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Monday, November 1, 2021

5 National Park Road Trip

Our dream for our retirement years was to be able to travel as much as possible as long as we were healthy and able to get around. At the top of our travel list was, and still is, all the national parks on the US mainland. We had only visited three parks before we retired. Counting the 5 parks we just visited, we have now visited 12 parks!

The way we mapped out our latest national park road trip was by looking at a map that our son Mike and DIL Chrissy gave us. We love this map and it really is a very handy tool that is helping us to achieve our goal. By looking at the map we could see that there were a handful of parks in the Eastern US that were fairly close to each other that we hadn't visited. And that is how our 5 National Park Road Trip evolved.

Our trip started in Florida where all our road trips start because our trailer is stored here. We prefer not to drive more than 6-7 hours between stops but on the first day of a road trip we may do a little more than that. So on the first day of our road trip we drove 8 1/2 hours to Stone Mountain Campground in Georgia.

Stop 1

Stone Mountain, Georgia


Stone Mountain Campground
(Read more about this campground here.)

We took a vacation in Atlanta a couple of years ago and spent a day at Stone Mountain Park. Soko noticed that they had a campground and thought that one day we would return and check it out. We remembered the campground as we were making plans for our 5 national park trip. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the amusement park was only open on the weekends in September and we would be there during the week. But it worked out because it gave us a chance to see what else the park had to offer.

We got to the campground early enough to go on a hike before it got dark. We checked out the trails and noticed that if we did part of one trail then part of another we could get to the 100 year old suspension bridge and back. We got halfway to the bridge and realized it was not going to be a doable hike for us as we were starting to feel the effects of getting up early and traveling all day and also realized we would run out of daylight before we could finish. So we backtracked to the parking lot, got in our car and drove to the bridge which was a good idea because we found out that we could actually drive on this little bridge which was way more fun than just walking on it.

(Read more about our visit to Georgia coming soon.)

    Stop 2

Lucas, Kentucky


Barren River Lake State Resort Park Campground
(Read more about this campground in our campground guide coming soon!)

The second stop of our road trip brought us to Barren River Lake State Resort Park.  It was 45 minutes from Mammoth Cave National Park which is a little further away than we wanted to be but sometimes we will camp further from our destination if the campground will be worth it. But this park was a little disappointing.

We thought we would find a couple of nice trails to hike here but never found the entrance to any of them. We heard from a park ranger that they closed the trail by the beach so that was the reason we couldn't find that one and another trail we thought we might hike would take us an hour just to get to as there was no parking near the entrance of it so we passed on that one. We did find the beach and saw lots of deer and rabbits as we drove around the park, though, so we decided to be happy with that and we were!

If you ever decide to visit Mammoth Cave NP, call a couple of days in advance of your visit so that you don't get locked out of the tour you want to take. I wanted to do the Mammoth Passage tour which is described as being "ideal for those who do not like tight spaces" but it was fully booked so we ended up reserving the Gothic Avenue tour which, according to the description of it, seemed a little more claustrophobic than I really wanted. I spent the night and morning before the tour stressing out about going into the cave. 

We ended up really enjoying this tour and the excellent tour guide and I only had one small panic attack inside the cave. It happened when the tour guide blew out the candle he was holding and we were left in complete darkness for what I thought was an eternity. I learned that 30 seconds can feel very long in certain circumstances.

(Read more about Mammoth Cave NP and the surrounding area coming soon.)

Stop 3

St. Louis, Missouri


Draft Kings at Casino Queen RV Park 
(Read more about this campground coming soon.)

At stop 3 we visited the second national park on our list, Gateway Arch NP in Missouri. Draft Kings at Casino Queen RV Park was actually in Illinois so we had a chance, at this stop, to be in two states that we have never been in before. 

We had an amazing view from our campground, across the Mississippi River, of the St. Louis skyline and Arch . We especially enjoyed the evening view.

One of the highlights of our visit to St. Louis, besides the Gateway Arch, was spending time in Forest Park. This 1,300 acre park was one of the nicest parks we have ever been too. A must-see in this park is definitely the St. Louis Zoo but if you go, give yourself a couple of hours to enjoy the rest of the park.

(Read more about St. Louis in a blog post coming soon.

Stop 4

Anderson, Indiana


Mounds State Park Campground
(Read more about this campground in a post coming soon.)

This stop was what we call a stopover rather than a real stop. When we can't make it to our destination from our previous destination in a reasonable amount of time, we make an in-between stop which we call a stopover. We spend 1 to 2 days at stopovers compared to 3-4 days at destinations. This stopover was 2 days. 

We never have any expectations of finding something amazing to do at these stops and pretty much just use the stopover to visit a laundromat, go grocery shopping and to just relax. But more times than not we are disappointed that we don't have more time to spend in these cities and at these campgrounds. That was how we felt at this stop. 

What we didn't know about this area, before we got here, was that the Ball brothers manufactured their glass jars here. We had a great time learning all about them at their museum, Minnetrista. But what made this stop even more unexpectedly exciting for us was finding Harrah's Hoosier Park Racing & Casino tucked away in the middle of a cornfield just 10 minutes from Mounds State Park! 

(Read more about Minnetrista and other things we found in this area coming soon)\

Stop 5

Ravenna, Ohio


West Branch State Park Campground
(Read more about this campground coming here soon.)

This stop is where we would find the third park on our list, Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We stayed at a campground conveniently located only 31 minutes away from Cuyahoga Valley. 

West Branch State Park Campground is a perfect place to consider staying if you have a couple of kids, or you are camping with a group. There was plenty of outdoor activities for families to enjoy together and even had it's own little beach.

