Boondocking is one of our favorite things to do. We love the serenity and waking up to beautiful views outside our RV windows.
Sitting on our list for a while was Southern Arizona. We’ve boondocked in the Coconino National Forest in Northern Arizona for two years in a row now and it was time to finally give the south a try.
Camping Outside Sonoran Desert National Monument
Just outside the Sonoran Desert National Monument and off of I-8, are some great, all-rig-friendly, boondocking on Bureau of Land Management land (pictured in the featured photo above). You’ll be south of Phoenix and northwest of Tucson.
Exit off of I-8 on Vekol Valley Road, which becomes a dirt road, and choose a spot. We stayed on the south side of the interstate. Be careful not to run over any of the desert plant life when looking for a spot though.
What to Do Nearby
Of course, there’s the Sonoran Desert National Monument. Or you could drive south to explore Organ Pipe National Monument. Then to the north, you have Tonto National Monument. Also, within striking distance is Saguaro National Park. So many great options for using your parks pass! Plus, this boondocking spot is conveniently close to Maricopa, which is great for groceries and dining out.
A Few Tips
Remember to be flexible when boondocking. We actually had a third boondocking spot lined up when originally planning this trip. We planned to boondock outside of Saguaro National Park on BLM land (W Tucson-Ajo Hwy & S San Joaquin Rd), but this spot was full.
We camped at Gilbert Ray Campground, a developed campground, instead. We were thrilled to find that Gilbert Ray places you right among the Saguaro Cacti. While not the boondocking experience we had planned, the views here were amazing, too!
Boondocking in Cochise County
Nestled in Arizona’s Dragoon Mountains is a stunning woodland area known as Cochise Stronghold. The area, once the home of the Apache Chief, Cochise, is rich in history.
There is a developed campground, however, it’s tight and at the end of a washboard road, so we chose to explore the dispersed camping area. We saw plenty of passenger cars on the road, but you’d definitely want to check weather conditions and avoid driving anything that’s not 4×4 if it has rained within 48 hours.
Directions to this spot are exactly as Google states. Because the road becomes a National Forest dirt road, this is best for those of you with towables and 4×4 vehicles (like the Revel). Coming off I-10, you’ll take exit 318 which is Dragoon Road. You’ll make a right onto Dragoon Road and continue for 11 miles until you turn right onto Cochise Stronghold Road. After six miles, turn right onto W Ironwood Road. This road will become a dirt road, and it goes all the way to the developed campground. However, it is rather washboarded.
What to Do Nearby
Cochise County is strikingly beautiful and has a little bit of everything. Go for some wine tasting in the numerous vineyards and tasting rooms in Wilcox. Also, be absolutely sure to explore the Chiricahua National Monument. For a more urban experience, check out charming Bisbee. Then, finish exploring the area with a little bit of kitschy fun at Tombstone. Yes, it’s touristy. So, what? It’s fun!
A Few Tips
Make a mini road trip loop out of your time in Cochise County in order to avoid feeling rushed. Mix in Walmart stays and regular campground stays to cut down on driving a bit or make a series of day trips in order to be able to see more of the area.
Taking a trip in your RV is a fun way to celebrate special occasions and holidays. But, of course, you’ll want to do something special when you reach your destination. And, for those of you who full-time in your RV, special occasions, holidays, and date nights are all occurring when you’re in the RV, so you’ll definitely want these all to stand out from a regular day.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of seven creative date ideas that are easy for most RVers. Best of all, many of these can be repeated along your travels, with a different experience every time.
1. Hike for Two
Beautiful hikes can be found just about anywhere. Try looking for one at the state park you’re camping at, or a nearby National Park or National Monument. If you’d like to feel like you two have the whole world all to yourselves, plan a sunrise hike. Even some of the most popular hikes are surprisingly quiet if you leave just before sunrise.
You can also plan a sunset hike. These might be a bit busier. But if timed right, you’ll be able to catch a beautiful sunset together halfway through your hike. No matter what you choose, be sure to pack snacks, water, proper sun protection, and layers.
If you’d like to plan a trip around a special hike, here are a few of our favorites:
- Sunrise hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House in Banff National Park could give you a rustic tea house nearly all to yourself.
- Sunset hike to Arches National Park’s Delicate Arch or to White Sands National Monument can be very romantic.
- For hikes with very few others around, you might want to try a National Monument, like Colorado National Monument or Utah’s Natural Bridges.
2. Sunset Al Fresco Dinner for Two
Do you like boondocking? If you do, this will be a fun date for you. (If you haven’t tried boondocking, be sure to get your feet wet before planning a boondocking date!) Dates are usually alone time for couples, and there’s no better way to find alone time while RVing than exploring the vast public lands in the U.S.
First, find yourself a beautiful patch of BLM land. (Note, that this is much easier to do in the western half of the country.) Then, plan on upgrading your menu with a fancier cut of meat or a nicer bottle of wine. And don’t forget to buy a dessert for after the main course.
You can serve your meal seated on the ground with cozy blankets, cushions, tea lights, and a covered surface of some kind for a table (like an overturned plastic bin, foldable side table, etc.). Or try setting up a table for two underneath your awning. Light the space with fairy lights or garden light. And if you’re feeling particularly fancy, hang some sheer white curtains.
If cooking with propane or RV stoves is not your strength, replace dinner with a board game instead. Or “make” seafood by ordering two pounds of snow crab legs or a half-pound of cocktail shrimp (ready to eat) at the local market. Pick up lemon, butter, some greens, serve … and done! Super special with zero cooking.
3. Wine Tasting
You have a few different options for wine tasting as an RVer. Try wine tasting and overnight camping at a winery with a Harvest Hosts membership. Or you can plan an RV trip out to a wine region and taste wine at multiple wineries over the course of a few days.
Napa Valley, Sonoma, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, or B.C.’s Okanagan region are all great options. However, small wine regions like Fredericksburg, TX, Arizona’s Cochise Valley, or Ontario’s Prince Edward County are also lovely.
For something a little unexpected, plan a trip up to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake and hop from winery to winery in your RV.
4. Library Date
If either of you are bookworms, try a date at a unique library or quaint Indie bookstore. If you’re camping near Mt. Ranier, save a day to go into Seattle and visit their beautiful public library. And keep with the theme by visiting one of the city’s many independent bookstores.
Smaller cities have unique local independent bookstores and bookstore cafes to explore. You may even happen across something completely unexpected like Singing Winds Bookstore, a bookstore within a ranch in Wilcox, AZ.
5. Sunrise Coffee
For some good conversation, beautiful views, and serene calm, try a sunrise coffee date. Plan ahead and bring along a special blend in the RV. For a bit of a fancy flair, try pour over, French press, or espresso (here’s our go-to espresso maker). But hey, drip coffee and K-cups work great too! For an added bonus, bring along some yummy pastries from a nearby farmer’s market, local bakery, or even pre-packaged biscotti.
If you’re not a full-timer, your RV dinette might be plenty cozy for your sunrise coffee date. Take in the inviting aroma of the coffee, chat, and watch the sunrise out of your RV windshield or window. If you full-time, try taking the coffee outside and build a campfire.
If you’re feeling adventurous, pack the coffee in a thermos and hike to a spot to watch the sunrise. For example, try the Delicate Arch hike mentioned above, and have your coffee together watching the sunrise. If you find yourself at a Florida State Park in the panhandle or on one of the coasts, take your coffee to the shore instead.
