Making the desert your next travel destination has a lot of perks! I’m not talking about the middle of a hot, sandy, death with no water or human interaction for miles. I’m talking about the beautiful get-a-ways in America’s southwest: Utah, Arizona, west Texas and New Mexico.
Let’s be honest, the desert is not the first place people think of when they want to “get away from it all.” This is to your benefit! The crowds are definitely smaller in most desert locations than on a beach or at a ski resort. There are some locations (like Moab, Utah) that are adventure hot spots and get very crowded. But most camping and National Parks are mellow in comparison to other locations.
Desert vacations make great educational trips for whole families. On the surface, the desert seems quiet and barren. As you look closer, though, it really comes to life. The desert ecosystem is so delicate and intricately interdependent. When we were in Big Bend National Park, located in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas, we saw so much wildlife and blooming cacti. In Saguaro National Park, Arizona, we walked on an interpretive trail that detailed how each and every creature and plant works together to maintain the desert balance. These are invaluable lessons for growing children!
The Geology and Landscape
Years of wind and water erosion has worked to expose sweeping layers in the sandstone and sedimentary rock throughout the southwest states. A geological story can be read in the rock all throughout this region. This erosion also causes arches, buttes, hoodoos, bridges, and so many more incredible formations across the landscapes. Whether you are a geologist or just love beautifully unique landscapes, your senses will be awed by the formations in the desert.
This is another great reason to bring kids. Or, if you are a history buff, a great reason to come yourself. The most obvious history in this area comes from the Native American tribes that inhabited these lands so long ago. Their stories are etched into the rock all throughout America’s southwest. Their ancient homes, tools, and lifestyles have been easily preserved here by the dry climate. Museums have been constructed to celebrate the values and cultures of the peoples who first settled America.
Petrified Forest National Park and Mesa Verde are great places to dive into these histories.
These states were also the stomping grounds of celebrated cowboys and vagabonds of legends. Their history and impact is woven into the current culture. Get swept away in the gritty past of the Wild West!
The Watering Holes
Hidden here and there amongst the sandstone and cacti are deep, refreshing watering holes. These little oases from the heat can be found all over America’s southwest. Havasu Falls in the Havasupai region of Arizona is one of the most sought-after and more difficult to access. This little gem in the photo below is a great roadside stop. It is a free, natural swimming hole in New Mexico. Refreshing, radiantly blue water can be found all throughout America’s deserts.