Last Updated on March 5, 2020
The Southwest United States is a wonderland of intense red rocks formed into captivating shapes. There is a reason why the Southwest is the setting for so many movies. The stunning landscapes are picturesque with fascinating views and unbelievable sites. See this region for yourself through this bucket list of the best destinations in the Southwest United States.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Over 275 square miles of white sand dunes leaves visitors thinking they have left the U.S. At the White Sands National Monument, the ground is mostly white, with little plants to be seen. Overall its an immaculate view, but the light at sunset or dawn makes the destination even more captivating.
Valley of Fire, Nevada
The name says it all. Valley of Fire is an intense scene of red and orange rock, which appears to look like you are stepping out onto an endless sea of flames.
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Visiting this location makes it hard to believe it is in the southwest. Lake Tahoe is a bright blue oasis surrounded by pine trees and larger than life views. Many visitors flock to Lake Tahoe in the summer to escape the heat and be refreshed in the gorgeous lake.
Arches National Park, Utah
Another Utah destination, Arches National Park is full of impressive views. The most monumental site to see in this park is the Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is a natural rock formation that defies gravity. Two additional favored views in the park are the Window and Hammer Rock. You can assume what these rocks appear as, but there is nothing like seeing these formations in person. This park is well laid out and welcoming to all visitors, however there is about a 3-mile hike to Delicate Arch. Be sure to pack good walking shoes to protect your arches while you see these natural wonders.
Mystic Hot Springs, Utah
The Mystic Hot Springs in Utah are a quick stop on your road trip to many of the bucket list locations in the Southwest. Be sure to bring your swimsuit and be prepared to relax in the tubs full of natural hot, spring water. While soaking in the hot springs, visitors also get the chance to soak up the wonderful Utah landscape.
The Canyonlands offer immaculate views during the day, and even better views at night. If you enjoy stargazing, make sure to visit this location after dark!
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Bryce Canyon is another prime location for star gazing, as well as sunrise views. Continuing with our tour through Utah, Bryce Canyon is a national park worthy of the southwest bucket list. The layered rocks make Bryce Canyon look like an optical illusion of natural wonders. It is a fantastic place to visit during the day, and an even more beautiful location to stage star photos at night.
Zion National Park, Utah
Held with almost as much respect as the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park is overflowing with trails and unbelievable views. Visit the waterfalls in this park or hike the famous Angel’s landing trail for a day full of adventure.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Traveling from Utah to the Arizona Boarder, you will find Antelope Canyon. The canyon forms a path of hallway thin, red rock walls. The sun’s rays shine through the tight tunnel paths and reflect beautifully off sand particles in the air. You must visit the canyon with a tour guide, and make sure to read the camera restrictions if visiting for photogenic reasons. Arriving to Antelope Canyon during early morning is recommended to witness the best light rays as well as less crowds.
Monument Valley, Arizona
Made famous from several western movies, Monument Valley is a sought-after destination. Monument Valley National Park has fun sites and information; however the most famous views are outside of the park. If you check off this bucket list location in Arizona, make sure to take a memorable photo of the one road through the skyscraper shaped rocks.
Havasu Falls, Arizona
Located in the Grand Canyon, this spectacular location has grown quickly to become the sought-after destination it is today. Havasu Falls is accessible with a hiking or camping permit from havasupaireservations.com. This majestic area is full of turquoise waterfalls against the red Grand Canyon rocks. Getting down to the canyon is not as simple as visiting the Grand Canyon National Park, but the experience is worth the extra effort.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is just as large as its name implies. There are many different access points to see the natural wonder, however most visitors choose the Grand Canyon National Park as their vantage point. In addition, fourth graders receive free admission to the Grand Canyon National Park all year round. If summer is not an option to visit, witnessing this canyon in the winter daunts a whole new world for the red rock layers. Keep in mind the trails, as well as access to the north rim will most likely be closed during the winter months.
Lake Powel, Arizona
If you are in the area of Horseshoe Bend, you simply must visit Lake Powel. This oasis in the desert is hard to believe exists. Bright blue water is held in a basin of red and orange rocks, offering the perfect place for a road trip stop.
Many consider Sedona to be out of this world, and I would have to agree. Towering red rock formations look down on the hip main street of this desert town. Watching the sun set in this location is a must do activity, and if you catch a glimpse of the full moon in the desert sky, consider yourself lucky.
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
Outside of being a breathtaking photo opportunity, Horseshoe Bend is a natural rock formation which leaves visitors in wonder. There is about a quarter mile hike to the viewpoint above, so wear comfortable footwear to walk in on the rocky and sandy path. If you plan to catch the view at sunset, make sure to arrive early to secure an excellent spot.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings are well preserved in the Mesa Verde National Park. These many man homes in southwest Colorado are a prime location to see ancient Native American Culture and unbelievable structures.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The Rocky Mountain National Park has a trail for everyone! Many agree that the most incredible hike in the park is the Emerald Lakes Trail, which leads to views as shown above. I can see where it gets its name!
What is on your bucket list for the Southwest USA? With so many incredible places to explore, the list will most likely be long!