Thursday, October 27, 2016

11 Great Hikes in the American Southwest

Totem Pole at Carlsbad Caverns National Park's Big Room Tour
Santa Elena Canyon Trail
Big Bend National Park
The mighty Rio Grande defines Big Bend National Park, carving through the desert landscape as offering a score of recreational opportunities from river rafting to hiking. Day hikers can enjoy great views of and get up close to the Rio Grande on the Santa Elena Canyon Trail near the park’s center.

Pinery Trail
Guadalupe National Park
Along the Texas-New Mexico border, families can step back into the Old West and experience the remoteness of what once was a welcome sign to travelers: a Butterfield Stage station in the Guadalupe Mountains. The 0.75-mile round trip Pinery Trail marks a great day hike for families at Guadalupe National Park. The trail leads to the ruins of the Pinery Station, a once favored stop on the original 2,800-mile Butterfield Overland Mail Route.

Big Room Tour
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
A hike through a cave will delight the child in anyone – especially when it’s through one as spectacular as Carlsbad Caverns. Massive stalagmites and stalactites, a bottomless pit, a reflective pool hundreds of feet beneath the surface, and more all await visitors. A great trail to experience these and many other geological wonders is the park’s Big Room Tour.

Carlsbad Caverns' best hikes
Among the best ways to see Carlsbad Caverns National Park’s major sights is via a day hike. Though the park is vast, three short trails will allow you to enjoy the park’s major highlights – a massive underground cave, a bat flight like no other, and rugged desert scenery.

Tanque Verde Ridge Trail
Saguaro National Park
Among the most popular picnic spots in Saguaro National Park is the Javelina Rocks, located off of Cactus Forest Drive. Formed more than 25 million years ago, the rocks are an interesting example of Catalina Gneiss, in which sheets of other minerals were melted into one another while deep underground.

Best trails for enjoying Zion National Park's wonders
Among the best ways to see Zion National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just five trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – a canyon’s exotic geological features, the world’s second longest arch, an incredible river narrows, hanging gardens, and magnificent California condors.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks series.