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Santa Barbara, California is one of those cities that feels like an escape every time you visit! You can’t go wrong with year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches and mountains, and the gorgeous Spanish-style architecture throughout the whole city. Beyond the more popular tourist options such as visiting the Santa Barbara Mission, shopping on State Street, and visiting the breweries and wineries in the Funk Zone – there are many unique hidden gems in Santa Barbara to explore.

Here are 11 of the best hidden gems and unique things to do when visiting Santa Barbara:

1. Tangerine Falls

The Tangerine Falls Trail is a true hidden gem in Santa Barbara – I lived there for four years before learning about this beautiful hike! The trail is unique because there are not many waterfalls in Santa Barbara since the area doesn’t get a lot of rain.

The hike is a 2.2 mile out and back trail that starts on a path then transitions to scrambling over rocks for most of the hike, so it is a bit more difficult for some. However, the effort is well worth it when you reach the waterfall.

The rocks behind the waterfall have a beautiful orange tint and the water collects enough at the bottom that there is usually a shallow swimming hole, and it all overlooks a great view of Santa Barbara with views out to the ocean! Plus, you might see some animal life (like newts!) and nature that is hard to see anywhere else in Santa Barbara.

2. Montecito Hot Springs Canyon Trail

Santa Barbara has a few areas with hot springs (naturally heated pools of water that have bacteria and sulphur with amazing health benefits) but these Montecito ones are my favorite.

The Hot Springs Canyon Trail is a 3.7 mile moderately challenging loop trail. The hike itself is lush and mostly shady, but the best part is dipping in the hot spring pools at the end.

The hottest pool is at the top and each gets a bit cooler as the water flows down. Whichever pool you choose, you will leave feeling like you came from the spa! Just make sure to follow the signs closely to choose the right turns to reach the hot springs.

3. Visit the Sunstone Winery

Located 35-minutes north of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley, the Sunstone Winery is truly a hidden gem for those looking for a gorgeous California vineyard. It has been voted “Santa Barbara’s Favorite Red Wine” and “Best Santa Ynez Valley Tasting Room” by the Santa Barbara Independent, proving the Sunstone Winery is a local favorite.

With French inspired courtyards, stone barrel-aging caves, and picnic tables under the olive and oak trees, not to mention the wonderful wines that can only be bought onsite… this is the perfect afternoon activity for those looking to get off the beaten path in Santa Barbara!

4. Tour Casa del Herrero

Casa del Herrero Home and Gardens is great for those who want to experience a piece of Santa Barbara’s history by diving into a more unique experience than the typical tours.

This 1920s home is one of the finest examples of Spanish revival architecture in the U.S. and is full of 15th and 16th century pieces from the “Golden Age” of Spain. Plus, the Moorish-style gardens are spectacular.

5. Lizard’s Mouth

Lizard’s Mouth is a rock formation near the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains. It is aptly named for its resemblance to a lizard’s mouth (from a distance) and has some of the best views of the Santa Barbara area.

The distinct silhouette that gives Lizard's Mouth Rock its name

The distinct silhouette that gives Lizard’s Mouth Rock its name

You must do a little walking (~0.3 miles) to see the rock formation, but the area is primarily made up of rocks and does not really have trails. This is a popular spot in Santa Barbara for outdoors enthusiasts and people who like bouldering and rock climbing.

6. Walk Through the Goleta Butterfly Grove

The Monarch butterflies migrate through Goleta from November to February and can be seen at the Butterfly Grove. It’s incredible to see the butterflies come through, but the site itself is gorgeous all year round too.

Hidden gems in Santa Barbara - monarch roosts in the Goleta butterfly grove

At the right time of year, you can see monarch roosts in the Goleta butterfly grove

Situated on the Goleta bluffs, there are a few trails through the trees that take you to the cliffs and some that have beach access. The Goleta Butterfly Grove is a beautiful and lesser-known spot for a stroll, picnic, or to watch the sunset.

