Dry January: Trek America’s Top Deserts

If you couldn’t bear the thought of cutting out the Jim Beams or Jack and cokes this January, don’t sweat it. In the spirit of going against dry January, we decided to focus our attention on not what you have to give up, but what you can tick off. So, sit back, relax, pour yourself a well-earned glass, and check out our Trek-approved American deserts you should visit in 2020.

1.  Death Valley

Ahh Death Valley. The very name conjures up thoughts of skull and crossbones, barren landscapes and bloody battles with cowboys versus Indians attacking wagon trains, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite its ghoulish name, this valley is packed with towering sand dunes, beautiful water sculpted canyons, volcanic craters and palm-shaded oases in the middle of the desert to escape from the glaring sun. Aside from these epic landscapes, Death Valley is also home to an eclectic mix of desert wildlife too, where it’s not uncommon to catch sightings of bobcats, cottontails, coyotes and even the elusive mountain lion, if you’re lucky.

Get the chance to trek in Death Valley for yourself on our Westerner 2 trip towards the Badwater Basin salt flats and checkout the otherworldly petrified forest panoramas from Zabriskie Point. What makes this desert truly unique though, is the fact that it’s one of the lowest lying, hottest places on the planet. With temperatures rising up to a sizzling 134 degrees/ 56.7 °C, this stretch of desert has broken the record for the hottest monthly temperature in the world for two years running, so get ready to put on your shades and feel the heat.

2. Monument Valley

When you think Monument Valley, you can’t help but feel the urge to strap on some cowboy boots, swivel a toothpick in your mouth and channel your inner Clint Eastwood. Monument Valley’s iconic brick-red spindles epitomise every single spaghetti western backdrop you can think of. But, behind its grand buttes and real-life tumble weed lies over 700 years of ancestral Puebloan history.

On the Coast to Coast South from Los Angeles, get a unique glimpse of this famous movie location behind the scenes on a 4x4 guided jeep tour of the Navajo Reservation and backroads. When the sun goes down, enjoy setting up camp for the night and roasting marshmallows over a couple of cold ones.

3. Great Basin, Nevada

After you’ve taken a dip in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe on our Northern Trail from Los Angeles trip, it’s time to pick up the pace once again as we cross the Nevada desert into the Northern Great Basin.

Just 67 miles shy of Ely, this enormous national park encompasses the 13,063ft Wheeler Peak, making it the highest mountain in the Snake Range and White Pine County. Rising as if out of nowhere, Wheelers Peak creates the perfect climate for hiking trails past glacier lakes and ancient bristlecone pine trees. To see something truly special, we’d recommend booking an optional tour of the Lehman’s Caves – a colossal marble cavern that boasts an amazing collection of stalagmites, stalactites and more than 300 rare shields, making it a must-see if you’ve got time to spend in the area.

4. Kodachrome Basin

What’s pink and white and surrounded by the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument on three sides? The Kodachrome Basin of course. With its Shakespeare Arch, monolithic Chimney Rock and petrified Ballerina Geyser, this place is a selfie haven for even the most unenthused Instagrammers.

On our Canyon Adventure, you get to explore deep into Bryce Canyon Country, ticking off some incredible National & State Parks along the way. After checking out the goblin-like rock formations and the cool petroglyphs at Capital Reef National Park, it’s worth visiting the hued layers of Kodachrome that hold 180 million years of geological history within their rocks. 

5. Mojave Desert

Yucca brevifolia Engelem – no this isn’t a type of cough, but you could say its an enduring symbol of the Mojave Desert. What makes this large spikey-leafed evergreen tree special, is that it doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world and is the namesake of its region – Joshua Tree National Park. But we didn’t come here to talk about the trees. We came for the ancient Indian petroglyphs, exhilarating hikes to Barker Dam and jaw-clenching scrambles through the Hidden Valley for unreal panoramas at Keys View. With great views that tumble down from the heights into Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, you also get see where the two distinct deserts, Mojave and Sonoran meet, on our Western Wonderer Plus from Los Angeles. Afterwards, get ready for an epic trip down Route 66 to visit one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – yes, you’ve guessed it, the Grand Canyon National Park.

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