With meadows, bristlecone pine trees, and a half-mile-deep amphitheater of striped limestone, Cedar Breaks National Monument is a high-elevation Bryce Canyon look-alike. Comprised of the same geological layer but with a fraction of the crowds, this is a must-see park.
Aside from the Big 5, Utah has beautiful state parks galore. Located 20 miles southeast of Bryce Canyon is Kodachrome Basin State Park filled with spires, colorful layered sandstone, and great views from narrow overlooks for the more adventurous.
Zion National Park has many fantastic scenic locations but there is one that packs a punch often without the hassle of shuttles. This short hike is worth the early effort to watch the sunrise illuminate the canyon for a stunning show.
Bryce Canyon National Park is a majestic place, but add in some golden hour sunrise lighting while hiking the Queen's Garden Loop and you have something that is bucket list-worthy. You have not lived until you see this for yourself!
Considered one of the best hikes in northern Arizona, Cathedral Wash fills hikers with a sense of accomplishment at the end of their journey after navigating over potholes and through narrow multi-level canyon walls to reach the Colorado River.
Utah has no shortage of red rocks and arches but with those comes a lot of crowds. Arches Trail in Red Canyon offers a lot of bang in a small area with plenty of space to call your own.
At almost 800,000 acres, Joshua Tree National Park can be overwhelming to know where to go, where to hike, or what to see. Here are four centrally located quick stops that are perfect for those exploring Joshua Tree for the first time.
Built into the layered levels of a picturesque canyon, the cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument add to an already stunning hike and provide plenty of education and history of the Sinagua people.
The dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park offer rich spectacular color, unlike any other sand dunes you've seen on earth. With off-highway vehicles welcome as well as hikers, there's something here for everyone!
Once known as "the canyon with rocks on fire", Red Rock Canyon State Park is a worthy stop for day hikes, camping, and stargazing. Located just off California 14, this geological wonderland is accessible to all who pass by.
Tucked away in Sequoia National Forest is a grove of unfathomably large sequoia trees that span as much as 20 feet in diameter and 220 feet in height. The Trail of 100 Giants is a popular and easy way to experience the size and scale of these giants.
High up in the White Mountains of California stand the ancient Bristlecone pines, some of Earth's oldest living trees. The Discovery Trail at Shulman Grove is a quick 1-mile trail that teaches while visitors wander amongst trees dating back nearly 4000 years.
Located within Yosemite National Park is a separate valley that allows visitors to experience the splendor of the park with a fraction of the crowds. Hetch Hetchy is a gorgeous reservoir with hiking trails, waterfalls, and lots of history.
Bodie Ghost Town in California is one of the best-preserved mining towns from the late 1800s. Buildings are left in arrested decay and give the feel of an authentic town left frozen in time. If you're ever wanted to step back in time and feel the real old west, this is the place.
Formed over millennia, this ancient California saline lake has quite the history & an impressively alien landscape of tufa all while supporting a diverse number of living creatures.
Whether hiking, sledding, or just casually walking amongst the dunes of White Sands, this New Mexico National Park will awe and inspire visitors with its glittering white gypsum sand.
Carlsbad Caverns is an underground world of wonder located in southern New Mexico in the Guadalupe Mountains. Experiencing this cave for oneself on a self-guided tour is one bucket list item that should not go unchecked.
Catwalk Recreation Area is a marvel of engineering in the shadow of mining history. An easy & relaxing walk through narrow canyon walls, over a babbling creek, through waterfalls & a swimming hole makes this a destination to seek out.
Fort Verde is a historic park dating back to the mid to late 1800s showcasing life of US Army soldiers stationed during the Indian Wars of Central Arizona. Visitors can tour the grounds and explore relics from the past.
Tuzigoot National Monument, towering above in the Verde Valley floodplain, is an impressive example of the Sinagua culture of central Arizona. With wide-open views of the spanning landscape, it is easy to see why this location is worthy of the national park system.
Yuma Territorial Prison, once nicknamed the “Hell Hole", is now a State Historic Park. Built by prisoners, this location is a preserved piece from the old west when Arizona was still just a territory.
The Galleta Meadows metal sculptures in Borrego Springs, California are some of the most impressive and detailed pieces of art found on display in the desert. This free activity should top any to do list for anyone visiting the area.
Biosphere 2 is an amazing location dedicated to research and Earth sciences. Touring the facility feels surreal as you walk from desert to ocean to rainforest. It's truly an out of this world experience!
Borrego Palm Canyon is an amazing oasis in the middle of the desert of California. This hike is one of the most spectacular transformations from exposed land to the peaceful shade of California Fan Palms with a tranquil stream running through it.
The Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Phoenix, Arizona offers plenty of hiking opportunities on well maintained trails next to amazing mountainous scenery. Combined with thousands of species of arid land plants, it's a must stop location for any outdoor fan!