7. Visit Santa Barbara’s Most Unique Coffee Chain: Cajé

Cajé is my absolute favorite coffee chain in Santa Barbara! They of course have great coffee, but they are unique because there’s multiple locations across Santa Barbara that each have a distinctly different vibe and slightly different menu.

The Cajé I highly recommend visiting is across from the Arlington Theater on State Street. It’s a stunning location (often used as a wedding venue!) and serves signature coffee cocktails. The Haley St. Cajé also has nice vibes and “fancy” cocktails and even occasionally (it’s not advertised) turns into a speakeasy at night with a full bar.

For a more casual cup of coffee visit the Cajé downtown State Street or in Isla Vista. The original Cajé is in Isla Vista and mainly serves the local UCSB college community, but it has a more extensive breakfast food menu and a casual, fun feel with a 5-minute walk to the beach.

8. Have a Picnic and Watch the Planes at the Santa Barbara Airport

The Santa Barbara Airport is a tiny airport located in Goleta. It’s a very easy airport to fly in and out of when visiting, especially for inexperienced flyers, but it’s also a great place to see unique, old-school airplanes.

A fun, hidden gem activity is to pick up Dave’s Dogs (a nearby place that serves hotdogs with all kinds of toppings imaginable) and watch the planes from the benches in the waiting lot right outside of the airport.

9. Spend a Day in Solvang – “The Danish Capital of America”

Solvang is a town that is 34 miles (~45-minute drive) north of Santa Barbara, but is well worth a day trip. Most buildings have Danish-style architecture, there are plenty of amazing wine tasting rooms, and multiple authentic Danish bakeries and restaurants.

Discover Danish architecture of the nearby town of Solvang

Discover Danish architecture in the nearby town of Solvang

In Solvang Village, you can tour Old Mission Santa Inés, shop at The Book Loft or Rasmussen’s, visit a museum, enjoy an outdoor performance, or pet the alpacas!

10. Hidden Gem in Santa Barbara for Foodies: Zaytoon

Somehow, Zaytoon is rarely mentioned in places to eat in Santa Barbara, which makes it hands down the best hidden gem restaurant in the area and the one place I always have dinner at every time I’m in town again!

Zaytoon is a Lebanese and Middle Eastern restaurant with a delicious gourmet menu and beautiful patio. It’s a hidden oasis full of flowers and greenery with fire pits, live entertainment, and a beautiful fountain and architecture.

11. Hidden Gem in Santa Barbara for Extreme Adventurers: Kayak to Platform Holly

There are plenty of outdoor and adventurous activities for people to explore in Santa Barbara from surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, rock climbing, and more. One that many people don’t know about is kayaking towards Platform Holly.

Platform Holly is a decommissioned oil rig sitting about two miles off Coal Oil Point just west of Isla Vista. Rent a kayak, pack a lunch, and pick a fair-weather day to kayak out to the oil rig. You will get amazing views of the Santa Barbara coast and cliffs and likely see some sea life along the way!

Kayaking by Isla Vista

Kayaking by Isla Vista

It is certainly a challenge and not something to do alone or if you don’t have plenty of water experience. Be aware of the currents and conditions of the day, stay your distance from the sea lions that lay on Holly, and practice utmost safety while on the open ocean water.


Santa Barbara has hidden gems to explore for every type of tourist whether you prefer to stay out in nature or want to explore the ins and outs of the city. There is so much to see and do in Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas, especially when you get off the beaten path!

Hidden gems in Santa Barbara

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Joshua Tree National Park is one of California’s best natural attractions. With over 790,000 acres of rugged rock formations, towering Joshua trees, and desert landscape that seems from another planet – it’s hard to get enough of this place. Visiting Joshua Tree National Park but not sure which hikes you should do? There are 124 hiking trails in Joshua Tree that vary in length, intensity, and views. But if you’ve got limited time at the park, here are the 9 best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.

