The southwestern United States, commonly referred to as the Southwest, includes the Desert Southwest, which consists principally of Arizona and New Mexico. Although the precise definition varies widely, parts of Nevada, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, California and Colorado are commonly considered as located in the Southwest.
The region is famed for its natural beauty and welcoming climate, and attracts hundreds of thousands of vacationers each year. Whether you want to see the wonder of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the mighty Colorado River, the Anasazi ruins in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, or the painted rock arches in the national parks of southern Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, the southwestern US is a destination for anyone who appreciates the natural beauty of the great outdoors.
For those who like their enjoyment of nature a little more active, the skiing and hiking in Utah, as well as Colorado's fly fishing and river-rafting, are unparalleled. In addition, the historic ghost towns of Nevada and Colorado are fascinating for explorers with an adventurous spirit, while the artists' mecca of New Mexico beckons with its rich cultural history.
And for those who just want to cut loose and have a good time, the impressive hotels, casinos and resorts of Las Vegas, Nevada, are within a day's journey.
This region is known for its bold art and cuisine. Tex-Mex cuisine was popularized in San Antonio, and has spread to many other areas, both in Texas and in other states. The San Francisco burrito and 'Fresh Mex' or Baja California-style of Mexican food is also commonly associated with the Southwest.
Arizona is truly jaw-dropping with its abundance of natural beauty. From the cactus-filled Sonoran Desert to the deep canyons of the Colorado Plateau; the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Lake Mead, Route 66, The Apache Trail, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest, Saguaro National Park, Meteor Crater and more - you could spend a lifetime exploring just this one state alone.
Arizona history is rich in legends of America's Old West. It was here that the great Indian chiefs Geronimo and Cochise led their people against the frontiersmen. Tombstone was the site of the West's most famous shoot-out - the gunfight at the OK Corral. Today, Arizona has one of the largest US Indian populations with more than 14 tribes represented on 20 reservations.
The dramatic desert, mountain and volcanic scenery of the golden state of California, includes the national parks of Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Redwood, Sequoia and Yosemite, and the attractions of Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs and the California Missions.
Death Valley, in the southeast, is 282ft below sea level, the lowest point in the nation, while Mt Whitney at 14,491ft is the highest point in the adjoining 48 states. Lassen Peak is one of two active US volcanoes outside of Alaska and Hawaii - its last eruptions were recorded in 1917.
Other points of interest include Yosemite National Park, Disneyland, Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sequoia National Park, San Simeon State Park, and Point Reyes National Seashore.
Much more than just Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada has many fascinating landscapes including Great Basin National Park and Red Rock Canyon. The driest state in the nation, with an average annual rainfall of only about 7 inches, much of Nevada is uninhabited, sagebrush-covered desert.
Nevada was made famous by the discovery of the Comstock Lode, the richest known US silver deposit, in 1859, and its mines have produced large quantities of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, mercury, barite, and tungsten.
In 1931, the state created two industries, divorce and gambling. For many years, Reno and Las Vegas were the divorce capitals of the nation. More liberal divorce laws in many states have ended this distinction, but Nevada is still the gambling capital of the US and a leading entertainment center.
National parks, ancient sites and national monuments in New Mexico make it the land of enchantment and include the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Inscription Rock at El Morro National Monument, the ruins at Fort Union, Billy the Kid mementos at Lincoln, the White Sands and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monuments, Bandelier National Monument, and the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Texas is a state of vast landscapes with two national parks Guadalupe and Big Bend, and attractions ranging from the Chihuahuan Desert to the Gulf of Mexico and Padre Island.
Colorado features the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Colorado National Monument and the San Juan Mountains. Here you’ll also find Mesa Verde National Park, a United Nations World Heritage Site, is known internationally for the fabulous cliff dwellings. Though long familiar to Mesa Verde's native inhabitants, the cliff dwellings were brought to world attention after being noticed by European-Americans in the late 1800's.
Monument Valley is a 'must do' for any trip to the southwestern US It is a Navajo Tribal Park and is possibly the most photographed and filmed area you will see. Western movies have been filmed there. It is truly a beautiful and exciting place to visit.
Despite the low population density of the region as a whole, the Southwest contains many large cities and metropolitan areas offering all the sights, sounds and experiences one could want from a city. Los Angeles is the most populous city in the Southwestern United States while Phoenix and San Diego each rank among the ten largest cities.
This fascinating region with its wide open spaces and abundant cultural experiences ranks among some of the world's most special destinations.