5 “Must See” Southwest Destinations to Check Out from Behind the Wheel of Your New Ford Bronco
Not long ago, we posted some suggested locations in the Western United States worth checking out from behind the wheel of your new Ford Bronco. This time around, we’re shifting the geographic focus just a bit and pointing our compasses a little farther south.
So, without further ado, here are 5 “Must See” Southwest Destinations to Check Out from Behind the Wheel of Your New Ford Bronco.
1. Arches National Park - Utah
Located nearly within a stone’s throw of the Colorado River and just outside of Moab, Utah, there’s no shortage of visual attractions within the approximately 120,000 square miles this Park encompasses. Nearly all of them have names that you’re not likely to forget anytime soon — Balanced Rock, Delicate Arch, Metal Masher and a number of others.
Not all trails in Arches are accessible to the general public, but quite a few are, including Eye of the Whale, Metal Masher and Willow Springs — each of these gets high marks from visitors. This is a destination where your decision to put a Ford Bronco in your garage will pay off, as there are a lot of areas that are outright restricted to any vehicles but SUVs.
This land has been inhabited by humans for literally thousands of years — some experts estimate fossils that have been excavated from this area are nearly 10,000 years old!
Getting to Arches is pretty easy, as it’s only 4 miles outside of Moab, so you’ll have options once you arrive. You can make a day of it, or you can pack heavier and opt for an extended stay at a campground, such as Devil’s Garden.
2. Monument Valley – Arizona/Utah Border
Because of its substantial elevation – mostly between 5,000 and 6,000 feet, Monument Valley in Arizona is a viable destination for a big part of the year, Covid notwithstanding. That lofty positioning takes some of the edge off extreme summer temperatures, so they rarely exceed 100 degrees here, unlike so much of the surrounding Southwest below.
This is another destination not recommended for garden variety passenger cars, as once you leave the asphalt there’s quite a bit of unforgiving terrain — most notably a substantial amount of sand that can easily strand vehicles with limited wheel clearance.
This national park sits on the Navajo Nation Reservation, and there is a modest fee to enter. One panoramic glimpse of the area as the sun begins to drop will make that outlay seem like a bargain, as the topography here is unbelievable, draped in vivid red due to the high amount of iron oxide that makes up the surrounding hills. It’s hardly surprising that you’ll see Monument Valley featured in quite a few classic Westerns, including several directed by John Ford.
The Native American presence here is a part of its appeal — you’ll likely see Navajo vendors offering both food and art on your way into the Park, and the Haskenneini Restaurant, which is open during the summer only, serves up a combination of Navajo and American cuisines.
One final note — alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the Navajo Reservation, so this won’t be a destination option for those looking to imbibe.
3. Sedona, Arizona
Sure, the area is known more for its spiritually-centered tourism and world-famous arts community but this is an absolutely worthwhile “Point B” for any off-roader, with an unbeatable combination of red rock formations and forest land nearly always within view.
You’ll find a number of compelling destinations here, including Schnebly Hill Road which, like Sedona, Arizona itself, was named after Sedona Schnebly, who was not only the local Sunday school teacher, but also ran a general store and a farm here.
Additional places to navigate your Bronco to in this area also include the Outlaw Trail, Broken Arrow, Red Rock Ranger Trail and quite a few more. You will find a common theme that runs through Sedona and the other destinations on our list — while an SUV isn’t necessarily an absolute “must have” to venture onto these trails, it will definitely open you up to more possibilities and, of course, will also dramatically lessen your chances of getting stranded.
If you’re interested in venturing out from behind the wheel to do some hiking, Sedona offers plenty of options in that area as well.
Parshant Night Sky
4. Grand Canyon
Some of you who have seen this unforgettable part of the country firsthand know that it would be a cinch to recommend as a “must see” destination, but most of us think of the Grand Canyon more in terms of guided tours and souvenir shops than somewhere to actually take a deeper drive.
For those who don’t favor guided tours, the Grand Canyon still has you covered. There are a number of compelling options that will suit you. For starters, there is a journey down the Diamond Creek Road, which originates at Peach Springs off Route 66. It’s a pretty rugged, approximately 19 mile trek that will take you within very close viewing range of the Colorado River. Because of jutting obstacles and rapidly changing road conditions that will vary from fairly easily navigable to markedly more challenging, high clearance SUVs are a must here — both the Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport qualify in this regard, with the latter being especially capable in its Badlands configuration.
Looking for something even bolder? Well, it’s not for the faint of heart, but Parshant National Monument is, without debate, an absolutely singular location. On the flip side, it’s very remote, and requires quite a bit of planning to safely navigate. The access road is lightly travelled, seeing a small number of vehicles even during the course of an entire week, and you’ll find no restroom facilities anywhere. There’s not even cell service, so only satellite phones and satellite messaging devices will work here.
Far too many overly ambitious motorists have attempted this route from behind the wheel of a passenger car — some with disastrous results — prompting the National Park Service to heavily, HEAVILY recommend that only high clearance SUVs even attempt it. And even then, they saw fit to issue a list of suggestions to ensure travel safety.
5. Valley of Fire National Park
Situated about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, the Valley of Fire National Park is best known for its unbeatable vistas, most of which are made up of Aztec sandstone cliffs whose red hue is often so vivid as to appear unreal — but it is. Like the previously mentioned Arches National Park, humans have inhabited this region for an unbelievably long time — some archaeologists say more than 10,000 years — and there are quite a few petroglyphs carved into these famous mountain faces.
In quite a bit of the acreage SUVs are not permitted, but a very notable exception is the Valley of Fire OHV Loop. It’s about 24 miles long and includes some very rugged terrain, so even in a high clearance SUV, you’d do well to keep your speed under control. Overall, this isn’t really a pulse-pounder of a route — though you will have to pay close attention in some parts of it — but the views are outstanding and often include desert wildlife you’re not likely to see very often.
Should you decide to stay a while, there are a number of camping options to accommodate your stay.
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