South-West US

Bryce Canyon walkers, South-West US

Bryce Canyon offers awesome walks in the South-West US.

Visiting South-West  US

These states are generally thought to be Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah though some consider Oklahoma to be a part of the Southwest, while others think Texas is purely South US. California is, of course, on an entirely different planet.

Many of the country’s most interesting cities sit in this corner of USA, while bizarre and mind-boggling national parks bubble up all around offering the best geological wow factors in America.
The region is culturally diverse representing everything from wild west cowboys through laid-back Latinos to Mormon conservatives and hippy-dippy new age spiritualists and both outdoor and indoor activities on offer are equally diverse and outstanding catering to almost everyone.

Main Attractions

California***
This part of the west coast is the hippest, most interesting state in the country. It’s got a surf coast, superb, dynamic cities – some of them very attractive – good wine, sunshine, neo-hippies, freaks, geeks, spectacular deserts and magnificent mountains. More California

Arizona***
With the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Sonoran Desert and Slot Canyons Arizona puts the wild in west but also displays a new-age angle in affluent Sedona, arguably America’s most off-the-wall town.

New Mexico**
An interesting palette of Mexican, Indian and bohemian influences, with some of America’s best ancient sites and monuments yet parts are very much in the nuclear age.

Utah***
Big on Mormon and Native American culture but the main interest to the Utah visitor is the outdoor recreational possibilities, particularly hiking and biking in the staggeringly beautiful national parks (see below) plus white powder snow in winter and white water in summer. Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 winter Olympics so facilities in the area are spanking new for the snow seeking tourist. There are several world class ski resorts within an hour or two drive from the city, which has an international airport.

Colorado***
This state means Rocky Mountains and sensational skiing to many but like the other south-west US states Colorado also embraces some wonderful national parks and monuments such as Rocky Mountain NP (for lakes, waterfalls and incredible shrinking glaciers), Mesa Verde (including Anasazi ancient cliff dwellings), Great Sand Dunes, Gunnison’s Black Canyon, San Juan Mountains (historic towns, mines, canyons) and Arapaho NRA (five picturesque lakes).

Nevada***
Gambling and extravagant night lights spring to mind when Nevada is mentioned but there is wild life outside Reno and Las Vegas, just check out nearby Red Rock Canyon or even the Great Basin National Park where stunning views include a glacier on Wheeler Peak.
Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in late August is temporary home to the totally wild and awesome Burning Man Festival.

Best ‘Grand Circle‘ South-West US National Parks

Monument Valley sunset, Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona, South-West US

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Bryce Canyon National Park(Utah)*** a gorgeous amphitheatre of wiggly, melting, red and white rocks, with stunning walks above and below the rim and good campgrounds.

Zion Canyon National Park(Utah)*** towering, fortress rocks in a deep canyon cut by the Virgin river. While the Grand Canyon experience is mostly looking down, Zion is mostly looking up to varicoloured monoliths. Walks are well-marked and interesting while camping is convenient.

Capitol Reef National Park(Utah)** yet another colourful, rocky region with excellent hiking, plus a historic Mormon town.

Moab town(Utah)** a lively, young gateway town to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, as well as massive Sand Flats Recreation Area, with all the rental kit and activity organisation necessary.

Canyonlands National Park(Utah)** another huge and scenic wilderness area with buttes and canyons, great rafting, biking, 4WD, ATV and hiking possibilities. Limited camping.

Arches National Park(Utah)*** incredible sandstone arches and wacky rock shapes in dramatic settings. Great hiking but no biking. Busy but enough space for that not to be a problem. Limited camping.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park(Utah/Arizona)** some wonderful buttes that will trigger fond western memories. Hiking and biking.

Painted Desert** The high elevation Colorado Plateau portion of the Great Basin Desert in southern Utah stretches down into north eastern Arizona and is a superb space for outdoor activities.

Mojave Desert** More cacti per sq ft then any other, and wobbly trees too, in Joshua Tree National Park (California).

Great Basin Desert* Northeast of the Mojave is this massive desert which covers almost all of the state, criss-crossed by a handful of highways.

Area 51* the truth can apparently be found here. The infamous Area 51 and Hangar 18 within are well off official limits but star gazing in the area can get a little strange – UFO’s are commonly sighted.
The residents of nearby Rachel are happy to tell you about it and take your money for souvenirs.

The Narrows, Zion Canyon NP.

Recreational Activities

Hiking: Yellowstone, Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, Mojave National Preserve and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California; Capitol Reef, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in Utah; the Pacific Crest Trail.

Climbing: Joshua Tree for small stuff, Yosemite for big climbs, Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks in California; Moab in Utah; San Francisco Mountains, Santa Catalina Mountains, and Monument Valley in Arizona; Red Rocks in Nevada.

Mountaineering: Sierra Nevada Mountains in California; Wasatch Mountains.

Mountain biking: Slickrock in Sand Flats Recreation Area (Moab) is the best bike trail in the country. Also Mammoth Mountain, Marin County.

White water rafting and kayaking: Moab is a great base for white water activities.

Skiing and Snowboarding: Kaibab National Forest and Cocinino National Forest in Arizona.