1. Hidden Valley Nature Trail

The Hidden Valley Nature Trail is an easy 1-mile loop hike that takes you to a hidden valley that was once used by cattle ranchers to shelter their cows in the 19th century. The valley is enclosed by unique rock formations. If you look closely at the rock formations, you might see rock climbers making their way up to the top.

Through the trail, you’ll see Joshua trees, yucca trees, cacti, and more. Look for interpretive signs to learn about the flora and fauna in the hidden valley.

The hike requires climbing steps and scrambling through some rocks but the elevation gain is minimal so plan to spend about an hour on this trail.

If you can, hike this trail around sunset time. The sunlight on the rock cliffs displays a golden light on them; unseen anywhere else!

2. Cholla Cactus Garden Trail

Cholla Cactus Nature Trail

Cholla Cactus Nature Trail

The Cholla Cactus Garden Trail is a very easy 0.2-mile hike through the Cholla Cactus Garden. This trail is on a boardwalk so expect minimum elevation gain.

The garden is filled with cholla cacti that look like teddy bears but definitely do not feel like them! You might notice others straying from the boardwalk trail but it’s best to stay on to prevent accidentally touching the cactus spines.

When hiking this trail, wear long-sleeved clothes and pack essentials in case you brush up on the spines. On the hike, you can see 10 acres of cholla cacti; plan to spend up to 30 minutes here. This is another great sunset hike but if you prefer a less-crowded experience, come here for sunrise to see the cholla cacti spines shining in the sunlight.  

3. Barker Dam Nature Trail

The Barker Dam Nature Trail is an easy-to-moderate 1.1-mile hike that shows you the Barker Dam, a water reservoir that was used by cattle ranchers. If you’re lucky, you might see water in the dam and wildlife including desert bighorn sheep near the dam.

After hiking to the dam, the trail takes you to a view of hundreds of Joshua trees, creosote bushes, pinyon trees, and the San Gorgonio Mountain in the far back. Towards the end of the trail, you’ll see a cave-like ceiling with Native American petroglyphs. Since there are many unique things to see on this trail, you can spend 1-2 hours exploring it. 

4. Wall Street Mill Trail

The Wall Street Mill Trail is another easy-to-moderate hike that can take an hour. The well-preserved trail takes you through a path with rustic automobiles used in the past and the Wall Street Mill at the end.

The mill was used for gold processing and mining. Read the signs throughout the trail to learn about its interesting history.

On the trail, you’ll also see an old windmill with a water pump. This 2.2-mile trail is sandy in some areas and loose gravel in other areas so make sure to clean out your shoes after the trail. 

5. Skull Rock Nature Trail

Skull Rock Nature Trail

Skull Rock Nature Trail

The Skull Rock Nature Trail is an easy 1.7-mile hike that starts at Jumbo Rocks Campground and takes you to Skull Rock. The Jumbo Rocks Campground is filled with huge rocks and has 124 individual campsites. It’s a great place to camp since it’s centrally located in the park.

On the trail, you’ll see Mojave desert plants including cat’s claw acacia and desert almond and California plants including California oak woodland and California buckwheat. You’ll see interpretive signs along the way.

In the end, you’ll see Skull Rock, a granite rock that’s been shaped by erosion to look like a skull. The Skull Rock attraction can be crowded so plan to spend up to 2 hours for this entire hike.

6. Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail

The Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail is a moderate 6.8-mile trail that can take up to 4 hours. Even though this is longer than the other hikes, it’s secluded and provides panoramic views.

Expect elevation gain but overall the trail isn’t too challenging. Joshua Tree National Park once had lots of mines including the Lost Horse Mine. Used in the 19th century, this mine was used to process gold.

There is no shade on this trail so it’s best to avoid hiking it during the summer. Visit during the spring to see the trail’s edges covered with wildflowers. 

7. Arch Rock Nature Trail

Arch Rock Nature Trail - one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Arch Rock Nature Trail

The Arch Rock Nature Trail is an easy 1.2-mile hike that starts out leveled and sandy and then you’re surrounded by rock boulders of different sizes. You can spend half a day here climbing up the rocks but if you’re just doing this hike, plan to spend an hour.

