It was not hard to think back over the past three decades of camping and RVing and come up with my ten most enjoyable and memorable stops. Whether river rafting, car and tent camping, Class C motor home or fifth-wheel trailer RVing, each experience was remarkable in my life at the time and left a lasting impact.

1. The Grand Canyon

My number one most memorable camping trip was river rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During the summer of 1980, a group of twelve put in on a guided oar-boat trip at Lees Ferry, Arizona  and ended nearly three-hundred miles and two weeks later at Lake Mead, Nevada. Each night was a new camp location along the river and one night we slept floating down the river with our three boats tied together. The quiet, the changing light on the canyon walls from daybreak to day’s end, the excursions on foot to waterfalls and natural whirlpools, the campfires, the camaraderie that developed among strangers, the cold river water that sprayed and splashed upon us when we went through rapids and the warmth of the hot sun that dried us were all unforgettable. One has not really camped without a trip of this nature.

2. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Our campsite by the Big Sur River at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California.

Our campsite by the Big Sur River at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California.

More recently I recall my stay at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where my husband John and I worked as campground hosts. We parked our thirty-foot fifth-wheel beside the Big Sur River and made camp for nearly four months. It was fall and we patiently checked for steel-head trout to return to our section of the river each day. On many days, after stopping by the Big Sur Lodge for hot coffee, we drove a golf cart through the great redwood forest as we checked on whether the previous night’s park visitors had registered. Some mornings required gloves to protect us from the cold dampness and fog. Other days streams of sunshine beamed down on us through the tops of trees as we drove about the 175-site campground doing our hosting chores. On days off we hiked the park’s numerous trails, had breakfast at the Big Sur Bakery or the Ripplewood Resort Restaurant before driving arguably the most scenic portion of Highway I into Monterey for provisions. The days were magical in Big Sur and campfires at night shared with other campground hosts or foreign travelers made the Big Sur experience truly incredible. This is a place that cannot be missed. For more information, go to the Reserve America website.

3. Bisbee, Arizona

The old western mining town of Bisbee, Arizona is filled with colorful homes.

The old western mining town of Bisbee, Arizona is filled with colorful homes.

Bisbee, Arizona was our most regular and enjoyable getaway when we lived in the southwest. Always staying at the Queen Mine RV Park we were able walk to wherever we wanted in the old mining town. Bisbee has a feel unlike any other I have ever experienced. Situated in the crevasse of the red rocky hills of the mile-high Mile Mountains, a striking feature of Bisbee is its many stairways that easily number in the hundreds of steps leading to the houses built in terraced formations on the hills. Bisbee is a photographer’s delight with colorful houses, old mining era yard ornaments and decorations, vibrant storefronts and interesting locals. The official population of the town is about five thousand five hundred. Things that we enjoyed most in Bisbee besides pure relaxing were breakfast at the Queen Mine Hotel, exploring the little Museum in the middle of town , looking through numerous art galleries and having locally roasted coffee and a bun at the Bisbee Coffee Company. Bisbee is a sight for the eyes and a reinvigorating experience for the soul. I can’t wait to get back for another visit.

4. Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire rock formations are gigantic and beautiful.

Valley of Fire rock formations are gigantic and beautiful.

We stumbled upon the Valley of Fire State Park quite by accident. Heading east from the hubbub of Las Vegas, we were in search of a more peaceful and natural setting. Signs on Highway 15 pointed towards Valley of Fire. We had not heard of the park before we discovered it. Feeling up to a good adventure, we pulled our fifth wheel off the highway and headed out expecting at most a quiet campsite. What we found was the most incredible rocky geography and red spectrum colors. The campground of about seventy sites sprinkled among the jutting skyscraper height rock formations and desert vegetation was stunning. What a pleasant delight and wonderful photography destination. We extended our stay several days so that we could visit the visitor’s center and explore the ancient hieroglyphics up close that were scattered throughout the park. Valley of Fire offers some of the best that Nevada camping offers.

5.  San Miguel de Allende

This is in the far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. During a three-month tour of Baja, California and the western Mexico mainland in our first RV, a class C motor home that we christened “Sky Pilot,” we landed in San Miguel for ten days or so. We camped just outside the city beneath long-needled pine trees. There in San Miguel, we found a restaurant that served the tastiest quiche we had ever eaten. We visited art galleries and the local art school, Instituto Allende where we learned about the process of creating batik cloth. The sights of the city were spectacular from women selling flowers from doorways, school girls dressed in their Catholic school plaid skirts to balloon vendors in the magnificent town square. The town was a visual feast. The art, the vibrant Canadian and U.S. expatriate experience and the local homes tour made great memories. I want to visit again and see how it may have shifted or changed in the past two decades since we were there.

Next month I’ll share about the remaining five best camping and RVing experiences of my lifetime.

What have been some of your favorite RV destinations?