcoming limbs and take a hike.

Worth Pondering…

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

—Joyce Kilmer

Wildness is a Necessity: Interest in Camping Is at an All-Time High Following COVID-19 Outbreak

Now, more than ever before, it is evident that the outdoors is vital to our wellbeing.

The international ripple of COVID-19 has dealt a crippling hand to select businesses and industries. And yet, unfamiliar circumstances have simultaneously provided others unparalleled profitability—and not just those in the toilet paper or hand sanitizer industries.

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

Sales of bicycles, for example, have spiked so significantly in the U.S. that the nation is now facing a shortage—especially on low-end models—as overworked suppliers struggle to keep up with the never-before-seen demand.

Along the Colorado River, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Similarly, public interest in camping has increased exponentially in the months since the nation first locked its doors. A dread of at-home confinement has led to the American public turning its eyes toward the outdoors, according to recent data.

Along the Mississippi River, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some families have spent decades loading up the camper and heading to the lakes and forests for a week or two of relaxation. But thanks to a drastic change in travel habits, some folks are now getting that first camper and discovering state parks. It’s the kind of family getaway that’s been around for a long time, hitching up the camper, or loading the motorhome, or packing a tent and heading to a state park. Those campsites are tucked away in piney hills, laid out along clear-water lakes or streams, or nestled among the oak trees in a mountain hideaway.

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

The renowned naturalist John Muir wrote that “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

The world has changed immensely since he wrote this in 1901. People, now more than ever, seek the benefits of nature.

Pinnacles National Park,California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Safe Ways to Recreate Outside This Summer

Now, more than ever before, it is evident that the outdoors is vital to our wellbeing.

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

As states and local communities continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, guidelines about what activities are safest and where people should visit continue to evolve. Many are seeking opportunities for outdoor recreation, including visits to the nation’s public lands, waterways, and public spaces like parks and trails.

Artisan Village, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the summer season in full swing, the Recreate Responsibly Coalition released an update to its tips, initially released in May, for safely recreating outdoors. The coalition first came together two months ago as a group of two dozen organizations based in Washington State. Since then, the group has grown into a diverse, nationwide community of over 500 businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, outdoor media, and influencers. The coalition’s common ground is a shared love of the outdoors, a desire to help everyone experience the benefits of nature, and a belief that by sharing best practices, people can get outside safely and help keep our parks, trails, and public lands open.

Along the Tech at St. Martinsville, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The overall #RecreateResponsibly message remains simple: We all have a role to play in keeping people, places, and communities safe as we enjoy the outdoors this summer and beyond. 

The latest #RecreateResponsibly guidelines are:

  • Know Before You Go—Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a backup plan.
  • Plan Ahead—Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer.
  • Explore Locally—Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
  • Practice Physical Distancing—Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Play It Safe—Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
  • Leave No Trace—Respect public lands and waters, as well as Native and local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders.

—Edward Abbey

You Need a Vacation from Social Media: Unplug and Reconnect with Wilderness

Now that we all have smart phones, smart TVs, and even smart refrigerators, these digital “conveniences” have become intrusions into our lives

There are a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t embark on your right now—but there are even more reasons why you should.

Yellow-crowned night heron at Corkscrew Sanctuary near Naples, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You need a vacation—there’s no disputing that. What is in dispute is whether you’ll actually take one. According to a 2017 study by Glassdoor, the average American worker uses barely half of their annual paid vacation time. Worse, even those who do take a vacation generally fail to use it for rest and relaxation. What are they doing instead, you ask?

Well, what do you do when you leave town for a few days?

Cumberland Ialand National Seashore in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Think through the steps of your last vacation. You made the reservation, endured the arduous flight, you arrived at the hotel, put down your luggage—and then what? You immediately checked your smart phone, of course. That’s what you do, even when you know you shouldn’t. The last thing anyone needs to do during a vacation is to watch their queue of emails multiply in real time.

Congaree National National Park in South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s true the phone itself isn’t that big of deal. It’s not the main culprit. There’s only so much time you can spend checking your email or the weather.

Lancaster County in Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s social media that’s the true soul destroyer. On social media platforms there’s always something else to click on, another rabbit hole to tumble down. There’s always something trending, some scandal emerging, a person’s life being ruined with a rumor or a dumb joke—the parade is always passing and urging you to join it.

Enchanted Rock Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, social media is undoubtedly an outlet that engages most online users. However, according to mental health consultants, social media has become an anxiety-provoking factor. In addition to attracting more anxious users, the University of Chicago found that it’s also “more addictive” than tobacco.

Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park in West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Overall, about 30 percent of those who use social media spend more than 15 hours per week online. This can greatly reduce your ability to enjoy real life. If you are spending several hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you are not going to have enough time for things that really matter. You may have social media anxiety disorder and it can also affect your health, both physically and mentally. 

Dike Road near Woodland in southwestern Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And, habit is a hard thing to break. Not just the habit of being constantly online, but the habit of being incessantly busy, of somehow loving the stress of being so freaking important, of doing just one more thing before you finally let yourself relax.

Lancaster County in Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It shouldn’t be this hard to take a vacation. And back in the day, it wasn’t. Taking a vacation meant really getting away from it all. You fled the city and the cares of workday life for a restful week of camping at the lake or national or state park and rediscovered the joys of roughing it.

Cumberland Ialand National Seashore in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Believe it or not, these rustic getaways are still possible. In this modern age of constant connectivity, they’re more necessary than they’ve ever been. That’s why we’ve pulled together a shortlist of five sites located within some of the country’s most beautiful, largely overlooked natural settings.

Corkscrew Sanctuary near Naples, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A visit to Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a journey into the heart of the Florida’s Everglades ecosystem. Visitors will find a gentle, pristine wilderness that dates back about 600 years. A 2.25-mile boardwalk meanders through pine flatwood, wet prairie, around a marsh and finally into a large old growth Bald Cypress forest.

Free ranging horses at Cumberland Ialand National Seashore in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Congaree National National Park in South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you really want to experience nature, Congaree National Park in South Carolina is a perfect place to go. Home to one of the tallest deciduous forest canopies on earth, it offers great bird watching and wilderness tours. For those feeling more adventurous there is also kayaking, hiking, canoeing, fishing, and even camping. There are tons of trees to delight in, and you’ll feel super connected to the planet.

Valley of the Gods in southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A little known valley filled with sandstone formations and starry night skies is located in the southeastern corner of Utah out of the way of the main national park loop. To drive through the Valley of the Gods you will take a 17-mile, unpaved loop. Similar to Monument Valley, but only a quarter of the size, it remains quiet and peaceful.

Lancaster County in Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go back to a bygone age and take a horse and buggy ride in Amish Country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The area offers tours, museums, children’s activities such as doll-making, and, of course, buggy rides. It’s an excellent opportunity to disconnect from technology and see how a resilient, devout group of people get by just fine without everyone’s favorite ladies, Alexa and Siri.

Worth Pondering…

Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.

—John Muir