Death Valley National Park spans millions of acres and has many trails for hiking. One of the more popular trails is through Golden Canyon to a stunningly grand rock wall aptly named Red Cathedral.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is a must stop location for visitors to Death Valley National Park. Here is all the information you need to know about this picturesque and otherworldly destination.
Few ghost towns have been left as untouched as Rhyolite has since its heyday. While only a handful of the buildings remain, what does really illustrate what an expansive and developed town Rhyolite was at the time.
Within Death Valley National Park are plenty of varied attractions covering history and natural attractions. Salt Creek, Harmony Borax Works and Artist’s Drive are three that are easy to visit for anyone.
The ghost town of Goldfield, Nevada was once the most populated town in the state. Now with only a couple hundred residents, we take a look at the history of this early 20th century boom town.
Sometimes it's not just the destination but the journey that makes the biggest impact. Journeying to Utah’s Little Grand Canyon reveals countless amazing discoveries to make.
Located in the San Rafael Swell, Little Wild Horse Canyon is an excellent slot canyon that is accessible for many and perfect for families or beginners with limited canyoneering experience.
A visit to Goblin Valley State Park is a fascinating opportunity to see strange hoodoos, or goblins, that date back millions of years.
If history and archaeology sites are your thing, you can't beat Homolovi State Park. The park is filled with pieces of broken pottery, remnants of old villages and petroglyphs from the Hopi culture.
If you're looking to take in the scenery of the Painted Desert for free, there is a hidden park that fits the bill. These views can't be beat but there are a few things to know before going.
Calico Ghost Town is an 1881 Old West mining town, once abandoned and later restored to be part of the San Bernardino County Regional Park System. Visiting provides an opportunity to take a look back in time.
Death Valley is an expansive National Park, with many different natural attractions to choose from. For first time visitors, Badwater Basin, the Devils Golf Course and the Natural Bridge Trail are three easy to see locations, representing much of what makes the park iconic.
ZooLights transforms the Phoenix Zoo into a colorful, bright and cheery Holiday wonderland. It's an event that shouldn't be missed. How was it in 2020, the year of the pandemic? Read on to find out.
Arizona's 50,000 year old Meteor Crater is considered the best preserved impact crater on Earth. Today we get hands on and explore the museum as well as check out the overlooks of the crater.
The Siphon Draw Trail serves as conduit directly into the Superstition Wilderness. Hikers can proceed all the way up to the top of the Flatiron, or take a more casual approach like I did, to get up close and personal with the iconic mountains.
History and cemeteries often go hand in hand but rarely do they contain as much history as the Globe Cemetery does. While we were visiting Globe we made a side stop to check this place out. The amount of notable figures buried here is staggering and a must visit for any history buff.
Shrouded in mystery and packed full of fun, this roadside attraction certainly has made a name for itself. Today we visit The Thing! But... what is it? We explore the history and mystery of this museum today.
Visitors of Natural Bridges National Monument will enjoy the beautiful views from each of the three bridge's overlooks. But even better is hiking down underneath them, or "threadin' the needles", as it's come to be known around here at the Cactus Atlas.
Today we traveled back to southeast Arizona to visit Apple Annie's to continue our traditional autumn event - picking our pumpkins from their pumpkin patch and taking on their corn maze. Another perfect time!
Tom's Thumb is a recognizable landmark, visible from the city of Scottsdale, that hikers can explore. The hike to this destination takes hikers through beautiful Sonoran desert terrain that has amazing views of distant landmarks such as Four Peaks.
Petrified Forest National Park is more than just a mammoth collection of petrified logs from centuries ago. Aside from these fantastic specimens, the landscape is second to none. Today we complete our tour of the park with a look at some fantastic overlooks and check out the Painted Desert Inn.
Petrified Forest National Park has much more than meets the eye. Today is our third installment in our series of diving deep into the park’s attractions. We explore the Teepees, Newspaper Rock, Puerco Pueblo & a little piece of Route 66 history.
Petrified Forest National Park is a majestic place full of expansive colorful views and jaw-dropping petrified wood and stops everywhere. Today we continue with the second part in our series of diving deep into the park’s attractions by exploring Jasper Forest, Agate Bridge and Blue Mesa.
Seeking out a safe way to get out of the house, we headed out to take a day trip to Southeast Arizona. What we found was a perfectly doable and pleasant time picking vegetables at a farm, having a picnic atop a mountain, and even getting some history in at the grave of one of the Earp's. All in all a great time and just what we needed!
On a recent visit to Petrified Forest National Park, we began our journey at the south entrance and stopped at every official point along the way. We are breaking our story up into multiple starts, and today we cover the vistor center, Giant Logs, Long Logs, Agate House and Crystal Forest.
