Last Updated on September 25, 2023

Are you looking for a unique vacation experience?

Do you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of the vast desert outdoors?

The Best Desert Getaways in the USA: Relax, Culture and Outdoor Adventures
Giant cacti, sand dunes, and palm trees: discover all that the American desert has to offer

Desert vacations are special in that they can offer both relaxation and adventure, taken to the extreme.

From spas and hot springs to hiking and sandboarding, there’s something for everyone in the desert.

And let’s not forget the rich cultural history that can be found in many desert destinations in the American Southwest.

So, without further ado, here are twelve of the best desert getaways in the US.

List of Best Desert Destinations in the US

1. Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona
Sedona, Arizona

Vacation type: Relaxation / Spiritual

Sedona, located in the heart of Arizona, is famous for its awe-inspiring red rock formations and spiritual energy.

The town’s breathtaking surroundings attract visitors seeking to unwind, recharge, and bask in the serenity of the desert landscape.

Thousands of acres of national forest surround Sedona, providing endless opportunities for exploration, hiking, and biking.

However, it’s the town’s spiritual vortex sites that set it apart from other destinations.

These energy centers are believed to have powerful healing properties, and guided tours are available for visitors to learn more about the vortexes and how to tap into their energy.

Sedona also boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene, with numerous galleries and art studios showcasing the work of local artists.

Visitors can indulge in live music performances, theater productions, and other cultural events throughout the year.

Just a short drive from Sedona lies the “Edge of the World”, a breathtaking location that offers sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Visitors can take a scenic drive or hike to the Edge of the World, where they’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas that stretch for miles.

2. Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs, California

Vacation type: Relaxation / Cultural

Palm Springs, the ultimate sunny getaway located in Southern California, is a destination that screams indulgence and relaxation. With an abundance of natural hot springs and a plethora of spas, the town is the perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries.

A wide variety of treatments are on offer, ranging from the ultimate relaxation of massages to the more invigorating facials, or simply taking a plunge in the healing waters of the hot springs. To kick it up a notch, you can indulge in the luxurious resorts with mesmerizing views and enticing pools.

But Palm Springs isn’t just about indulgence. The town’s history and culture are as rich as its offerings.

Palm Springs is known for its iconic mid-century modern architecture, with countless buildings preserved and repurposed into museums, galleries, and shops.

Guided tours will give you the chance to delve into the architecture’s history and learn about the architects who put Palm Springs on the global map.

The town’s vibrant arts scene includes numerous galleries and museums showcasing the works of local and international artists.

Escape to the desert oasis of Palm Springs, where luxury and relaxation meet in perfect harmony. This sun-kissed town has it all, from lavish spas and hot springs to a vibrant arts and culture scene that will leave you in awe.

No matter what you’re looking for, Palm Springs is the destination that will transport you to a world of indulgence and pampering.

3. Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah
Moab, Utah

Vacation type: Adventure / Outdoor

Located in the heart of Utah, Moab is a town that is bursting at the seams with opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration.

With not one, but two national parks – Arches and Canyonlands – on its doorstep, Moab is a natural playground for those who crave the beauty of the desert landscape and the thrill of outdoor activities.

The town has become synonymous with adventure, and for good reason. Visitors flock to Moab from around the world to experience its diverse array of outdoor activities.

From hiking and mountain biking to rock climbing, kayaking, and rafting, there’s something for everyone in Moab.

If you’re a thrill-seeker looking for an adrenaline rush, Moab is the perfect destination for you. The town is a mecca for off-road enthusiasts, with countless 4×4 trails to explore.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, you’re sure to find a trail that will test your skills and get your heart racing.

But Moab isn’t just about the outdoors. The town is home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, with art galleries, museums, and historic sites to explore.

Take a stroll through Moab’s downtown area and you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of creativity and inspiration.

So if you’re looking for an adventure like no other, Moab should be at the top of your list.

With its stunning natural beauty, endless opportunities for outdoor activities, and vibrant arts and culture scene, Moab is a destination that simply cannot be missed.

4. Joshua Tree, California

Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Desert
Joshua Tree, California

Vacation type: Adventure / Outdoor

Joshua Tree is the place to be if you’re looking for an out-of-this-world experience. This desert destination will transport you to a land of natural beauty, solitude, and stargazing.

The name of the place comes from the iconic Joshua trees that speckle the landscape and the town is a favorite among hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world.

Ready to hit the trails? Joshua Tree boasts a variety of hiking options, with trails that range from easy strolls to challenging climbs.

As you explore the park’s many trails, you’ll be treated to stunning desert scenery and unique rock formations that are sure to take your breath away.

But it’s not just the daytime scenery that will leave you awestruck. Joshua Tree has some of the clearest skies in the country, making it the perfect destination for stargazing.

Whether you’re looking to attend guided stargazing tours, attend astronomy lectures, or simply bask in the beauty of the night sky on your own, Joshua Tree has something to offer for everyone.

In addition to its natural beauty, Joshua Tree is also a thriving hub of art and culture. The town boasts numerous galleries and art studios that showcase the work of local artists, providing visitors with a unique and eclectic experience.

