Scenic America: The Four Corners

When you’re figuring out where to go for vacation, you might want beautiful vistas, clean air, ancient ruins, and traditional cultures. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they have to go to some remote country to find all that. You don’t. Head over to the Four Corners region and you’ll get all that and more.

The Four Corners, where the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet, is home to several national monuments and parks as well as some of the most stunning scenery in the country. Much of the area is taken up by various Native American reservations, including the Navajo Nation, which is the largest. This region has been a center of native culture for thousands of years, and includes several well-preserved pueblos, adobe villages preserved by the elements and their builders’ natural ingenuity. The best are Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde.

“Awe inspiring” is a hackneyed phrase in travel writing, but you’d have to be a robot not to be moved by the vast open spaces, rugged mountains, and varied colors of the landscape. The desert has a subtle beauty to it that grows on you the longer you stay. Sometimes it’s not so subtle, like when you pass through the massive buttes of Monument Valley or watch the sunset change the sky from pink to crimson to purple over the course of a quiet half hour.

While the region seems remote, it’s quite easy to get to. One scenic route is to fly into Phoenix (definitely not a scenic start, but it gets better), drive a rental car up to the old logging town of Flagstaff in the mountains, stop at the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert, and continue on to the Four Corners. You can see a lot in a long weekend, but you might want to consider staying a whole week and exploring some of the more untrod areas.