We also picked West Branch SP to stay at for it's proximity to Kent State University. Soko regretted not checking out the campus when we were near here a few years ago. Unfortunately, the memorial for the Kent State shooting victims was closed due to the pandemic but fortunately we happened to be in the area on a Sunday and was able to attend Catholic mass on campus at the Newman Center Parish.

(Read about Cuyahoga Valley NP and the surrounding area in a post coming soon.)

Stop 6

Bentonville, Virginia


Shenandoah River State Park
(Read more about this campground coming soon.)

We are too old to even consider rustic camping so camping in most national parks is not an option for us but is always the first place we look when looking for a campground. Fortunately, many times we can find campgrounds with the amenities we need just outside the park.  And if the campground is located in a state park it will have some pretty nice trails of it's own to hike. 

Shenandoah River State Park Campground was only minutes away from Shenandoah National Park, park number four, and had everything we needed - water, electric and hot showers. It also had a nice trail that ran along side the Shenandoah River.

There was really nothing to do in Bentonville, Virginia besides the national and state park but between the two parks there were lots of hiking to keep us busy. The trails we picked to hike were all labeled "easy" but besides for the Fox Hollow Trail they were more than challenging enough to give us a good work out. 

The sound of the stream that paralleled the White Oak trail added to our enjoyment of this hike. We really should have taken our hiking shoes off and enjoyed splashing in the stream or better yet, had our bathing suits on. We will just have to go back one day to try it.


(Read more about Shenandoah national and state parks in a post coming soon.)

Stop 7

Columbia, South Carolina

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Sesquicentennial State Park Campground
(Read more about this campground here coming soon)

The fifth and last park we visited on this road trip was Congaree National Park. It turned out to be a small park with only one very easy wooden deck trail. There was a short loop off of this trail for those who wanted a bit more challenging hike or a few more steps added to their walk. We stayed on the deck and referenced a brochure we obtained at the Visitor's Center as we went on the self guided tour. We learned about the environment, vegetation, history and other interesting things about this forest at each numbered marker.

We took advantage of Smithsonian Museum Day a couple of years ago and discovered Bok Tower. We have been annual pass holders ever since. This year my daughter, Lisa, knew that we would be in Columbia, SC on museum day and found a participating museum for us not far from our campground. Our free tickets to the Lexington County Museum got us a guided tour of most of the thirty historic structures that were located on the 6 1/2 acres here. The tour guide made our visit fun and educational as we explored and learned about these buildings and the history of Lexington County.


(Read more about Congaree N.P., Lexington County Museum and more in a blog post coming soon.)

Stop 8 

St. Augustine, Florida


Anastasia State Park Campground
(Read more about this campground coming soon.)

St. Augustine was a stopover and the last, but not least, stop of our vacation. We were glad to have a little relaxing beach time to end a fantastic road trip. We definitely took advantage of Anastasia State Park's pristine beach. It was a perfect way to end our 5 National Park Road Trip!


(Read more about St. Augustine in a blog post coming soon.)

We will fill you in on all of the other things to do at each stop of this trip in new blog posts coming in the near future. Please look for the links on our Facebook page!

19 comments:

  1. These are all new destinations to me--fascinating! We hope to travel in retirement as well.

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    1. I hope that you get to do lots of traveling. It's the best perk of being retired, having more than 2 weeks a year of vacation time!

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  2. Sounds like you visited some really great parks!

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing your post at our Senior Salon Pit Stop.
    Pinned to Senior Salon Pit Stop InLinkz Linkup Shares board and tweeted @EsmeSalon with #SeniorSalonPitStop

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    1. Thank you so much for pinning our post and for hosting your nice party every week!

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  4. I had no idea most national parks were in the west. No wonder the smokey mountains are so popular. I'm looking forward to reading your Shenandoah post because that's only 8 hours from my daughter's house, so I could check that one out next time I visit her.

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    1. Shenandoah NP is huge! We wanted to hike a trail but found out it was at the opposite end of the park and would take us at least 4 hours to get to. So if I ever get another chance to go I will plan a little better and check out the hiking options beforehand. Hope you have a great time!

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  5. Wow what a wonderful trip. We love St Augustine and always visit its 2 hours away. We almost bought an RV but around here its hard to find a hookup for Orlando without booking 2 years in advance its so busy. So we didnt buy one and go to Sanibel Island if you havent tried there I highly reccommend it my favorite place on earth. I enjoyed this post thank you

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    1. Lots of the Florida parks get booked up so quickly. You can get reservations if you are quick enough though. I hope you will rethink getting an RV. It's so much fun. And yes I have heard Sanibel Island is amazing. We are going to Key Largo in February. I will see if we can get to Sanibel from there. Thanks for the recommendation!!

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  6. So glad you are able to travel and fill up your bucket list of parks to visit. Your trips sounds wonderful. Thanks for linking up and sharing this week. #HomeMattersParty

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    1. It was so nice to get see so many parks in one trip.

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  7. That looks like a great trip! Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

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  8. What an amazing trip. We plan to buy a small motor home to travel in around the UK. We've done lots of travel in the US on the west coast, would love to discover more of the east.
    Thanks for linking with #pocolo and hope to see you back again soon. If you'd like a weekly reminder just tweet me @chickenruby

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  9. What a fun trip! I love road trips to really see an area. Your part of the country looks worth the trip! Thanks for sharing at My Big Fat Menopausal Life's Share the Wealth Party. Have a fabulous weekend. See you again after the 15th!

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  10. What a great assortment of national parks! I love the park map your son and DIL gave you.

    My husband and I love to visit national parks and we've seen many with many more on our list to hopefully see in the future. I think Yellowstone will always be my favorite and Glacier and Grand Tetons come a close second along with Rocky Mountain NP.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your list of favorite parks. It made me excited about the trip we are taking next year. All four parks are on our itinerary!

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