Rock and sky: In southern Utah's Canyonlands National Park, it seems there's nothing else. Sandstone pillars rise like skyscrapers and boulders spill riotously into deep slices in the Earth, all against the sky's neon-blue backdrop. The rock is most outrageous in the park's remote Maze district, a favorite stomping ground of solitude-seekers like Edward Abbey. Take the 15-mile North Canyon Trail to the Maze Overlook and then drop down to explore the otherworldly spiderweb of canyons.
Contact: Canyonlands National Park, (435) 719-2100; www.nps.gov/cany.
Grand Gulch Primitive Area
Hike a few miles into Grand Gulch and you'll slip back in time a thousand years. The many cliff dwellings and rock art panels offer clues about the Anasazi people who lived here from the hunter-gatherer Archaic period until they mysteriously left around 1300. Enter the Gulch on the Bullet Canyon Trail and hike out through Kane Gulch.
Contact: Monticello Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, (435) 587-1500; www.blm.gov/utah/monticello.
When a Mormon settler first stumbled upon Zion Canyon in 1872, he called it "the most wonderful defile it is my fortune to behold." Hikers traversing the canyon's 16-mile-long Virgin River Narrows will be just as awestruck today by the sheer, 1,000-foot walls pressing in on the cottonwood-lined stream.
Contact: Zion National Park, (435) 772-3256; www.nps.gov/zion.