Outdoor Neighbors

SUU’s neighbors are pretty awesome. All five of Utah’s national parks are within a four hour drive, and a number of popular state parks are also close to campus. 

What makes SUU’s location even better is its proximity to some out-of-state spots that are ideal for outdoor recreation. 

With the Four Corners to the east and Nevada and California to the west, there’s no shortage of places to visit for the outdoor enthusiast looking to expand horizons. 

Here are just a few of the neighboring out-of-state locations in Utah’s sister states to stop at during the next road trip.

The Grand Canyon – Arizona

Perhaps the most famous on this list is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and the spectacle of the Southwest: the Grand Canyon.

This national park sees many kinds of recreation, from rafting to backpacking and even helicopter tours. Going to the scenic overlook is a simple day trip, but the dizzying view may not be for the faint of heart. 

Nearby, the Havasupai Reservation is home to an isolated oasis in the vast Arizona desert. The land is administered by the Havasupai Tribe, whose borders are adjacent to the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park. 

Getting a permit is difficult, as the entire year’s supply typically sells out on opening day, but the turquoise pools fed by Havasu Falls are on many an outdoorsman’s bucket list. 

Horseshoe Bend – Arizona

Another renowned location, Horseshoe Bend is a national monument just outside the city of Page, Arizona.

A sandy trek to the overlook graces visitors with a phenomenal panoramic view of the Colorado River that has carved a deep horseshoe-shaped canyon out of the ancient sandstone layers. 

Visitors to Page can also go boating out of Lake Powell’s largest marina, Wahweap, and hike some gorgeous slot canyons such renowned Antelope Canyon nearby.

Monument Valley – Arizona

Talk about an iconic Southwest location. Remember that scene from “Forrest Gump” when Tom Hanks’ titular character is running through the desert with his long hair and beard flowing in the wind? 

Yeah, that’s Monument Valley. 

Located in Arizona just below the southeast border of Utah, Monument Valley is a vast tract of desert wilderness interspersed with towering, red sandstone pinnacles and buttes. It is under the stewardship of the Navajo Nation, but admission works similar to a national park.

Just driving through this area leaves one awestruck, but backcountry permits are also available to go hiking or camping in isolation. 

Death Valley – California

Death Valley is a good place to visit in the winter, because for most of the year the temperatures are blistering with the highs averaging around 115 degrees.

SUU Outdoors even backpacked in this national park in December 2019 for the Basic Outdoor Leadership Training program.

The greatest vantage point in the park is from Dante’s View at 5,475 feet. It overlooks both the lowest point in North America – the Badwater Basin at -282 feet – and the highest point in the contiguous U.S. – Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet – in the Sierra Nevadas to the west.

This scene might seem familiar, as it appeared in “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” as an overlook to Mos Eisley Spaceport.                                                                                                                                                           

Joshua Tree – California

Legendary for its rock climbing and bouldering, Joshua Tree is aptly named after the gnarly, spiny tree that grows abundantly where the Mojave and Colorado desert ecosystems meet.

Joshua Tree has also joined the likes of several national parks in Utah in becoming an International Dark Sky park. In their book, “The Deserts of the Southwest,” Peggy and Lane Larson describe how the desert environment naturally provides exceptional views. 

“Little obstructs the extensive view of the sky dome, which in the clear, arid atmosphere appears bluer by day and more brightly star-studded by night than do the skies over many moister regions.”

Many venture to Joshua Tree seeking quiet isolation and to reconnect with the outdoors. With over 300 miles of hiking trails, the vast, peaceful desert beauty is perfect for introspection.

Mesa Verde – Colorado

Pristinely preserved in the cliff sides of southwest colorado are ancient dwellings belonging to the Ancestral Pueblo people who inhabited them between 600 and 1300 A.D. 

The national park protects these ancient structures and over 5,000 other archaeological sites in the area that have contributed to understanding a rich culture that lasted 700 years.

Mesa Verde’s main attraction is the cliff dwellings, though strict stay-on-trail hiking in the area exposes visitors to the rugged terrain where ancient people made their home so long ago.  

Great Basin – Nevada

Nevada’s Great Basin National Park is mostly open space, but aside from an unobstructed view of the night sky, there are a few unique features that entice visitors to stop. 

Only two-and-a-half hours from Cedar City lies Lehman Caves. Up to 20 guests at a time can enjoy a ranger-led tour of up to 0.6 miles of the large, cavernous network. 

Carefully tucked into the aspen-covered slopes of Nevada’s South Snake Range is the Johnson Lake Mine. The early 20th-century mine is a beautiful historic location to visit, where the remnants of log cabins are still intact. 

Outdoor enthusiasts could spend days or even weeks in just one of these remarkable places. 

Effective planning will help get the most out of a trip and detailed information can be found on nps.gov or the website of the affiliated land management agency.

Story by: Reyce Knutson
Photos by: Jordan Holiman, Andrew Riojas and Evan Sanchez on Unsplash, and courtesy nps.gov

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