Turn Memorial Day Into a Weeklong Vacation

The General Sherman Tree at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The General Sherman Tree at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking forward to barbecues and RVing over Memorial Day weekend? Why not extend your stay for even more fun in the sun?

Consider the following driving routes and destinations.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks, California

Every year 4 million people visit Yosemite National Park to marvel at its soaring granite walls. But far fewer make it to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the other jewels of the central Sierra. All three parks are linked by the Majestic Mountain Loop.

The route starts at the Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia. After a brief drive and stroll to General Sherman (the most massive living tree in the world), a huff-and-puff up the 400 steps carved into 6,725-foot Moro Rock nearby earns you a spectacular view of the craggy Great Western Divide. Crystal Cave makes a refreshing detour on a warm afternoon. (Tours run from mid-May through November.)

Take the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway into its namesake park. You’ll zigzag to Grant Grove—a stand of sequoias thought to be 2,000 to 3,000 years old—and then down to Cedar Grove at the bottom of one of the nation’s deepest canyons. (That last stretch is closed November to April.) A 1.5-mile trail circles lush Zumwalt Meadow beneath monumental North Dome.

Up from the canyon, it’s a few hours to Tenaya Lodge, just outside Yosemite’s south entrance. A quick drive the next morning gets you to Glacier Point (closed by snow until late spring), with its dizzying vista of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Heading down into the valley, you’ll have plenty of time for a bike ride, a hike, or just a gaze up at the heights where your day began.

“Grand” doesn’t begin to do this canyon justice. Measuring approximately 277 miles in length, up to 18 miles in width and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is truly a natural wonder. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Grand” doesn’t begin to do this canyon justice. Measuring approximately 277 miles in length, up to 18 miles in width and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is truly a natural wonder. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Measuring approximately 277 river miles in length, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, this massive chasm will truly take your breath away. The UNESCO World Heritage site does attract millions each year, so come prepared.

Epic scenery is guaranteed at any overlook in Grand Canyon National Park. But getting to those vista-points in your own vehicle can be a hassle, because most South Rim roads are dominated by shuttle buses. You can avoid that traffic on Desert View Drive, a 25-mile run from the less traveled East Entrance, where the shuttles don’t go. Cruise it at your leisure, stopping whenever you want.

From Williams, after a short 59-mile drive north, the Grand Canyon will lie before your eyes. Once there, you’ll grasp why this 277 river miles long, one-mile deep, and up to 18 miles wide canyon is hailed as one of the world’s seven natural wonders. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Williams, after a short 59-mile drive north, the Grand Canyon will lie before your eyes. Once there, you’ll grasp why this 277 river miles long, one-mile deep, and up to 18 miles wide canyon is hailed as one of the world’s seven natural wonders. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start near the entrance with a visit to Desert View Watchtower, architect Mary Colter’s 1932 homage to the ancient stone towers of the Anasazi, perched on the canyon’s lip. As you circle upward on its spiral staircase, peekaboo windows grant one-of-a- kind glimpses of the park.

From there, the road skirts the canyon, with plenty of pullouts where you can gape at the gorge more or less by yourself. You might have more company on the footpath to Moran Point, but you’ll hardly notice. From this promontory, the chasm is a forbidding maze of red ridges, crumbling pyramids, and layered rock. It’s eight miles as the crow flies from here to the North Rim. But at sunset, or under gathering clouds, that expanse can seem endless.

If you want an even more secluded adventure, hit up the North Rim for backwoods camping and hardcore hiking.

The splendor of the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s Favorite Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The splendor of the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s Favorite Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Spanning 469 miles through 29 counties, the Blue Ridge Parkway takes travelers along the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina providing a unique view of foliage and history.

One of the most scenic roads in America, the parkway connects Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It starts at Rockfish Gap, Virginia, intersecting Skyline Drive, and winds southwest through Virginia into mountainous western North Carolina. The cliff-hugging road offers sweeping views, fascinating and diverse flora and fauna, geologic wonders and a myriad of recreation opportunities. Take advantage of more than 200 overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway each one offering its own glimpse of treasure.

Scenic overlooks coupled with abundant hiking trails, picnic areas, campsites, and recreational activities makes the Blue Ridge Parkway an ideal road trip. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic overlooks coupled with abundant hiking trails, picnic areas, campsites, and recreational activities makes the Blue Ridge Parkway an ideal road trip. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drivers marvel at the picturesque views along the route of the Black Mountains, Great Craggies, Pisgahs, Great Balsams, and the Great Smokies. Along the way, travelers will find campgrounds and hiking trails, glimpses of small-town Appalachian life.

Like a living museum, the parkway is filled with the history of its unique, pioneering families. Mountain culture, music, and art is preserved throughout the region.

Worth Pondering…
Let’s Go RVing! Moss is starting to grow on my non-rolling stone. It is definitely time to get back in the RV and out on the open road.

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