Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

The label “one-of-a-kind” has never been more appropriately used than when applied to Goblin Valley State Park. Its main feature is the unusual rock formations called goblins. Over millions of years, wind and water eroded the Entrada sandstone to form rounded spires. A typical goblin has a cap rock that’s wider than its base, giving it a mushroom-shaped look. Some of the stone structures are no taller than you or me; others are a couple of hundred feet tall.

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Goosenecks State Park, Utah

Goosenecks State Park

If you’ve ever sat in a window seat on a long plane ride and had to spend most of the flight looking out the window to give your neighbor in the middle some extra room, then you’ve probably seen some good examples of meandering rivers. When a river loses speed as it flows downhill, it tends to flow back and forth, making lazy S-shaped curves across the landscape. From above, the land between the loops looks like goosenecks. Staring at a lazy river from 30,000 feet might be only slightly better than having a stranger put his head on your shoulder as he naps, but seeing a massive gooseneck up close, like the ones at Goosenecks State Park in Utah, is a thrill.

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Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons

Lower Antelope Canyon

Having traveled to some amazing places in the U.S., we often see ads with jaw-dropping outdoor photos, and we know exactly where the photograph was taken. Nearly every shot of a grizzly bear standing at the top of a waterfall trying to catch salmon as they fly past his muzzle was taken at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park. And when a woman with a bottle of shampoo in hand flicks her luxurious hair in front of a sandstone backdrop that looks like it’s from another planet, we know the ad agency photoshopped her into Upper Antelope Canyon.

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Buckskin Gulch

After our first visit to Buckskin Gulch, we looked at each other and asked, “How could there be a place this amazing that we’ve never heard of before?” Dumb luck was on our side when we hiked it for the first time; the canyon was bone dry, which saved us from having to wade through the pools of stagnant water that usually greet hikers on their trek through the longest, deepest slot canyon in the southwest.

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park – The Top of Texas

Big Bend National Park

A trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the perfect complement to visiting Big Bend National Park, which is less than a four-hour drive away, or Carlsbad Caverns National Park, only 30 miles away. The park sits on the northern border of the state and boasts the highest point in Texas: Guadalupe Peak (locals call it Guad Peak) at 8,749 feet above sea level. We’ve been to the park twice, once in May and once in October, and found both spring and fall were great times to visit.

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