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Early Spring RV Trips Off-the-Beaten-Path

Published on February 14th, 2024 by Lucinda Belden

It’s not too early to dream of spring RV trips. And if going off-the-beaten-path is your style, keep reading for terrific ideas for long and short weekend trips around the US recommended by full-time RVer Lucinda Belden.

On Roads That Bloom in Vacant Valleys.” That was the name of a short story I wrote in my teens. To this day, I think about that title as we go RVing through some of the most vivid locations that sprout up around us. We are glad not to be one of the pioneers trekking across the treacherous dirt trails as they made their way to uncertain futures. Their trails turned into routes, which became roads. The popular roads turned into our highways and interstates. Today, it would be nice if we could still discover a trail less traveled, with fewer vehicles – unpopular but in a forgotten sort of way. 

The good news is there are still plenty of hidden gems for RV adventures.

All will help you enjoy the spring views, without busy highways or freeways. You can feel like a pioneer, but the roads will be paved ahead, with experiences still to be discovered in places your RV can take you.

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Whether you own your RV or decide to rent an RV for the weekend, spring RV trips are the perfect time to explore gorgeous places, have a great experience, and still miss highway traffic. Where can you go to avoid the freeways and still make great memories? Here are some routes to get you started.

Enjoy Your State or National Parks

What national parks should you take your RV in spring?

Want to enjoy a scenic drive on well-paved roads but hardly any traffic?  Or at least traffic going slow enough that you can enjoy the drive and the scenery at the same time!? Skip the overcrowded national parks in Utah, Arizona, and Tennessee. Try some of these routes through a less crowded national park with less crowds in spring.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

There are not too many hills and curves in this part of South Dakota, and it’s big-rig friendly too, so the Badlands can make nice spring RV trips. Spring makes for a cool drive through the paint-colored hills. You can see bighorn sheep, buffalo, and prairie dogs that haven’t been scared off by crowds. There are several designated areas where you can pull over and enjoy the rock formations, or take a hike.

The park is very RV-friendly. You can park along the roadways and most of the roads are paved. If you have time, check out Mount Rushmore and the famous Black Hills. Finding open RV parks this time of year is a little challenging. Basic hookups are at the nearby 24 Express RV Campground. Or, if you book now, the national park’s Cedar Pass Campground is opens April 19.

Death Valley National Park, California / Nevada

This national park has a scenic byway that spans California and Nevada. You can go from elevations from under 300 feet to over 10,000 feet so take it slow. But springtime is a great time to visit this park with nice temperatures and lots of flowers in bloom. You want to avoid the summer temperatures anyway because it can be 120 degrees plus and has more tourists. Explore nearby BLM land and consider a quick trip to the Las Vegas Strip for a completely different type of spring RV road trip experience!

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Anything rock is found here.  You can see trees dating more than 200 million years – turned to stone.  Also, flora and fauna fossils as well as petroglyphs.  Start at the Painted Desert Visitor Center and learn about all the stops and sights that are RV-friendly around the park.  You can easily spot petrified wood near some of the parking areas and lots of wildlife.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

If you prefer more trees with your mountains, check out the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.  You can also see waterfalls and wildlife everywhere in the spring. The drive you will want to take is the Skyline Drive. It connects with the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, starting at the visitor center called Dickey Ridge. Drive slow because your RV may cross paths with bears, deer, turkey, or maybe a hiker following the Appalachian Trail, which crosses over Skyline Drive about 30 times! You may want to shift into low gear, and you won’t be able to clear Marys Rock Tunnel with a maximum clearance of 12’8”.

Take a Scenic RV Drive

Many scenic drives are RV friendly!

Reader’s Digest lists the most scenic drives in America. There are 41 just in this list, but there are scenic byways in every state, so you are sure to find one near you by searching scenic byways in your state.

The key thing is to research your RV road trip idea with a trustworthy trip planner to make sure it is compatible with driving an RV on. You want to make sure the bridges and overpasses are suitable for your RV as well as the hills and curves. We have driven many of these scenic drives over the years and some with our RV (and we have a 44ft fifth wheel). Here are a few we would recommend for an RV spring road trip.

Historic Route 66 (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California)

Experts recommend starting in downtown Chicago, which we would not recommend in your RV!  But you can cover large portions of the route through smaller, open towns like Fanning, Missouri, Amarillo, Texas, and Gallup, New Mexico.

