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One Week Southwest Road Trip Inspiration and Trip Planner

Updated on April 21, 2014

Southwest in a Week

The American Southwest is a diverse cultural, historical and natural region that highlights some of the best the United States has to offer. Because of its vast geographical boundaries, a road trip to the region is most ideal for a focused visit. Additionally, if you are limited to one week, planning is key for an optimal road trip experience.

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"The Wave," in the slope's of Arizona's Coyote Buttes.
"The Wave," in the slope's of Arizona's Coyote Buttes. | Source
The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah.
The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah. | Source

Landforms and Desertscapes

Natural beauty abounds in the Southwest. The whole region is spotted with some of America’s most important geological land forms within a dense population of national parks. With the epic Grand Canyon in Arizona; the sauntering Rio Grande, which flows from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico; the snow-capped peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado; and various unique desert landscapes like the dynamic dunes in White Sands, New Mexico, there are more than enough natural attractions to fill a week-long road trip.

Arch at Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
Arch at Arches National Park, Moab, Utah | Source
Typical Southwestern cuisine including tacos, corn, fajitas, salsa, cornmeal, chiles, and tortilla chips.
Typical Southwestern cuisine including tacos, corn, fajitas, salsa, cornmeal, chiles, and tortilla chips. | Source

Culinary Cruising

Serving up a history lesson on settlers of the region, the Southwest’s cuisine is a gastronomical fusion of Spanish, Mexican and Native American influences. Generally, the cuisine within each state is unique, such as New Mexico’s black bean preference over Texas’ fondness for the refried variety; however, chilies and heat level bring culinary pride to foodies of the region. Each state has its own variation of salsa, and its own adaptation to classic dishes such as burritos and mole which beg to be sampled. If Southwestern cuisine whets your appetite, consider a culinary discovery road trip of the region's specialties.

Berlin is one of Nevada's most famous and frequently visited ghost towns; it is both historically interesting and spooky.
Berlin is one of Nevada's most famous and frequently visited ghost towns; it is both historically interesting and spooky. | Source

Abandoned Abodes

Ghost towns of the American Southwest appeal to the eccentric and adventurous traveler. Undeniably, there is something eerie and thrilling about exploring an abandoned town, and the Southwest is chock-full of them. For a historic approach, consider Berlin, Nevada, an abandoned mining town which has been preserved as a historic landmark and provides visitors information for self-guided tours. Chloride, New Mexico, was once a thriving refuge for workers of the local mine, but now hosts the remains of a town, complete with a saloon, jailhouse and hanging tree.

Remnant doorways of Pueblo Bonito, an ancient pueblo city in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Remnant doorways of Pueblo Bonito, an ancient pueblo city in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. | Source
Tuscon, Arizona's San Xavier Mission is one of museums exemplifying Spanish religious colonization in the Southwest.
Tuscon, Arizona's San Xavier Mission is one of museums exemplifying Spanish religious colonization in the Southwest. | Source

Natural and Cultural History

The Southwest’s vast history of settlement, dating back 9,000 years, and multiple eras of colonialism foreshadow its current environment. The region not only hosted some of America’s most significant wars and historical accolades, it also provided a fertile ground for cultural melding that paved the way for the region’s present culture. Explore Native American history through prehistoric landmarks such as the Anasazi cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado or the prolific cave paintings at Petroglyph National Park in New Mexico; investigate the region's colonial history by visiting settlement sites such as Arizona's San Xavier Del Bac mission church, which exemplifies Spanish and religious conquest of the American Southwest.

Cliff Palace: dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Colorado.
Cliff Palace: dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Colorado. | Source

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    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

      Nice tour. And a spectacular selection of photos.

    • sehrm profile image
      Author

      sehrm 3 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks Rochelle! Much appreciated.

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