Valley of Fire State Park has many nooks and crannies off the beaten path for the visitor to explore and enjoy. I discovered one such place, full of interesting and colorful rock formations, behind parking lot #1 off of White Domes Road.
Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona, is one of the most iconic geographical features on the landscape. It offers excellent hiking, amazing scenic views, and an opportunity for visitors to seek the mystical energy of a vortex.
Arizona has no shortage of locales offering Indian ruins. Shoofly Village Ruin is just one of the many which stirs up the imagination. Today we went to visit to see how it stacks up to some of the others we’ve visited.
Few roads in Arizona have as much variety in landscape, flora and recreational activities as State Route 89A. Stretching from Flagstaff to Prescott, segments of this road are considered a must do for anyone seeking some of the most scenic views found in Arizona outside of the Grand Canyon. Today we decided to hop in the car for a day trip and explore some of this stretch of road that we usually only see passing by.
The Phoenix Zoo is offering a safe socially distanced option to visit the zoo this summer. Always up for an adventure, we checked out this event to see how it worked and what driving through the zoo would be like so we can give you the scoop.
I undertook a pilgrimage through the beautiful Weaver mountains to the spot where 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots sacrificed their lives on June 30, 2013, battling the now infamous Yarnell Hill fire. The experience is both somber, and beautiful, and will leave a lasting impression on all who visit.
Jerome, Arizona has a lengthy and rich history. For visitors wanting to learn a bit of the town's past, there's no better place to start off than the Jerome State Historic Park. Today we dropped by to explore what this old mansion could teach us.
While the Victoria Mine Trail fails to provide an abundance of organ pipe cacti, it makes up for it with a glimpse into late 19th century/ early 20th century mining and prospecting.
One of the best kept secrets in Arizona is Besh-Ba-Gowah in Globe, AZ. This archaeological park has some of the best preserved & reconstructed Indian ruins one can explore. Today we adventure to this old village & wander where the Salado culture lived.
The Desert View trail is an excellent place to get up close and personal with the iconic Organ Pipe cactus. It's what the National Monument is named after, and likely the main reason for your visit after all!
Located off of White Domes Road in Valley of Fire State Park, Fire Canyon Road is a short, paved road that offers great views of red sandstone formations as well as the main attraction, known as the Silica Dome. But, for the more thorough explorer, you may discover some very unique and strange geology, as well as a world of color.
If you've ever visited Jerome, you know that it is full of ghost stories, legends and history. However, just outside of town is a little gem called the Gold King Mine & Ghost Town. We love all things ghost town and historical! With that in mind, we packed up the car and headed north to see what this little place was all about.
The Waterfall Trail is arguably the most popular destination at White Tank Mountain Regional Park. It attracts large crowds, especially when the waterfall is flowing. On a late afternoon in March, we got the whole place to ourselves and enjoyed peace and solitude at the trail's end, which we hear is a rare thing.
Visiting the Upper Cliff Dwelling at Tonto National Monument normally requires a reservation, and can only be booked November through April (on certain days of the week). However, once a year, they host an open house, allowing people to hike to the Upper Ruin without a reservation. This year, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and check it out.
Many native American Indian ruins across the Southwest must be observed from afar, leaving it up to the visitor to imagine what the inside of the structures look like. At Tonto National Monument, visitors get a rare glimpse of what lies behind the walls.
On a cool, sunny day in February, I set off to explore the remains of an old mining facility that operated between the 1880's and 1930's. I didn't know much about this place as I entered it, but by the time I left, I was astounded by all that I saw!
At Tonto Natural Bridge State Park you will find a unique geological formation... the world's largest travertine natural bridge. We visit the park and observe this geological wonder from multiple perspectives as we hike and enjoy multiple overlooks.
The Bird Cage Theater is a tourist attraction that provides a glimpse of life in the Old West days of Tombstone. It's a time capsule dating back to 1881 and at one time hosted numerous touring acts. It's hosted patrons like Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and George Hearst. On this adventure we take a trip back in time.
Rainbow Vista is one of the main stops off of White Domes Road at Valley of Fire State park. Based on the frequently crowded parking lot, it seems to be one of the most popular. And for us, a source of slight confusion. Before you visit, you'll want to hear what we have to say.
Mouse's Tank Trail is often mentioned as one of the best trails to hike at Valley of Fire State Park. We set off early one morning to see if this location lives up to the hype.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers unique perspectives of the canyon and surrounding landscape since it is at a higher elevation than the South Rim. There are many amazing overlooks to check out at the North Rim, and we will show you the best of the best on our latest North Rim adventure!
If you ever get the chance to visit Grand Canyon National Park North Rim and want to ditch the crowds, you may want to consider checking out the Uncle Jim Trail. If you do, you will be rewarded by amazing views of the canyon and will likely have a scenic overlook all to yourself, if you know where to look!!!!