The Loneliest Road in America (Nevada, Utah, Colorado)

You can travel across Nevada from Colorado in the east (where Highway 50 follows Interstate 70 for a bit), out to Lake Tahoe in the west. If you go, take a day to explore the red rocks around Moab, which is a quick daytrip away. On this old west road you’re guaranteed to see all kinds of abandoned buildings from our past or quench your thirst at a few wineries along the way.  Make sure you fill up for the drive but don’t worry about passing many drivers along the way.

Pacific Coast Highway (Southern California)

This is a beautiful drive along the ocean – hence PCH, Pacific Coast Highway.  Not too many big hills but some curves.  This is an OK route for a small RV rental, but you probably don’t want a huge RV with spots to pull over and the beach town with limited parking options. Got more time? PCH turns into CA-1, extending north along the coast and eventually connecting you to Highway 101 where the Oregon and Washington coasts await!  

Wichita Mountains Byway (Oklahoma)

This drive through southwestern Oklahoma is mostly flat, and beautiful and there is a museum to visit.  Lots of wildlife to be spotted in the area makes this a unique and natural experience, especially in the spring.

Talimena National Scenic Byway (Oklahoma and Arkansas)

A drive not appearing in the Readers Digest list but one we would rank as high – if not higher is the Talimena National Scenic Byway. Located about 1.5 hours west of Hot Springs National Park, it’s a perfect drive to take a small RV rental on. There are several large areas with space enough to pull over the RV and get tremendous photos.  It is a 54-mile-long route you can cover in one day and there are historic towns along the way.

Spring RV Trips Near Big Cities

Yes, you really can take short RV trips close to big cities!

Another great way to avoid the freeways and highways is to look for a day trip from a major city near you. It will usually be a one to two-hour drive on back roads to a destination with activities different from the city. Use a trip planner specifically designed to create RV-safe routes and find great RV resort destinations too.

If you are renting an RV, these are all great spring RV trip ideas. You have a large access base for RV rental in major cities as well as selection.  And there will be lots of day trips you can make that are under 200 miles away. Don’t forget to use your RV GPS maps to find the best and most scenic routes for your drive outside the city. And to find great campgrounds along the way, don’t forget the RV LIFE Campgrounds community reviews to point you in the right direction.

Here are some examples of suggested cities for day trips from the largest cities in the United States.

New York City

  • Cape May – A great beach area with lots of RV camping.  You can enjoy little shops, art galleries, and an active downtown.
  • Catskills – Lots of hiking, beautiful landscapes, and camping.  There is almost no end to the greenery and hiking trails.
  • Montauk – A village along the beaches and lakes with great seafood, restaurants, and quaint shops.

Los Angeles

  • Big Bear – Go from the oceans and flat lands of LA to the mountains and snow peaks in Big Bear. There may be some snow still around to try your hand at skiing.
  • Joshua Tree – Get away to the national park and you can even try some boondocking in the desert. Know that even in the spring, it can be very chilly at night camping.
  • Dana Point – Drive to and through Doheny State Beach. You can enjoy the beach, surfing, and picnics once you arrive.


  • South Bend – Make it drive to Indiana. In a different state, you can tour museums, visit a chocolate factory, and even stay near the Indiana Dunes National Park along Lake Michigan.
  • Starved Rock – Here is this state park where you can enjoy hiking, biking, and fishing. In the spring the waterfalls are amazing. There is a campground onsite once you enjoy your drive.
  • Lake Geneva – Escape to nearby Wisconsin. It is a touristy destination, but you can enjoy beaches, strawberry picking, and more in the spring. There is a drive-through safari you can take a small RV through too.


  • Galveston – Enjoy the Gulf Coast beaches, downtown historic sites, and fresh seafood restaurants. You can also visit the Galveston Island State Park with great RV camping.
  • Austin – Now considered the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. Take the backroads there enjoying the countryside views.  Enjoy live music and nightlife and daytime country and culture.
  • Brenham – The route to this city is perfect in the spring for views of the bluebonnets. Time your visit just right and you can attend the Bluebonnet Festival.  Don’t miss a tour of the famous Blue Bell Creamery.

As you can see, the US is filled with ideas for fun spring RV trips. Some are for weekends, other make better weeklong getaways. A lot of them are near your own backyard.  Don’t spend all your time on a long, dull highway, baking on crammed Florida beaches, or stuck in the entry queue at popular destination like Grand Canyon National Park or Zion National Park. Spring is the right time to make driving a part of your experience!  

I hope some of these tips on where to look will get you started on your next RV trip plans. 

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