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National Parks of the American Southwest

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Best National Parks in the American Southwest 

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The Southwest And Its Parks


Arches National Park in Utah, the United States

Courtesy National Park Service


Although the United States is known for its many interesting cities,  its movie industry in Hollywood, the technology capital of Silicon Valley and other attractions, the National Parks in America’s southwest are one of the country's  most popular tourist destinations.  We regard these stunning parks as a gift that the American government bestowed on its people and all  visitors.

Most travelers know the area of the American Southwest for its broad vistas and panoramic views of some of the New World’s most interesting landscapes. Humorously, many travelers  may know the region from the cartoons of the characters Wile Coyote and the Road Runner or early Hollywood cowboy movies  filmed in the badlands of the southwestern United States.

The parks we recommend are among the most popular and attractive in the United States.  If you can't wait to get started, click the link of interest to you in the menu on the  right.

If you desire to experience breathtaking landscapes in areas of mournful beauty amid desolate vistas, the American Southwest is waiting for you. If you are excited by unusual  landscapes, mountains, valleys, canyons, buttes, deserts and unusual geological formations, it is hard to imagine  anywhere else with so much diversity within as beautiful an environment.

Along the East Drive in Zion National ParkThe grandeur of the National Parks in the southwest of the United States has to been seen to be appreciated.  The skies in the southwest of the United States are unusually clear and incredibly blue.  The sunrises and sunsets always appear tinged with reds, pinks and colors you may not have noticed before. The air feels crisp and the temperature lets you know what time of day it is in a hurry.

It is the larger-than-life landscapes, however, that let you know that this region is quite unusual.  Indeed, the uniqueness of southwest can only be measured on a worldwide scale  and it becomes more obvious with the passage of time that the National Parks of the American Southwest are something special.   We urge you to read along and explore the nine national parks of the southwest that we recommend you visit.     

         Grand Canyon National Park provides one of the most stunning views in the world
         Courtesy National Park Service

Our notion of the American Southwest runs from southern Colorado into California and includes parts of New, Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada . Some would question our adding California to the mix, but we think that Death Valley is a worthy site that seems to belong with the other parks in the Southwest.  In addition, purists will likely be unhappy with us, but we cover only the National Parks (and a few National Monuments) that are easy to explore and do not necessarily require a Jeep or a four-wheel drive vehicle to access the attraction.  In addition, our recommended national parks offer accommodations or are near towns that do, rather than  requiring camping, though camping is always an option if you prefer.


While there are a number of large and unique cities in this region (Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City, we do not focus on the metropolitan areas here, as the uniqueness in the American Southwest lays in the countryside, not in its urban environments.

          Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and its amazing cliff dwellings

When seen on a map, the National Parks of the American Southwest appear close together, but that is the map view and not reality.  The distances between parks are often significant.  Further, driving  times in this section of the United States can be long due to road conditions, speed limits and the large number of stops you will make  to see yet another unusual attraction.

There is no need to see all of the parks we recommend on one "grand tour", although a number of them cluster into “doable –sized” groups that can easily be visited as a collection. Other parks are quite remote and are best seen when visiting someplace else, as in touring the Grand Canyon or Death Valley when visiting Las Vegas.  We have added a feature on the edges of the pages where we describe the parks in detail that includes combinations of parks that might be of interest.

Bryce Canyon National Park is a delight nestled in central UtahOne more note, before we start our tour.  The American Southwest is hospitable in the spring and fall. It can be incredibly hot during the summer and travel in the desert during this period of the year can be dangerous, if you are not prepared.

Several of the parks we recommend are located in true deserts and you need to be prepared to tour them.  Conversely, in winter some of these areas can be cold, wet, snowy and almost as inhospitable as the summer. Indeed, areas in some parks are  closed for portions of the winter due to accessibility issues.  Always check-in at the park headquarters to start your exploration, as the staff will be able to provide information that will help make your journey much more enjoyable and help insure your safety.

The definitive source of information for the National Park system in the United States is the National Park Service and we highly recommend their website  for current information on all of the parks they manage.  However, we think you will find our guide easy-to-navigate, filled with interesting insight and organized to help you decide if one of the parks we recommend is for you.  Once you have selected a park to visit, check in on the NPS website for that park for further information (we provide the links in the pages where we describe the parks in detail).


To help you get started, we have created a one-page guide to all of the parks we recommend.  This one-page provides a concise overview, a photo and a link to the pages where we describe each park in detail. Click this link for our Quick-Guide covering the The Best National Parks in the American Southwest.

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National Parks of the Southwest.

For our one-page Quick-Guide to all of the parks we feature, click here

For our detailed pages on individual parks, select from the following:

Arches NP
Bryce Canyon NP
Zion NP

Great Sand Dunes NP
Mesa Verde NP

Grand Canyon NP
Petrified Forest NP

Death Valley NP
Joshua Tree NP

New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns NP

National Parks Quick-Guide
















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We cover ten national parks in the American Southwest.

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