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Why You Need to Experience the Beauty of the Southwest

The desert offers beauty all its own.

By: Mayson + Save to a List

When I mention the word nature what image comes to mind? Many people picture the outdoors as a glassy blue lake surrounded by a forest of green pine trees or perhaps the image of a snow capped mountain looming above the landscape. For a lot of people around the country, they don't picture a desert scene of orange and red wind-whipped sandstone or a snaking slot canyon diving below the landscape.

Stella Lake - Great Basin NP, NV

The Narrows - Zion NP, UT

This first type of image with lakes and trees is what most consider to be beautiful. Desert landscapes like the example that follows are often considered "desolate" and consequently lacking beauty. Some people simply view the desert as a desolate wasteland, devoid of any interesting features, color, or allure. I would argue that nothing could be farther from the truth. While the desert is a vastly different landscape from a forest, it has a draw and beauty all its own. After all, desert geography dominates large portions of certain geographical regions including much the Southwest region of the United States. 

Valley of Fire State Park, NV

National parks dot this area of the country and it is mostly desert. Some of these national parks include: the "Mighty Five" (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Canyon Lands, and Zion) in Utah, Grand Canyon NP in Arizona, Great Basin NP in Nevada, Joshua Tree NP and Death Valley NP in California, and Carlsbad Caverns NP in New Mexico. While all of these parks are considered desert parks, they have their own unique features, which draw millions of visitors every year to gaze and take in their rarities and charm. 

The desert is a sublime landscape that can be unforgiving if you are not properly prepared - especially in summer. Nonetheless, it offers unique things to do and see that you can't find anywhere else. Some canyons, likes those found in Zion NP, are world renowned for their amazing colors, adventure opportunities, and allure. These canyons sport colorful sandstone and rock walls with stunning rivers that have carved them out over thousands of years. Some of the desert's canyons and gorges were created over millions of years within such a barren landscape. Many, like the granddaddy of them all, The Grand Canyon, are world famous in their own right for their mammoth sized features filled with places to adventure and explore. Moreover, desert plateaus and flat areas as far as the eye can see, like the Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley NP, can't be found in the middle of a forest or next to an alpine lake in the mountains.

Zabriskie Point - Death Valley NP, CA

As I alluded to earlier, one of a kind adventures and experiences can be found in these types of arid landscapes. After all, you can't rock climb sandstone layered walls that climb thousands of feet high and illustrate the geological history of the earth near an alpine lake. Nor can you canyoneer, repelling down a hundred-foot slot canyon in a forest. These are just some of the different types of adventures offered in the desert that can't be had in other outdoor areas. 

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Because the desert offers a diverse landscape compared to other geographical areas, it consequently is also a habitat for different types of wildlife you can't see in other places. Desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, certain types of snakes, birds, reptiles, and other mammals are found only in some desert areas and nowhere else in the world. The same can be said about the different types of vegetation and other plants that can only be found in the desert. These include plants like Joshua trees, tumbleweeds, certain types of wildflowers, and more. These living things simply are not seen in other areas of the globe, but solely in desert regions.

Overall, the desert is made up of drastically different landscapes than what most people think of when they think of nature and the beauty of the outdoors. But just because the desert is different does not mean it is any less beautiful, special, or enjoyable to experience as a forest or a mountaintop. To many the desert is of course dangerous and barren, but it is also sublimely stunning at the same time. This contradictory duality created by the characteristics and features of the desert in some cases adds to its allure and the sense of adventure that comes with exploring it. 

I encourage anyone who has not experienced exploring the desert regions of the outdoors to do so. Go visit one of the amazing national parks, state parks, or other public areas of the desert Southwest. Go climb a canyon's sandstone wall, repel down into it, or raft down a river that flows through it. No matter what you do or how you do it just get out there and explore all the desert has to offer. You may find that you enjoy it far more than you thought. So grab your gear, it's adventure time.

Valley of Fire State Park, NV

Sedona, AZ

The Narrows - Zion NP, UT

The Narrows - Zion NP, UT

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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