Although there may be some disagreement about this, the Southwest US is comprised of 4 states – Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. Oftentimes Colorado and Utah are considered part of the Southwest, but they are usually lumped in with the Rocky Mountain States. It is nearly impossible to list all of the notable hiking and backpacking trails in the Southwest in this one brief article, so we have broken down the areas by state that are the best hiking/backpacking venues.
Naturally, the first place everyone thinks of is the Grand Canyon, and rightfully so because the hiking/backpacking just doesn’t get any better than this. The best choice for a marathon trek is always the Rim-to-Rim hike. Whether you start on the North or South Rim is up to you. Starting on the North Rim places you 2,000 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim so that means a longer downhill to the Colorado River and a shorter uphill climb to come out on the southern end of the hike.
Other considerations include Canyon de Chelly and Chiricahua National Monuments and these 6 National Forests– Apache, Coronado, Kaibab, Saguaro, Sitgreaves, and Tonto.
The state of Nevada offers four excellent choices for hiking/backpacking adventures. Be sure that you check the weather, depending on the season that you are hiking. The winter days can be very pleasant but brutally cold overnight. Summer hiking is always challenging because of the heat.
Visitors tend to gravitate towards the Lake Tahoe area and the surrounding forests that are filled with an abundance of hiking/backpacking adventures. But don’t overlook Great Basin National Park, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and the Valley of Fire State Park.
There are 6 areas or regions that all have plenty of choices for some excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities. There are the Carson and Gila National Forests to start with. Other trails include Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and the Continental Divide Trail as well as hiking/backpacking around the cities of Santa Fe and Taos.
Although Texas is considered one of the 4 states of the Southwest, it is the western portion of the state that really qualifies for being a Southwest region. The eastern portion of the state is green and humid while the western region is desert-like and extremely dry.
There are three areas of western Texas that feature an abundance of excellent hiking/backpacking spots including Big Bend National Park located along the Rio Grande River, Big Thicket National Preserve (located in southeastern Texas but still an area to consider), and Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Panhandle region.