Top 10 Things to see in the Southwest

Written by on June 10, 2013 in The Southwest - Comments Off on Top 10 Things to see in the Southwest

The Southwest is filled spectacular scenery and there are hundreds of places to stop and enjoy the beauty. Here are our top 10 picks for places you have to see if you are coming to the Four Corners states, the Southwestern states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Of course, to really see and explore all these wonderful places would probably require a good month or more, but we hope this helps you pick out what you really want to see when you visit the Southwest.

The Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is hard to capture in words. Standing on the brink of a mile deep abyss, with bands of colorful stone glowing in the sunlight, the Grand Canyon is so deep, so big, so vast, that a visitor feels terribly small and totally awed by this natural wonder. The canyon is 277 miles long, 14 miles wide at its widest point, and a mile deep in many places. The waters of the Colorado River form a tiny blue ribbon at the bottom of the canyon (when viewed from above) are responsible for this giant excavation … a testament to the power of a raging river.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Soaring to 14,000+ feet in many locations, the Rocky Mountain form the spine of the U.S., from the Canadian border all the way down to Mexico. But nowhere is the scenery as dramatic as Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Topping it all is Longs Peak, elevation 14,259 feet, its rugged summit, tipped with snow even during the summer months. Visitors to the park can enjoy waterfalls, warm meadows, shady forests, soaring peaks and every outdoor activity possible, both winter and summer.

Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, some of the best preserved sites in the country. Located on a high mesa in the Southwest corner of Colorado, these ancient people lived out of the wind and weather in the splits and canyons of the mesa, while farming the mesa tops and valleys.

Arches National Park/Canyonlands National Park
Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are two stunning places to visit and are located conveniently near Moab, Utah. Arches is glorious with slickrock towering arches, soaring pinnacles and painted rocks. There are 2,000 natural arches in the park and they come in all shapes and sizes, from small keyholes at the beginning of their lifespan, to monumental creations that dominate the landscape. Canyonlands, just south of Arches National Park, surrounds the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River and is a mesmerizing stretch of remote wilderness. Wind and water (mostly water) have carved the amazing canyons and rock formations throughout the park.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
An underground wonderland of caves, stalactites, stalagmites, drapes, flowstone, snowballs, crystals and more, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an amazing place to visit. Containing more than 116 caverns, some of them the largest in North America, visitors can take a guided tour or follow the three mile self-guided tour that winds through some of the most beautiful of the caverns. One of the oddest, but nicest, features of the park is the underground lunch room, where snacks and drinks are available, which means you can spend a full day underground and enjoy the scenery.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Tucked in a canyon on the Colorado Plateau, deep within soaring sandstone walls, is one of the most sacred sites to the Navajo Indians … Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The walls of canyon soar to over 1,000 feet in places and the ancient ruins of the Anasazi are well preserved. The canyon floor remains green and fertile all year around, which explains why the valley has been inhabited for so long — from primitive peoples 2000 years ago, through the Anasazi civilization of the twelfth century, to the Navajo who have lived here for the last 300 years. The Navajo people still rear sheep and goats in the canyon, and plant crops.

Zion National Park
The Paiute Indians call it Mukuntuweap, “straight up place.” An apt name considering massive canyon walls soar to enormous heights to be framed by a shockingly blue sky. Today, we call it Zion National Park. Amazingly, the entire park was carved by water. The North Fork of the Virgin River begins high on the Markagunt Plateau at an altitude of 9,000 feet. The river drops roughly 80 feet per mile as it carves its way through 20 miles of Navajo sandstone, including carving one of the most popular slot canyons in America, The Narrows. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red, and are the crowning jewels of a fantastic and beautiful setting.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Hoodoo is the geologic term for the weird pillars of eroded rock that make up Bryce Canyon National Park. Paiute history says the hoodoos are the Legend People who Coyote turned to stone for misbehaving. You can see them in that place now — some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding onto others. You can see their faces with paint on, just as they were before they became rocks.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Steeper, deeper and narrower than the Grand Canyon, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers truly stunning vistas. Views from either the south rim or the north rim will take your breath away. The Gunnison River is responsible for creating the Black Canyon as it carved the narrow gorge over a period of two million years. In the process, it revealed brown, black, and gray rock nearly two billion years old. Millions and millions of years ago, pink and white streamers or dykes of what was once molten granite forced its way into the cracks of these ancient rocks.

Bandelier National Monument
Frijoles Creek begins on the snowy slopes of Cerro Grande Peak and carves its way down through the Pajarito Plateau for over fourteen miles before entering the winding Rio Grande, dropping 4,000 feet in the process. Tucked into a deep canyons cut by the creek are the pueblo dwellings of an ancient people and the crowning jewels of Bandelier National Monument. Of course, the scenery itself is pretty spectacular, with fantastic waterfalls, forested slopes, soaring canyons and bubbling creeks.

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