The Southwest is perhaps best known for its stunning red rock landscapes and arid deserts, but hiding just off the beaten path from iconic natural features like the Grand Canyon lies a treasure trove of lesser-known gems. Visitors to this expansive region can also discover bright-white salt basin dunes in Texas, lush foliage fed by wild waters in Oklahoma, nostalgic pit stops along historic Route 66 in Arizona, and more.
When embarking on a Southwest road trip, take some time to stop, smell the prickly pears, and adventure to these underrated and unparalleled places.
Southwest Midas locations
Midas wants to help you get ready for your summer road trip, starting with your vehicle. Our techs can run a completely free Closer Look Vehicle Check. This in-depth visual inspection lets you know what needs fixing now and what can wait, so you can hit the road with confidence.
Make the trip before the trip to Midas and get $20 off a full-synthetic oil change. Request your appointment at Midas.com.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Tucked in the vast Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park doesn’t boast the name recognition garnered by other U.S. national parks. But, the park is an underappreciated gem, offering everything from snowy-white salt basin dunes to fossilized reef mountains and grasslands teeming with wildlife. Hikers are drawn to the more than 80 miles of trails that wind through woodland canyons and verdant springs, and the park’s Guadalupe Peak Trail leads adventurers through a conifer forest to the state’s highest summit.
Historic Seligman, Arizona
The small community of Seligman, Arizona, served as a railroad hub in the late 1800s and later grew in commercial success when Route 66 came through town in 1926. Once an important stop on the Mother Road, a visit to historic Seligman now serves as a reminder of a bygone era, offering travelers the chance to explore the area’s railroad and auto-related architecture and reflect on how growing transportation infrastructure shaped the Southwest. Grab a root beer at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In and relive the heyday of the Great American road trip.
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
The Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in what is now Bandelier National Monument built homes carved from New Mexico’s volcanic tuff and planted crops in the mesa top fields. This New Mexico monument serves as a lasting preserve of the homes and territory they once inhabited. Here you can climb into the cliff dwellings to get a closer look at Pueblo life, examine petroglyphs, and venture down more than 70 miles of hiking trails, including some that connect to nearby Santa Fe National Forest.
Barton Springs Pool, Texas
Wander through Austin’s 350-acre Zilker Park, and you may just stumble on an unexpected sight: an outdoor swimming pool filled with water from nearby natural springs. With a year-round temperature that hovers near 70 degrees, Barton Springs Pool is a watery draw for toasty Texans and visitors. It’s even said that Robert Redford learned how to swim here as a child. The springs are also home to the endangered Barton Springs salamander, making this a federally protected habitat to visit for a carefree dip.
Valley of the Moon, Arizona
Step into an enchanted fairyland that promotes kindness and imagination at Arizona’s Valley of the Moon. This 100-year-old artist-created environment is filled with whimsical creations such as anthropological trees, human-sized spider webs, colorful castle playgrounds, unique hobbit houses, and more. Visitors to this Tucson attraction can view its wonders on a tour, as well as attend a variety of theatrical performances. As a non-profit organization, Valley of the Moon works to foster tolerance and brotherly love for all mankind, regardless of race, creed, or color.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma
Chickasaw National Recreation Area often slips off people’s radar due to its quiet location in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains, but this former national park (once known as Platt National Park) is a true oasis in South Central Oklahoma. Boasting biking, birding, buffalo spotting, camping, hiking, and more, the area is an outdoor lover’s paradise. But the true attraction is the springs, streams, and lakes. From boating to swimming, fishing, and water skiing, the mineral waters here make for the ideal retreat for those seeking a serene waterfront escape.
Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas
When it comes to heading off the beaten path, you can’t get much quieter than an actual ghost town. Set among the primitive South Texas landscape are the ruins of the Chisos Mining Company in Terlingua. This once-thriving community emptied after WWII, and today the town is only home to nearly 100 residents. A stop here allows travelers to explore the old one-room jail, wander through the (supposedly) haunted cemetery, and take in a bounty of roadside art. Terlingua is also home to the International Chili Cookoff, which you can still enjoy each November.