‘Local’s Summer’: 5 Sleepy Fall RV Destinations

October 1, 2019

Beautiful tree with orange and yellow leaves and sun shining through

These sleepy fall RV destinations might make autumn your favorite season.

For those of us who live in popular tourism destinations, our shoulder seasons are cherished opportunities for downtime. Those shoulder seasons typically come in the spring and fall, in between the summer and winter busy seasons. In many destinations, fall is considered “local’s summer” because it’s an opportunity for locals to finally get in those trips they’ve been putting on the back burner all summer.

As we move through local’s summer, let’s take a look at five sleepy fall RV destinations that might give you a final chance to get your RV out of the driveway before it’s time to winterize everything and start stacking that firewood!

Fall colors of gold and yellow cover a rugged canyon, making it a great sleepy fall rv destination

Lamoille Canyon blanketed by autumn colors in the Ruby Mountain Ranger District on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Photo: USDA Gov

Ruby Mountains, Nevada

The Ruby Mountains are located about 20 miles southeast of Elko, Nevada. Throughout the winter months, the mountains offer some of the best backcountry skiing terrain in Nevada. But the fall season in the Rubies (as they’re called locally) offers lush trees and shrubs that begin to change colors as the weather cools down.

An autumn view of the Ruby Mountains from Nevada State Route 229. Photo: Farmartin

Within the 90,000 acres that make up the Ruby Mountains Wilderness, you’ll find great bird-watching, crystal-clear lakes for fishing, and a plethora of wildlife. There are more than 300 miles of hiking trails throughout the Ruby Mountains, but the most popular trailheads are Roads End in Lamoille Canyon, Harrison Pass, Soldier Canyon, and Overland Lake.

If you’re looking for a place to stay near the Ruby Mountains, the closest place to park your RV for quick access to the Ruby Mountains is Thomas Canyon Campground in Lamoille Canyon. This is a campground in the national forest with 40 sites, but minimal amenities. If you’re willing to base camp a little further away and then drive into the mountains for day hikes, check out Gold Country RV Park or Iron Horse RV Resort, which are both located in Elko.

A footbridge gracefully arcs over a river gorge that's about 15 feet wide.

A footbridge over the Rogue Gorge 10 miles north of Prospect. Photo: Hamad Darwish from Medford, Oregon, USA

 Prospect, Oregon

There might not be a town on this list that embodies “sleepy” quite as well as Prospect, Oregon. As of the latest census, the town had a total population of about 500 full-time residents. However, lovers of the outdoors will find solace in the quiet woods and the ample wilderness that surround Prospect. It’s a great place to base camp while you visit some extraordinary natural attractions.

The town of Prospect lies in southern Oregon and is about 45 miles from Medford and just over 20 miles from Crater Lake National Park. In addition to being on the doorstep of the national park, Prospect is also close to the Rogue River Gorge Viewpoint, Mill Creek Falls, Union Creek Trail and the Natural Bridge Viewpoint.

Reflective lake waters with abruptly rising banks.

Crater Lake on a calm day. Photo: Anukrati Omar

Camping opportunities are abundant throughout the state of Oregon, and Prospect is certainly no exception. If you want to stay in the national forest, there are several great campgrounds along the Rogue River to choose from, including Abbott Creek, Natural Bridge and Farewell Bend. If you want a bit more of an RV resort, be sure to check out Crater Lake RV Park.

Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

The Ozark National Forest extends across about 1.2 million acres in northern Arkansas. The two most interesting features of the national forest are the tallest mountain in the state (Mount Magazine) and the underground caves at Blanchard Springs Caverns. There are also myriad opportunities for hiking, fishing, hunting, boating and wildlife viewing throughout the national forest.

A jagged lakeshore is blanketed brown-golden-green autumn trees.

The autumn-tinged banks of Shores Lake in Ozark National Forest. Photo: Marco Becerra

The national forest mainly comprises the Boston Mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks and the Arkansas River Valley. Popular attractions within the national forest (and in some of the surrounding wilderness and wildlife management areas) include Alum Cove Natural Bridge, Pedestal Rocks and Lake Wedington. There are a variety of excellent trails to choose from here, including Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail and the Ozark Highlands Trail.