The main attraction is the Arch Rock and you’ll know you’re near when you start to see crowds around it. It’s a popular photo spot so expect to wait in line to take a photo with the Arch Rock.

There’s also a rock that’s shaped like a heart, that’s located around the area. There are no signs to hike to it but you’ll see hikers walking to or from the rock. Use Google Maps to guide you to the area. 

8. Ryan Mountain Trail

The Ryan Mountain Trail is a strenuous 3-mile hike that’s popular for its landscape views of the park, especially at sunset. There is an elevation gain of more than 1000 feet so plan to spend up to 2.5 hours on the trail.

Plan to hike this trail only in the spring, fall or winter but if you’re at the park during the summer, only hike this trail early morning or late evening and bring enough water for the entire hike.

9. Keys View Trail

The Keys View Trail is a very short 0.1-mile hike up to Keys View. From Keys View, you’ll get gorgeous views of the Salton Sea, Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, the San Jacinto Mountains, and Mount San Gorgonio.

Come here for sunset but if you prefer fewer crowds, hike here during sunrise. If it’s a clear day, you can see the Mexico border and Mount Signal. Spend up to an hour enjoying the views at this park’s highest viewpoint. 

Conclusion: Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Have a blast hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

Have a blast hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

Whether you’re hiking with your family, out on an anniversary trip, or just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life – Joshua Tree National Park is the ideal place to do it.

The variety of hiking trails in this national park is great, so whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, choose from these 9 best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Be safe, leave no trace, and have fun!

The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree

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The USA is home to such a variety of ecosystems, but some of the best national parks, like Death Valley, are near-impossible to visit during the summer due to the extreme climate. The good news is, there are some US National Parks that are even more stunning during the winter! On top of that, by visiting these US National Parks in winter, you’ll be avoiding the crowds. Read on to see the best National Parks in the US to visit during the winter.

1. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Visit Joshua Tree National Park in Winter

Beat the heat by visiting Joshua National Park in winter

Joshua Tree is one of the US National Parks that is best to visit in the winter. For one, you can hike for longer since you won’t have to deal with the sweltering heat. However, keep in mind that you should bring plenty of water with you even in winter, since there is a serious lack of shade in Joshua Tree National Park. Plus, even during the winter with cooler temperatures, there is still a risk of sun exposure and dehydration. While the most popular time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is from March to May, or from October to November, we suggest visiting in winter for a unique experience.

2. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion is one of the most popular US National Parks, but with great popularity comes great hordes of crowds. If you want more solitude in this stunning national park, it’s a good idea to visit this famous National Park during the winter. It can get cold, but having more peace and quiet is a fair trade-off.

As long as you have the proper gear and clothing, you can still get the most out of Zion National Park in the winter months. Just be sure to check the weather forecast before planning your trip. From November until February, the weather can range from clear sunny days to full-on winter storms, dumping a couple of feet of snow, so you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather and stay flexible.

Also, be sure to pay attention to posted signs, since some trails like Angel’s Landing might be closed due to icy conditions. Read more tips about hiking in Zion National Park in Winter here.

3. Death Valley National Park, California

As the world record-holder for the hottest place on earth, it’s a no-brainer that you should avoid visiting Death Valley during the summer months. But in the winter you’ll have more freedom to explore this stunning National Park.

Death Valley is famous for its other-worldly landscape devoid of all life, which will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Mars. Pro-tip, don’t miss sunrise at Dante’s View if you visit Death Valley during the winter.

4. Yosemite National Park, California

Winter is our favorite time to visit Yosemite for so many reasons

Winter is our favorite time to visit Yosemite for so many reasons

Who are we to judge the crowds of tourists who flock to some of the most beautiful places on earth? Yosemite is one of those places that sits at the top of the US National Park for visitors from far and wide. Sadly, that means that Yosemite can feel more like a theme park than a National Park during peak visiting months. Year-round, tour buses are driving in and out of the park, and it has all gotten a bit commercialized.