And if music is more your thing, you won’t be disappointed – Joshua Tree is home to a vibrant music scene, with plenty of music festivals and other cultural events throughout the year.

5. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Vacation type: Cultural / Relaxation

Santa Fe, located in the heart of the desert, is a cultural hub famous for its rich history and vibrant art scene.

Tourists flock to the city to explore its many museums and galleries and to taste its world-renowned cuisine.

As the oldest capital city in the United States, Santa Fe’s architecture reflects a unique blend of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo influences.

The city’s historic district boasts numerous landmarks and attractions, including the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the country.

For those interested in art and culture, Santa Fe has a lot to offer. Visitors can explore the city’s many art galleries and museums, such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Museum of International Folk Art.

Santa Fe is also famous for its culinary scene, which blends traditional Native American and Spanish flavors with modern techniques and ingredients. From high-end restaurants to street vendors, Santa Fe’s cuisine is a feast for the senses.

But Santa Fe isn’t just a city for culture and foodies. It’s also an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains offer ample opportunities for hiking and mountain biking. Adventurers can also take hot air balloon rides over the stunning desert landscape.

After a long day of sightseeing or adventure, visitors can relax and recharge at one of the many spas in the city.

The area’s indigenous traditions inspire many of the spa treatments, making for a unique and relaxing experience.

Santa Fe’s rich heritage, natural beauty, and vibrant arts and dining scene make it a top destination for travelers.

Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in history and culture, unwind and relax, or get your adrenaline pumping with outdoor activities, Santa Fe truly has something for everyone.

6. Las Vegas, Nevada

Desert Activities and Outdoor Experiences near Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada

Vacation type: Nightlife / Adventure / Relaxation

The ultimate desert playground, Las Vegas is a city like no other.

Known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, it offers endless options for entertainment and excitement, from world-class shows and dining to casino gaming and nightlife.

While Las Vegas may be famous for its casinos and nightlife, it also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, with its proximity to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and the Valley of Fire State Park.

Visitors can explore these stunning natural wonders on hiking or rock climbing excursions, or take a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of the desert landscape.

And when it’s time to unwind, Las Vegas has plenty of options for relaxation as well. Visitors can indulge in a spa treatment or lounge by the pool at one of the city’s many luxury resorts, or take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Strip with a visit to the tranquil Springs Preserve.

With its unique blend of high-energy excitement and natural beauty, Las Vegas offers a desert getaway that truly has it all.

Whether you’re looking to party the night away, explore the great outdoors, or simply relax and recharge, Las Vegas is the perfect destination for an unforgettable desert vacation.

7. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert
Big Bend, Texas

Vacation type: Nature / Adventure

If you’re searching for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, Big Bend National Park in West Texas is the perfect destination for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike.

Nestled within a rugged and remote terrain, this hidden gem boasts towering canyons, vast desert landscapes, and natural hot springs, just to name a few.

Looking for a heart-pumping activity? Big Bend offers a variety of options to satisfy your adventurous spirit.

Visitors can hike through the park’s diverse terrain, from challenging mountain climbs to leisurely strolls through the desert.

Alternatively, hop on a bike and hit the trails, or float the Rio Grande River for a one-of-a-kind view of the park’s stunning landscape.

But the adventure doesn’t end there. Big Bend’s clear night skies offer the perfect opportunity for stargazing and birdwatching, with the Milky Way easily visible from the park’s remote corners.

And for those looking to truly immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty, backcountry camping and backpacking trips are available.

But don’t let the park’s rugged exterior fool you – it’s not all roughing it in the wilderness. After a long day of exploring, visitors can relax in one of the park’s natural hot springs, or take a scenic drive to soak in the stunning panoramic views.

So, if you’re looking for a desert vacation that will get your heart racing while immersing you in the beauty of the natural world, Big Bend National Park is the perfect choice for your next adventure.

8. Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona
Scottsdale, Arizona

Vacation type: Relaxation / Spa / Golf

Are you yearning for a luxurious desert escape? Then Scottsdale, Arizona is the perfect place for you.

This sun-soaked city offers a paradise for relaxation, spa treatments, golfing, and gastronomy.

As soon as you arrive, you’ll feel your worries evaporating away as you bask in the warm sun and stunning desert landscape.

Scottsdale is world-renowned for its lavish spas and resorts that provide a range of treatments and therapies that leave you feeling revitalized and refreshed.

You can choose from a relaxing massage, a revitalizing facial, or a pampering manicure and pedicure. Scottsdale’s spas offer the ultimate in relaxation and self-care.

However, Scottsdale is more than just a spa destination. The city boasts some of the country’s top-rated golf courses, offering golfers of all levels a chance to hone their skills on immaculate fairways and greens.

With over 200 courses in the area, you’re guaranteed to find a course that fits your style.

For those who prefer to stay active in other ways, Scottsdale offers plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities.

