5 National Parks for Desert Landscape Lovers

Imagine waking up at sunrise to watch a pink and orange sky rise behind a field of cacti or walking along a trail full of unique petroglyphs and colorful rocks. This is what you’ll get when you visit national parks in the U.S. located in high and low-desert areas. If warm weather trips are your go to, then consider taking your RV on a desert landscape roadtrip in 2024. To help you decide which national parks to visit in the desert, we made this list of 5 national parks for desert landscape lovers.



Saguaro National Park

5. Saguaro National Park, AZ

Home to the nation’s largest cacti, Saguaro National Park is a special park to visit right near Tucson, Arizona. The park is divided into two sections: the Rincon Mountain District to the east, which rises to 8,000 feet in elevation and includes several hiking trails, and the Tucson Mountain District to the west, where you’ll be immersed in a saguaro forest. While here, you may see various wildlife, from black bears and desert dogs to Gila monsters and roadrunners. The most unique aspect of the park is the saguaros, which are large cacti that can be 50 feet tall and 200 years old and are unique to the Sonoran Desert. To explore these special plants, hike to the top of Wasson Peak, the tallest peak in the Tucson Mountains, bike along Cactus Forest Loop Drive, and observe the beauty from the Javelina Rocks.

Buy your entrance pass for Saguaro National Park.



Petrified Forest National Park

4. Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

Petrified Forest National Park is a high-desert landscape like no other. With several Triassic Fossils, hundreds of petroglyphs, and its Painted Desert, a landscape known for its colorful mudstone and sandstone rocks, there’s so much to explore in the park. Check out the Agate House, which was built by natives with petrified wood, ride a horse through the park, or hike Blue Mesa Trail to view hills of badlands and rock formations that reflect red and purple hues. In addition, the park includes inland lakes, beautiful river beds, and diverse wildlife, such as rabbits, squirrels, and lizards.

Buy your entrance pass for Petrified Forest National Park.



Arches National Park

3. Arches National Park, UT

Part of “The Mighty 5,” Arches National Park is one of the most popular national parks to visit in the U.S. Not only does it include easy hiking trails for viewing some of the most unique rock formations in the country, it also includes views of deep canyons while you’re driving into the park and balanced rocks towering above. This high-desert spot includes over 2,000 arches that were formed when the wind transformed an inland sea into sand dunes and rock formations. While here, you can hike to the popular Delicate Arch, a 60-foot arch that stands alone with mountain views in the background, Double Arch, which is the second longest and tallest arch in the park, or check out Park Avenue Trail to view monoliths. We have an entire guide to Arches National Park that includes where to stay and must-see sights!

Buy your entrance pass for Arches National Park.



Zion National Park

2. Zion National Park, UT

When you hear the word national park, Zion probably comes to mind. Just like Arches, Zion National Park is part of “The Mighty 5,” and is a very popular park to explore. While you’re in the park, the deep canyons, pink and red sandstone cliffs, and gentle rivers will make you feel like you’ve entered The Land Before Time. Hikes in Zion range from easy walks to difficult climbs. Angels Landing, one of the most dangerous hikes in America and is an epic hike for the adventure enthusiast—this hike requires a permit due to its popularity. In addition, you can hike through the Virgin River at The Narrows, where you’ll have rock walls one thousand feet tall surrounding you.

Buy your entrance pass for Zion National Park.



Joshua Tree National Park

1. Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Located in southeastern California, Joshua Tree National Park is a desert wilderness with over 800,000 acres of land that’s full of life. From cacti and wildflowers to the iconic Joshua Trees, there’s so many ways to explore this park. Its High Mojave Desert includes several Joshua Trees while the low Colorado Desert includes species like smoke trees and ocotillo. While here, hike Ryan Mountain for panoramic views of the park, check out the Cholla Cactus Garden at dawn or dusk for a breathtaking glow over cholla cactus, or walk to Heart Rock. You may also see animals such as lizards, snakes, mule deer, and bobcats.

Buy your entrance pass for Joshua Tree National Park.



If you’re planning a west coast road trip in 2024, you can easily check out all of these national parks in a single trip. You’ll be able to explore everything from high-desert hiking trails to low-desert cacti. If you want to learn more about Utah’s “Mighty 5,” we have an entire guide on every national park in Utah as well.

See you on the road!

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