This four-day, 30-mile cross-country backpacking trip explores one of America’s highest deserts. The Red Desert is wedged into a rift valley called the Great Divide Basin. This is where the Continental Divide splits, forming the country’s longest big game corridor. This proposed wilderness is home to at least 65 species of mammals, reptiles and birds, including prairie falcons, bighorn sheep, wild horses, the largest desert elk herd in the world, and 50,000 pronghorn antelope. WHEN TO GO: Late spring and early fall. Summers are scorching and winters are arctic. In any season, even moderate rain will make dirt roads impassible. GEAR: With rock-hard playa, a freestanding tent is a must (imagine putting stakes into concrete). Cache water in seven-gallon containers like the Reliance AquaTainer ($17, relianceproducts.com).
Mapped by Michael Behar