RV in Woods

Trip Planning

8 RV Road Trips That Will Get You Off the Beaten Path

Whether you’re looking to explore mountains, canyons, beaches—or all three—these RV trips have something for every kind of adventurer.

The following article was originally published on Outside as part of a partnership with Go RVing. The original post can be found HERE.

There’s no better way to road trip your way from adventure to adventure than in an RV. And as RV trips go, it’s hard to beat those we’ve gathered here. Looking for the ultimate summer getaway? Load up your rig and hit the road through these lesser-traveled landscapes.  

Colorado Hot Springs Loop

Distance: Approx. 860 miles if you start and end in Denver
Time: Take at least 5-6 days for the full loop

Colorado is rife with geothermal activity that heats up mineral springs around the Rockies for some of the most scenic soaking you’ll ever enjoy. The Historic Colorado Hot Springs Loop officially connects 19 soaking spas, but there are many other unlisted gems worth a detour. From Aspen, for example, you can take a 16-mile out-and-back hike to the wild Conundrum Hot Springs (secure permits in advance). Near Great Sand Dunes National Park, the rustic and clothing-optional Valley View Hot Springs allows all-night soaking (RVs welcome, though hook-ups are unavailable). Follow the route clockwise starting off south from Denver, and the roads will only get prettier as you go along. Plan overnights in the ubiquitous National Forest lands around Buena Vista, Pagosa Springs, Ridgway, Glenwood Springs, and Steamboat Springs.

colorado

Moab/Bears Ears Loop

Distance: Approx. 475 miles if starting and ending in Moab
Time: Take at least 4 days

Utah is best known for the national parks stretching across its southern edge, but just beyond those crowds you’ll find empty roads and quiet lands with stunning rock formations that defy belief. In the southeastern corner of the state, in the Bears Ears region, you can spend a lifetime learning about the Indigenous peoples who have long lived in and cared for these landscapes. From Moab, head south toward Bears Ears, where large swathes of BLM land stretch across Cedar Mesa. Camp at Natural Bridges National Monument, where you can hike past cliff dwellings built by Ancestral Pueblo people. Spend a night in nearby Valley of the Gods, on BLM land, where a 17-mile unpaved road offers striking red desert views without a crowd in sight. Continue onward to Monument Valley, on the Navajo Nation, which offers prime RV campsites, and visit the mind-boggling river bends of Goosenecks State Park—a recently-certified Dark Sky park—along the way. If you have time, swing through Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado on the home stretch. There, Ancestral Pueblo people built thousands of cliff dwellings over hundreds of years, some of which you can tour today with park rangers.

Moab

New York to Provincetown

Distance: Approx. 700 miles, starting in New York
Time: Take at least 4 days

The Litchfield Hills are a sight you’d sooner expect from the gentle mountains of Appalachia than this tucked-away corner of northwestern Connecticut. On this route from the big city out to the very tip of Cape Cod, you’ll roll through some of southern New England’s best yet lesser-known gems. Start with a night at Lake Waramaug State Park in Connecticut and rent an e-bike from Covered Bridge Electric Bike in West Cornwall if you fancy a postcard-perfect journey up and down the same rolling hills the Appalachian Trail passes through. Then head southeast through the timelessly charming seaside town of Mystic for sunset views at Rhode Island’s Napatree Point Conservation Area. You’ll find easy camping at Burlingame State Park. Slowly venture along the Old King’s Highway (Route 6A) through beach town after beach town on Cape Cod before visiting the impossibly picturesque Cape Cod National Seashore (find private campgrounds nearby). Spend at least a day in the refreshingly colorful, artsy, open-minded and ultra-LGBTQ-friendly community of Provincetown before heading back west to home base.

