Travelling the USA, Canada and Australia



Las Vegas

Southwest (2)

Natural Wonders of the Southwest

We start our tour this year in San Diego. You can’t go further Southwest in the USA; there is even a streetcar to Tijuana in Mexico! We allow ourselves three days for the city – it’s worth it.

First stop in the wilderness of the Southwest is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It’s not only full of cacti, but also features around 130 metal sculptures spread all over the desert. It really looks crazy! The Algodones Dunes in the middle of the Colorado Desert are another attraction; here really nothing grows at all. In Yuma (“Death Train to Yuma” is a well-known western) we are already in Arizona.

If you turn south at Gila Bend, two hours to the east, you’ll reach the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, again next to the Mexican border. They are everywhere on the 23-mile scenic loop, the cacti that look like organ pipes. After this detour it’s time for Tucson, ideal starting point for the excursions of the next three days.

Saguaro National Park consists of an eastern and a western part. Both can be easily visited from Tucson, as well as the bizarre rocks of the Chiricahua National Monument and the small cowboy town of Tombstone, “The town too tough to die!” Biosphere 2, a highly interesting experimental facility to create a self-sufficient ecosystem, is also just a few miles away. On the way to Arizona’s capital, Phoenix, we stop by Casa Grande Ruins National Monument; then visit the morbid village of Tortilla Flat (the smallest community in the USA with only six residents) and Goldfield Ghost Town.

Heading north, Camp Verde is home to the world’s largest Kokopelli, a religious figure in the shape of a flute player. Next is Montezuma Castle National Monument, a well-preserved rock castle. The next accommodation is in Sedona, also known as “Beverly Hills on the Rocks”. The striking rocks of Red Rock County shine in the sun and have names like Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock or Teapot Rock. From Sedona it’s just a short trip to Flagstaff and to Walnut Canyon National Monument, a rather impressive canyon with more rock dwellings.

From now on we are driving west again. Between the two cowboy towns of Cottonwood and Clarkdale lies the Tuzigoot National Monument, another former native American settlement. Via Jerome (with a hillside like on the Amalfi Coast), Prescott (before Phoenix interim capital of Arizona) and Kingman (without any charm) we reach Lake Havasu on the lake of the same name. There are two outstanding sights here: London Bridge, imported from London and faithfully rebuilt, and Parker Dam with the highest dam in the world. Last destination in Arizona is Quartzsite with its pyramid crowned by a small camel, the burial place of Hi Jolly, a camel driver from Syria.

When we reach Joshua Tree National Park, we are back in California. The Joshua palm lilies do exist only in this part of the Mojave Desert. A last excursion into nature is waiting in Palm Springs, where we take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up Mount San Jacinto. Then it’s straight into the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, America’s second largest city. The next two days we spend in Downtown LA, in Hollywood and Beverly Hills and on the beaches of Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Malibu.

Since we still want to visit friends we last saw 27 (!) years ago, we follow the Pacific coast north. Via Santa Barbara with the most expensive residential area in the USA and San Luis Obispo with a Bubblegum Alley exclusively decorated with used chewing gum, we reach Arroyo Grande.

The journey back is relatively unspectacular. We make our way through the greater Los Angeles area, stroll a bit through Oceanside (with the longest wooden pier on the West Coast), take a few photos of Legoland in Carlsbad and end our trip through the American Southwest at the beach in La Jolla, a San Diego neighborhood.  

Route Description

01San Diego Airport (SAN)San Diego000 m / 000 km
02San DiegoSan Diego000 m / 000 km
03San DiegoSan Diego020 m / 035 km
04San DiegoSan Diego020 m / 035 km
05San DiegoYuma240 m / 385 km
06YumaTucson320 m / 515 km
07TucsonSaguaro National Park050 m / 080 km
08TucsonChiricahua NM250 m / 400 km
09TucsonSaguaro National Park060 m / 095 km
10TucsonPhoenix200 m / 320 km
11PhoenixSedona120 m / 195 km
12SedonaFlagstaff090 m / 145 km
13SedonaKingman220 m / 355 km
14KingmanParker100 m / 160 km
15ParkerPalm Springs225 m / 365 km
16Palm SpringsLos Angeles120 m / 195 km
17Los AngelesLos Angeles000 m / 000 km
18Los AngelesVentura100 m / 160 km
19VenturaArroyo Grande100 m / 160 km
20Arroyo GrandeOceanside270 m / 435 km
21OceansideSan Diego Airport (SAN)050 m / 080 km
Total2.555 m / 4.115 km

The Journey in Pictures