Why travelers keep on trekking to the southwestern United States

Any passionate explorer will tell you that it’s the unique desert landscapes of the southwestern United States that keep drawing them back to the region. Shaped by water, wind and millions of years, the national parks of Death Valley, Zion’s canyons, and the dramatic boulders of Joshua Tree, each has a story to tell.

Best explored in the cooler seasons of winter and fall, it’s the perfect time before the burning hot sun of the summer begins to shine and make it a little more difficult to hike and explore.

Death Valley covers 3,000 square miles. Each year 1.3 million visitors come to the Death Valley National Park located at below sea level. Death Valley’s Badwater Basin is actually located at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. The climate is subtropical, desert temperatures.

From the Badwater Basin’s salt flats to the Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley offers some of the strangest and magical landscapes. The Ubehebe Crater is a 600 foot deep crater depression once believed to be inactive but now geologists think it is more active than previously thought.

Also fascinating to see is the Devil’s Golf Course which, like the Badwater Basin offers a fascinating view of the salt-crusted surface. Other places not to miss when touring the Death Valley National Park are the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the Natural Bridge and the Mosaic Canyon.

Other parts of the Death Valley Park worth exploring and capturing photos of desert landscapes are the red colored mountain ranges, the steam rising out of Furnace creek and the sand dunes further along will give you an idea of what to expect.

If you are traveling by car, drive east of Furnace Creek on Highway 190, stop the car at Zabriskie’s Point, probably one of the most well known sites of the Death Valley.  There is a lookout point, a short walk up the hill so it can be easily accessed. The ribbon-like white rock formations of the mountain chain are a natural wonder to behold.
Another not to be missed vista is Dante’s View is located at the top of a winding, narrow mountain road. It offers one of the most most spectacular views you’ll find of  the mountains of the desert.

Where to Stay?

Furnace Creek Resort Inn at Furnace Creek is an AAA rated four diamond resort in the center of Death Valley now open year round.  It’s a historic hotel built in 1927 with palm trees, swimming pools and a golf course. It appears to be almost located in the middle of nowhere in the desert.  Across the road, one can see from the steam rising out of Furnace Creek.

The Ranch at Furnace Creek offers cabins, standard and deluxe rooms as well as campgrounds.  The campgrounds also provide full hookups for RV parking.

Other lodging available in Death Valley National Park:  Stovepipe Wells Village concession with resort accommodation and some RV camping.

Rustic cabins and campground lodgings can be found at Panamint Springs Resort in Death Valley.

Zion National Park in Utah is another wonder of the American southwest landscapes. This national park covers 229 square miles. Zion park received about 4.5 million visitors each year. The Park elevations range from 3,666 to 8,726 feet above sea level.

For centuries, people have sought relief from the sweltering heat in Zion park. The base of the park was formed when the Virgin River cut through the canyon, deepening the landscape. The park can best be seen by shuttle bus which is offered at no charge to tourists.

An interesting place to hike in the park include the Observation Point, a 2,148 foot elevation up the eastern wall of Zion Canyon. It is a challenging hike but at the top of Observation Point, a hiker will be rewarded with marvelous views of Echo Canyon, the bizarre White Cliffs and Angels Landing.

Also to be explored are The Narrows, the Virgin River’s slot canyon with limestone walls. Hiking shoes and a walking stick are recommended as one wades through the waters of the River.

Not to be missed: the Emerald Pools, small waterfall ponds of brightly colored green (colored by the microalgae).
The Weeping Rocks, a large arched alcove trimmed with lush hanging gardens from the sandstone walls surely one of the most photographed locations in Zion National Park.

Where to stay?

There are more than 38 hotels in Zion National Park as well as campgrounds with RV hookups and Air BnB’s. Needless to say, there is plenty of lodging nearby the Park, too many to mention here in this article.

The Joshua Tree National Park covers some 1,235.4 square miles in southeastern California. This park is located at the conjunction of distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado deserts.
The Joshua Tree is a unique desert tree of twisted branches commonly found in the deserts of the southwestern U.S.

Key sites to view in the Joshua Tree National Park include the Coachella Valley. The boulders of Hidden Valley offer fascinating hiking trails. The Joshua Tree Park offers opportunities not only for hiking but also birding, astronomy, desert animal wildlife, climbing, camping and photography.

The incredible topography is comprised of giant boulders of magical rocks jutting upwards, formed by colliding tectonic plates which creates huge labyrinths, sculpted by the wind and time. See more of these gigantic rock formations at Park Boulevard, Skull Rock, Cap Rock, Arch Rock and the Wonderland of Rocks sites.

Cottonwood Springs Oasis, the Oasis of Mars and Lost Palms Oasis offer spectacular views, desert fauna and springs on the hiking trails.

Where to Stay?

Lodgings in the Joshua Tree are plentiful, in the way of hotels, motels, campgrounds and rustic cabins.

The best times to visits the southwestern deserts are the winter and shoulder-seasons because of the high summer temperatures. Be prepared to explore these unique desert landscapes: bring your camera, plenty of sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses and good hiking shoes.

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