As we’re coming to the end of dry January, we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate some of the driest deserts across the US that you can visit on your next Grand American Adventure. Far from being endless stretches into the abyss, America’s deserts dish out some of the country’s best hidden gems, from ancient aboriginal art to monolithic sandstone chimneys and sightings of desert-adapted wildlife, there’s plenty to see when you venture into these remote landscapes. Read on for some travel inspiration as we reveal our 5 must visit deserts in 2020.
1. Monument Valley
Channel your inner Clint Eastwood and re-enact your favourite spaghetti westerns in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. With its iconic brick-red spindles, barren landscapes and grand buttes, the valley itself was originally home to ancestral Puebloans over 700 years ago. Pass by the “Three Sisters”, “Sleeping Dragon” and “Ear of the Wind” on our Canyons and Indian Islands trip, as we explore the Monument Valley for ourselves on a guided 4x4 Navajo backroads tour to uncover how the landscape shaped ancient Native American myths and culture.
2. Mojave Desert
A visit to the Mojave Desert is a visit to America’s driest desert. Stretching from the northern edge of LA County all the way to Southern Nevada, this remote, harsh landscape is sprinkled with western-esque ghost towns, mining settlements and vast areas that are perfect for aerospace testing. Criss-cross through this dried-up stretch of land on our Los Angeles to Grand Canyon adventure, making a pit stop at the Colorado River to take in the spectacular views at of Horseshoe Bend that lies just a few miles below the Glen Canyon Dam.
3. Sedona Desert
Attracting spiritual seekers for centuries, Sedona’s striking red rock buttes claim to have actual healing powers. To the locals, Sedona is a “cathedral without walls”, where visitors can come to learn about the area’s local Native American tribes and legends or meditate at the Bell Rock butte. During the South Western Desert Explorer, we get to visit Arizona’s famous healing rocks and enjoy Sedona’s sweeping hiking trails, before heading on to marvel at ancient Indian petroglyphs in Joshua Tree National Park. Found by accident in the 1960’s when the San Bernardino County acquired county holes, the area is now protected as a Native American sacred site, where you can wander around and see the ancient aboriginal wall art for yourselves.
4. Death Valley
The very name of “Death Valley” conjures up images of a barren, nightmarish place, but in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. With awe-inspiring sand dunes, extinct volcanic craters, water-sculpted canyons and palm-shaded oases, you’ll be surprised to find that Death Valley is brimming with desert-adapted wildlife from coyotes and bobcats to cottontails and elusive mountain lions. On our National Parks and Lodges trip, we explore the mudstone hills and serene salt pans across Death Valley National Park, which is said to be one of the lowest and hottest places in the US, with some areas lying at 282ft below sea level and others getting up to a record breaking 57 degrees in the summer season.
5. Kodachrome Basin State Park
With its vibrant display of pink and white monolithic sandstone chimneys and petrified geysers, Kodachrome Basin is a sight to behold. On the Western Family Discovery enjoy the chance to wander through the multi-hued layers of Kodachrome that go back an estimated 180 million years of geologic time and set up camp for the evening to see the sunset on this iconic park. Next, it’s onward to the spectacular hanging gardens in Zion National Park and exhilarating hikes around the fertile Virgin River Gorge, where you and the family can go for a quick dip.