A very easy, but still romantic RV couple’s date is stargazing. Stargazing is best during a new moon and with as little artificial light pollution as possible. Still, you can have a good time stargazing even at a state park or RV park.
For an extra-special night of stargazing, try planning this date while staying at an International Dark Sky area. Unless you totally rocked your Astronomy 101 class, try picking up a night sky map so you can identify more than Orion’s Belt when you’re looking up.
7. Random Roadside Picnic
Sometimes, the most romantic thing is to not have a plan at all. Discover something new together by sitting down to a roadside picnic.
Some of our favorite places are places we didn’t know existed and couldn’t have actually planned for. Of course, you don’t want to end up eating at Walmart, so set yourself up for success and choose a scenic byway to explore. These usually have picnic areas scattered along the way.
Some of our favorites are the Icefields Parkway, Niagara Falls to Niagara-On-The-Lake, the Cherohala Skyway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Dinosaur Diamond, Pacific Coast Highway (if you go in your tow car), Salmon River Scenic Byway, and Flagstaff to Sedona on 89A (if you go in your tow car).
Take in the beauty, bring out your packed picnic at a stop, or find a pull-out and take the view in through your windshield while you eat.
One of the great things about RVing is the ability to easily get out and explore new places. Whether you’re setting out to explore one of these places or just have coffee in a new place, the road is your playground and, with a little imagination, a great date awaits!
Olive oil pours into the pan you’re preparing to use to make a morning omelet. Turning back to your pan, eggs in hand, you notice the oil seems to have pooled to one side of the pan. You place the eggs on the counter, so you can pick up the pan and spread the oil around, but your eggs start rolling off the counter––your RV is definitely not level!
With two years of RVing under our belt (one in a Class C, and one in a travel trailer) we’ve gotten pretty comfortable with leveling our RV. However, we still remember how awkward it was at the beginning. It’s also not often part of your walk-through when taking possession of your RV! So, below is a handy guide to get you started.
(Editor’s note: These tips are from one of our GoLife contributors who has experience with leveling different types of RVs, not directly from Winnebago Industries. Always check your owner’s manual for best practices regarding your specific motorhome or towable.)
Why Leveling Your RV is Important
A relaxing RV camping trip depends on a properly leveled rig. Being level prevents any stumbling around when you’re inside of it and guards against smaller annoyances like doors that refuse to stay put when open, objects rolling off counters, or sleeping off level.
However, there are also more serious reasons. For example, if you have a propane fridge in your RV, proper function of the fridge is dependent on your RV being level. And, if your RV has slide-outs, it’s important to be level before extending those out as well.
Leveling if You Have an Auto-Leveling System
If your RV has a hydraulic leveling system or another automatic leveling system, your leveling is as quick and easy as pressing a button.
In most cases, hydraulic jacks will raise the low corners of your RV to level your RV quickly and easily. You will use a control panel with lights indicating low corners and buttons that will level those. The RV manuals you receive from the dealer or previous owner will include the leveling system manual for the system installed on your RV. However, no matter which system you use, there are some things to keep in mind.
Class A motorhomes most often have auto-leveling. With these RVs, you will want to always park the front end of the vehicle to the downhill side of an uneven parking space. What this does is make it so that your low corners are in the front. This allows you to level by raising the front end rather than the rear. The reason this is very important is that only your rear wheels are locked when in park. If one or both of the rear wheels were to be raised off the ground, the RV could roll off the jacks. If in doubt, use wheel chocks for the front wheels.
To avoid damage to the parking pad and to avoid your jacks sinking in (possible even on asphalt if conditions are hot), place blocks or jack pads under the jacks. Also, avoid placing jacks down on icy or slick surfaces because this can cause foot pads to slip.
Your manual will tell you if you need to extend your slides out before or after you level the RV. And always be sure not to lift wheels beyond the ground when extending your rear stabilizers.
Leveling Without an Auto-Leveling System
Many Class Bs, Class Cs, and towable RVs won’t have an auto-leveling system. This means you’ll be manually leveling your RV as part of setting up your campsite. To manually level your RV, whether motorized or towable, you’ll need a bubble level and blocks (or 2 x 6 pieces of wood). For towables, since there is no parking brake or transmission on its own, you’ll also need wheel chocks to stop your trailer from rolling.
To make leveling easier, try your best to get as close to level as you can while pulling into your campsite spot. Sometimes just rolling back or forward a bit as you’re driving in can improve how level you are.
Leveling Your Class B or C RV
In order to level your Class B or C motorhome once at a campsite, place your bubble level on a countertop to check the bubble level left to right as well as front to back. The reason for checking both straight away is because you may be able to level the RV by raising just one low corner onto blocks.
If your RV is perfect left to right, but off front to back, your adjustment is going to be to raise the front wheels by driving them up on blocks or to raise the back wheels by driving up on blocks. If the RV is perfect front to back, but off level left to right, adjust by raising both right wheels onto blocks or both left wheels onto blocks. If, however, you’re bubble level shows that you’re a bit off both front to back and left to right, then you can adjust by raising the wheel in the one low corner up onto blocks.
Build a platform of two blocks to raise by one block, five blocks to go up two, etc. to make it easier to drive up on the blocks. It will take some practice to know how many blocks to go up on by looking at your bubble level. Typically, being only a little bit off means go up one block. A larger amount off may require two blocks, etc.
Leveling Your Towable RV
Once you’ve found the best area of your campsite for your towable, you’ll begin by leveling left to right, then front to back.
Level Left to Right
Using a level affixed inside your RV or a hand-held bubble level, check your level left to right. If you’re using a hand-held level, you can place your level on the floor of the RV, a countertop, or your rear bumper – it’s up to you.
If you’re not level, you’re going to adjust by raising your left or right tires up onto blocks. To do so, lay your blocks in front of the towable’s tires, so you can pull up onto the blocks. If the angle you’re at would help you to instead roll back onto blocks, then place the blocks behind your tires and roll back onto them.
Once you’re all set left to right, do NOT unhitch. First, grab your wheel chocks and chock your wheel by placing the chocks on both sides of your tire (the one on the side opposite the side you raised onto blocks), so you cannot roll anywhere. Now that your wheel chocks are in place, you can go ahead and unhitch.
Level Front to Back
Grab your bubble level once again and check your level front to back. You can use a countertop, fridge, base of door, or floor.
This time you will make adjustments by lowering your travel trailer’s A-Frame Jack or your Fifth-Wheel’s Landing Jack onto blocks. Your jack may be power or hand-crank style.
Once you’re level, you’ll just need to lower your stabilizers, making sure that there’s equal pressure on all of them. If you have slide-outs, they can be extended now that the RV is level and stabilized.
Leveling your RV may feel like the most intimidating part of setting up camp at first. But don’t worry, the more camping trips you get under your belt, the more leveling your RV will become second nature.
In our GoGear segment, contributors share one of their favorite products for life on the road and tips for using it. These are items they have tested out during their own travels and enjoyed enough to recommend to others.
Any RVer knows counter space is at a premium in your rig. So, what’s an espresso lover to do? This is where the Nanopresso, a completely hand-powered espresso machine, comes in.
Jon loves espresso, especially a good Americano. But we also love to keep our counter clutter-free and, even in an RV, we like to try to keep drawers and cabinets from being stuffed to their full capacity. We’ve always RVed with our French Press and pour over glass coffee maker, but we thought espresso was out of the question. Then we found the Nanopresso.
