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Morning glories

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From camping to glamping, we pick our favorite spots for seeing the sights of the West and beyond

From tent to trail: campgrounds with perks

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Kaibab Lake Campground

Nobody likes campgrounds so cramped that the neighbor’s snoring ruins a star-filled night’s sleep. One cool thing about Kaibab Lake Campground is the spaciousness of the grounds, allowing ample elbow (knee and ankle) room between you and the next tent over. Another plus is the proximity of Grand Canyon — about an hour’s drive north — minus the touristy crowds of Grand Canyon Village. And even if you don’t feel like trekking North America’s biggest crevice, Kaibab Lake has plenty to keep you busy for a couple days: boating, fishing, interpretive programs in the outdoor amphitheater, and a campground host with firewood, ice, bait and ice cream! — HK

In Kaibab National Forest, off Route 64 a couple miles north of Williams, Arizona, 928-635-5600, recreation.gov

 

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Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Pahranagat is a slice of peace a short drive from the bustle of the city. About an hour and a half north of Las Vegas, these 5,000 acres of protected lakes, marshes and meadows are a haven for wildlife and the people who enjoy it — either for watching (birds), catching (fish) or hunting (again, birds). This wetland habitat is a key stop on the north-south Pacific migration flyway, so birds flock there in spring and fall. The campground is free, first-come-first-serve, and on the Upper Pahranagat Lake. It’s fairly primitive, with no electrical, water or waste facilities, just pit toilets. A visitors center is under construction now. — HK

Just off U.S. 93, the Great Basin Highway, 775-725-3417, fws.gov/refuge/pahranagat

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Mesa Verde National Park

Colorado

You’d think a national park built around the ruins of an ancient civilization would appeal to archaeology buffs only. And you’d be wrong — if you’re thinking about Mesa Verde, anyway. No one can resist the chance to climb a rickety ladder up into a cliff dwelling or down into a kiva, where expert guides bring to life the culture of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived there from A.D. 600 to 1300. Even after you’ve soaked up all the history you can stand, Mesa Verde has another few days’ worth of outdoor activities: mountain biking, hiking trails (including backcountry), twilight cliff tours and other evening programs. Morefield Campground has 267 sites, and primitive camping is allowed during two short periods in spring and fall. — HK

In Southwestern Colorado, an hour east of Cortez, Colorado, off Highway 160, 970-529-4465, visitmesaverde.com

 

Sleep in, hike later: bed & breakfasts

Casa Escondida

Nestled in the rural outskirts of Española, New Mexico, Chimayo is a sacred destination for Catholics and a fascinating cultural site for tourists. It’s home to the famous Santuario de Chimayo, where a miracle is supposed to have happened in the early 19th century; thousands of people make pilgrimages there each year to touch its “holy dirt.” The amenities of Casa Escondida — spacious rooms filled with rustic antiques, kiva fireplaces, an outdoor hot tub, home-cooked New Mexican meals served family-style on the patio — more than compensate for the mediocrity of the surrounding neighborhood. And Santa Fe, Bandelier National Monument and many other Northern New Mexico treats are a stone’s throw away. — HK

64 County Road 100, Chimay, New Mexico (about an hour north of Santa Fe), 505-351-4805, casaescondida.com

 

Canyons Bed & Breakfast

Utah

With its myriad slot canyons, sandstone arches, aspen forests and streams that spill into waterfalls, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a paradise for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Those who like to climb, hike and scramble by day and luxuriate by night will appreciate the gourmet meals and personalized innkeeper service of Canyons Bed & Breakfast in Escalante, Utah. Converted from a 1905 pioneer farmhouse, the grounds still boast lawns, gardens and orchards where guests can stroll, lounge or snooze in a hammock. If the gorgeous landscapes aren’t enough to keep you busy for a long weekend, take Highway 12 northeast to Boulder, Utah, where art galleries and the Anasazi State Park Museum await. — HK

120 E. Main St., Escalante, Utah (about an hour east of Bryce Canyon National Park off Highway 12), 435-826-4747, canyonsbnb.com

 

Stay and play: boutique comforts and small luxuries

Furnace Creek Ranch

Furnace Creek Ranch is an Old West-inspired oasis in Death Valley National Park. The hotel is ideal for families who want to explore the desert, but aren’t thrilled by the idea of sleeping in a tent. Guests can enjoy the comfortable rooms, spring-fed pool and 18-hole golf course (the world’s lowest in elevation). After a day exploring the nearby Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes or the Golden Canyon interpretive trail, try the ranch’s Corkscrew Saloon for a locally brewed Badwater Ale. If your idea of unwinding involves history instead of a cold beer, visit Furnace Creek’s small but fascinating Borax Museum. — SV

328 Greenland Blvd., Death Valley National Park, California, 800-236-7916,
furnacecreekresort.com

 

Hotel California

California

Palm Springs may be best known for its old Hollywood glamour and mid-century design aesthetic, but the city also serves as a jumping-off point for outdoor adventures. Spend the day mountain-biking or rock-climbing at Joshua Tree National Park, or ride the aerial tram at Mount San Jacinto State Park. After you’ve explored the Coachella Valley, retreat to the quiet 14-room Hotel California, where guests can lounge by the pool amid lush landscaping. If you’re ready to splurge, book the hotel’s Spanish Mission-style casita, which has a private patio, full kitchen and ample space to spread out and relax. — SV

424 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, California, 760-322-8855, palmspringshotelcalifornia.com

 

Hermosa Inn

Arizona

5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Scottsdale, Arizona, 602-955-8614, hermosainn.com

Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.