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Shiprock, New Mexico
Shiprock, New Mexico

National Parks of the Southwest

Venture to the American Southwest to discover its native culture and history, photograph awe-inspiring canyons and ancient cliff dwellings, and experience the adventure of the parks by helicopter, raft or horseback. Don’t miss your chance to study these captivating parks with ecologists and wildlife experts.

Want to learn more about travel to our National Parks? Check out these National Parks tips.

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National Parks in the Southwest 


Southwest National Park Tours

Southwest national park tours offer a glimpse into the beauty of awe-inspiring canyons, ancient cliff dwellings, native culture, and unique landscapes. At Road Scholar, we have an expansive collection of national park vacation packages in the Southwest. 

From the red cliffs of Zion National Park to the roaring rapids carving through the Grand Canyon, these are just some of the experiences you can enjoy exploring national parks in the Southwest at Road Scholar.


Highlights of Southwest National Park Tours

The American Southwest is filled with diverse ecosystems, picturesque landscapes, and rich histories worth exploring. If you’re looking for national parks to visit in the Southwest, take a look at some of these highlights:


Saguaro National Park, AZ

Saguaro National Park encompasses over 91,000 acres of land that rises to 8,000 square feet in elevation. This is the land of Arizona's towering, giant saguaros — otherwise known as Kings of the Sonoran Desert — that are symbolic of the desert landscape. 

Road Scholar offers several trips that take you up close and personal with the Kings of the Sonoran Desert and other beautiful landscape scenes. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Treasured Landscapes: Hiking Organ Pipe and Saguaro National Park

Hike among the sacred cacti and windswept brush of Saguaro National Park in Southwest Arizona on Road Scholar’s seven-day journey. Join local experts to explore Saguaro National Park and the magical lands of Ajo — one of Arizona’s hidden gems. Hike along the winding trails of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and discover an incredible diversity of life in the desert. Guests will stay at the newly designed Sonoran Desert Conference Center in the heart of Ajo near the town’s historic, Spanish-style plaza.

  • On the Road: Saguaro, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley National Parks

Explore three of the best desert national parks of the Southwest — Saguaro, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley — to explore endangered plants and animals and learn how humans have changed the desert landscape. On this 10-day expert-led exploration of Saguaro, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley national parks, you will visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Yuma’s Territorial Prison, and ride the thrilling Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.


Big Bend National Park, TX

In west Texas, where night skies make way for bright constellations and hundreds of bird species call the local mountain range home, lies a gorgeous southwest national park called Big Bend. Experience the cactus bloom under the sun. Spot sea fossils and dinosaur bones that rose from the desert landscape. Big Bend National Park is a mecca of history and culture given to us by pioneers, ranchers, miners, and Native Americans.

  • Hiking in the Unspoiled Beauty of Big Bend

Join Road Scholar on a six-day tour of Big Bend in Texas, one of America’s most remote and peaceful national parks. In Big Bend National Park, visitors will hike through three ecosystems to experience desert vegetation, mountain peaks, and river trails to discover dinosaur fossils and Native American pictographs. On this trip, Road Scholar will take guests to explore historic Terlingua, a former “ghost town” and its Starlight Theater restaurant built in 1931. 

  • On the Road: San Antonio to Big Bend National Park

This eight-day Road Scholar tour will have visitors exploring the nature and culture of Texas, from San Antonio to Big Bend National Park.  While on tour, travelers will explore Fort Davis Historic Site and stargaze at the McDonald Observatory. They will experience the culture of Texas at San Antonio’s Riverwalk and marvel at the mountains of Big Bend National Park. Along the way through deserts and over mountains, you will see a wide variety of plants and wildlife.


Here are a few other popular national parks in Southwest, USA:

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: As one of the most popular national parks in the Southwest and the country, there’s plenty to see and do in the Grand Canyon. From mule tours to the base of the canyon to hiking to the crystal blue waters of Havasu Falls, these are some of the adventures you can embark on in the Grand Canyon.

  • Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: If you’re looking to learn about the indigenous populations that first called America home, visit to Mesa Verde National Park. Located in the southwestern corner of Colorado, you can learn about the history of the ancestral Puebloans or Anasazi and explore some of the most well-preserved archeological sites in America, such as Cliff Palace.

  • Arches National Park, Utah: With the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world, Arches National Park provides explorers with a unique landscape to discover. Popular arches to visit include Sand Dune Arch, Delicate Arch, and Double Arch.

  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah: A short drive from Arches, Canyonlands National Park provides impressive views of multi-colored rock layers, hiking trails with inspiring vistas, and unique rock formations like Tower Ruin.

  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: From hoodoos to its natural amphitheater, Bryce Canyon is a top Southwest national park to visit. Here, you can also view natural carved arches and watch the sunset at Inspiration Point or Sunset Point.

  • Death Valley National Park, California: Located in California and Nevada, Death Valley National Park offers some of the most extreme weather conditions in the world. With the record for the highest recorded temperature on Earth at 134°F, Death Valley shows the intensity this park has to offer. Death Valley is filled with adventure, from the rainbow-hued rocks at Artist’s Palette to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in the U.S. at 282 feet below sea level.


Tips for Visiting National Parks in Southwest, USA

National parks of the Southwest are a great way to learn about the landscapes that define America and the rich biodiversity and cultures that call this area home. With that said, knowing how to prepare for national park vacations in the Southwest is important. Before you embark on your journey, review these national park travel tips:

  • Check for entrance fees before visiting

  • Double-check the park’s pet policy if traveling with a pet

  • Carry a park map with you when exploring

  • Pack storm gear, winter weather gear, and plenty of food and water

  • Store food and trash in a safe place to keep away from wildlife

  • Respect wildlife and view from a safe distance


Book Your Southwest National Park Trip With Road Scholar

At Road Scholar, we have some of the best national park vacations in the Southwest. Whether you want to explore the red rocks of Bryce Canyon or learn about ancient civilizations in Mesa Verde, we have Southwest national park tours for everyone. We even have group national park tours and trips to national parks in the Northwest that are great for every age and ability level.