America’s Four Corners region—the meeting point of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah—contains some of the most exciting hikes in the country. The desert climate and sweeping mountains make for some incredible views. The region also offers its fair share of challenges for those with a little more experience under their belts.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, in southwestern Colorado, houses over 600 Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings including the incredible Cliff Palace. It sits at over 7000 feet, making it bit tough for those unaccustomed to the lack of air, but the canyon views are some of the best the region has to offer. The 7.8-mile Prater Ridge trail takes you along the eponymous route where you’ll pass cliff dwellings dating back over 700 years. It’s a family-friend trek that only requires a little experience and a lot of water.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Monument Valley is a vast region situated along the Arizona and Utah border, though the most popular section resides south of the line. Some of the best trails available are found in the Navajo Tribal Park where the famed buttes are located. These massive, towering monuments stand in stark contrast to the surrounding flatlands and are a must see. The Wildcat Trail is one of the more popular hikes and one of just a few that don’t require a guide. It’s just under five miles round-trip and starts around the West Muffin Butte. Much of it requires hiking on sand, which can wear you act quickly.
Bluff, Utah serves as a great starting point for anyone looking to explore the Four Corners section of this beautiful state. It’s also considered the entrance point to Monument Valley on the northern side of the border. Nearby you’ll find the Valley of the Gods, Natural Bridges National Monument and, of course, Bears Ear National Monument. The orange and gold sandstone shine bright during the evening sunset, or come midday and check out the vast range of wildlife the riparian zone gives life to in the region.
Arches National Park
A little further north outside of Moab you’ll find one of the most popular hiking areas in the United States—Arches National Park. The unique arch-like red rock formations here are unlike anything else found on Earth. The Fiery Furnace trail is one of the more arduous options, but great for experienced hikers who want to see everything the park has to offer. The labyrinth of unmarked trails and domes can only be accessed by permit.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument has over 70 miles of hiking trails that span much of the adjoining Santa Fe National Forest. Your best bet is to tackle a few of them in one day to see as much as possible, which is quite easy since most of them are short. The Main Loop trail is the most popular and provides some pretty spectacular cavates to explore. The Falls Trails is another great option that leads to one of the larger waterfalls in northwest New Mexico. The Alcove House Trail is the real treasure, though, as it winds through ancient dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people.