The distinct beauty and adventure of desert landscapes have inspired artists and adventurers throughout the ages. Deserts have been the scene of noteworthy historic events and the setting for memorable Hollywood films. Today, they provide vacation owners with the backdrop for an unforgettable couples or family excursion. From the landmark rock formations in Arizona and spectacular Joshua trees in California, to the allure of the lunar-like interior of the island of Aruba, you can experience the beauty of the desert near a Bluegreen Vacations resort.
Grand Canyon National Park
Out west there is a spectacle so immense that it can only be called “grand.” The Grand Canyon is the 15th oldest National Park in the United States and is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Located in the Mojave Desert that straddles Arizona and southern Nevada, this naturally created marvel is 277 river miles long, 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep. It also covers an astonishing 1,217,262 acres!
With all that area, it’s not surprising there’s a lot to do. Grand Canyon National Park offers guided tours, mule trips, North and South Rim exploration, river trips and art exhibits. You can even listen to messages from a ranger on your cell phone. For a truly unforgettable experience, step out onto the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The horseshoe-shaped glass enclosure juts out past the canyon walls and is suspended 4,000 feet above the riverbed, overlooking Eagle Point. Every year, approximately 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon—you can, too.
Closest resort: Cibola Vista Resort and Spa—3 hours 10 minutes away
Joshua Tree National Park
Spanning close to 800,000 acres, Joshua Tree National Park in California can be found at the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts. This impressive desert wilderness is open year-round and is home to a multitude of outdoor recreational activities such as photography, hiking, biking, mountain climbing, stargazing, horseback riding and geology tours.
As you enter the park, the twisted outstretched arms of the Joshua Tree welcome you into a paradise of diverse wonder. Discover more than 250 bird species flocking near palm oases and water impoundments. Walk through wildflowers that paint the desert with spectacular colors and keep an eye out for the Chuckwalla, an extra-large lizard with a commanding presence. Stargazing here is out of this world. That’s because the skies are so clear you can almost reach up and touch the constellations.
If you like daring adventures, put on a helmet and scale up the side of a mountain. Please be aware that desert weather often changes rapidly and conditions can go from mild to harsh with little warning. Always check the National Weather Service forecast before entering the park, wear sunscreen and carry at least one gallon (two gallons for strenuous activity) of water per person while traveling through Joshua Tree.
Closest resort: The Club at Big Bear Village—2 hours 23 minutes away
Arikok National Park
Aruba is a tiny island. At just 19.5 miles long and 6 miles wide it would fit almost perfectly into the state of Rhode Island—16 times. You could drive the entire length of the island’s western coastline in the time it would normally take you to go to the grocery store and back. Arikok National Park takes up approximately 20 percent of Aruba’s already limited space. But it makes the most of it.
With miles of meandering hiking trails, this wilderness preserve offers up-close and personal views of tradewind-shaped divi-divi trees, hearty desert vegetation and rare cactus. Fascinating animals such as the Conejo rabbit, burico (wild donkey), boisterous Pega Pega gecko (from the prehistoric era) and indigenous Kododo Blauw lizard are likely to cross your path—arrive early to see them when they are at their most active. You can even swim in the natural pool known as Cura di Tortuga. You’ll need to get there by horseback or ATV with a tour guide, but it’s well worth it to swim in this pool at the edge the sea. Not far from there you’ll find Hofi Fontain (fountain garden), which is the only place on the island with a freshwater spring.
Closest resort: La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino—27 minutes away
Valley of Fire State Park
The most enduring State Park in Nevada is the Valley of Fire located in the Mojave Desert. This 46,000-acre expanse is replete with unmatched beauty that includes unique red rock formations, vibrant colors painted across the sky, saguaro cactus rising above the sand, spectacular petrified wood, ancient rock dwellings and wildlife galore.
Hiking opportunities are plentiful. A walk in the desert will take you through slot canyons, over narrow washes and, quite possibly, bring you face to face with roaming big horn sheep. You’ll also find American Indian petroglyphs (symbols) dotting the erosion-sculpted landscape. These cultural symbols etched onto rocks date back more than 3,000 years and are on display like pieces of Southwestern art in an alfresco gallery. It’s picture perfect in the desert—so bring your camera. And your sense of adventure!
Closest resort: Bluegreen Club 36™—1 hour 17 minutes away
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