The American Southwest is a vast region traditionally includes Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and parts of California and Nevada. Known for its snowclad peaks, red deserts, and wide rivers, the Southwest hold some of the most impressive natural sites in the world, and like all all landscapes, is best experienced by foot. Here are ten highly recommended hiking trails in the southwest, covering diverse landscapes.
Stunning views on the Grand View Point Trail
- Lassen Peak Trail – Located in the Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, this trail, and especially the observation point to which it leads, is extraordinary. The trail climbs Mount Lassen a volcano that last erupted in 1915 and the southernmost peak of the Cascade Mountains that cross the northwestern United States. The climb to the summit isn’t easy, but is definitely worth the effort as the views from it of Mount Shasta and the expanses of Northern California and southern Oregon are stunning. The trail is five miles long (2.5 in each direction) with an altitude increase of about 2,300 ft. (from 9,100 ft. to 11,400 ft. above sea level). Its best to set off early in the morning as afternoon often sees strong winds and lightning storms at the summit. The best season for this trail is July-October as the area is usually snowed down during the rest of the year. The trailhead is adjacent to the Lassen Park Highway, seven miles north of the southern entrance to the reserve.
- Sentinel Dome Trail – One of the most beautiful trails in Yosemite National Park, and a mandatory stop for those in the area. A moderate climb to the summit of an exposed granite mountain leads to a unique 360-degree view of the Yosemite Valley. The trail is 2 miles long (1 in each direction) with an elevation gain of 400 feet. As said, the hike is fairly easy and the climb is especially fun for children. The trail is open June to October. During the rest of the year the trail might be covered in snow and the road leading to the trailhead is closed. The trail head is near Glacier Point Road Yosemite National Park. There is no better place than this trail to cite the the words of conservation activist John Muir who especially loved Yosemite and contributed to it becoming California’s first National Park “Looking at these landscapes, the day seems endless and the sun seems to stand still. The biblical story about the sun standing still at Gibeon for Joshua’s sake, arouses excitement. Here in Yosemite, you can see this miracle happen to every mountain climber and to everyone who does what is worth doing or sees something that is worth seeing.”
- Moro Rock Trail – Moro Rock is an impressive granite cliff rising high above the Sierra Nevada mountains in Sequoia National Park. Roughly 400 steps lead to the cliff’s summit at an elevation of over 7,200 ft. The trail is short (less than half a mile in each direction) and very steep, but the effort of climbing is undoubtedly worthwhile. From the summit you can see an amazing view of the mountains which form the watershed of the western USA and their surrounding valleys. The trail is best hiked in the early morning or afternoon, when visibility is at its best. Do not not hike the trail if there is danger of ice on the stone steps and during lightning storms. The trail begins at Crescent Meadow Road in Sequoia National Park. During national holidays be sure to set off early to avoid the crowds.
- Hidden Valley Trail – A very short circular route (only 1 mile) leading to stunning landscape. The trail is suitable for families with small children who are not experienced hikers. As its name implies, the trail passes through Hidden Valley – a red valley surrounded by round boulders in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California. While hiking the trail you will experience an abundance of colors – red, yellow, orange and brown, shades of the bare desert rock. The trail starts near the Hidden Valley Picnic Area in the National Park. Those seeking opportunities for extraordinary photo should hike the trail early in the morning morning or in the afternoon.
- Angels Landing Trail – Located in Zion National Park, in southwest Utah, this trail will take you to a breathtaking view. Angles Landing is without doubt one of the finest trails in the Southwest. The trail climbs a very comfortable path on a red rock cliff that rises high above Zion Valley and the Virgin River. The trail ends with an easy climb, with an astonishing view at the top. The trail is five miles long (2.5 in each direction), with an elevation gain of 1600 feet. As the trail is well paved, it is also suitable for those with small children. Although Zion National Park is located in the heart of Utah’s deserts, its high altitude makes the weather relatively pleasant, so if you set off early you can hike this trail even in summer (yet be sure to take plenty of water). The trail might be covered in snow during November-March. The trails Begins near the valley’s main road.
