Visit All the Best Southwestern National Parks – Helpful Guide

12 Best National Parks in the Southwest, USA – Plan Your Trip!

Best Southwest National Parks: Are you looking for a list of the National Parks of the Southwest, USA? You’re in the right place!

southwestern national park
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA

Welcome to Southwest National Parks where I cover all the National Parks in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. There are so many beautiful national parks in Southwest, USA.

Are you wondering how many Southwestern National Parks there are in these states? Check out my handy guide of Southwest National Parks.

Southwest National Parks is dedicated to these 12 parks of the southwest. If you are looking for any further information from the best hikes in each park to where to stay near each park you can use the search function to find more info on my site. Thanks for visiting!

Southwest National Park by State

StateNational ParksNational Monuments
New Mexico211

National Parks in the Southwest Region: National Parks out West

National Parks in Arizona

  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Petrified Forest National Park

National Parks in Nevada

  • Great Basin National Park
  • Death Valley National Park

National Parks in New Mexico

  • White Sands National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park

National Parks in Utah

  • Arches National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Zion National Park

Map of Southwestern National Parks

12 Best Southwest National Parks – You Won’t Want to Miss

National Parks in Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

Located in Northwest Arizona, 214-miles west of Flagstaff, Grand Canyon is the biggest canyon in the United States and one of the largest in the world. It extends for over 200 miles along the Colorado River in northern Arizona. Its sheer size is awe-inspiring, but also a stunning record of time.

Grand Canyon sunrise, horizontal view

The Colorado River carved the landscape into sheer rock walls over millions of years, presenting various distinct colors, each denoting a different geologic era. You feel as if you’re seeing deep into the mysteries of the earth when you climb a historic path like Bright Angel, Hermit, or Kaibab, or watch a sunset or sunrise from the rim.

Grand Canyon National Park’s wildlife is often overlooked as a highlight of a visit. The canyon is home to thousands of species, many of which are unique or exceedingly uncommon, from bighorn sheep to small brown bats. It’s also a fantastic area to see California condors. The massive birds, which were once on the verge of extinction, are now gradually making a comeback thanks to smart wildlife management.     

The national park features a magnificent Geology Museum and a fantastic Trail of Time exhibition where you can learn more about the canyon’s lovely layered sceneries in addition to revealing in its magnificence and exploring its extraordinary pathways. Widely considered to be one of the Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is the highlight of many people’s visits to Arizona.        

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in the Grand Canyon National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park can be found in eastern Arizona, not far from the New Mexico border. It is home to an astounding array of scenery, landscapes, and nature, famed for its fantastic fossils. It also has excellent hiking adventures for visitors to enjoy, as well as cycling, horseback riding, and camping.

best things to do in petrified forest national park

The Park, which was founded in 1906, preserves the amazing remains of the ancient trees and logs after which it is named. The kaleidoscopic colors of the petrified trees, which dated back an almost astounding 225 million years, are gorgeous especially when they glow in the sun. 

 Most visitors to Petrified Forest National Park come to see the ancient tree trunks, which are preserved by minerals they absorbed after being submerged in a riverbed nearly 200 million years ago. The intriguing badlands, which are home to magnificent archaeological sites and beautiful petroglyphs, are the park’s highlight feature. Visitors can learn about the area’s fascinating history, geology, and environment at the Painted Desert Visitor Center and Rainbow Forest Museum.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Petrified Forest National Park

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro is one of the most accessible and attractive national parks in Arizona. It was named after the giant cacti that dot its delightful desert landscapes; the park offers an iconic image of the American Southwest.

A Giant Saguaro, one of the largest cacti in the World, in Saguaro National Park, near Tucson Arizona

Saguaro National Park is divided into two districts, one west of Tucson and the other east. Summer temperatures are dangerous, so try to avoid them in the mornings and nights of the autumn, winter, and spring. Although there are no built campsites in the park, walk-in backcountry camping is permitted, and Tucson offers a diverse choice of accommodation options.

There are numerous outstanding hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails winding through its bright and dramatic scenery, as well as some spectacular scenic drives through its cactus-dotted boundaries.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Saguaro National Park

National Parks in Nevada

Great Basin National Park

The Great Basin National Park, located in White Pine County, Nevada is another national park service location in the state. It was founded in 1986 and takes its name from Nevada’s Great Basin, which is an arid and mountainous region and which is usually accessed through the tiny town of Baker that is located right next to it.

things to do in great basin national park
Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park in Nevada_6896

Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park in Nevada

The Park is presided over by the 3,982-meter-high Wheeler Peak, which is dominated and characterized by the enormous mountain ranges that flow across it. The enormous and lovely Lexington Arch, as well as the dazzling Stella Lake, are among the many spectacular forests and valleys that dot the Great Basin.