About the Nanopresso
The Nanopresso is a portable, nearly pocket-sized, espresso machine. Its pumping system is powered by your own hands. According to the company Wacaco, the Nanopresso is capable of pressure greater than most regular home espresso machines. To make your perfect shot of espresso, all you need is hot water, finely ground coffee, and your Nanopresso machine. It even has a built-in cup for your espresso.
Why We Love It
At first, we prepared ourselves to expect good espresso, but we made sure not to expect home-quality espresso. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the espresso is not subpar in any way. It’s great to have quality espresso in such a travel-friendly format.
Our favorite Nanopresso feature is its small size. At just over six inches long and under one pound, it is definitely RV-approved in our book. For anyone in a small towable, Class B, or small Class C, this is truly a great feature.
The small size of the Nanopresso also makes it extremely portable. You could even throw it in your backpack on a hike to enjoy a nice viewpoint with your morning espresso. On travel days, your rig’s size sometimes makes it difficult to quickly stop in at a coffee shop. The Nanopresso allows you to still have coffee-shop quality coffee on travel days. We wish we would’ve had one back when we were in a towable!
No Power Consumption
While RVing, we love to be able to use anything that doesn’t draw power. We like the fact that the Nanopresso is completely powered by hand – no generator or inverter needed.
The only drawback for us is that it only makes one shot of espresso at a time. Jon loves Americanos, which take two espresso shots to make. To make an Americano, you’d have to start the process over again to make that second shot. Wacaco, however, does sell an accessory that increases the tank capacity of the Nanopresso. The accessory, called the Barista Kit, makes it possible to make more than one espresso shot at a time.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Nanopresso doesn’t heat the water. If you’re looking to also heat your water without power, you can use a portable stove, or your RV’s propane stove. You can also place your heated water in a thermos and pack your thermos along with the Nanopresso to go.
You’ll also want to make sure to buy coffee with a fine grind or that says “espresso.” If you grind your own coffee, be sure to have your settings on “espresso” or “finely ground.”
Where Can I Find a Nanopresso?
You can buy a Nanopresso online at Wacaco.com or on Amazon. Both sites sell the Nanopresso and accessories, like a carrying case.
One of the best parts of RVing is discovering new places. However, places that are new aren’t very familiar! So, when we need to find a good campground in a new place, we rely on these 5 apps to find campsites.
Campendium is probably our favorite app. It was the first app I learned to use to help Jon find campsites. The search function is very intuitive. Both on the website and the mobile app, the search box is front and center. You can type in your destination. Or, in a pinch, you can quickly select from nearby RV parks, public land, free camping, overnight parking, and even dump stations.
2. Reserve America
When we first began to RV, Reserve America was a favorite app of ours. Even now, as experienced RVers, it remains our favorite app for finding State Parks and reserving stays at State Parks. Reserve America is also a helpful tool for finding and reserving RV park campsites as well. The main benefit to using this app is that you’re able to make and pay for your reservations right within the app. We find the app to be easy, clear, and straightforward when it comes to securing and paying for reservations.
3. Park Advisor
One of the most robust apps is the Park Advisor RV Parks and Campgrounds app. We find it impressive because it includes many points that are of special interest to RVers. A map will not only show you campgrounds, but also nearby Cracker Barrels, Walmarts, Flying Js, Sam’s Clubs, Costcos, and dump stations. This app is excellent if you’ve arrived to an area ahead of schedule and your reservation hasn’t yet begun. It’s also helpful if you’ve had to unexpectedly change plans. You may need to spend a night at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel before regrouping and moving on to a campground.
The ability to search for established and “informal” campgrounds internationally is iOverlander’s strength. If your RV travels are taking you into Canada or Mexico, this is a great app to use. It’s also useful if you plan on flying to a country and then RVing for part of your visit. In addition to campgrounds, the app allows you to search for dump stations, wild camping, and propane. Another unique feature is the ability to filter your search results by how old user reviews are, since the quality of a campsite can change over time. You can filter out results that don’t have reviews within the last 3 months, 6 months, and 1-5 years.
5. The Dyrt
The Dyrt is a newer app serving the needs of both RVers and tent campers. As an Rver, you’ll want to be sure the search result you click has the icon for “RV sites.” Being that the app is newer, it isn’t as robust as some of the others on the list, but it is the most interactive. You can earn points and prizes for submitting reviews of the campgrounds that you stay at. They also have a quick search where you can explore campgrounds by state. This initially sorts the campgrounds with “top campgrounds,” as determined by reviews, at the top of the results.
If you don’t happen to use your mobile device for your campground searches, most of these have great websites as well. We find it helpful to read the user reviews available on some of these apps. But have found it’s best to remember that conditions can change depending on the season, over time, and depending on personal opinion. Another thing we often find ourselves doing is using a combination of these apps. Sometimes it’s nice to cross-check the info.
For quite some time now, there has been a trend toward cutting the cord to traditional methods of watching TV. Luckily, you can cut the cord while traveling in your RV too.
There are many alternatives to cable and satellite TV in your RV. Options range from a simple HDTV travel antenna for free programming to multiple streaming services that can all be combined. These options can also prove to be more flexible and cost-effective for RV travelers.
Reasons to Cut the Cord
Cable and satellite TV in an RV can be entertaining and a nice perk while you’re camping. Unfortunately, you might experience some limitations.
Satellites need an unobstructed view of the sky. This makes it difficult to maintain service if you love to camp under trees (something we love to do in the Pacific Northwest and the South). Another thing to consider is that rain also wreaks havoc on satellite TV.
Satellite TV can also be an expensive option, due to the price of some channel packages and if you need to buy hardware. Local TV channels will also often be tied to your “home base”. If you want to receive the local programming in your RV’s location, you may actually have to call in an address change. But, some providers limit the number of times you can change your address.
As for cable, this can only be had if a campground has cable hook-ups and even then, some campgrounds may charge you for its use. And, if you like camping in state and national parks, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any cable hookups there.
RV TV Alternatives
1. Travel HDTV Antenna
If you’re looking to save money, or are most interested in local TV programming, this might be a great option for you. For a relatively low cost, you can pick up an HDTV antenna designed for travel, like the Winegard Rayzar (either the Rayzar RV-RZ20 Micro TV Antenna or Rayzar RV-RZ85 Amplified TV Antenna).
The antenna allows you to pick up any free channels coming in over the air in the local area where your RV is parked. We’ve cut the cord and gone the HDTV antenna route before, and it’s easy to do in your RV. You can stick the antenna on any window. Because suction cups hold it in place, it can be taken down or adjusted easily at any time.
Some Winnebago models already have a King Jack HDTV antenna pre-installed. If that’s the case, you’re already set.
If you think you might miss watching movies, you can always find a local RedBox to rent movies from. The only box this option doesn’t check is cable network programming like ESPN or HGTV.
2. Amazon Prime Video and/or Netflix
If you’re not a fan of making trips to RedBox, you might be interested in Amazon Prime. There are many streaming services to choose from, but if you’re already an Amazon Prime member, your Amazon Prime Video subscription is free.
We have personally used Netflix and Amazon Prime. At one point we had both, but we cut back to just Amazon Prime. In our case, we want to be sure to spend as much free time as possible outside. The cost savings is also a plus.
Not all streaming services are the same. Some have their own original shows. For example, the popular show Stranger Things is only available on Netflix, since it’s a Netflix original series. Some services allow you to download content for offline viewing while others don’t. Since Wi-Fi isn’t a guarantee as an RVer, that’s an attractive option. (For more tips on off-line downloads, read this article by a fellow GoLife writer).