- Calf Creek Falls Trail – A unique trail leading to a desert oasis with a waterfall and a pool of water in the heart of the endless desert of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. The trail is about six miles long, three in each direction. While elevation gain is negligible, the trail is not easy, as it includes a long trudge through a dry river bed (filled with pebbles and debris). The trails at a great swimming hole near a waterfall, and ancient Indian wall paintings adorn the way. Due to risk of flash floods, which can be rather common in the deserts of the Southwest during winter, do not hike this trail if there are chances of rain. The trail is exposed an hot, so be sure to bring plenty of water. The trail begins about 15 miles east of the town of Escalante, between mile stone 75 and 76.
- Delicate Arch Trail – Perhaps the most impressive trail in the Southwest, the Delicate Arch trail, as its name implies, will lead you to the world famous Delicate Arch in the wonderful Arches National Park in southeastern Utah. Under no circumstances should you miss this trail, as it is absolutely stunning. The trail three mile long trail (1.5 each direction) has a moderate elevation gain, making for a gentle climb towards a natural theatre-like structure sculpted in red sandstone where the arch sits. The view along the trail is otherworldly, and seems as though it was painted by an artist. Those hiking in the afternoon will be particularly rewarded as the colors of the sunset that paint the horizon give the place an even more special feeling, creating a truly mystical experience in the heart of the red Utah deserts. The trail is fairly easy and suitable for small children, and might be snow-covered in November-March. The trail starts next to the road leading to Wolf Ranch, very close to the National Park’s main road.
- Grand View Point Trail – In terms of the the distance needed to walk vs the beauty you get to see, this trail is with no doubt a winner. A two mile walk (one in each direction) will take you winding along a cliffside which towers over the large rugged valley formed by the Colorado River, to a stunning lookout point over the water falls of the Colorado and Green Rivers. The trail is located in the ‘Island in the Sky’ district of Canyonlands National Park in northeastern Utah – a region of endless red desert plains from which rise beautiful rock formations. Afternoons make this trail especially astonishing. The trail might be snow-covered in November-March. The trail begins about 13 miles south of the park’s visitor center, about an hour’s drive from the city of Moab.
- Slickrock Trail – A particularly cute trail in the Needles district of the Canyonlands National Park in northeastern Utah. The trail will take you through views of red desert expanses and erected sandstone spires set across the plains in one of the wildest and most isolated areas of the country. . The trail is circular, and 2.5 miles long. We recommend hiking it counterclockwise. The trail is easy with very little elevation gain. As with other trails in Canyonlands National Park, the early morning and afternoon light will expose the trail in its full glory. In the winter the trail may be covered with snow. The trailhead is at the end of the Big Springs Overlook Road.
- The Havasu Canyon Hiking Trail – Another spectacular trail in the red deserts of the Southwest, this time in Arizona. The trail will take you along Havasu Creek which flows in the grand canyon before joining the Colorado River. The trail’s highlight is at its end – a deep gorge carved out of red sandstone with countless waterfalls and swimming holes, all adorned by turquoise water. At 20 miles long (10 in each directions) this is the longest trail on the list. A campground is located at the trail’s end, and the trail passes through the native American village of Supai (which has lodging options), so splitting the hike into two days (or more if you want to spend time at the falls) is the best option. While walking to the falls you will descend roughly 8,000 feet by a well paved trail suitable for children. The ascent back up is more difficult (and instead of hiking you can take the helicopter line which operates from the village). We recommend taking four whole days for this trail, two for hiking and two to explore the falls at the canyon’s bottom which as said is a wonderland of incomparable beauty. The trailhead is located about 18 miles North of Peach Springs, and the trail in its whole is located within the Havasupai Indian Reservation and to hike it you must obtain a permit and book accommodation on the reservation’s website.
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