One of the most iconic experiences on a drive through the United States’ southwest is a stop at the Four Corners Monument. You can put each of your limbs in a different state—Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Of course, there is plenty to do in the corners of all four states. From Flagstaff, Arizona, take I-40 to the Petrified Forest National Park and get a glimpse of the multi-colored fossilized wood. The colors of the Painted Desert are sure to impress. Then head to Canyon de Chelly National Monument to experience the cliff dwellings, where indigenous peoples lived for nearly 5,000 years. Hike the White House Ruins trail, the only one for which you do not need a guide. To experience another scenic area around the Four Corners, take the San Juan Skyway through Colorado.
Where to Play
Climb ladders and shuffle through tunnels of Mesa Verde National Park’s famous Puebloan cliff dwellings in Colorado. The Far View Lodge, located in the park, has rooms with views into four states (Note: The Lodge is open from mid-April through mid-October). A couple hours’ drive away, Telluride is a great place to stop. Park the vehicle at Carhenge and take the free ski gondola to the mountain peak. At the base of the canyon, access 30 miles (48 kilometers) of hiking and biking trails near Mountain Village, which provides great vistas but lacks Telluride’s character. At Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah, hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail. It’s five miles (eight kilometers) round-trip with a waterfall along the way. You can take a (cold) dip in the pool under the fall, too.
At Day’s End
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Staying overnight in Mesa Verde? From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, ranger-led talks on various topics are held every night at Far View Lodge and the Morefield Amphitheater. Check the website for times, www.visitmesaverde.com/play/upcoming-events.
Information about accommodations in Mesa Verde National Park can be found at www.visitmesaverde.com.
Based on articles from National Geographic Traveler and compiled by Stephanie Robichaux