hiking in desert National Park

U.S. Desert National Parks: The Complete List

With nearly 8% of North America classified as desert, there are plenty of national parks in the U.S. that feature desert landscapes. Desert parks highlight the spectacular beauty and diversity found within these beautiful climates. In this post, we’ll give you a rundown of all of the desert national parks in the U.S., with the essentials you need to know about when to visit, where to go, and the top trails you won’t want to miss. It’s the perfect springboard to start planning your next trip to one of these special places.

How Many National Parks Are in the Desert?

According to our count, there are nineteen desert national parks. However, if you add in national monuments, national forests, and other locations operated by the National Park Service, the tally would be far larger.

States with Desert National Parks 

The U.S. has four major deserts within its borders: the Mojave, the Great Basin, the Chiricahua, and the Sonoran. Each of these desert ecosystems has at least one national park, and some have many. Desert national parks are found in the western U.S. in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. Although some national parks on the list fall outside of the four major desert systems in the U.S., their arid environment makes them well-qualified to satisfy desert-loving hikers!

hiker taking in view at National Park in Utah

The Complete List of Desert National Parks

>Here’s the 411 on the nineteen desert national parks found in the U.S. Time to get your backpack loaded and your boots laced!

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Location: Medora, North Dakota

Best time of year to visit: Spring and fall

Top trails: The Maltese Cross Cabin Trail, Wind Canyon Trail, Buck Hill Trail, and the Petrified Forest Trail

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

Location: Interior, South Dakota

Best time of year to visit: Spring and fall

Top trails: Fossil Exhibit Trail, Door Trail, Window Trail, Notch Trail, and Saddle Pass Trail

Wind Cave National Park

Location: Hot Springs,South Dakota

Best time of year to visit: Spring and fall

Top trails: Rankin Ridge Trail, Lookout Ridge Trail, Cold Brook Trail, and Wind Cave Canyon Trail

Utah

Zion National Park

Location: Springdale, Utah

Best time of year to visit: Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: Angels Landing Trail, Zion Narrows Trail, The Subway Trail, Emerald Pools Trail, and the Watchman Trail

Check out these top places to stay near Zion National Park.>

Capitol Reef National Park

Location: Torrey, Utah

Best time of year to visit: Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: Hickman BridgeTrail, Cassidy Arch Trail, Grand Wash Trail, Chimney Rock Loop Trail, and Goosenecks and Sunset Point Trail

Canyonlands National Park

Location: Moab, Utah

Best time of year to visit: Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: White Rim Overlook Trail, Aztec Butte Trail, Chesler Park Viewpoint Trail, False Kiva Trail, and Green River Overlook Trail

Arches National Park

Location: Moab, Utah

Best time of year to visit: Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: Delicate Arch Trail, Devils Garden Trail, Landscape Arch Trail, Double Arch Trail, and Park Avenue Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park

Location: Bryce, Utah

Best time of year to visit: Spring and fall

Top trails: Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail, Fairyland Loop Trail, Peekaboo Loop Trail, and  Wall Street Trail

Don’t miss out on these 6 great hikes in Utah.

Hiking near Arches UT

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

Location: Grand Canyon Village, Arizona

Best time of year to visit: Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: South Kaibab Trail, Bright Angel Trail, and Rim Trail

Saguaro National Park

Location: Tucson, Arizona

Best time of year to visit: Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: Bridal Wreath Falls Trail, King Canyon Trail, Valley View Overlook Trail, and Sweetwater Trail

Petrified Forest National Park

Location: Holbrook, Arizona

Best time of year to visit: Year-round

Top trails: Blue Mesa Trail, Crystal Forest Trail, Painted Desert Rim Trail, Onyx Bridge Trail, and Giant Logs Trail

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Location: Mosca, CO

Best time of year to visit: Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: High Dunes Trail, Sand Dunes Loop Trail, Mosca Pass Trail, and Star Dunes Trail

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Location: Montrose, CO

Best time of year to visit: Spring and fall

Top trails: Gunnison Route Trail, Warner Point Nature Trail, Oak Flat Loop Trail, Painted Wall View Trail, and the Exclamation Point Trail

Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Cortez, CO

Best time of year to visit: Spring and fall

Top trails: Petroglyph Point Trail, Cliff Palace Loop Trail, Mesa Verde Point Lookout Trail, Step House Trail, and Wetherill Mesa Loop Trail

Texas

Big Bend National Park

Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas

Best time of year to visit:Spring, fall, and winter

Top trails: The Window Trail, Lost Mine Trail, Santa Elena Canyon Trail, Emory Peak Trail, and the Grapevine Hills Trail

Nevada

Great Basin National Park

Location: Baker, Nevada

Best time of year to visit: Year-round

Top trails: Wheeler Peak Trail, Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail, Alpine Lakes Trail, Lehman Cave Trail, and Teresa Lake Trail

New Mexico 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Location: Carlsbad, New Mexico

Best time of year to visit: Year-round

Top trails: Natural Entrance Trail, Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail, Rattlesnake Canyon Trail, and Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail

California

Death Valley National Park

Location: Death Valley, California

Best time of year to visit: Spring and fall

Top trails: Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail, Zabriskie Point Trail, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Trail, Dante’s View Trail, and Mosaic Canyon Trail

Joshua Tree National Park

Location: Twentynine Palms, California

Best time of year to visit: Year-round 

Top trails: Ryan Mountain Trail, Arch Rock Trail, Barker Dam Trail, Lost Palms Oasis Trail, and Hidden Valley Trail

Get Out There — The Desert Is Waiting!

hiker overlooking desert hike

With so many places waiting to be explored, it’s time to get started. At Erem, we’re desert lovers by nature. We treasure these places for their stark beauty and tranquil solitude, and we’re committed to helping fellow adventurers do the same. We design and manufacture desert hiking boots to handle the extremes. Erem hiking and backpacking boots are made with full-grain leather uppers and are loose-lined with moisture-wicking, 100% TENCEL™ Lyocell to regulate foot temperature and naturally prevent odor. Each pair is produced to our Biocircular standard, only using materials with proven paths back to nature. When they’ve hiked their last mile, Erem footwear can biodegrade completely. But if you’re not ready to part with your favorite pair, Erem’s Reboot program will restore them to a good-as-new condition. Just lace them up, and they are ready for many more miles of desert exploring.


You might also like:

Back to blog