Nevertheless, with its unique rock faces, stunning waterfalls, and multiple networks of trails, Yosemite National Park still holds a special place in our hearts. To avoid the peak crowds and to connect more with nature, we highly suggest visiting Yosemite in the Winter.

The climate of Yosemite Valley means that you might get snow if you visit during the winter months, but it’s relatively moderate winter weather. And seeing the valley walls dusted in the snow is a good look for Yosemite. You might even get lucky and score a camping spot right in the Valley of the National Park, but even in winter, you’ll have to battle with the waitlist and lottery system.

5. Arches National Park, Utah

Experience Arches National Park during the winter months

Experience Arches National Park during the winter months

Winter is the best time to visit Arches National Park for a variety of reasons. With a climate that is normally scorching, the winter weather makes it possible to enjoy hiking and overnight camping in this stunning National Park.

Plus, you might be able to see the famous arches dusted in a thin layer of snow. Stunning.


Don’t let the colder temperatures deter you from experiencing some of the greatest National Parks. In fact, we hope that you will agree that some of these National Parks are even better during the winter! If you’re feeling even more ambitious, check out our summary of the best places in the USA for a multi-day backpacking trip. Wherever your journey take you, we hope you enjoy!

Winter Shminter! For hiking and backpacking enthusiasts, colder temperatures can’t stand in the way of our desire to get out on the trails. But if you’re looking to do a long-distance hike or backcountry camping trip during the winter, it’s probably best to stick to an area that isn’t going to be snowed in.

In fact, some National Parks even close down partially in over winter since the snow and ice can make exploring near impossible. Luckily, there are still plenty of places in the US to do some backcountry hiking and overnight backpacking during the colder months. From California to Florida and other options in between, read on to see the best places to go backpacking in winter around the US.

Backpacking Treks in Winter

Carrying everything you need on your back, pitching a tent, and living 100% in the great outdoors is the call of the wild for many backpackers. But in winter, it’s important to have a high level of respect for the natural elements.

Below-freezing temperatures, snowed-in trails, and icy conditions can mean that some places are just not possible to hike in winter, even if you have the most advanced winter gear.

To make your life easier (and your pack lighter), stick to these places in the US where you can through-hike and camp overnight, even during the winter.

Santa Catalina, California

Catalina Island is a great place to go backpacking in winter

Most of California enjoys moderate weather year-round. Other than in the mountains, it rarely drops below freezing, so if you’re looking for the perfect place to go backpacking in winter, California is a perfect option. 

Santa Catalina is an island off the coast of southern California, which allows hikers year-round. The winter months are prime whale-watching season along the California Coast, so keep an eye out as you take in the sweeping views over the Pacific Ocean.

The Trans-Catalina hiking trail spans 38.5 miles and typically takes 4 days. You’ll hike across Catalina Island, explore its interior, and camp at stops along pristine beaches. Ferry tickets to Catalina Island are around $75 and camping fees vary by season.

Because Catalina is a fairly small island, you’ll get your bearings quickly, and it’s a great place to experience an overnight camping and winter backpacking trip in California once the colder weather sets in.

Henry Coe State Park, California

Backpacking in Henry Coe State Park

Henry Coe State Park is a vast wilderness in Northern California where you can easily do a multi-day winter backpacking trip. As the largest state park in Northern California, Henry Coe has 80,000 acres of wilderness areas.

Spring is the busy season, when many visitors come to hike the Henry Coe trails among an abundance of wildflowers. So if you’re looking for more solitude, try this California backpacking spot in the winter months. The hills surrounding Henry Coe experience mild weather year-round, and like many places in California, it rarely dips below freezing even in winter.

The Lost Coast Trail, California

Hiking the Lost Coast Trail in California

This region is called The Lost Coast because the rugged terrain made it impossible to build Highway 1 through here. The highway just, stops. Good news for backcountry hikers, there is a well-maintained network of trails along The Lost Coast.

