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Undertourism!  Where to Visit Now in the Southwest U.S.

We always hear a lot in the news about Overtourism. That term has become common to describe destinations that are very crowded, especially at peak times. But there is another term that can be great for you: Undertourism!

We know the terms “undersold” and “understated.” Both of these refer to something with greater value than is commonly shared or known about. Well, Undertourism applies to destinations that have more to offer than expected. It refers to lesser-known or lesser-visited attractions or areas that will pleasantly surprise their visitors.

The Southwest area of the United States is full of amazing places to visit and see. Some of the incredible places include iconic options such as the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Antelope Canyon. People from all over the world have heard of these, and many have visited or plan to visit them. However, there is so much more to see in the Southwest Desert region that will surprise and delight travelers.

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Located about 2 ½ hours north of Las Vegas, Cathedral Gorge is a wonderful Nevada State Park with natural passages, tunnels, and slots to walk through. It is other-worldly and feels like such a special place to discover. It is especially fun for families, since children will love walking through the tall, narrow paths that continue deeper into the canyon walls. The state park is rarely crowded, and you often feel like you are the only visitors in the section that you are in. “If they knew, they would go,” certainly applies to this enjoyable destination. Entrance fee is $5 per car.

Red Stone Park

Another relatively unknown area, just 1 hour from Las Vegas, is Red Stone Park. This area is located past Lake Las Vegas and along Lake Mead, past Callville Bay. It looks like a small rest stop with picnic tables along the highway. As you pull into the parking lot, the shocking red rocks will make you want to explore. It is a perfect place to bring a lunch and then take a hike around the rocks and trails. You will feel miles away from the outside world and enjoy the shapes and formations all around you. It is an easy day trip, or even half-day, outside of the city. There is no entrance fee.

Death Valley National Park

Although it is a national park and more famous than many of the other destinations on our list, Death Valley is so vast in size that you will usually feel like you are away from crowds.  It is also lesser known than many of the other national parks in the West, but it still has some amazing sights to see.  Death Valley offers sand dunes, strange salt formations, and the lowest point in North America, second lowest in the world, at 282 feet (86m) below sea level.  It is a place bursting with superlatives—the lowest, the largest, the hottest (in summer months), the driest, the most dramatic, and one of the most intriguing.  Book a Private Tour of Death Valley for up to 15 people with National Park Express to experience the beauty of this incredible destination.

Grand Canyon National Park

Okay, so you might not think of the Grand Canyon as falling into the category of Undertourism.  However, there is a lesser known and much less visited section of this breathtaking park that will thrill you with its views and peaceful setting.  The National Park System reports that 90% of the visitors to Grand Canyon National Park visit the south rim, leaving just a few lucky souls to enjoy the more remote and less crowded section at the north rim.  When traveling from Las Vegas, they are just about the same distance but in opposite directions.  Also, the north rim is only open from May to October, as the road to access it is at a higher elevation and closed during the winter months.  The Grand Canyon’s north rim has more pine trees and a greener landscape than the south rim.  It is usually a bit cooler due to its elevation as well.  Be one of the few visitors who gets to enjoy the spectacular views and peaceful atmosphere of the north rim by booking a private day tour from Las Vegas.  It is certain to be near the top of your list for amazing travel experiences.

Hovenweep National Monument

Relatively unknown, Hovenweep includes six villages from 1200-1300 A.D. A variety of buildings are placed in exciting and interesting locations, including some that are perched on cliffs and even on top of boulders. The ancestral Puebloans built homes and other buildings in the area that spans across Utah and Colorado. Wildlife frequents the area and springtime brings beautiful blooms. The masonry structures are similar to Mesa Verde and other sites in the Four Corners area. Clusters of ruins can be found in sections such as Square Tower Group, Horseshoe Group, Hackberry Group, and Cutthroat Castle Group. Each cluster is a village or group of buildings that can be explored. Cortez, Colorado, and Bluff, Utah, are gateways to this area and offer accommodations and other amenities.

Valley of Fire

Just over one hour’s drive north of Las Vegas lies Valley of Fire State Park. It is an area with some of the brightest red rocks you can find, along with unusual rock formations, fun trails to explore, and the ability to wander away from crowds. While it is Nevada’s first state park and certainly known for its beautiful scenery, there are plenty of areas where just walking a few minutes down a trail will take you far away from the outside world. Its quiet, peaceful beauty will surround you and beg you to wander further into its red paradise. There are private day tours available from Las Vegas for small groups of up to 15 people.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Located near Kanab, Utah, Coral Pink Sand Dunes is an amazing sight any time of the year.  The sparking and colorful sand dunes are fun to walk, drive, and write in!  In the winter, snow will accentuate the colors and add a whole new dimension.  The hills of sand, driven by winds, can move as much as 50 feet per year.  The entrance fee is $10.  The area is open during daylight hours, 7 days a week.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a large area located in southern California. This protected area is named for its famous Joshua trees with unusual shapes. They only grow at a very specific climate and elevation. The park offers striking desert landscapes, rugged rocks, and mountains. Hiking trails through the trees and boulders offer visitors a unique experience that is unlike other areas of the Southwest. Joshua Tree National Park covers almost 800,000 acres of rugged, desert terrain. Many plant and animal species inhabit the several ecosystems found within the park. It is home to herds of desert bighorn sheep, coyotes, black tailed jack rabbits, kangaroo rats, and a number of smaller mammals and reptiles. Migratory birds stop to rest inside the park during the winter. The Joshua Tree is a member of the agave family. It was given its name by early settlers who compared its upward reaching branches to ancient Joshua, whose arms stretched heavenward. The Joshua Tree was revered by Native American tribes that used the leaves for footwear and baskets. Some groups are working to protect the trees and consider them endangered, although the current status is undetermined. The park is vast and offers a great, wide open landscape to explore.

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