Some services allow multiple accounts and simultaneous streaming which might be of interest if you’re RVing with family. With Amazon Prime, we can stream on two devices. We’re in a Class C with just one TV, so we don’t generally use that feature.
3. Hulu & YouTube for Live TV
Some streaming services don’t offer Live TV or local programming. Live TV might be a must if you enjoy tailgating in your RV. If you’re a die-hard NBA or College Football fan you might want a bit more live TV than what an HD antenna can offer.
Luckily, more streaming services are beginning to offer live TV. Hulu, another popular streaming service, offers live TV for a higher monthly cost than its base package. In general, services or options with live TV are more expensive. If live TV isn’t a must, you can subscribe to a streaming service without it and use an HDTV antenna for local channels.
We’ve decided to give YouTube TV a try. YouTube TV makes live TV and local programming available to you. You can also watch national networks like HGTV and TNT. Movies are also included, but they do have ads.
Tips for Streaming
If you’re not going with satellite or cable TV, and you’re not interested in only having an HDTV antenna, then that means you’re likely going to go with a streaming service – like the ones mentioned above. A streaming service, regardless of whether it includes live TV, works by accessing the internet. In order for your TV to be able to stream, you must have a streaming player.
The streaming player we have is the Roku Streaming Stick. There is some free content from Roku. But, keep in mind, much of what you will see as “channels” may require an additional subscription. The Roku makes it possible to stream to your TV from any streaming service which is why you’ll see Hulu, for example, in the menu even if you don’t subscribe to their service.
Last, you need an internet connection. The Roku and its competitors need to be connected to the internet for you to be able to stream to your TV. Streaming requires a lot of data, so you’ll want to make sure you have an unlimited data plan. We have a plan with Verizon and use our Verizon Mi-Fi hotspot when we stream.
Our set-up is very simple. We have our wall-mounted TV, plugged into its HDMI port is the very small Roku Streaming Stick. And we control everything with a small Roku remote control. (If you have an older TV in your RV, Roku does make one player that can connect to TVs without HDMI ports).
We hope these tips help you save some money while still enjoying your favorite TV entertainment!
Do you feel your stress levels rise if your RV travel isn’t planned and reserved down to the day? Or, on the contrary, do reservations make you feel rushed and limited?
At some point as an RVer, chances are you’ll find yourself either wanting or needing to RV without reservations. From an approaching hurricane to last minute tickets to a special event, there are many reasons you might need to forgo reservations, even if you prefer them.
We rarely make reservations because we find it much less stressful to RV without reservations. Since we do this for most of the year, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks that can make RVing without reservations a breeze.
Tip 1: Avoid Going Without Reservations on Holidays, etc.
Long weekends, holidays, and special once-a-year vacations are not the times to go without reservations. Campgrounds, USFS sites, and BLM land quickly fill up during long weekends and holidays. At these times you’d risk spending your holiday at the nearest Walmart parking lot.
If your RV trip is a special vacation you’ve planned with must-see sights, you’ll want to make sure you have reservations. Is it possible that once you get there you’ll realize you want to spend more time in an area where you planned a short stop? Sure. But knowing you won’t miss any must-see stops is worth any cancellation fee you may have to pay to tweak your plans a bit.
USFS campgrounds and BLM land are great options for RVing without reservations, but even they can fill up during holidays. Be sure to plan ahead for holidays and long weekends.
Tip 2: Know Your RV Basics
Although we don’t make many reservations nowadays, we certainly didn’t start out that way. If you’re brand new to RVing, there’s a lot that you’ll inevitably learn as you go. All these things you’ll be learning are going to be your funny RV stories of tomorrow. So, at this stage, it’s best to swing the odds in your favor and make reservations.
Wait until you know how your RV works before attempting to go without reservations. Also, wait until you’re comfortable driving and parking your RV, as well as knowing how to boondock. You would need to know how to boondock in case you end up needing to overnight at a Walmart.
Tip 3: Arrive on Tuesdays or Wednesdays
Early on, we began to notice that while campgrounds were booked solid starting Fridays, the weekdays were a different story. On Sunday afternoon, campgrounds emptied out and we nearly had the whole thing to ourselves. Our favorite campsites soon ended up being those we chose as walk-ins.
RVing without a reservation is pretty easy if you arrive at the campground on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Sundays and Mondays are sometimes part of long weekends. Thursdays can also be a bit busier as campers get a jump on the weekend. Although Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best, you’ll often be fine as long as you’re not arriving on Friday or Saturday.
Tip 4: Seasons Matter
Just as you don’t want to arrive at a campground without a reservation on a Friday, you generally don’t want to arrive without a reservation during summer. When all of the kids have gone back to school in the fall, it’s fairly easy to RV without reservations. Winter can be even easier. In some places, you’ll even enjoy discounts.
You’ll also want to keep in mind other kinds of seasons, like football season. During football season in the south, for example, you may want to leave your weekdays open-ended, but still reserve your weekends.
Tip 5: Have Options Within a Desired Radius
We have RVed in the Pacific NW during summer without reservations. That’s typically not a great idea, as camping is incredibly popular in that area, especially during their beautiful summers.
One thing that helped us was to know how far from our first choice we were willing to drive. Once we knew that, we made sure we had three to four options (in our desired price range) within that radius. Sometimes we got our first choice and sometimes we didn’t find a site until we arrived at option four. Still, RVing with no reservations allowed us to escape the heat waves and forest fires that kept chasing us that summer.
We fell in love with this state park in Portland, OR. This time our first choice didn’t pan out, but we were able to stay at a lovely county park within the desired radius.
Tip 6: Confirm in Advance There are Walk-Up-Only Sites
Confirming ahead of time that campgrounds have non-reservable sites also makes it possible to RV without reservations in areas like Portland and Seattle during the summer. We occasionally broke our own rule and arrived on a Friday, but still snagged a site due to walk-up-only sites.
If you can confirm ahead of time that a campground has non-reservable sites, and you combine this with arriving on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you’re in really great shape. We found these sites were often non-reservable, but were renewable, on a day-to-day basis. This made it possible to keep the walk-up site for more than just one night.
Tip 7: Only Attempt When Ready to Boondock
Be sure your rig is ready to spend the night off grid before you attempt to RV without a reservation. Make sure your propane tanks are full. Your batteries should be fully charged. The fresh water tank should be full. And, your black and gray tanks should be empty.
If your rig is ready to boondock, you’ll be ready to spend the night at a Walmart in the event you can’t find a site. It’s also possible that a non-reservable site is a no-hookup site or is electric only. You want to be prepared for any of those scenarios.
Tip 8: Know What Back-Up Plan is Available in the Area
If you arrive once the gates are closed or otherwise need to wait a day until something becomes available, know what overnight options are nearby.
Walmarts and Cracker Barrels often allow overnight RV parking. Most of the time they’re not far from campgrounds. If you’re in an area where these aren’t an option, look for rest stops and truck stops, or other boondocking options. Looking at a map ahead of time will ensure you go in with a Plan B. If plan A were to fall through, you can switch to Plan B without a second thought.
Tip 9: Ask a Friend
We spent some time this summer visiting Banff National Park. We knew we needed to make reservations for Banff in the summer. We were hoping to add on as much time as we could in nearby Jasper National Park, but we weren’t going to be able to determine how much time we’d have ahead of time.
