Escape the cold and check out these unrivaled Southwestern National Parks!

Grand Canyon National Park
I’ve seen the Grand Canyon on a few different occasions in my life, and every time I go it makes me laugh out loud. There’s something so absurd about its size to which photos just can’t do justice. I always imagine the first settlers walking through the forest, emerging exhausted from a clearing and suddenly realizing the immensity of the task ahead of them. Nowadays the Canyon hasn’t lost any of its splendor, in fact it’s probably only increased in contrast to our modern world of technological obsession. Eighteen miles wide and one mile deep at the biggest points, the Grand Canyon is one of America’s most famous natural treasures. Be sure to catch it at sunrise and/or sunset for a painted canyon aflame with unique colors. Hike down along the many day paths or set up a longer trek in advance. It’s also possible to canoe or kayak down the Colorado River that runs through it, although these need to be arranged way in advance.

Death Valley National Park
I mean, yeah, the name isn’t great. But the park sure is. It’s the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in America but with an incredibly varied landscape that is 91% designated wilderness. Hikes are best in the mornings before the heat, and I recommend checking out Artist’s Palette—one of the backdrops used for Tatooine in the original Star Wars. Speaking of stars, as a recently designated “dark sky park”, this will be one of the best views of the North American night skies you’ll be able to see in your lifetime.

Arches National Park
Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 naturally occurring sandstone arches, including the infamous “Delicate Arch” that you see all over Utah stamps and license plates. The park became more popular after the success of Edward Abbey’s memoir Desert Solitaire and has only grown in popularity today. While I’ll always advocate for getting out in nature on foot, unlike a lot of national parks, there’s quite a bit at Arches that you can experience from the comfort of your car. That said, you’ll want to reserve a trip in advance to hike into the Fiery Furnace. Trust me.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Despite its name, there is no canyon. Instead there’s a giant collection of naturally occurring amphitheaters with alien-looking spires called “hoodoos” that make you truly feel like you’re in a foreign and fantastical land. Keep an eye out for hawks and peregrine falcons while catching sight of a gloriously red sunset throwing unique shadows between all the odd and stunning spires. This is also a great place for stargazing and the park offers beloved moonlit hikes where flashlights aren’t allowed.

Zion National Park
Now despite no mention in the name, this park is famous for its canyon. Unlike much of the Southwest’s terrain, the park is filled with desert canyons, coniferous forests, and rivers that all make for a truly lush and beautiful landscape you won’t want to miss. See the park however you’d like: hike, bike, drive—heck, take the Zion Shuttle. Movies to watch beforehand: The Electric Horseman, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Jeremiah Johnson—all of which star Zion National Park (...oh and Robert Redford).

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