Backpacking this California area in winter is completely doable, but keep in mind that you may face wet conditions. Be sure to bring waterproof gear and a resilient spirit.

Other places for backpacking in winter in California:

Kalalau Trail on the Na’Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Free Things to Do in Kauai

If you’re trying to beat the winter blues, why not make the leap and head to the Hawaiian Islands? Hawaii is popular year-round, but you’ll be dealing with fewer tourists if you visit in winter. We recommend heading to Kauai (The Garden Isle) and doing one of the many hikes along the coast.

The Na’Pali Coast in particular is one of the most famous hikes in Hawaii. The Kalalau Trail takes you on a 3-day hike along rocky ridges with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. 

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Backpacking in Winter in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park covers a large area in Southern Texas including the Chisos Mountains and Chihuahuan Desert. Winter is the ideal time to go backpacking in Big Bend since you’re likely to experience clear skies with daytime temperatures in the mid-70s or higher.

There are plenty of overnight hiking trails around Boot Canyon, Emory Peak, and the South Rim, but keep in mind that a backcountry use permit is required. There are also plenty of half-day and day hikes if you’re thinking of visiting Big Bend for a weekend. 

Pinhoti Trail, Alabama

Flagg Mountain on the Pinhoti Trail

Flagg Mountain on the Pinhoti Trail

The Pinhoti Trail spans 335-mile, which means you can go hiking for a few days or go backpacking for as long as you want. This Alabama region is a great option for backpacking in the winter for both beginners and experienced hikers.

The Pinhoti Trail can get snowy in winter, but considerably less so compared to the popular long-distance hiking trails like the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail. It’s also very easy to break the Pinhoti Trail into sections so that you can go for as short or as long as you want.

The best time to hike the Pinhoti Trail is anytime between March and April, when some other popular backpacking spots are still thawing from the winter freeze.

Other places for backpacking in winter in Alabama:

  • Sipsey Wilderness Area, Alabama

The Florida Trail, Florida

Backpacking The Florida Trail in Winter

Florida’s prime hiking and backpacking season is from December through March. So when the rest of the country is facing snowstorms and below-freezing temperatures, you can head south when Florida experiences ideal weather.

There are a growing number of through-hikers who spend their winters on The Florida Trail as an alternative to the Appalachian Trail. The entire Florida Trail is 1,500 miles, so take a look here at the different parts of the trail that are recommended for a multi-day hike.

Keep in mind that the conditions in Florida might be different from other places you’ve hiked. Think soggy feet, mosquitos, and tropical surroundings. Luckily these issues are less severe when the weather cools, so if you want to experience backcountry camping Florida’s unique ecosystem, the winter months are the best time to go backpacking.

The USA covers a huge area that is often underestimated. Perhaps because of the vast distance, the country lacks the train and bus infrastructure that is found in many other parts of the world, so the intrepid traveller is usually left with the option of renting a car to get around. Why not go a step beyond and rent portable accommodation as well? By taking an RV across America, you have flexibility, everything you need in a self-contained vehicle, and you will have experiences that wouldn’t be possible by just renting a car. Imagine enjoying the national parks once the daytime tourists have gone home.

Travel the US by RV and enjoy the US National Parks after the crowds go home

Enjoy the US National Parks after the crowds go home

What’s more, the benefits of travelling with an RV across America are not only great for camping and visiting National Parks. Road tripping and city hopping with an RV in the USA is sometimes the most practical way of exploring certain regions.

This article walks you through everything you need to know about RV travel in the USA, as well as some of the greatest road trips in the country.

Driver’s License Requirements for Renting an RV

You do not need a special class of license to rent an RV to travel across America. However, you must be at least 25 years old and your license must be valid for 12 months beyond the date that your rental contract starts.

Renting a Camper for your RV Trip

To rent an RV in the USA, you have a few choices. Cruise America is the most well-known company– if you’ve travelled in the USA you’ve surely seen these vehicles on the road. You can’t miss their branding. There is also a site called RVshare which functions as a sort of Airbnb for RVs. RV owners list their own vehicles for rent, which means you’ll have a large variety, often with cheaper options than renting directly from a large company.