Before our trip, we ran into friends who lived in Canada for a few years. We quizzed them on Jasper and Banff. They confirmed we needed reservations for Banff, but knew from experience that we would have no issues visiting Jasper without reservations. We’ve found that people generally love to give tips about their hometowns or places they’ve been. Sooner or later the tips come in handy.
For epic trips, you really do want to plan ahead. We made reservations for Banff NP, but were comfortable going without reservations in nearby Jasper NP based on our friends’ prior experience as locals.
RVing without reservations is bound to happen if you RV frequently, and especially if you full-time. Whether it’s an unexpected option, your preference, or necessary to keep your schedule open, it can be done. In any case, a combination of the tips above can make RVing without reservations stress-free.
Observing first-hand that Winnebago cares about customers’ opinions is the main reason we chose to buy a Winnebago RV. In 2017, we attended an RV conference called the RV Entrepreneur Summit, and we were surprised to see members of Winnebago’s product team in attendance, taking notes on all the feedback being thrown their way!
While attending this year’s RV Open House and Winnebago Launch in Elkhart, IN, we happily noticed that Winnebago is at it again. They showcased a number of concepts built around customer feedback. The one that stood out to us the most was the new interior concept for the Winnebago Intent.
The brand new, light and airy interior is still only a concept, which means it’s not available for purchase yet. But, Winnebago is listening and is looking into making this an option. Take a look at the main features of the new design and be sure to leave your comments below.
The contemporary style moldings on this interior concept’s slide are free of scrollwork or intricate embellishments. The shaker style cabinets share the same clean lines.
Upon entering the Winnebago Intent, a Class A gas motorhome that debuted last year, you immediately notice the interior is not brown. Motorhomes and campers in the U.S. tend to be dominated by brown tones on the interior. However, a quick search on Pinterest or YouTube for RV décor or renovations will often show that browns are often repainted, reupholstered, or ripped out. Customers hoping to save themselves the work have asked for lighter, more contemporary interiors and that’s exactly what you get when walking into this Intent’s interior concept.
The browns have been replaced with warm, off-white neutrals. The end result feels homey – like a beach house approved by Joanna Gaines, of HGTV fame. The interior also felt more open, thanks to the light-colored walls and ceiling. (For a tour of this new Intent interior, click here.)
The off-white neutrals allow you to add your own personality to the RV’s interior. Like in a home, pillows and throws are often used to add a personal touch to an RV. With the light neutrals, accents in just about any hue will look right. Personalize and add contrast with teal, navy, coral or any color you like.
The tufted headboard in the bedroom was also neutral, providing a blank slate for bedspreads and pillows. A closer look at the white valances revealed a clean look with no padded embellishments or pre-chosen patterns.
If you walk in hoping for the valances to provide the character in the RV, you might be disappointed. However, we suspect the valances were designed for those who find themselves ripping them out, recovering them, or begrudgingly choosing the lesser evil of the pre-selected fabric patterns available.
A downside to the more brown-dominant RV interiors is the lack of contrast. And overall, a limited amount of customization. In a general sense, many consumer trends show that people like to customize and personalize. This new interior concept provides the perfect foundation to personalize to your heart’s content.
But what if your heart would rather customize a little less and have some of the contrast already added for you? There was also a gray fabric swatch on hand to show an alternate upholstery color.
The light countertop’s ‘marble’ look perfectly complemented the contemporary beach-house feel of the interior. But, if you prefer a darker countertop, there was a swatch to show a gray option that could be available for the countertop as well.
A gray neutral is a second option for the upholstery. The gray swatch in this picture gives an idea of what that could look like.
Many RVs tend to feature traditional design. This is reflected in scrollwork or intricate designs on moldings, particularly on slides and cabinets. That works out great if you’re a fan of traditional décor, but there have been few options for anyone who’s a fan of contemporary design.
The new interior concept in this Intent addressed that with clean lines throughout the RV’s interior. The molding on the slide-out was clean, modern, and contained no scrollwork. The valances and lampshade were also clean and modern. The cabinets were shaker style cabinets.
Our RVs are our homes away from home. We don’t all decorate our homes the same. Yet, until now, our RVs have largely shared the same décor style. This new interior provides the kind of options we’re used to outside of the RV world.
The countertops have a “white marble” look that complements the rustic beach house feel of the interior. A gray countertop option is also available, swatch shown below cutting board in this photo.
This is your chance to let Winnebago know what you think. How do you feel about this new more contemporary look? Would you change anything? Would you like to see this option in a diesel pusher, Class C, towable, or any other type of RV? Please leave your feedback in the comments below!
In recent years, our National Parks have been smashing attendance records. Last year, nearly matched the National Park System’s record-breaking centennial in 2016. As wonderful as it is that more people are enjoying the treasure that is our National Park System, this does have a little bit of a downside, especially if you’re looking for a serene escape into nature at one of the more popular parks.
To alleviate the strain on some of our parks, shuttle systems have been instituted. Some shuttles, like the one in Zion National Park, are mandatory for most of the year, sometimes resulting in an experience that’s a little more theme park in feel. (You can only drive your car through Zion from November to March, now.)
But, as summer winds down and fall begins, a more serene experience opens up once again at some of the busiest National Parks. If you have the flexibility, try visiting Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks in the fall. The crowds die down, along with the mosquitoes (in the case of Yellowstone and Grand Teton), making them just perfect to visit in the fall.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
RMNP was the 4th most-visited National Park in 2017 with 4,437,215 visitors. Its close proximity to Denver keeps it quite busy on the weekends, but it’s also a very popular National Park with families on summer road trips. About a quarter of visitors come to the park during a six-week window in the summer. RMNP is a great place to see a small, but beautiful part of the majestic Rocky Mountain range which stretches from Alaska to Mexico.
Why RMNP is Great in the Fall
The Aspens in RMNP begin to change color in autumn, treating visitors to beautiful fall foliage. Most visitors look forward to driving Trail Ridge Road, which climbs up into the alpine region of the park at over 11,400 feet. The Alpine Visitor’s Center is a great place to stop along the way, but it can be difficult to grab a parking spot in the summer. We actually couldn’t find a spot on two separate drives through in the summer, but had no problem finding a spot in the fall!
It’s cold up there with the wind whipping through even in the summer, so fall can be chilly. However, the section of Trail Ridge Road containing the visitor’s center closes in mid-October before the temperatures really drop. The quieter side of the park is the west side. Staying at Grand Lake, even in the summer, is a quieter alternative to Estes Park. The west side of the park also has access to the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.
On the east side, hiking out to Dream Lake and Bear Lake are popular activities. Summertime is busy enough to warrant shuttle use from the Park n’ Ride off of Bear Lake Road. However, as long as you’re in your car, you can probably drive down to the trailheads and skip the shuttle in the fall. If you’re in your RV, you won’t fit at some of the trailhead parking lots, so you’ll need to use the shuttle. However, both the shuttles and the trails won’t be as crowded.
2. Yellowstone National Park
Undoubtedly, one of our most iconic National Parks, Yellowstone was the 6th most visited National Park in 2017 with 4,116,524 visitors. In 1872, Yellowstone became not only the first National Park in the U.S., but the first in the world! Yellowstone’s geysers make it truly unique as no other place in the world contains as many.
