When visiting the Four Corners region of the U.S. there’s so much to see and do, it’s a matter of figuring out how long your visit will last, when you plan to visit, and what your interests are. Assuming you’ll have at least a week to explore, we’ll help you plan your trip.
The spot where Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico meet is marked by the Four Corners Monument. If the monument is on your way, it’s worth a stop but bear in mind that the actual location, while a great place for a photo op, has little to offer aside from an opportunity to stand in four states at once.
Read here about the Four Corners Monument.
However, if you travel out from that spot, many picturesque vistas and an array of adventures await.
The Four Corners Region Explained
The Four Corners region is part of the Colorado Plateau, an amazing geographic area characterized by deep canyons, snow-capped peaks, vast deserts, geological features sculpted from wind and water, and of course the Colorado River. These landscapes have drawn explorers, settlers, and visitors for thousands of years.
The lush mountains of Colorado are home to alpine forests and meadows that support flora and fauna vastly different from the plants and animals of the arid deserts in other parts of the region. A large portion of the land in the Four Corners is home to numerous Native American Nations and archeological sites where Ancestral Pueblo peoples lived more than two thousand years ago.
How to Get There
Major airports in the Four Corners are Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Denver. Some people start their visit in Albuquerque as well. If you want to visit the Four Corners Monument, your best bet is to fly into Denver and catch a flight to Cortez, Colorado. From there you can rent a car and drive about 44 miles to the monument.
If you start your trip there, you can visit plenty of sites near the Four Corners Monument — cities like Farmington, New Mexico, Cortez, Durango, and Telluride, Colorado — along with several sites in the National Park System that would make for a fun-filled and memorable vacation.
Expanding outward in any direction, there are many other areas to visit and sites to see in the Four Corners region. Where you start your Four Corners visit depends on where you want to go. For example, if the Grand Canyon is in your sights, it might be best to fly into Las Vegas, whereas if arches and hoodoos are on your bucket list, Salt Lake City might be the best spot to begin your visit to the many geological wonders of Utah.
Getting there is just the beginning. A trip to the Four Corners will definitely take some planning and you can’t see it all in one week — or even two — so grab your atlas and travel guides and pick the sites that you most want to see.
Things to do in the Four Corners Region
Here are a few ideas of things to do in the area. Entire travel guides have been written on this topic but here’s a general list:
- In addition to these attractions there are many other national parks, monuments, and historic sites in the four corners region.
- A visit to Mesa Verde National Park provides a wonderful opportunity to see how ancient people lived in cliff dwellings.
- Bisti/Da-Na Zin Wilderness is home to amazing hoodoos and other geologic features.
- Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Monument Valley, part of the Navajo Nation, is where you’ll see the landscapes from Western movies.
- Casinos – Many of the tribes in the area have casinos where you can gamble or enjoy concerts and other entertainment.
- Hiking and other outdoor activities – There are many opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, and fishing in the four corners region.
- Skiing – The mountains of Colorado and New Mexico are home to several ski resorts.
- Night sky – The remote areas of the four corners are home to many dark sky locations.
- Train rides – Travel on historic trains through vistas unavailable by car.
How Will You Get Around Once You’re There?
You will definitely need a vehicle to explore the Four Corners. If you live in a neighboring state, you might drive to your destination, but if you arrive by air, you’ll need to rent a car. The type of car you’ll need depends on where you’re going and what activities you have planned.
If your trip to the Four Corners region is a family vacation, a mini van might be best. There will be plenty of room for trip supplies and everyone will be comfortable. If you plan on visiting some out-of-the-way places, you might want to rent something with high clearance or even a 4-wheel drive vehicle if you plan to travel on some of the more rugged roads.
Roads and Highways in the Four Corners Region?
I-40, I-70, and I-15 are the Interstate Highways that serve the area, but they skirt the edge of the many attractions in the Four Corners area. You’ll need to exit those main roads and travel on state highways or even some rugged roads to get the most of your visit to the area.
For example, you can only get to Chaco Culture National Historical Park via dirt roads, and you’ll probably want to avoid the trip if there have been heavy rains. The road goes through private tribal lands, so stay in your vehicle until you arrive at the park.
That example holds true for many roads in the region. Some highways are large and accessible, some might be two-lane paved roads, and some like the one mentioned above, go through tribal lands or are otherwise rugged with few or no services for long distances.
Also, be aware that mountainous areas might have windy mountain roads vastly different from the straight lines of any major highway. Always add time to your trip if you’re heading out on one of these roads. Wherever you’re going, make sure you have plenty of gasoline, water, and snacks before you leave for your destination.
Go here to read about tips for traveling in the area.
Best Time to Visit the Four Corners Region
Fall or spring are generally the best times to visit the Four Corners. The summers can be hot and winters may be harsh. Many areas get lots of snow which can make driving a challenge. However, if you plan on skiing or enjoying other winter activities, the Four Corners area is the perfect destination.
Read about the weather in the four corners region here. What to Expect from Four Corners Weather
We hope this has inspired you to plan a trip to the four corners region of the American Southwest. Plan well and you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.