As of now, the park covers up to 77,180 acres of land area. The most notable feature of the park is the ancient bristlecone pines that are considered the oldest non-clonal organisms in the world.

The Lehman Caves, with its shimmering and dazzling stalactites and stalagmites, are just as stunning below ground. The amazing wilderness of Great Basin National Park is not to be missed, with plenty of memorable hiking, rock climbing, and camping opportunities.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Great Basin National Park

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is located within California and Nevada, along with the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, and one of the most distinguished national parks in the United States.

Racetrack in the Death Valley National Park

panoramic view of dark clouds in death valley national park, Nevada, USA

Death Valley is a zone of extremes since it is not only the largest national park outside of Alaska, but also the hottest, driest, and lowest. It encompasses everything from steep peaks and volcanic craters to charming oases, vast canyons, and spectacular sand dunes, and it lies between the Great Basin and the Mojave deserts.

Sand dunes, badlands, canyons, valleys, and mountains dominate the scenery of Death Valley National Park. There are various plant and animal species that live in this area, all of which have adapted to the harsh conditions.

Moreover, besides hiking and camping within the park, Death Valley is a great place to go stargazing; it has some of the darkest night skies in the States.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Death Valley National Park

National Parks in New Mexico

White Sands National Park

Located in the state of New Mexico and surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, White Sands National Park is an American national park that covers 145,762 acres in the Tularosa Basin, including the southern 41% of a 275 sq mi field of white dunes composed of gypsum crystals and considered the largest field in the world. 

things to do in white sands new mexico

Its thin crystals and grains gleam in the sunlight, and beautiful dunes stretch beyond the horizon, the tallest of which stands at around 18 meters.

The white sand resembles the look of white snow. Climbing the dunes, having a picnic, sledding on the sand, taking a free stroll with a ranger, and watching the breathtaking sunset at night are all opportunities for visitors. While it isn’t officially a beach due to the lack of water, it commonly appears on lists of New Mexico’s top beaches because you can have so much beach-like fun in the sand.

There are also several elevation change backcountry bike trails worth checking out. Dunes Drive is an 8-mile backcountry route that will allow you to take in some of the breathtaking scenery if the heat becomes too much for you.

It is always advisable to check first current weather conditions before venturing the White Sands because the weather in the desert is unpredictable and extreme. Even in fall, weather can exceed 85 degrees and heat advisories are often in place. Dust storms are frequent, and it’s nearly always sunny and hot. 

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in White Sands National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a United States National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. In 1903, the first guano mines were established.

The Park features desert wildlife, flowering cacti, and deep rocky caverns, but these are just a few of the attractions in the Chihuahuan Desert, where the caverns are located.

Due to their size, manner of origin, and abundance, diversity, and beauty of the speleothems (decorative rock formations) within, more than 120 limestone caverns within Carlsbad Caverns National Park are outstanding and notable worldwide.

There are 120 caverns beneath the surface formed by folic acid dissolving limestone and leaving caves of various sizes behind.

Taking a tour around its countless chambers with spectacular features and magnificent rooms wherever you go is the finest way to discover its approximately 50 kilometers of subterranean trails. 

Visitors can trek around the desolate desert environment above ground which is home to some beautiful nature and views. Moreover, the Slaughter Canyon Cave trip allows adventurers to spelunk into an underground wilderness without electricity.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

National Parks in Utah – The Mighty 5 National Parks

Arches National Park

One of the top national parks in America: it’s a 73,234-acre wonderland of eroded sandstone fins, towers, ribs, gargoyles, hoodoos, balanced rocks, and, of course, arches northwest of Moab. The park protects an amazing landscape that includes the largest proliferation of arches in the world. 

famous Double Arch in Moab Utah – USA

Home to more than 2,000 sandstone structures that will leave you speechless, these sandstone structures leave a visual impact on anyone who sees them, especially the “Delicate Arch” which stands in the east.

Arches National Park is a place where you can enjoy a picturesque landscape, of a red-hued sunset which boosts the beauty of the rock formations in the park.