Why Yellowstone is Great in the Fall
Summer brings warmth to Yellowstone, but summer also brings the crowds and mosquitoes. We’ve been to Yellowstone both in the summer and fall. If you’re staying in Jackson Hole, the sidewalks get extremely crowded in the summer. It’s also difficult to snag a good spot up in the popular boondocking spot at Upper Teton View, plus it is quite warm and mosquito infested during the daytime in that area. True, you could run the generator and use you’re A/C, but that’s probably not the experience you envision when boondocking with a view of the Grand Tetons.
Along with a more relaxing stay, fall in the park sees less crowds and less traffic. The more unpredictable fall weather also brings some mist and light snowfall. However, the mist brings out a mysterious beauty in Yellowstone.
If you’re there for the geysers and Old Faithful, make the trek (or part of the drive) from Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs in the north of the park. If you’re there for the wildlife, try driving from Lake Village to Tower-Roosevelt. This route will take you through Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley, which are ideal for spotting wildlife – especially bison. We definitely saw bison in the summer, but during the fall they were very literally walking up to our car!
Remember though, don’t wait too long into the fall season to go to Yellowstone, because winter does come quickly, and road as well as campground closures along with it! (Read more about Yellowstone campgrounds in this article by a fellow contributor.)
3. Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park, with its close proximity to Yellowstone, was the 9th most visited National Park in 2017 with 3,317,000 visitors. The peaks of the Teton range lack foothills, which makes them a spectacular sight because the mountains seem to abruptly rise up out of the Jackson Valley floor.
Why Grand Teton is Great in the Fall
Grand Teton National Park really has an untouched wilderness feel to it. It’s possible to see beavers, moose, and bears. But, this serene and tranquil park teems with human activity during the summer. In the fall, it’s possible to have the grandeur of this area seemingly to yourself. It almost becomes like a Planet Earth episode playing right before your eyes as opposed to your screen.
Just as with Yellowstone, you might find yourself staying in Jackson Hole or boondocking at Upper Teton View. These two areas are extremely packed with people during the summer months. For any of you who depend on Wi-Fi, you’ll also want to take into account the strain that puts on the towers. During the summer, you’re lucky if you can get some decent service after 9 p.m., and before 9 p.m. it’s pretty much impossible.
Mosquitoes are rather fierce at Grand Teton NP in the summer, but just about non-existent in the fall. The changing season there also brings in some browns and yellows, and sometimes a light snow dusting. There are also many hikes and paddling opportunities, but don’t be surprised if Grand Teton NP in the fall brings out your inner photographer.
While visiting in the fall, be sure to channel your inner Ansel Adams at the Snake River overlook. Inspiration Point on Jenny Lake is a beautiful spot you’ve likely seen in many photographs. And Schwabacher Landing is a must. It’s a beautiful short hike and, if you’re lucky, you might spot some beavers. Iconic, brochure-worthy shots abound along the walking path. Plus, Oxbow Bend offers the chance to photograph the mountains with a glassy pond in the foreground.
Our National Parks are a true treasure. It’s fantastic that more and more people are experiencing their natural beauty. If you have some flexibility in your travel, you can experience a serene nature getaway, even in our most popular parks, without having to go in the backcountry. All you have to do is time your visit for the fall! (For more fall travel tips, read our article on reducing condensation).
Winter is coming. Okay, okay, maybe not quite yet, but summer is coming to an end and temperatures will be cooling down in many parts of the country. RV condensation is a fact of RV travel, which is at its worst in cold temperatures.
Condensation results when water vapor cools and becomes liquid. Just breathing in your RV creates water vapor! Cooking, showering, and your camping location can also significantly increase water vapor in the air. Although these things can produce RV condensation any time of year, they’re most impactful as the temperature drops. But, fall is a gorgeous time of year to RV, so if you’re not ready to store your RV just yet, or you’re a full-timer, we have nine tips, including both products and behaviors, to help you reduce condensation in your RV.
Products that Reduce RV Condensation
1. Moisture Absorber
A moisture absorber is a good start toward fighting mold-causing condensation. This is a great start because it’s most effective in warmer weather. If you’re spending the end of your summer anywhere in the Southeast, a moisture absorber is a must. If you’re heading in that direction, it’s still a good idea to grab one as fall can arrive as late as November depending on where you’re staying.
A moisture absorber is pretty much a bucket of crystals that behaves like a dehumidifier without the need for electricity. The crystals absorb excess moisture from the air, returning the humidity level to a more optimal level. Jon and I began RVing in the Southeast in a travel trailer. The DampRid brand is our favorite moisture absorber.
As the weather becomes colder, you’ll definitely want to add a dehumidifier to your condensation fighting toolkit. Most dehumidifiers require power, but Eva Dry, which is mine and Jon’s favorite brand, make a 12-volt version (the EDV 2500) that can work out better for boondocking.
In our small Class C Winnebago Trend, we use a small Eva Dry Dehumidifier (the EDV 1100, but we constantly travel and don’t rely solely on it). If you’re stationary for long periods of time, have a large RV, or are often connected to shore power, you may wish to upgrade to a larger dehumidifier. As a rule of thumb, 15 pint/7 liter dehumidifiers are effective for many RVs, and 25-30 pint/14 liter dehumidifiers could work best for large RVs.
Carefully look through reviews for real-world comments regarding weight, power consumption, and noise. Desiccant and compressor dehumidifiers are the two main types. As another rule of thumb, desiccant dehumidifiers are quieter, lighter, and perform better at lower temperatures, but a compressor dehumidifier could remove moisture faster and possibly consume less power. It really all varies by unit, and manufacturers don’t all rate capabilities at the same humidity levels, so it will be hard to make direct comparisons. Mostly, beware of advice that points you toward a dehumidifier that’s best for an average sized house – you don’t need that for your RV.
3. Dual-Pane Acrylic Windows
We’ve raved about our Dual Pane Acrylic windows before. We bought our Trend with this upgrade and can’t imagine RVing without it. RV condensation is a problem to begin with because RVs are not insulated in the same way that a home is. Traditional RV windows are a major weak point when it comes to insulation.
We’ve personally found dual pane acrylic windows help immensely with insulation. As a result, we haven’t had to wake up early to race around the RV, wiping dry all of our windows in a blaze of blue shop-towel glory. (We may have done this on a few occasions in our pre-acrylic-windows RV life). This isn’t to say that dual pane acrylic windows eliminate RV condensation, but we’ve personally seen a reduction. We also found that we used the furnace less since the RV stays warmer. RV furnaces are often propane powered, and propane appliances do create water vapor.
Behaviors that Reduce RV Condensation
Besides buying products there are free, or nearly free, things that can be done to reduce RV Condensation.
4. Opening a window or vent
Again, beginning with what you can do while it’s still warmer: open a window. Opening a window or vent can go a long way toward reducing RV condensation. Unfortunately, although this is true, it won’t work once it becomes too cold. Letting too much cold air in will make it too cold inside the RV, which in turn will mean you’ll turn on your propane furnace, which will only create more water vapor. Not to mention, you probably don’t want to spend all of your money on propane refills.
5. Open closets and cabinets
When we were new RVers, we were horrified to discover moisture inside one of our closets when reaching in for a shirt. Upon further investigation, we found these sweaty walls inside of other closets and cabinets. Condensation on windows is an easy fix because you can see it. Hidden sweaty walls are out of sight and could therefore be out of mind. Get some air flowing into these areas by cracking open your closet and cabinet doors. Or place a moisture absorber or dehumidifier, near other areas where condensation could build up on account of low air circulation (like the wall behind your couch).