How to Make Reservations for Campsites in the USA

Especially during the summer high season, it’s best to plan your overnight stops as far ahead as possible. In popular national parks, campsites are sometimes reserved a year in advance. If you dream of sleeping overnight in Joshua Tree or Yosemite, plan as far ahead as possible. Nowadays, you can easily book campsites using booking.com. You can filter by amenities, check out reviews from other campers, and reserve most places with free-cancellation policies. Or, you can visit the homepage of the National Park where you’d like to stay.

In the off-season and in the lesser-known national parks you should generally be ok with just showing up.

For city trips, it’s not impossible with an RV but once you get closer to the compact downtown you may have problems finding parking. It’s best to park in the outskirts of the city and then rely on public transportation. You can usually find RV-friendly parking lots like shopping malls or a subway station.

How to Plan your Budget for an RV Across America

Costs during your RV road trip adventure will come down to the RV rental costs, campsite fees, fuel, National Park fees, and food/drink. However, there are some tricks of the trade to keep your expenses low.

  1. Use your RV kitchen! Even when on the road, try to limit your restaurant pit stops.
  2. If you plan to visit at least 3 national parks (entrance fees cost about $30 per car), it’s worth investing in a national park pass. With it, you get a year of access to national parks for $80.
  3. Learn to love ‘dry camping’ aka parking for free wherever it’s legal. You won’t have hookups for water or electricity, but your water tank and generator should be enough for a night. Park on a friend’s property, on National Forest land, or in any Walmart parking lot– they allow parking overnight for free, as long as you ask the store manager’s permission.

4 Itineraries for RVing Across America

USA RV Itinerary #1: California Highlights (plus Las Vegas)

With this RV itinerary, you’ll hit the best national parks and major cities in California, plus take a small detour to Las Vegas. The camping sites along this RV itinerary range from forest sites to beach-side camping. This is a circular route, so you could start from any point.

Highlights: San Francisco – Monterey – Santa Barbara – Los Angeles – San Diego – Joshua Tree – Las Vegas – Yosemite Valley – Lake Tahoe – Napa

USA RV Itinerary #2: Iconic American Southwest

The American Southwest is full of National Parks where red sandstone has been carved by wind, water, and tectonic activity. These are some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the entire world. Even with all the major highlights, this RV route is surprisingly compact — most people choose to combine it with RV Itinerary #1 so that they can do California plus these desert landscapes in one trip.

Highlights: Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, The Wave, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park

RV camping near Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

RV camping near Monument Valley, Arizona

USA RV Itinerary #3 New England (plus some Canada)

The states are smaller in the Northeast, which means you can visit some world-famous cities and National Parks all in one trip. Plus, it’s not too far to drive to the French-Canadian cities of Montreal and Quebec City.

During half of this itinerary, you’ll be surrounded by pristine nature, but you can also visit major metropolitan areas like Boston, Manhattan, and Washington D.C.

Rather than navigate the busy cities in your RV, it’s best to park at a Subway station in the outskirts, and take public transportation into the center.

Highlights: Manhattan, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. Niagara Falls, Finger Lakes, Montreal, Quebec, Acadia National Park, Boston

 

USA RV Itinerary #4: The South

Camping in the South is a different type of trip. The focus of this RV itinerary is not national parks, but we think this region is best seen with a road trip. This region of the USA has a uniqueness that some of the larger cities in the rest of the USA have lost long ago. It feels like a completely different country from what you would experience on the West Coast or in New England.

Highlights: New Orleans – Memphis – Nashville – Charlotte – Miami – Key West

So there you have it, the essential information you need to plan your RV across America camping experience, as well as some great itineraries to explore. Last but not least, here are some websites you can use to plan your trip and make reservations online as you go:

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How to travel USA in RV

Incredible RV USA roadtrips