This National Park is a playground for the adventurous where anyone can find an unforgettable experience. Arches National Park has a variety of stunning views, hiking locations, and tons of activities to do, to make the trip worth making. 

Arches National Park also contains many viewpoints, picnic areas, and trails that are accessible to all. You will feel like a responsible resident of Earth as you make your way as you journey to the trailheads and look at the leisurely scenery.  So if you want to take some time for a leisure break then head on down to Arches National Park.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Arches National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park hosts the world’s largest Hoodoo concentration, which offers a kind of beauty that cannot be enjoyed anywhere else in the world.

Unique rock formations inside Bryce Canyon in Utah

Unique rock formations inside Bryce Canyon in Utah

While its founder, Ebenezer Bryce, thought that the canyon was just “a helluva place to lose a cow,” visitors today will appreciate the panoramas, the flora and fauna, and the limestone formations.

Hike on the mile-long Bristlecone Loop or on the 22-plus mile Under the Rim Trail. With 50 miles of trails, mountain biking, horseback riding and star talks, 

Bryce is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. It has easily become one of the favorite national parks in Utah. The unique scenery and the endless recreational activity options keep visitors coming back for more of Bryce. Popular activities which can be found year round in the Bryce Canyon area include hiking, horseback riding, biking and tours. 

The beauty of the vast landscape will make your trip to Bryce Canyon National park a worthwhile experience. The park has multiple trails for hiking, leading to a fantastic view overlooking the Hoodoos, where you can enjoy a quiet night of camping and a clear view of the night sky.

The park may be known for the rock formations, but these rock formations only further increase in beauty when touched by the gentle sunrise, where the reddish hue of the rock formations amplifies the appeal of the sunrise. This makes Bryce Canyon National Park a must-visit when you travel across the US.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park

Canyonlands National Park

A land carved by the waters of the Colorado River, a vast landscape of dramatic proportions. The Canyonlands National Park has it all.

From a land chiseled from stone to create such an alluring landscape to the beautiful panoramic overviews, Canyonlands doesn’t lack any of the beauty that comes from a national park. 

This park preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah’s high desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape you see today. 

Before you head into the rugged hills, canyons and mesas of Canyonlands, spend a night in comfort 39 minutes away in Moab. With an array of affordable lodging options and a cool, desert-town vibe, Moab has plenty to offer both weary heads and night owls.

You can also appreciate the untouched wildlife that Canyonlands National Park has to offer, hike through a variety of trails with a variety of views that will take your breath away, So come down to Canyonlands and experience nature at its finest.

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Canyonlands National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is known for its Waterpocket fold, also known as Capitol Reef. This fold extends across 160 km from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell, this park was made to preserve the fold and continues to preserve it even after so long. 

things to do in Capitol Reef
Unusual natural landscapes in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Unusual natural landscapes in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do in Capitol Reef National Park; there are still more sights to see other than the Capitol Reef, such as the Hickman Bridge Arch and the Chimney Rock Pillar.

Capitol Reef National Park boasts its untouched natural landscape and its historical value, where the Native Americans left a petroglyph that can be seen in its entirety only in the air. 

So come by Capitol Reef National Park and see art formed by nature itself.     

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Capitol Reef National Park

Zion National Park

Follow the footsteps of the Pioneers as you drive through the steep red cliffs of Zion National Park, the first national park in Utah. Most popular for its precarious and spiked red stone bluffs and its dry scene, Zion National Park is an undertaking jungle gym for devoted travelers. 

Observation Point near Angles Landing, Zion Canyon, Utah, USA.

amazing landscape three patriarchs zion national park blue sky

From climbing trails to shake moving, from mountain trekking to bouldering, there is a stack of amusing to be had in Utah’s #1 public park. Have your adventure as you venture through the Park, go into forest trails that lead to the Virgin River, enter the emerald pools that have beautiful waterfalls, and a majestic hanging garden. 

Perhaps the most notorious spots in Zion National Park are the Emerald Pools. No excursion to the recreation center would be finished without pausing for a minute, or more, to wonder about the shimmering pools. The cascades and quick streaming waterways of Zion National Park serve to add an extraordinary feeling of grandness to an all around hypnotizing climate. 

You can even go through the Steep red cliffs of Zion Canyon where you can have a breathtaking view of the canyon. So follow the pioneers as you go to Zion National Park.    

Check out my post on the Best Things to do in Zion National Park

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