6. Cooking outside when possible
If you can, cook outside. This will help immensely in your fight against condensation. Cooking is one of the main causes of water vapor in your RV. If cooking outside is not an option, by all means cook inside, but then try your best to avoid boiling. Try sautéing your veggies rather than steaming or boiling them for example. If you must boil, be sure to use a lid.
7. Campground showers
Jon and I do love campground showers and using other public shower facilities (gyms) and we understand that not everyone does. However, when RV condensation is at its worst during the colder months, they are a great way to help reduce condensation in your RV. Showers, especially the longer ones you might take if you are hooked up to city water, are a major contributor to RV condensation. You’ll gain the most by showering outside your RV if you’re a full-time RVer.
8. Don’t stay long in the Southeast
Humidity is often high in the Southeast, no matter what season it is. Jon and I were born and raised in said humidity and we highly recommend avoiding long stints in the Southeast with your RV. Humidity levels in your RV are going to be higher anytime you are in the Southeast (certain parts of the Midwest also).
A great benefit to RV travel is the flexibility to follow the weather. High humidity climates are not ideal for your RV. That being said, we do love the Blue Ridge Mountain area of the Southeast in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Try visiting in late summer/early fall with your moisture absorber, dehumidifier, outdoor cooking, and campground shower strategies in place.
9. Fall in love with the Southwest
A sure way to reduce condensation is to go where there is no humidity. Jon and I fell in love with the desert and red rock of the Southwest. If it works with your travel route, try watching the Aspens change color in Colorado and work your way down to Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona during the later parts of the fall. Consider wintering in the Tucson area. A little love for the Southwest can have you back to just being mindful of cracking windows and vents when you cook and shower, keeping condensation in the back of your mind and your focus back on the joy of your RV travels.
RV condensation can be a bit of a nuisance, but luckily there are many ways to reduce condensation. The combination of methods that work best for your preferences, and your particular rig, may differ from someone else’s, but with the right combination we can all enjoy a little fall and winter RVing.
Our Winnebago Trend recently went on its first international adventure, taking a jaunt up to the Canadian Rockies. The area awed us with eye-popping, jaw-dropping scenery at every turn. Friends, if as you are reading this, you are anywhere near the Alberta, Canada border – go now. Really, it’s that beautiful! We just can’t get our minds off Banff and the surrounding area, so we will happily reminisce and share our favorite lakes and other can’t-miss spots.
When to go
As most know, Canada can be a bit cold! While there are a ton of winter time activities, we were hoping to see the famous blue lakes of the Canadian Rockies, meaning we had to visit when the lakes had thawed. Their electric turquoise color makes them world-renowned.
The lakes showcase their deepest hues during the high season in July and August. But, July and August also happen to have the most rainy days and the most tourists visiting. The months of May, June, and September, however, make up Banff’s shoulder season, and are less crowded. While there is still some rain and crowds, this is a great time to visit.
We traveled through in late June, finding crowds, but also having some of the beauty entirely to ourselves. We also found typical mountain weather, with rain, sun, cold and warmth all possible in a span of a few hours. When we return we’ll choose shoulder season again.
Lay of the land
Banff is sometimes used as a catchall term to mean Banff National Park and its surrounding areas. But, within Banff National Park there is an actual town of Banff. The town of Banff is roughly 45 minutes east from the famous Lake Louise and stunning Morraine Lake. (Read more about things to do in Banff in this previous GoLife article).
The unforgettable Icefields Parkway takes you north from Lake Louise and into Jasper National Park. If you head west from Lake Louise instead, you’ll find yourself in Yoho National Park in less than 10 minutes.
Where to stay
The largest city near Banff is Calgary, just an hour east. On the western edge of Calgary, we found a campground called Calgary West Campground. It can serve as a base camp to explore the areas around the towns of Banff and Canmore, but it can feel a bit far to explore some of the other surrounding areas.
For this reason, we switched over to campgrounds in Banff National Park to explore the lakes and some of the hikes. Banff National Park has 15 campgrounds, and 9 of those are reservable at reservation.pc.gc.ca. They range from full-hookup to rustic, but don’t count on having sewer, only one of those has sewer hook-ups. Yoho and Jasper have campground options of their own too.
Overall, be sure to book early, and don’t expect to find free boondocking near Banff NP. The Banff campgrounds can accommodate big rigs, so Class As and fifth-wheels are okay. Both the town of Banff and the National Parks are RV friendly and you can tour them without a toad.
Morraine Lake, Banff National Park.
Best of Banff National Park
Nestled in The Valley of the 10 Peaks, Morraine Lake is not to be missed. If for some reason you can only see one lake, make it Morraine. We ventured out to Morraine just before sunset and we had it all to ourselves! The general recommendation is to see it at sunrise or sunset to avoid the large crowds. For a more up-close experience, you can rent a canoe and paddle around Morraine. The water was perfectly still for us, serenely reflecting the mountains surrounding it.
Lake Louise’s turquoise shade is so vibrant, so electric, that you can hardly believe it’s real when you first approach it. Lake Louise can be conveniently viewed from a walkway that circles around part of the lake. You can also rent a canoe if you’d like to actually get out on the lake itself. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel is right on the lake and there are amazing pastries to enjoy inside its coffee shop.
Lake Agnes Trail & Tea House
To catch a view of Lake Louise from above, hike up the Lake Agnes Trail. It’s a steep, 2.2-mile trail and can be a bit muddy and slick if it’s raining, but you’ll be rewarded. As you hike up, the trail will lead you to both Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes. After taking in the views of the peaceful Lake Agnes, you can recharge at the Lake Agnes tea house. They have an indoor and outdoor seating area and offer hot teas and snacks. Don’t forget to take cash! Lake Agnes tea house does not accept credit cards. We went on the hike right at sunrise and were the very first to arrive at the tea house when it opened at 8 a.m.
The Icefields Parkway begins in Banff National Park. One of the many lakes along the way is Peyto Lake. Peyto Lake is an alpine lake that looks like a fox. The viewpoints are just a quick hike from the parking area. Again, we were amazed by the vivid turquoise color of the lake. It’s as if someone turned the saturation and contrast way up, like they do on TVs in the electronics section of stores. It’s a wonderful spot for a picture, and you’ll have to wait for a turn to snap your pic of the lake, but while you wait you have one heck of a view. You can visit Peyto Lake while you’re in the Banff NP area, or when you’re ready to head up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper.
Peyto Lake through the trees. Do you see the fox shape?
Best of Yoho National Park
Just a 20-minute drive west from Lake Louise, and technically in B.C. rather than Alberta, you’ll find Emerald Lake. The first European to see Emerald Lake accidentally came upon it when trying to recover his escaped horses. What a find! Like Morraine and Louise, a good way to see this lake up close is from a canoe.
We asked a friendly local at Wild Flour Bakery in Banff (great little coffee shop!) what the number one sight most tourists missed in the area was. He slid a receipt with the words Takakkaw Falls scribbled on it across the counter. Always, always ask the locals for tips! We drove further into Yoho, past Emerald Lake thanks to his tip. After a bit of a windy road (beware: big rigs won’t fit around one of the bends!) we reached a parking area for Takakkaw Falls.
With light rain falling, we decided to take a quick nap in the RV, with the beautiful falls visible from our window. Once the rain subsided, we walked across a bridge to the falls. The water danced and billowed as it crashed down into the river below. We’re glad we didn’t miss Yoho with it’s rugged beauty, feeling a bit more wild and unspoiled than Banff NP.
