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America’s Best Day Hikes: Southwest

From canyons to rock art to waterfalls, the Southwest has an abundance of natural beauty.

Wildest Geology
Navajo/Queens Garden Trails, UT 3 miles (Easy)
Get life-list scenery for stroll-in-the-park effort on this classic Bryce Canyon hoodoo tour. A hike starting from Sunset Point and connecting the Navajo Loop with the Queens Garden Trail coasts past hundreds of these sedimentary pillars, some reaching 150 feet high. The hoodoos have been compared to church steeples, castle walls, and even poodles. Best time to see them: after a rain- or snowstorm, when the oranges and reds appear even more vibrant than usual, or under the otherworldly light of a full moon.
Season Year-round


Ice Box Canyon, NV 3 miles (Moderate)
Cool off here on the hottest day: This deep canyon, with its steep walls and reliable breezes–and secret waterfall–is always cooler than the surrounding desert in the Red Rock National Conservation Area. The short out-and-back is scrambly, with a final stiff climb that leads to a waterfall freefalling off a sandstone cliff. Here, you’ll find a bathtub-size pool perfect for a dip before the turnaround.
Season October-June

Calf Creek Falls, UT 5.5 miles (Easy)
This swimming hole comes with a side of prehistory: The out-and-back route winds past two ancient granaries and a Fremont Indian pictograph at the outset, then heads into the narrowing Calf Creek Canyon. Soft sand makes the going slow, but it’s less than three miles to Lower Calf Creek Falls, which plunges 126 feet from mineral-streaked Navajo sandstone–into an inviting almond-shaped pool.
Season April-October

Best Bushwhacking
Bowl of Fire, NV 7 miles (Difficult)

You’ll need solid navigation chops to wander in this desolate landscape of flaming-red sand, green limestone, and mazelike canyons, but the rewards are worth it: hidden rock arches, a "waterfall" of coarse gray limestone, and polished blue stones decorating the desert floor. Head north from the trailhead in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, aiming toward the base of Peak 651 for a mile, then swing northwest into Callville Wash to access the Bowl of Fire. Rule of thumb: Head downhill in any wash to reach Callville again.
Season October-May

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