Your guide to the most memorable walking routes in the Southwest!
Embarking on a beautiful hike is the perfect way to invigorate your body as you relax your mind. The American Southwest is an amazing cornucopia of coastal cliffs, vibrant deserts, natural woodlands, and awesome mountains that unite to become the ultimate hiking paradise.
If you’re yearning for the next big adventure into the great outdoors, it might be time to plan a hiking trip, before the sweltering summer heat sets in. You can make it a weekend or week-long getaway with one of our comfortable campervans. This means transport is taken care of and your bed is quickly reached after a spectacular all-day hike!
To help you out, we’ve narrowed down the 5 most scenic hiking trails in the Southwest. Read on to discover the most beautiful landscapes that these great states have to offer.
Joshua Tree National Park
For the best desert hike in California, you must visit the Joshua Tree National Park. The park is named for its many groves of whimsical Joshua trees, one of the rare places where the plant grows. The beauty of the park comes from the vibrant collision of landscapes and biodiversity created by the meeting of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The perfect way to experience Joshua Park is to hike the Panorama Loop.
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft
This scenic trail carries you along the rocky ridges of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, through Joshua trees, Juniper bushes, and other desert plants. The suitably-named Panorama Loop presents constant widespread views over the nearby San Rosa, San Jacinto, and San Bernardino Mountains, and from certain points, you can spot Coachella Valley. Expect a lot of sand on the route and prepare for endless photo opportunities!
East Mesa Trail to Observation Point, Zion National Park
Right near Utah’s border with Nevada and Arizona lies the magnificent Zion National Park. One of the best places to visit on a campervan trip, this natural wonderland is a siren’s call to any hiker who isn’t scared of heights.
Alongside the mule deer and bighorn sheep who roam through the woods, Zion Park’s beauty comes from its ancient canyons. Grassy valleys twist between striking red cliffs that stretch on for miles and the best way to see it all is from the Observation Point.
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 700 ft
The East Mesa Trail is a peaceful walk that leads you along the canyon ridge and through the shady pine trees of Zion Park. Indeed, the woodlands will become familiar scenery along this trail as the prized views are saved for those who complete the journey.
Observation Point, which is 600 ft higher than the popular Angel’s Landing, offers the best vantage point to see Zion. From here, you can take in the splendid colors of the rusty cliffs and grassy gorges that form Zion Canyon.
Calico Hills Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon is one of the best campervan destinations in Nevada as it can be easily viewed from the fantastic Red Rock Canyon 13-mile Scenic Drive. But for an up-close look at the fiery red rocks, you’ll need to park your camper and start to hike. While you’re in the area, make sure to see the 800-year-old petroglyphs that are drawn on the cliff faces.
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 ft
The full Calico Hills Trail is a strenuous 6-mile hike that involves some intermediate-level climbing. The shorter 2-mile trail that runs between the parking areas is much more manageable and it means you spend less time under the baking sun.
This hike leads you along the featured dark red cliffs before winding around the lighter sandstone hills. You are able to see the waved lines carved into the sandstone, caused by erosion, layers of sedimentation, and eons of existence. In the springtime, hikers are also treated to a wildflower display along the ridges of the Calico Hills.
Bluff Trail, Montana de Oro State Park
For a scenic Pacific hike in California, try the trails of Montana de Oro State Park. The accessible Bluff Trail winds along the low sea cliffs on the coastal edge of the park. As the beach alternates between soft sand and rocky tidepools, the jutting rocky bluffs create endless secluded coves.
Distance: 2-4 miles
Elevation Gain: 100 ft
The length of the hike differs depending on how thoroughly you explore each section of the trail. There are plenty of interesting features to capture your attention, including natural stone bridges that have been carved from years of water erosion.
Shifts in the sea level can cause blow holes to appear in the trail’s rocky rifts if you arrive at the right time. You can also see magnificent hollowed-out rocks that rise from the ocean. Bluff Trail’s highlight is the continual sweeping view of the rugged California coastline afforded to every visitor.
The Big Loop, Chiricahua National Monument
The Chiricahua National Monument is a rare geological marvel, tucked away in the southeast corner of Arizona. Famed for its hoodoos (narrow columns of rock that reach skyward from the valley floor), Chiricahua actually has a staggering variety of terrains to explore. Mountains fall to valleys, woodlands turn to desert, and right through the best of it all runs The Big Loop. The striking views it offers makes it one of the best scenic hiking trails in Arizona.
Distance: 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft
The endurance trail begins with a gentle walk through a rare hoodoo forest. These astonishing stone structures are as captivating as they are abundant. Before long, you will arrive at the narrow path that runs through the cliff, which has hollow maze-like grottoes. Eventually, you start a slow ascent up the edge of the Sarah Deming Canyon, until you reach a panoramic plateau. The loop then takes you to more incredible viewpoints over the ridges and plains of Chiricahua.
Are You Ready To Hike?
Now you know the best hiking trails in the Southwest, all that’s left is to choose your favorite destination and start driving. Our user-friendly campervan rental site means it’s easier than ever to book a campervan. If you already have a vehicle that’s not currently in use, why not rent out your campervan to fellow hikers through TB Outdoor Rentals?
If you’re not sure what equipment you’ll need to bring for your big hike, then stop by this Friday to read our guide: ‘What to Pack for a Hiking Trip’.