Best of Jasper National Park & the Icefields Parkway
The national parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains form a Unesco World Heritage site, and we dare say the Icefields Parkway is the crown jewel. Unless you absolutely can’t, please don’t leave the Canadian Rockies without driving the entire Icefields Parkway. It’s STUNNING. The drive can take three hours or many more depending on how often you stop. Should you only be able to make one stop, stop at Sunwapta Falls. You’re going to be tempted to stop at the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield as your one stop, but drive on to Sunwapta Falls. Look Sunwapta Falls up on Instagram if you have any doubts. The crashing falls beautifully showcase the sheer power of nature during the late spring when the glacial melt is the highest. Be sure to stop at Sunwapta Falls for sunset.
Sunwapta Falls is a must-see destination in the area.
Because, can you ever really see too many waterfalls? At 60 feet wide, Athabasca Falls is known for its power. There are paved platforms all around the falls making them easy to see from many different angles. Athabasca Falls is only about 30 minutes from the town of Jasper and the end of the Icefields Parkway. If you’re running short on time, don’t worry if you have to turn back around here. If you need to head back south, you can turn around here and then spend the night parked at the Glacier Discovery Centre (big-rig friendly). Beware it’ll be a cold night due to its location in the Columbia Icefield. But, it’s worth it if you’re short on time and you need to head back south.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface of all there is to do up in Banff and the Canadian Rockies, but it’s a great start. We took a 10-day trip in June, when sunset was at 10 p.m., and we still felt rushed. A good bit of this is because we wanted to see so many of these places at sunrise or sunset. Keep that in mind, and be sure to build in some time for hikes. Enjoy Canada, eh! (For a video version of these tips, watch our Winnebago Facebook Live session here).
As Floridians, Jon and I are partial to summer and warm weather activities. As such, we have mostly visited “ski towns” during the warm months of the year. However, we’ve discovered that as well-known as some of these idyllic mountain towns may be for their winter sports and ski resorts, they have a booming summer season with loads of activities and festivals as well. With their beautiful vistas and milder summer temperatures, three ski towns stand out above the rest. So, pack the RV, don’t forget your hammock, and a fun summer read, and head out to one (or all!) of these destinations for some summer fun.
1. Telluride, Colorado
This former mining town will steal your heart and leave you breathless no matter which way you turn to look. It’s a charming town in a box canyon, surrounded by mountains. Flowers fill the fresh mountain air you breathe with their delicate fragrance.
Things to do
As, if the views and fragrant flowers weren’t enough, Telluride is filled with quaint shops, like Between the Covers Bookstore, and eateries with sidewalk seating. Town Park allows you to recharge to the sounds of water with a path along the San Miguel River.
And, if you’re a dog lover, you may think you have died and gone to heaven. The dogs of Telluride are a happy bunch, that wander freely about town and are welcome even on the free gondola ride up to the Mountain Village ski resort. There are leash laws, but the resident dogs seem to deem those more of a formality. However, if your dog is not an easy going friendly type, the extreme dog friendliness could be stressful for you, as other dogs are rarely on leashes.
Telluride’s summer event schedule is packed with festivals. Summer kicks off with the Mountainfilm festival during Memorial Day weekend which pairs movie screenings with a robust schedule of free events. The Telluride Balloon Festival and Bluegrass Festival are notable events in June, and July brings you the Telluride Yoga Festival.
For some good eats, stop in at the Butcher & Baker Cafe. Try their carrot cake for the moistest piece of carrot cake you’ve ever had. There are seemingly endless options for coffee, but Coffee Cowboy, serving coffee and smoothies out of a Travel Trailer, stood out to our RVer hearts. The ambiance at Ghost Town coffee couldn’t be beat and there was a constant stream of people during our entire stay in Telluride. Smuggler’s Brewpub was a nice spot for a beer and gastropub fare. For a healthier take on burgers, try grabbing a steamed burger at Steamies Burger Bar.
RVers can book a stay at the Town Park campground, placing you right in the middle of all the action, or explore the nearby Forest Roads for some boondocking with mountain views.
If you’d like to continue the road trip or mix in a National Park, try jumping onto the San Juan Skyway as part of your trip and loop around the nearby quintessential mountain towns of Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton. The San Juan Skyway continues to Durango where you can jump on US-160 to follow the Skyway to Mesa Verde National Park. You may even spot bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, or moose along the way!
2. Sun Valley, Idaho
Great American writer Ernest Hemingway was certainly onto something when he chose Ketchum, Idaho (Sun Valley is often used to refer to Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue), as a home. Although his home in Key West, FL, is better known, perhaps because of the famous six-toed cats, Hemingway loved to spend summer and fall in Idaho.
Things to do
During the summer, the area is perfect for mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking, and kayaking. In town, one of the most unique Starbucks in the country doubles as the Visitor Center.
The Starbucks is not to be missed. They do have some local baked goods to offer, and the use of real dinnerware used to serve “for here” orders was highly amusing to us. We grabbed counter-style seats facing out the window and onto the charming town streets
For dinner, try local favorite Enoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar. They have wood-fired pizza and mouth-watering “tapas” style small-plates.
Sun Valley downtown is very RV friendly with parking spots in what would normally be the median of the streets. Class B vans and Class C rentals were very common, even during our stay which was slightly ahead of season.
We went completely off-grid, boondocking in the Sawtooth National Forest along a babbling creek. Private campsites along babbling creeks are the best! However, while the boondocking spot we found was accessible for our Class C, you may wish to look through the handy Idaho RV park guide available at the Visitors Center if you own a Class A.
You can roll back time by heading out to Stanley from there. Stanley is a tiny town right out of an old Western with whitewater rafting tour companies ready to take you out for adventure.
3. Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman residents will tell you that the summer season is where it’s at, despite Montana being a world-class ski destination. Bozeman blew us away, and apparently, others have taken note too as they are currently experiencing rapid growth. Downtown Bozeman is filled with local shops, breweries, pubs, distilleries, and coffee shops. If you love strolling idyllic main-streets, like we do, it just doesn’t get much better than this. Bozeman’s charm will have you making plans to stay forever, and forgetting that winters are a six-month ordeal.
Things to do
The Cannery district is definitely worth a visit with its own set of cafes, breweries, and eateries. Don’t miss the Daily Coffee Bar and Bakery, the oldest coffee shop in Bozeman! The Cannery District location is their larger location, the original being on the MSU campus.
Their baked goods and dessert case is so mouthwatering everyone walking in steps up to the counter only to step right back realizing they need a minute to decide, because you really do just want to try it all. You MUST have a Bee Sting Bun, a heavenly croissant drizzled with caramel and almonds, filled with a cream cheese center. Have it warmed and thank us later. If you’re gluten-free they have quite a few mouthwatering options as well.
Bozeman, like the other two ski towns on this list, is a mountain biker’s and fisherman’s paradise during summer. There’s also plenty of good camping and hiking to be had – including in Yellowstone. Plus, Mammoth Hot Springs and the forest lined main road offer a chance to possibly spot some bears and definitely see some mighty bison.
The Gallatin National Forest offers public campgrounds, and you have the Yellowstone north entrance at your doorstep.
Consider continuing your summer adventure heading north from Bozeman and into Glacier National Park.
Who needs snow to enjoy mountain ‘ski towns’? Head over to some of our best mountain towns this summer and see them in a new light.