No matter where your next journey takes you, the success of your road trip is going to depend on three important factors.
First of all, planning an adventure is very much driven by the season. You’re probably going to want to save the southern destinations for winter and only head north between May and October. Do your research for the spring and autumn months to ensure you’re not waking up to a blanket of snow and a dead battery. If you’re travelling year-round, take the time to talk to a dealer about winterizing your rig. There’s no substitute for in-person professional advice when it comes to safe winter driving.
Secondly, avoid the festivals and special events unless you are travelling specifically to watch the show. Prices in the area will go through the roof and in many places, you’ll have to book a site a year in advance. Finally, be realistic about how much time you have. Always slot in a few extra days to account for bad weather, construction, breakdowns, and that extra special campsite you just couldn’t bear to leave.
1. The Gulf Islands, Mississippi
The area around Biloxi was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina but is already rebounding to its former glory. You’ll find miles of gorgeous white sand, nature trails, local artisans and some very fine fishing. Take a ferry to West Ship Island, home to a multitude of birds and some of the softest sand in the world.
2. The Black Hills, South Dakota
South Dakota should really be on the must-visit list of every RV owner in the country. Custer State Park is incredibly scenic and filled with wild bison, elk, burros, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. Try to catch the annual buffalo roundup in September, and be sure to stop in at Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
3. South Padre Island, Texas
This resort destination is a barrier island that lies off the south coast of Texas, accessible by a long causeway from the town of Port Isabel. Dolphin-watch tours are very popular, and you can see over 300 species of birds at the Birding and Nature centre. This is a great destination in the off-season but stay away in the height of summer and spring break.
4. Crater Lake, Oregon
Almost 8,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption created the deepest lake in the nation, now fed entirely by rain and snow. Crater Lake is absolutely pristine and breathtakingly beautiful. You can camp in the national park, or at one of the several private campgrounds in the immediate vicinity. This really is a natural wonder you’re going to want to see for yourself.
5. Zion National Park, Utah
Pink and white sandstone cliffs soar above the narrow canyons that make this destination an RV favourite. Climb, hike and be awestruck by the majesty of Utah’s oldest national park. Make sure to book a site as they are guaranteed to fill up between March and November. Best time to visit is January/February when you’ll avoid the crowds and the heat.
6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
The world’s first national park is still an iconic travel destination that draws visitors from around the world. Wildlife abounds, as do hot springs and geysers – including Old Faithful. The Grand Loop can be driven in a day but is best enjoyed over two, camping at any of the many campgrounds scattered along the way. Be prepared for crowds, but the wonders of the park are well worth the lack of solitude.
7. The Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia
The Stephen C. Foster State Park lies at the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, a wildlife refuge that has to be seen to be believed. About 12,000 alligators live within its boundaries, and you can get up close and personal with these reptiles on a guided tour aboard a pontoon boat. There is also an extensive network of boardwalks for wildlife viewing. There are about 50 serviced sites within the park itself, and camping in private parks nearby. Watch your pets, your kids, and your feet.
8. Acadia National Park, Maine
A taste of the east coast with great hiking all summer long and splendid colours in the fall. There’s camping in the park, but it can get very congested so you may be better off staying at one of the nearby campgrounds. The entire coast of Maine is a wonderful place to sample seafood, visit historic lighthouses, and lose yourself in the glow of an unparalleled Atlantic Ocean sunset.
9. Redwood National and State Parks, California
Located on the coast of northern California, this vast area encompasses the Redwood National Park and three separate state parks. They protect the tallest trees on the planet and 45% of the remaining old-growth forests of coast redwood. Camping amidst these towering legends is a truly humbling and unforgettable experience. There are three campgrounds within the forest and another along the Pacific coastline. You might also want to head down the coast to the Sequoia National Forest if you can’t get enough of the state’s gigantic foliage.
10. Absolutely Anywhere, Alaska
It’s the holy grail of the RV experience – heading up to Alaska and parking beside a clear mountain lake without another soul in sight. If you’ve got plenty of time, head north for the short summer months and dine under the midnight sun in the country’s last true wilderness. Campgrounds abound, but you can pull over just about anywhere along the road for an evening of self-contained freedom. The mountains, the lakes, the plentiful wildlife, the wide-open vistas and the total serenity. RV living just doesn’t get any better than this.
No matter where the road may lead, plan ahead and take your time. Spontaneity is wonderful, but not if you can’t find a campsite in the heart of a summer music festival. Remember the RV trifecta: Take the backroads, shop the local markets, and go for a long walk every day. Everything else is entirely up to you.