You can take a leisurely hike through nearby mountains or explore the desert landscape on a guided Jeep tour. For an unforgettable experience, take to the skies in a hot air balloon and witness the breathtaking views from above.

Of course, no visit to Scottsdale would be complete without indulging in its world-class cuisine.

The city’s vibrant culinary scene offers a diverse range of restaurants serving up everything from traditional Southwestern dishes to international cuisine.

If you’re looking to unwind or indulge in the best golf, spas, and food the country has to offer, Scottsdale, Arizona is the ideal destination for you. So pack your bags and escape to this luxurious desert oasis.

9. Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico

Vacation type: Art / Culture / Outdoor

Taos, New Mexico, is a hidden gem in the Southwest. This charming town is nestled in the foothills of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, making it the perfect destination for those seeking outdoor adventure and natural beauty.

But it’s not just the stunning landscape that draws visitors to Taos. The town is also renowned for its vibrant art scene and historic adobe architecture, which give it a unique character that sets it apart from other desert destinations.

Art lovers will find plenty to explore in Taos, with its many art galleries showcasing the work of local artists.

From traditional Native American pottery to contemporary abstract paintings, there’s something for every taste and style.

Visitors can also take a stroll through the historic Taos Plaza, where they’ll find shops selling everything from handmade jewelry to locally crafted textiles.

For those interested in history, Taos is home to the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years.

This ancient Native American village offers a glimpse into a culture and way of life that has been preserved for centuries.

But it’s not just culture and history that Taos has to offer. The surrounding mountains provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, from hiking and mountain biking in the summer to skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Nearby hot springs offer a chance to soak and relax after a day of activity.

And when it comes to dining, Taos doesn’t disappoint. The town’s unique blend of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo influences is reflected in its cuisine, which ranges from traditional New Mexican fare to fusion dishes that combine flavors from around the world.

10. White Sands National Park, New Mexico

White Sands National Park, New Mexico
White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Vacation type: Nature / Outdoor

White Sands National Park is a natural wonder that’s not to be missed, located in the heart of southern New Mexico.

This otherworldly destination is home to the world’s largest gypsum dune field, spanning over 275 square miles of stunning white sand dunes that seem to stretch endlessly to the horizon. And let’s just say, the views here are something else.

Visitors to the park can indulge in a range of outdoor activities, from hiking and photography to sand sledding and stargazing under the clear desert skies.

The park also offers ranger-guided tours that provide fascinating insights into the unique geology and history of the area.

You’ll learn about the formation of the dunes and the fascinating plant and animal life that thrives in this seemingly inhospitable environment.

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, White Sands National Park is the perfect destination for you.

The stark white sands and rugged terrain create a breathtakingly surreal landscape that’s sure to leave you in awe.

So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure at White Sands National Park.

11. Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park Sand Dunes
Death Valley National Park, California

Vacation type: Nature / Adventure

Nestled in the heart of eastern California lies a destination that’s not for the faint-hearted: Death Valley National Park.

This unique destination is a land of superlatives, boasting some of the most extreme and awe-inspiring landscapes on earth.

From the Badwater Basin, North America’s lowest point, to the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet, Death Valley is a destination that defies all expectations.

Visitors to the park can explore a variety of geological wonders that will leave them breathless.

The park’s vibrant canyons and towering mesas will make you feel like you’ve entered another world entirely.

And the salt flats and sand dunes are so surreal that you may wonder if you’ve stumbled upon a sci-fi movie set.

If you’re looking for adventure, Death Valley National Park is the perfect destination. The park offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and stargazing.

You can explore the park’s rugged terrain on foot, or take in the awe-inspiring views from the comfort of your car. And when the sun goes down, you’ll be treated to one of the most stunning night skies you’ll ever see.

But even if you’re not a thrill-seeker, Death Valley is a must-visit destination for anyone who wants to experience the natural beauty of one of America’s most iconic landscapes.

Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself with a rugged outdoor adventure or simply want to marvel at the unique and otherworldly scenery, Death Valley National Park is an unforgettable destination that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

12. Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro Cactus, Sonoran Desert
Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Vacation type: Nature / Outdoor

Saguaro National Park: where the cacti stand tall, the wildlife runs wild, and the stars shine bright. This southern Arizona gem is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a true desert adventure.

Step foot into the Sonoran Desert and you’ll be greeted by a sea of saguaro cacti, their towering arms reaching for the sky.

The park’s hiking trails offer a chance to get up close and personal with these majestic plants, while also providing breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

But it’s not just about the cacti here. The park’s diverse ecosystem is home to a plethora of wildlife, from the elusive coyote to the speedy javelina to the ancient desert tortoise.

And when the sun sets, the sky comes alive with a dazzling display of stars, as Saguaro National Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park.

Saguaro National Park is an excellent destination for adventurers of all kinds. If you’re an avid hiker, there are plenty of trails for you to explore. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you’ll find a diverse range of animals to observe.

And if you’re a stargazer extraordinaire, the park’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park makes it the perfect spot for stargazing.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the natural beauty and wonder of this desert oasis.

Read also: Luxury Desert Resorts in the US

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