There is only one place in the entire United States where four states touch at once. This magical unicorn of a destination is Four Corners, the place where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico converge. To make things even more interesting, it is also located on Native American reservation land.
If you visit Four Corners, you might be surprised to find that this famous location is pretty much a dusty little monument in the middle of nowhere. But wait! Don’t leave. There’s more to this place than meets the eye. If you want to experience Four Corners, you can’t just visit the spot, stand in four states at once, and fly back to Miami or wherever you came from. No, you have to do a road trip. After all, that’s the best way to experience the American Southwest.
So, where will you begin your road trip? Let’s start in Great State 48: Arizona.
Four Corners is located in northeastern Arizona, a region of the state that doesn’t get much attention. Although it’s pretty much ignored by everyone outside of Arizona, it actually has a lot of cool things to see. Here are a few you can’t miss during your road trip:
Let’s assume you begin this road trip in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff is just a few hours from Four Corners, and the highway between the two is filled with incredible attractions that should be far more famous than they are. While you’re in Flagstaff, take the ski lift up the San Francisco Peaks and get a selfie with the lumberjack statue at Northern Arizona University.
If you want to see a volcano that erupted a few hundred years ago and changed the entire landscape, you can take a quick detour through Sunset Crater. This cinder cone is the youngest of the Colorado Plateau volcanoes. Take a hike through the lava flow and check out the mountain that blew its top. It gets its name from the red color of the volcano’s rim.
Wupatki National Monument
This is one of my favorite Arizona attractions! Wupatki consists of four ancient Native American pueblos that you can actually walk around inside. There are hundred scattered through the park, but you’d have to hike around to find them. Here’s a tip: get a National Parks pass before you leave so that you can get free access to Wupatki and other national parks along the way.
Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks
Want to see real dino footprints? Check out these tracks near Tuba City. These are located within the Navajo nation. The park is free, but you can buy Native American jewelry from the on-site vendors or hire a Native American guide. It’s not very commercialized and a little kitschy – the perfect road trip stop!
Four Corners Monument
Legally, Four Corners is located in New Mexico. However, the monument is smack-dab on the corner of the four states. This is a legit bucket list activity! Although it does cost a few dollars to stand on the monument, it’s worth it. Plan on paying, because you’re not allowed to take photos unless you pay the fee. Although this is annoying to some visitors, remember that this is a major source of income for a community that is very far from any city. While you’re at it, buy some Native art and food from the vendors!
Once you’re done with Four Corners, you can drive straight up into Colorado. You’ll find yourself on a highway that is quintessentially Southwestern. This road has all the monuments, quirky little towns, and ancient secrets you could ask for.
Trail of the Ancients
The stretch of highway from Four Corners to Cortez is call the Trail of the Ancients. You could make this trip in 45 minutes, but you should stop along the way and check out some of the cool roadside attractions. This route allows visitors to take a step back in time, with cultural, archaeological and historic sites. The Natural Bridges National Monument provides a vista of stunning geological formations.
Mesa Verde National Park
If you want to see real ancient cliff dwellings, you can’t miss the chance to see Mesa Verde National Park. This is a bit past Cortez. You can see the stunning Cliff Palace or take a hike around the area.
Crow Canyon Archeological Center
Stop on the Trail of the Ancients to tour the Crow Canyon Archeological Center! You can see a museum of ancient artifacts and learn all about the pueblo peoples. The desert comes alive with history when you know the stories of the past!
Just before you leave Colorado, make one final stop on the Trail of the Ancients. Lowry Pueblo is a remarkably well-preserved thousand-year-old dwelling. Walk through the rooms and the Kiva, or meeting place, to imagine what desert life was like in the year 1100.
Utah is the last state you’ll visit on your Four Corners road trip. Although the highway is very empty, you’ll see a lot of gorgeous scenery as you go.
Monument Valley is one of those incredible destinations everyone dreams about visiting. If you can, take a long hike through the park! Monument Valley belongs to the Navajo Nation, so you’ll have to get special passes and follow different rules than you do at national parks. Check into this before you leave to save time. Once you’re in, you’ll have an incredible outdoor experience! There is a lot to be discovered here: Intstagram-worthy rock formations, ruins, and natural bridges galore.
Once you’re done in Utah, you can head back to Flagstaff or pick a different destination. If you haven’t had enough driving, the Grand Canyon is just a few hours away! You could always swing by and take a look into the world’s biggest hole.
Road tripping the Southwestern United States is always an incredible experience! Prepare to be awed by the splendor of the desert. Put Four Corners of your itinerary for this year! It is guaranteed to be one of your best road trips yet.