The Ozark National Forest covers an expansive area, so there are a lot of choices for camping within the forest where you’ll have quick access to some of its best trails and attractions. South of the national forest and easily accessible via Interstate 40, you’ll find the Outdoor Living Center RV Park and Ivy’s Cove RV Retreat in Russellville. If you’re looking for better access to the western part of the national forest, check out the RV parks in Alma, including Fort Smith-Alma RV Park and Eagle Crest Golf Course and RV Park.

A senior man and a young woman zipline with fall foliage in the background.

Ziplining 200 feet above the ground at Alpine Adventures in the White Mountains. Photo: Alpine Adventures.

White Mountains, New Hampshire

The White Mountains make up an 87-mile stretch of the Appalachian Mountains that extend from north-central New Hampshire into western Maine. This stretch contains the highest elevations in the northeastern United States. This includes the highest point (Mount Washington) at 6,288 feet. Many of the other tallest mountains in this stretch are also named for U.S. presidents and are commonly known as the Presidential Range.

While you might guess that these aren’t the most forgiving mountains to travel through during the winter months, fall brings a welcome change in temperature that changes leaf colors and sets the wildlife off to prepare for the winter ahead. Some of the most popular attractions in the White Mountains are located along the White Mountains Trail, a National Scenic Byway that can be driven in a day (but you’ll see more if you take a few!). This picturesque route has been touted as New England’s most scenic 100 miles. For ziplining thrills, visit Alpine Adventures in Lincoln.

A boardwalk trail in New Hampshire.

The trail leading through Flume Gorge in the White Mountains. Photo: White Mountains Association

Along the way, you’ll pass by Crawford Notch State Park, Franconia Notch State Park and Clark’s Trading Post outside of North Woodstock.  Fun fact: A “notch” is essentially the same as a “pass” through the mountains. The early settlers who moved through the White Mountains found the low points (where it was easiest to travel) to resemble the notches in their log cabins! Good Sam RV Parks along the White Mountain Trail (or convenient for visiting) include Twin Mountain Motor Court & RV Park, Tamworth Camping Area and Newfound RV Park in Bridgewater. Flume Gorge, with a trail leading between sheer rock walls, also is worth a visit.

A pair of horses graze with rugged bluffs and golden trees looming in the distance.

Horses graze on a ranch near Durango. Photo: Getty Images

 Durango, Colorado

 Heading back to the west, the last sleepy fall RV destination on our list lies in southwestern Colorado. Durango is a small town that gets its name from the Basque word “urango,” which translates to “water town.” It sits tucked into the Animas River Valley at an elevation of 6,512 feet. Human history in the area can be traced all the way back to the Ancestral Puebloans, much of whose history (including their sudden disappearance) remains a mystery to this day.

Once you’re base camping in Durango, you’ll have a variety of attractions to choose from. You can head downtown to learn more about the town’s history in the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum, or find out about local flora and fauna at the Durango Fish Hatchery & Wildlife Museum. Some of the best natural attractions around Durango include Oxbow Park and Preserve, Soaring Tree Top Adventures and Mesa Verde National Park, which is about 35 miles to the west of town.

Gold-tinted trees flank a highway with mountains in the background.

The Million Dollar Highway outside of Durango. Photo: Getty Images

There are a number of camping areas in the San Juan National Forest that lies (for the most part) to the north of town. This includes Junction Creek, Haviland Lake and Lightner Creek. Some of the best Good Sam RV Parks in the area are actually about 15 miles east in the town of Bayfield. This includes Bayfield Riverside RV Park and Vallecito Resort. However, the Durango KOA is a Good Sam Park located just southeast of town.

Enjoy Your Local’s Summer!

Wherever you decide to travel this fall, be sure to enjoy smaller crowds and the shifts that come with the changing seasons. We’d love to hear from you after (or during!) your trip if you have any new destinations or attractions to share with us. Happy trails!