When people ask me where my favorite destinations are, it’s hard for the American Southwest to not instantly pop into my mind. Although I’ve been to many incredible destinations the vastness of the deserts and canyons, the wild spirit and the alien-looking formations of the Southwest stand out. These 10 Southwest destinations are just a handful of the many amazing places I’ve had the pleasure of exploring in the region. (It’s so hard for me to rank these that they’re in no particular order!)
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is located near Moab, Utah and has multiple sections. There’s a wide array of things to see in this mind-blowing park. There are Native American dwellings + petroglyphs, rock formations, 4-wheel drive trails and so much more! My favorite trails (so far) are Upheaval Dome and the trail that leads to the spectacular and iconic Mesa Arch. One of my favorite things about visit the Isle in the Sky section of Canyonlands is watching the way the sun moving across the sky changes the colors and shadows of these beautiful canyons.
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is just that, grand. This massive canyon lives up to its name and its opportunity for adventure! You can raft the Colorado River, hike on one of its multiple trails, relax in the lodge, walk the Skywalk or take a helicopter ride. Don’t forget about the more wooded North Rim. The colors aren’t as vivid, but it’s a totally different experience. Also, it’s a great destination in every season. I’ve been in late winter and summer and both have their own unique beauty!
Arches National Park
Arches is out of this world. The landscape here feels like you’re exploring Mars. Arches National Park gets its name from the over 2,000 arches in the park. This park is one that I have enjoyed visiting again and again. The most iconic arch in the park is Delicate Arch which is worth the trek to see it at sunset. In addition to the arches there are many other rock formations like Balancing Rock and the Three Gossips.
Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona is a stunning Slot Canyon that is just a photographer’s dream! It’s located on Native American land and a tour is required to go through the canyon. It’s very crowded, but if you go in the off-season and are in the first group in the morning you feel less like cattle. Even with the feeling of being shoved through, it’s well worth a visit.
Although I’ve only ever driven through Monument Valley, it’s such a gorgeous landscape that it still made my top 10 Destinations in the Southwest. I have plans to go back and spend more time hiking in the area, or maybe even take a horseback ride.
Havasu Canyon is one of those unreal destinations. The contrast of the red rock canyon against the bright turquoise water is just unreal. It feels extra exclusive because numbers are limited (due to requiring a permit) and you can only access it by mule/horse ride, helicopter ride or 10-mile hike down. It’s so very wonderful and well-worth the visit. Not to mention, this is only one of many waterfalls down in the canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park
My visit to Bryce Canyon was short and sweet. In fact, when we arrived here much of the road was closed due to several inches of snow! I was disappointed to not be able to hit the trails, but even getting to see these hoodoos from an overlook and see the massive Natural Bridge (the first of that size I had ever seen) was very memorable.
Zion National Park
Zion is a National Park that I’ve visited a couple of times, and both times it left me mesmerized. On my first visit here, I was just a child, but it left me in awe. It was the first place I remember feeling in awe of nature and full of wanderlust. Whether it was driving through, climbing Angel’s Landing or standing in the river, this park is sure to leave you speechless at some point.
Big Bend National Park
I don’t typically lump Texas into the Southwest, but after visiting Big Bend National Park, I have to say it has an unmistakable Southwest feel. I mean, it is just about as far in SW Texas as a person can get, so I’m going to give myself a pass on it! It’s way out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s one of my top 5 favorite National Parks. It’s one of those places that unexpectedly leaves a mark on your hear.
Native American History + Petroglyphs
Having an anthropology degree, I have an affinity for searching out cultural or archaeological sights. Luckily all around the southwest there are ancient Native American dwellings and even more petroglyphs! I have to say the greatest example I’ve seen thus far (and I’ve seen about a dozen now) is Newspaper Rock in the Moab region. It’s one of the many amazing works of art spread all throughout the region. Don’t forget to look close when you’re out and about in the Southwest.
This region is so very near and dear to my heart. It’s a place full of ancient spirituality, other-worldly destinations and a wild spirit unlike anything other place I’ve ever experienced. What is your favorite Southwest Destination?
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