The White Domes loop trail is almost always mentioned as one of the must-do hikes for those visiting Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. It is known for colorful sandstone formations, a slot canyon, and even the remnants of an old Hollywood movie set. We set out on the trail to see if it lives up to its reputation.
On a cool, windless morning, I departed Chiricahua National Monument and headed south on route 181, in search of the final resting place of the famed outlaw and gunman, Johnny Ringo. If you are a fan of Old West history and legend, this is a must-see place if you ever get a chance, and we show you how to do it.
Chiricahua National Monument has many different trails that allow visitors to enjoy the abundant unique features scattered throughout the park. There is one way to see virtually all of the popular sites in a single day when you visit. It's a hike known as the Big Loop, and this configuration of trails cuts through the heart of Chiricahua country.
Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular destination for lake lovers. Outside of swimming, fishing and boating activities, it hosts a respectable main campground, as well as unique camping experiences at one of several boat-in only campsites. On a sunny fall day in early November, we set sail to scout out the secluded campsites and see for ourselves.
Chiricahua National Monument is one of the most unique landscapes you may ever visit in your lifetime, if you're lucky. Many consider the stand-out location in this park to be a relatively short trail known as the Heart of Rocks loop. On this trail, you'll see many interesting rock formations, with very colorful names.
There is a road in Valley of Fire State Park that cuts through the heart of the park. It starts at the visitor center, and ends at the White Domes Trail. It winds over rolling hills, passing by all manner of colorful sandstone vistas. Looks like something straight out of Radiator Springs from the Cars franchise. And for me, it is a new tradition.
Horseshoe Bend is one of today's most iconic natural attractions. Chances are you've seen it on an Instagram post or two, or perhaps on a screensaver. Located right off of a popular route for those traveling between the Grand Canyon and Zion/Bryce Canyon, it would be silly not to make a quick stop to see it with your own eyes.
If you’re looking for a unique autumn or Halloween experience other than the usual haunted house that is family friendly, you can’t go wrong with the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden. Never heard of it? Heard of it and wondered if it is worth it? We give you the low down and a taste of what you can expect.
Autumn adventures are a tradition for us and this year we went seeking new locations a bit closer to home. Schnepf Farms Pumpkin and Chili Party is an annual festival held in Phoenix that we had never experienced before, so we headed out to see what we had been missing all this time.
A common misconception of Arizona is that it's a vast desert with miles of cactus and not much else. Believe it or not, Arizona contains not just one, but four deserts, snowy mountains, and autumn color as well! Always up for an adventure, we decided to head north and seek out fall foliage in a unique way...
Boothill Cemetery was originally called “City Cemetery” during its early years. It wasn’t until decades later that the name Boothill Cemetery would become the name known today. A lot of cowboys and tough folk were said to “die with their boots on” - hence the name. Today we visited to learn some of the tales.
Sometimes experiences are worth more than mere convenience. Apple Annie’s provides a truly authentic autumn experience that cannot be beat and is part of our annual tradition. We truly can’t recommend this place more and after hearing about our latest visit, we think you will agree!
Bryce Canyon is one of the most unique landscapes in the world. One of the great things about it is that you can configure many different hiking routes throughout the park, and the Figure 8 Loop might just be one of the best configurations to experience.
Grand Canyon National Park has many overlooks on both the north and south rims suitable for viewing a sunset. Cape Royal is often noted as being one of the best places to do so, and we went for ourselves to find out if this is true.
The Grand Canyon South Rim has many different overlook points, most easily accessed by shuttle. There are three different colored shuttle routes that cover different areas of the park, and on this trip, I visited many of the stops off the red line to Hermit's Rest. Read on if you want to see if it was all worth it...
The Bright Angel Trail is among the most popular trails at the Grand Canyon. It winds down deep into the canyon, all the way to the Colorado River. For most, the trek to the bottom is beyond reach, but setting the Indian Garden oasis as your target is a respectable goal that offers the rewards of rejuvenation and refreshment.
During our time adventuring around the state of Arizona, many times have we seen the sign for Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch on Interstate 10. This attraction contains a wealth of fun, and family-friendly interactions with animals that one doesn’t see on a daily basis. Curious? We were too.
Traveling by train used to be the way guests would visit the Grand Canyon. We wanted to experience this unique experience for ourselves. How did we like it? What are some of the different car classes like? We’ll let you know all those details and more in case you’re planning to take a trip on the rails.
Vulture Mine is one of the most productive gold mines in Arizona history. Founded by Henry Wickenburg in 1863, this prosperous mine sparked a boomtown named Vulture City to arise from the Sonoran desert. Today, visitors are able to visit a few remaining original buildings and get a glimpse into what pioneer life was like in 19th century Arizona. And best of all, many say that this location is one of the most haunted places in Arizona.