The Southwest is America's playground, luring adventurous travelers with thrilling red-rock landscapes, the legends of shoot-'em-up cowboys and the kicky delights of green chile stew.
Beauty and adventure are a fun-loving team in the Southwest. They crank up the whitewater, unleash the single track, add blooms to the trail and drape a sunset across the red rocks. This captivating mix of scenery and possibility lures travelers who want to rejuvenate physically, mentally and spiritually. The big draw is the Grand Canyon, a two-billion-year-old wonder that shares its geologic treasures with a healthy dose of fun. Next door in Utah, the red rocks will nourish your soul while thrashing your bike. In southern Colorado ice climbing and mountain biking never looked so pretty. Tamp down the adrenaline in New Mexico with a scenic drive, an art walk or a lazy slide down a shimmery dune. And in Vegas your willpower may be the only thing exercised, but chasing the neon lights will certainly add verve to your vacation.
This is the Place for History
The Southwest wears its history on its big, sandy sleeve. Ancient cultures left behind cliff dwellings and petroglyphs while their descendants live on in reservations and pueblos. Navajos and Apaches arrived next, followed by Spanish conquistadors. Then it was the missionaries, who left a string of stunning missions in their wake. Mormon religious refugees arrived with Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Valley, and their cities have flourished, proving more durable than the region's abandoned mining towns. Which brings us to the Old West. The lure of gold and copper drew prospectors, and vast tracts of land drew cattlemen. Tombstone is one Old West town that lives to fight another day – well, every day at 2pm at the OK Corral.
It's the multicultural mix – Native American, Hispanic, Anglo – that makes a trip to the Southwest unique. There are 19 Indian pueblos in New Mexico, and the Navajo Reservation alone covers more than 27,000 sq miles. Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly, two of the most striking geologic features in the Southwest, are protected as sacred places. Tribal traditions and imagery influence art across the region. The Spanish and Mexican cultures are also a part of daily life, from the food to the language to headlines about immigration.
Why I Love Southwest USA
By Amy C. Balfour, Author
Because I never get bored. Deserts, mountains, red rock canyons. Wherever I hike in the Southwest, I know there will always be a cool new view around the bend. But it's not just the scenery that's compelling. Behind every beautiful landscape there is, inevitably, an interesting story or bit of history that adds to the richness of the experience. And outdoor fun? Seriously, there are enough adventures here to fill several lifetimes. Yep, the Southwest – it's worth an extended visit.