It seems like every day I find myself in an RV at some national park, planning an epic trip on the road. I don’t have a lot of extra money to do it, but I love the concept of moving from one state to another to find new foods and experiences, so I put my thinking cap on and launched a new blog, called “Trek and Taste”. I’m calling it that because I hope that the emphasis is on the experience, rather than the destination.

If you are looking for an oasis in the middle of a never-ending desert, then take a road trip to Temecula, CA—a city that’s home to some of the best wineries in the country. If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty, then stop by one of Temecula’s wineries, where you’ll discover that wine is also a food.

At a time when wildlife populations are declining, it seems rather visionary that early American presidents took up the pen to protect a variety of ecosystems for the benefit of all.

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed an act authorizing Yosemite Valley. Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone National Park in 1872. And in the early 20th century. In the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt was named president of the Nature Conservancy for a series of conservation efforts.

Some of the most interesting and least visited parks now border wine producing countries. And there’s no better way to see America with its forests, dunes and mountains than with a glass of local wine.

Check the National Park Service website for changes and closures to Covid-19 before visiting the park.

White Sands National Park

New Mexico

Do you prefer less crowded parks? While four million people visit Yosemite each year, White Sands National Park receives only 600,000 visitors on 275 square miles of desert. As the name suggests, the plaster sand in the park is so shiny that it gives the impression of snow dunes.

With dry, clear days, vineyards thrive in nearby Mesilla Valley, New Mexico’s smallest American Viticultural Area (AVA). Along the Rio Grande River, the climate is favorable for the production of rich red varieties such as Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as some Tempranillo. The town of Las Cruces serves as a base for exploring local wineries, such as Lescombes Winery, Rio Grande Winery, La Viña Winery and Luna Rossa Winery.

Shenandoah National Park

Virginia

Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia / Courtesy of Barboursville

Rich in open space, wildlife and waterfalls, Shenandoah attracts about 1.5 million visitors each year. The centerpiece of this 200,000-acre park, located about 75 miles from Washington, D.C., is the 105-mile Skyline Drive, which offers spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at every turn. Well-marked trails lead you through wooded valleys and over streams. History buffs should visit nearby Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of the devastating 1861 Civil War battle.

On the south side of the park is Charlottesville, Albemarle County, the rural area where Thomas Jefferson made his home. Although he has failed to produce a fine wine, wineries such as King Family Vineyards, Stinson Vineyards, Barboursville and Veritas produce Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Viognier and red blends in the Monticello AVA. On the north side of the park, RdV Vineyards sets the standard for Virginia wines with its Cabernet blend, available only to members of the reserve list.

Pinnacles National Park

California

Wrath Wines, San Saba Vineyard / Courtesy of Wrath Wines

While the crowds in Yosemite search for reservations, savvy travelers head to Pinnacles National Park. Not only do the Pinnacles receive about 200,000 visitors a year, but they also border the beautiful coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the wine regions of Monterey County’s central coast.

Like the ancient soils that feed the nearby Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards, the park’s landscape is the result of a geological upheaval. More than 23 million years ago, volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates created the unique crushed stone caves and rock formations known as Pinnacles. Hikers and cavers test their athletic ability and their nerves on difficult terrain, although there are also easier walks for the less ambitious. All are dedicated to a variety of wildlife, from hummingbirds and condors to salamanders and mountain lions.

Wine lovers can take the 5.3-mile Condor Gulch hike to High Peaks in the morning and drink wine in Santa Lucia Highlands in the afternoon. There are several wineries along River Road: Hahn Family Wines in the south and Wrath Wines in the north.

Grand Canyon National Park

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park / Photo: Michael DeYoung via Getty

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the biggest attractions in the American Southwest. As many as six million people visit the site each year, so the lodges and cottages in the vast gorge are booked up a year in advance. This photo of the meandering Colorado River from the South Rim is much easier to pose for, though. The lookout points at Navajo Point and Desert View Drive are crowded, but with good reason. The two billion year old red layered sedimentary rock is dotted with pines, spruces and fir trees. It is of incomparable beauty.

Two hours south, near Sedona, lies another hiking destination amidst sublime scenery: the Verde Valley. Viticulture dates back to the 1800s, but the modern industry was revived in the 1980s. Local winemakers have proposed creating an AVA of 200 square miles. The vineyards offer mainly red grapes such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Mourvedre. Taste wine along the Verde Valley Trail or at the many tasting rooms in Cottonwood and Jerome. Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, and Eric Glomski make significant contributions. Maynard owns Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards, and Glomski founded Page Springs Cellars.

Black Canyon-Gunnison National Park

Colorado

Gunnison National Park / Getty

The Black Canyon of Gunnison, a land version of the deepest ocean trenches, gets its name from the fact that sunlight only penetrates the depths of the canyon for a few minutes each day. The park receives about 400,000 people every year. Climbers and hikers looking for steep terrain and scenic spots head to Devils Lookout and Pulpit Rock Overlook of Inner Canyon. There are hiking trails for everyone on the southern and northern slopes, and easier trails, such as the Cedar Point Nature Trail, offer stunning views of the 2,000-foot waterfall.

West Elks, named for the mountains visible outside the park, is the closest wine region and the second largest AVA in Colorado. A little further on is the state’s first AVA, Grand Valley, near the town of Palisade. Altitude plays an important role: some vineyards start at 4,500 feet above sea level and reach up to 7,000 feet.

In the Grand Valley, visit Colorado Cellars, the region’s oldest and largest winery, as well as Two Rivers Winery, Varaison Vineyards and Red Fox Cellars, which offer a wide range of red and white wines, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Nebbiolo.

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