Apalachia

Phoenix to Puerto Peñaso

Distance: Approx. 570 miles, starting and ending in Phoenix
Time: Take at least 3 days

Also known as “Arizona’s beach” and Rocky Point, the small, Mexican beach town of Puerto Peñasco is a lovely place to beat the heat in the warm and gentle surf of the Gulf of California. It’s just a three-hour “hassle-free” drive from Phoenix, meaning you don’t need any international permits even though you’ve driven across the border (but double-check with your insurance company to make sure you’re covered anyway). The road’ll take you through the classic, cactus-filled desert views you’ve always wanted to see in southern Arizona. You can find easy camping in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument or at private campgrounds over the border in Puerto Peñasco. On your drive back home, head northeast through Tucson for a swing Catalina State Park for some Saguaros or Butterfly Peak Natural Area to again escape low-elevation heat and search for the park’s winged namesake. 

Arizona

Multi-State Northwestern Mountain Tour

Distance: Approx. 1,050 miles, starting and ending in Boise
Time: Take at least 5 to 7 days

You might not guess it from some parts of Hell’s Canyon itself simply because it’s so wide, but this landmark straddling Oregon and Idaho is the deepest canyon in North America, at nearly 8,000 feet deep. Idaho is full of surprises like this, which deserve some time to enjoy slowly. From Boise or Spokane, Washington, you can make an enviable loop hitting Hells Canyon, the Nez Perce National Forest, the grandeur of the Sawtooth Mountains, and the five ranges surrounding Missoula, Montana. Hot spring buffs will love this journey—Idaho is brimming with natural springs you can easily hike to, like the Sawtooth National Forest’s Skillern Hot Springs, which is a six-mile round-trip hike with stunning views to enjoy while you soak your weary muscles. Dispersed camping abounds in the aforementioned national forests, but developed campgrounds (both public and private) are also available throughout the route.

Hells Can

Shenandoah Valley & West Virginia

Distance: Approx. 400 to 700 miles
Time: Take at least 3 to 5 days

Just beyond the urban tangle of highways encircling Washington, D.C., you can feel worlds away from the chaos in the woodland playgrounds sprinkled throughout the Appalachian Mountains. Start your trip with a visit to Shenandoah National Park for a scenic jaunt along the iconic Skyline Drive, which offers panoramic views of the Valley. Book ahead for campsites within the park, or find relative solitude in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests nearby. Then head west to the otherworldly Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, whose boggy terrain looks quite a bit like southern Canada especially on a foggy day. If you’ve got an extra day or two—and 300 miles—to spare, push onward to the New River Gorge National Park before making your way home. The iconic bridge that spans the New River is as picture-perfect as it gets—this is the view you’ve seen on the West Virginia state quarter.

VA

New Mexico Adventure

Distance: Approx. 670 miles, starting in Albuquerque or Santa Fe
Time: Take at least 5-7 days

If you’re looking for a loop without a single boring mile that connects hot springs, historic towns, ancient history and geologic wonders, you’ve come to the right place. New Mexico has undoubtedly won the landscape lottery of the Southwest, enjoying incredibly diverse and dramatic views yet only a fraction of the visitation that Utah and Colorado attract each year. Start in either Albuquerque or Santa Fe and work your way through the cliff dwellings of Bandelier National Monument, the sweeping views of Valles Caldera, and the lava fields of Valley of Fires. Take care not to lose your way among the sparkling gypsum dunes of White Sands National Park—stay at a private campground near the town of Alamogordo—so you can find your way to Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces. From there, head north through the town of Truth or Consequences, formerly (and more aptly) named Hot Springs for the soaking resorts that line downtown.

Organ State Park

Arkansas Ozark Loop

Distance: Approx. 400 miles, starting and ending in Little Rock
Time: Take at least 2-3 days

The unexpectedly dramatic views of the Ozark Mountains are a worthy road trip for a weekend escape into the woods. In the northwestern corner of Arkansas, you’ll find networks of forested hiking trails and fishing streams—including two Blue Ribbon Smallmouth streams, Crooked Creek and the Buffalo River. Start with a visit to Hot Springs National Park, which has a long history as a spa destination for its natural mineral springs, then head west to the Ouichita National Forest for at least a day of well-deserved unplugging. Close your loop by heading north to the Ozark National Forest before heading back to Little Rock.

Ozark

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