The southwestern United States is home to some of the most scenic landscapes in the world. And with that scenery comes some incredible opportunities to explore on foot. So if you’re idea of vacation includes a bit of sweat and adventure, here are some of the best destinations to consider.
- Grand Canyon – This world-famous canyon is perhaps the most obvious contender for the top spot on the list. With its huge vistas, towering cliffs, hidden waterfalls, and challenging terrain, it’s no wonder that Grand Canyon attracts so many intrepid hikers. And at an impressive 1.2 million acres, there’s plenty of space to find solitude and an epic sense of wilderness beneath the rim.
The most popular trails are South Kaibab and Bright Angel. Both offer access to the canyon’s bottom and some backcountry campgrounds. And who could forget Rim to Rim: one of the most popular hikes in the world! Many other trails offer more remote and challenging hikes but plan on being well-prepared and experienced since the Grand Canyon will challenge even the most hearty hikers.
However, backpacking and camping might not suit every hiker but several trails offer excellent day hike opportunities. If you opt to book with a hiking outfitter like Four Season Guides, you can choose between backcountry camping or lodge-based tours that offer great hikes by day and hotel accommodations at night.
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – This is one of the Southwest’s best-kept secrets and the hiking is world-class. Located in south-central Utah, it’s a pretty remote location, often accessed via the extremely scenic Highway 12. Unlike the more well-known National Parks like Zion and Bryce Canyon, this National Monument is largely undeveloped and most of it is accessed via primitive dirt roads that can prove challenging to navigate. Four-wheel drive and high clearance vehicles are highly recommended.
A few popular hikes include Calf Creek Falls and the exciting Peekaboo and Spooky slot canyons. The former is accessed via paved highway and the latter via the famous (infamous?) Hole In The Rock Road, which is relatively well-traveled but can deteriorate quickly and become impassable during wet weather.
The Grand Staircase offers endless amazing hiking opportunities to waterfalls, sinuous canyons, and ancient ruins and rock art, but destinations require thorough research and preparation. Experienced hiking guide services can be very helpful and well worth the cost.
- The Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona – Sedona, Arizona is known for its beautiful red rock scenery, notable rock formations, and big desert skies. Sedona has been listed by many publications as one of the top three most beautiful places to visit in the world!
Many popular hikes such as Cathedral Rock, West Fork, and Devil’s Bridge are easy to access and navigate. But don’t expect solitude, as these hikes are hugely popular and see considerable numbers of hikers at any time of year. For something a little more off the beaten path, consider Wilson Mountain, Loy Canyon, or Bear Mountain. The two mountains will take you to epic views but certainly demand some stamina to reach great heights above the surrounding landscape. Loy Canyon offers excellent solitude and interesting remnants of human history.
For a short and relatively easy taste of Sedona hiking, Four Season Guides’ Canyons & Vistas Tour offers a smorgasbord of Sedona flavors, including excellent views from up high and hiking through a beautiful sandstone canyon.
The southwestern U.S. is undoubtedly a top choice for hiking enthusiasts looking for an active vacation exploring on foot. And though the three destinations above offer some great places to start, these are just the beginning. Many more adventures await!