The American Southwest is known for its dry climate, desert landscapes, and abundance of natural wonders. Many of the national parks are located along Classic Route 66, which runs through the heart of the region. The park system includes the Grand Canyon, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Petrified Forest, Great Basin, Carlsbad Caverns, and Zion. Visiting these natural attractions will provide you with a lifetime memory. Learn more at https://beyondthemagazine.com/why-indulge-in-rocky-train-vacations/.
Saguaro National Park
Visitors should consider visiting Saguaro National Park in the American southwest in late fall to early spring. This is the most popular time to visit the park, since the temperatures are pleasant during the day and cool at night. This is also one of the busiest times to visit the park, since most visitors do not visit in the summer. Summer is not as pleasant, as the temperature often rises over 100 degrees and thunderstorms are common.
The name Saguaro National Park comes from the cacti that adorn the landscape here. These cacti are native to the southwestern U.S. and can reach up to 66 feet in height. They have multiple curved arms and a tall trunk, and they grow slowly. The Saguaro Cactus can live up to 200 years. You can walk the park’s trails and see close-up views of these unique plants.
In addition to the beautiful cactus lining the valleys, you can explore the Sonoran desert from the top of Saguaro Mountain. The park has two units: the East and West units. The East unit is larger and has the most dramatic difference in ecology between them. The Saguaro National Park East unit begins in a lower desert landscape and quickly rises to 8,664 feet.
Mesa Verde National Park
If you’re looking for a cultural and physical experience unlike any other, Mesa Verde National Park is for you. The area’s culture is reflective of the region’s seven hundred years of history, and the cultural features reflect that. During the Mesa Verde people’s time, they lived in communities that spanned the area from approximately A.D. 600 until around 1300. This is when they began to build elaborate stone villages into canyon walls. They were called “cliff dwellings” and lasted from 75 to 100 years.
The park is divided into two parts, so visitors can spend one day exploring the park or split it into two days. One day can be devoted to visiting Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum and the Wetherill Mesa. On the second day, they can spend the day touring the Cliff Palace and Balcony House. The park is full of scenic overlooks, as well as historic cliff dwellings.
If you’re into history, Mesa Verde has more than five thousand archaeological sites. In fact, there are over three hundred cliff dwellings and the tallest one is the Long House. Unfortunately, not all of these sites are open to the public. However, there’s one exception to this rule: the Step House at Wetherill Mesa. There’s also rock art to explore, and you can even learn about Puebloan history during your visit.
Capitol Reef National Park
Located in southern Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is chock-full of geological wonders. The park’s name comes from the geologic formation, a 100-mile-long, rocky fold that forms the spine of the Capitol Reef. In addition to stunning rock formations, this park is also home to the best preserved ancient petroglyphs. Its location on a geologic monocline also makes it an ideal place to hike, backpack, and do other outdoor activities.
A must-see while visiting Capitol Reef is the Waterpocket Fold. This 65 million-year-old warp in the earth’s crust is the largest exposed monocline in North America, consisting of old and newer layers of earth. The fold was created by colliding continental plates. Consequently, the folded earth has exposed layers of rock and fossils. Because of the geologic history of Capitol Reef, visitors will be able to marvel at dazzlingly colored sandstone cliffs and the juxtaposition of stone layers.
The park contains nearly a quarter million acres of slickrock country. Its unique ecosystem includes pinyon juniper, perennial streams, and rock cliffs. The park also offers spectacular views of the Grand Canyon. While it may not be a “Mighty Five” national park, Capitol Reef is a must-see for any traveler to the American Southwest.