By Amanda Huffman
Military families have lots of opportunities to see the country and sometimes the world. If you are PCS’ing from one place to another, or if you are living somewhere new, there are always places to see and things to do. This article will focus on some of the most popular travel spots in the Southwest, but this is by no means a list of all the great things to do and see in the Southwest. So, if your favorite destination or hidden gem didn’t make it into this list, make sure to comment below with where your favorite southwestern vacation destination or road trip pit stop.
For this article, I’ve focused on these southwestern states: New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. There are so many things to see and do in these five states, this list will only be able to touch on a handful.
Let’s start at Four Corners, which includes the states mentioned above, minus Nevada. It’s a fun stop to visit and put your feet in multiple states as you stand at the intersection point of the four states.
Besides visiting cities like Tucson and Phoenix, there is a lot to do in Arizona and one of the most well-known places to see is the Grand Canyon. Besides viewing the Grand Canyon from the rim, there are options to hike down to the bottom, stay in a hotel near the rim, or take a train to see the Grand Canyon from Williams, Arizona.
Besides the Grand Canyon, other great hidden gems are the Meteor Crater off of I-40. The visitors center is located on the north rim of the crater. You can view the crater from the air-conditioned viewing area or hike around outside. It measures 550-feet deep and is almost a mile wide.
Colorado is another state with a lot to see and do. One thing on my list that I haven’t had a chance to do yet is visit the Denver Mint. Tours are still currently closed due to COVID but they are working to evaluate and change this. Besides visiting Denver, you can also spend time in Colorado Springs. Not only do they have a free park, The Garden of the Gods, for hiking, there are also a lot of other great things to do. Cog Railway up Pike’s Peak, Seven Falls, Cave of the Winds, along with the Air Force Academy and more hiking or other outdoor activities.
Colorado also has the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Red Rocks is a geologically formed, open-air amphitheater. Not only is it a cool place to see a concert or view the stars, it is a great place to walk around and see the scenery. Another great place to visit in Colorado is Black Canyon National Park.
Visiting New Mexico
Having been stationed in New Mexico my list of things to do and see in this state is fairly long. But I will pull out my favorite spots and let you know there is a lot to see and do in New Mexico. Starting with the Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque. Rising from the hustle and bustle of Albuquerque, you ascend one of America’s most stunning urban peaks. Reaching the 10,378-foot crest of the Sandia Mountains, an 11,000-square-mile panoramic view awaits you. There is lots of hiking, a restaurant with a killer view, and more at the top.
One of the other best things to see in New Mexico is Carlsbad Caverns. You can hike down into the cave or take an elevator to Big Room. Hiking into the cavern is a unique experience. As you get deeper into the cave and look back at the entrance, the view changes. And hiking around the Big Room or going on other special tours can be inspiring. Carlsbad is located just south of Roswell, which is a fun town to visit, especially looking at the information gathered about alien sightings.
Other great cities or things to do in New Mexico include White Sands National Park, Santa Fe, Taos, Alburquerque balloon festival in the fall, and more.
Utah is another beautiful state with a lot to do. The capital city, Salt Lake City, is host to the Mormon Temple which is huge and offers tours and information about the Mormon Church. But my favorite place to visit in Utah is Arches National Park. The natural arch rock formations are amazing to look at from far away but hiking up close gives you an even more unique perspective.
But Arches is just one of many great National Parks in Utah. Zion National Park is a great park to drive through on a PCS and stop at various hiking spots and the visitor center in the valley. Bryce Canyon is another great National Park with stunning views and great hiking.
As you leave Arizona, you can cross into Nevada by driving over Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. It was built between 1931 and 1936. Besides driving across the dam, it is open to the public for tours. Just make sure to plan ahead tours tend to sell out especially during the summer months. You can also visit Lake Powell, which was created by Hoover Dam. After you explore the dam, you can head to Las Vegas to explore the city. The strip has a number of hotels that are elaborately decorated. Even if you don’t want to gamble, walking on the main strip is a fun adventure. My favorite hotels are the Bellagio (for the water shows) and Venetian (you can ride a gondola and pretend you are in Italy). But there is a lot more to do in Nevada. There are 24 state parks and two national parks. You can learn more about things to do in Nevada here.
As you can see there is a lot to see and do in the Southwest. This list really only hit the high points and there are so many other great things you can find to see and do. What is your favorite spot in the Southwest? Comment below.
About Amanda Huffman
Amanda is a military spouse and Veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She met her husband while attending college and they served on active duty together until their first son was born. It was then that she traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home. Amanda is now a mom of two boys and continues to follow her husband’s military career. She has lived in New Mexico, Ohio, California and currently resides in Northern Virginia. She published her first book in 2019 titled Women of the Military, sharing the stories of 28 military women. In 2019, she also launched her podcast also titled Women of the Military, she continues to share weekly podcast episodes sharing the stories of military women today. You can learn more about Amanda at her blog www.airmantomom.com.