When we hear the word desert, we immediately think of sand dunes, cacti, tumbleweeds rolling by, and very little water. While this is somewhat of a true representation of deserts, there is more to these beautiful landscapes than just that. In fact, many cities and towns have settled in desert areas throughout the world, making the harsh landscape home.
Deserts offer their own form of beauty as well, with stunning cliffs carved out by the wind and sand, breathtaking mountain ranges, and beautifully-unique plant life. Throughout the United States, there are four major desert ranges - the Mojave Desert, the Chihuahuan Desert, the Sonoran Desert, and the Great Basin Desert. All of these desert ranges have various cities settled throughout them, and they all offer spectacular scenery. Here are 10 of the most photogenic deserts in the United States.
10 Sedona, Arizona
Those beautiful desert landscapes that we see photographs of, with the red sand, sparse greenery, and stunning sand formations are exactly what you will see when visiting Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is about a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, near Flagstaff, and the best time of year to visit is between the months of March - May, when it is warm but not too hot, and all the plants are in bloom.
While Sedona is considered a desert town, it is also surrounded by 1.8 million acres of nation forest land. There is a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy, as a fun way of seeing the beautiful landscape. There are lots of hiking trails in the area, and mountain biking is also very popular.
9 Ojo Caliente, New Mexico
Ojo Caliente is a spa community of 816 residents, that is located between Española and Taos in New Mexico, and it lies along the Rio Grande. What Ojo Caliente is best known for is its hot springs, making it one of the oldest spa towns in North America. People comes from all over to experience the hot springs, and have been doing so for thousands of years.
Ojo, as it is commonly known, is considered to be sacred by the Native Americans of Northern New Mexico. Its mineral waters have been healing people for years, and it is the only spa in the world that offers four different sulfur-free mineral waters. The landscape that surrounds this spa town is beautiful, and adds to the tranquility of the community.
8 Big Bend National Park, Texas
There are so many absolutely gorgeous places throughout the Big Bend National Park, that you will be kept busy photographing it all. From the Sante Elena Canyon that was carved out by the Rio Grande to the Langford Hot Springs near the Mexican border, the park is full of so many great places to see.
This national park is located in southwest Texas, and it encompasses the entire Chisos mountain range and a large part of the Chihuahuan desert. It was established in 1935 and offers visitors many different maps, trail guides, and information at their visitor's centre.
7 Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Of the four main deserts located in the United States, Great Basin National Park is located in the Great Basin, the only "cold" desert in the United States, where its precipitation falls in the form of snow rather than rain. It is the largest desert in the United States, at 190,000 square miles, and it is bordered by the Rocky Mountains on the east and the Sierra Nevada Range on the west. The park is full of Bristlecone Pines, since they are able to grow and thrive in this harsh environment, with its cold temperatures and high winds.
The Great Basin also contains more than 40 caves, filled with incredibly photogenic formations as well as all sorts of varying cave life. Most of the caves are not accessible to the public, in an effort to preserve their fragile ecosystems. However, Lehman Caves are open to the public to explore, with a trail guide.
6 Antelope Valley, California
Antelope Valley is located on the western tip of the Mojave desert, in the northern part of Los Angeles County in California. It is approximately 2,200 square miles in size, and it lies to the west of the Great Basin and south of the San Gabriel mountains.
The most unique part about Antelope Valley is its poppy reserve, where each year the valley is in bloom with various wildflowers blown over from the Mojave desert. Every year the turnout and variety is different, but this National Reserve ensures that the public gets a chance to take in this beautiful scenery, by providing hiking trails throughout the area. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, and benches are placed throughout the reserve, so people can sit quietly and hopefully observe some of the local wildlife.
5 Moab, Utah
Moab is a perfect hub for heading out to see a wide variety of stunning landscapes, all surrounding this beautiful desert town. Located in south eastern Utah, and is within perfect reach of two of Utah's most beautiful national parks - Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
Surrounded by amazing red rock formations and the inviting waters of the Colorado River, tourists flock to this small town every year in search of fun, outdoor recreation and beautiful landscapes. The town of 5,200 residents offers the quintessential small town hospitality, with quaint shops, charming inns, and friendly locals.
4 Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is a city located in southern California, within the Sonoran Desert. It is classified as a hot desert climate, due to its 300 days of sunshine every year and only 4.83 inches of rain annually. The summers are very hot and dry, and the winter months stay warm as well, rarely getting much colder than 70-degrees F.
Palm Springs is a popular tourist destination with its charming city centre and beautiful landscapes beyond. There is plenty for visitors to do outside, including hiking, biking, golf, swimming, and touring the breathtaking scenery.
3 Taos, New Mexico
Taos is a small, historical town located in the north-central region of New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The land has been inhabited for over a thousand years, and there are many historical landmarks that you should be sure to check out during your visit. From the San Fransisco Asis Church to Taos Pueblo, the multi-levelled structure that has been inhabited for a millennium. Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community that has been designated both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historical Landmark.
With so much history, surrounded by stunning desert scenery, you would be amiss to miss out on this photogenic desert landscape.
2 Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is a beautifully vibrant city and home to the University of Arizona. It is surrounded by five mountain ranges and is elevated up on an alluvial plain. It offers breathtaking scenery combined with bustling city charm.
Tuscon boasts many vast saguaro forests and gorgeous mountain ranges everywhere, and it is not hard to find place to capture nature's beauty. With so many rock formations in the area, it is also an excellent place for rock climbing, hiking, and mountain biking. Be sure to take in one of their beautiful sunsets as well while you're there.
1 Bend, Oregon
Located on the shores of the crystal clear Deschutes River at the eastern edge of the Cascade Range, the town of Bend offers visitors countless outdoor adventures among it pristine landscape. The semi-arid landscape has your typical desert weather, with cool nights, sunny days, and low annual precipitation. Even in the winter, the temperatures don't often get terribly cold.
With such a stunningly unique landscape, Bend provides adventurists with ample to do during their visit, including hiking through its many trails, mountain biking, rock climbing, and trail running. To take in all of its beauty, there are also helicopter rides over the vast landscape.