Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is on everybody’s list of must-see places in the Southwest, but during summer, dealingwith the crowds and traffic can be frustrating at best. However, if you have some flexibility in your schedule, there’s aremedy. Check out the park’s popular main area, with its natural amphitheaters filled with striking hoodoo formations, firstthing in the morning, before most visitors arrive. Then set out to other areas of Bryce for hiking.
Flagstaff, Arizona, is not only a good destination to escape the hotter weather of Southern Nevada, it serves as the perfect base camp for a few one-day side trips to the state’s greatest sights. Within an hour or two from town you can be at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, sliding down a natural water chute near Sedona or visiting any of three national monuments.
Mammoth Lakes, California, in the eastern Sierra Nevada, is best known as an international winter ski and snowboard resort. However, mid-July through September it transforms into one of the best hiking and mountain-biking paradises in the state. It offers the bonus of being the best jumping-off place to visit Devils Postpile National Monument, about 7 miles from town, and is a must-see destination.
Now that temperatures are soaring into three digits, our hearts seek the highlands when we plan a summer getaway. Some of the most agreeable and accessible highlands are in Cedar Breaks National Monument, in southern Utah. The park lies on the Markagunt Plateau at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet, almost guaranteeing cool weather for hiking, wildflower viewing and stargazing.
It takes some time to drive to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, a couple of hours north of Tonopah, but the road trip is worth it — especially in summer, when the temperatures are at their most pleasant. Located on the western edge of the Shoshone Mountains, the 1,540-acre park has elevations ranging from 6,840 to 7,880 feet.
One of the best weekend getaways our region affords is to Lone Pine, California. It’s uncrowded — a small town of about 2,000 people — and lies in Owens Valley at the foot of the Sierra Nevada’s spectacular eastern slope. The area is rich in camping, hiking and fishing opportunities and is the site where many popular movies were filmed. Even the four-hour drive there can be fun, for much of it is via uncrowded highways through open and attractive country.
Most people who did not grow up in the Mojave Desert were probably surprised to learn how few sand dunes are found here. The vast, flat landscapes of desert pavement and creosote were not remotely what we had envisioned.
Spring may be the best time to visit Zion National Park, offering delights unique to the season. You can get double your value for springtime days spent here by participating in the varied educational workshops offered through the Zion Canyon Field Institute.
There are hundreds of slot canyons in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park, but most are hard to find, and it might take days afoot to reach them. A few, however, are accessed fairly easily on a day trip, as long as you are up to driving rough gravel roads and able to hike a round trip of a few moderate miles.