Wednesday, December 24, 2014

American deserts offer multitude of trails

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.
Now that winter has arrived, you may want to consider getting away from colder climes for a hiking and camping trip in one of America’s great deserts.

Definitions of exactly what is a desert vary depending on the source. Generally, a desert is an extremely arid region, receiving less than 10 inches of precipitation a year. Most of those arid regions also see summer temperatures that regularly exceed 95 F.

Though such definitions leave an image of an inhospitable, empty area, deserts actually are great places to hike. Indeed, at least a couple of months a year offer temperate conditions, usually February through March and September through August. In addition, the arid conditions yield fantastic, otherworldly subregions that will astound any hiker. Just think of the arches and slick rock surfaces in eastern Utah or the vistas and slot canyons of northern Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

Four major deserts can be found in the western United States. The Chihuahuan covers southern New Mexico and southeast Texas. The Sonoran stretches across southern Arizona and southeast California, with the saguaro cactus its hallmark. The Mojave covers the region where California, Nevada and Arizona meet, with its territory almost perfectly matching the Joshua tree’s range. The Grand Basin is the largest and coldest desert, covering almost all of Nevada and Utah as well as large swaths of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Arizona. Each is a unique ecosystem.

Some great trails to day hike in each desert include:
g Boquillas Canyon Trail (Texas)
g Pinery Trail (Texas)
g Freeman Homestead Trail (Arizona)
g Great Logs Trail (Arizona)
g Amboy Crater Trail (California)
g Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail (California)
Great Basin
g Grandview Trail (Arizona)
g Windows Trail (Utah)

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.