3. ZION NATIONAL PARK, Southwestern Utah
Two hours from the Grand Canyon, the golden yellow of the aspens, cottonwoods, maples, box elders and birch trees here is positively hallucinatory against Utah's red rock cliffs.
Take a hike!
The 2-mile Riverside Walk starts at the Temple of Sinawava, a natural amphitheater formed by 3,000-foot vertical sandstone walls. From there, you'll hike along the Virgin River until you reach the canyon-surrounded waters of the famed Zion Narrows at the park's northernmost entrance.
Kolob Canyon's 5-mile byway is beautiful anytime, but perhaps best driven at dusk. Take exit 40 off Interstate 15, turn the corner and, suddenly, the sandstone cliffs and finger canyons that surround you will glow red with the setting sun.
Once a gas station, the Whiptail Grill (445 Zion Park Blvd., Springdale) may not look like a gourmet restaurant, but the pineapple-chipotle ribs and chiles rellenos with goat cheese -- among other southwestern specialties -- prove otherwise.
The Desert Pearl Inn (rooms from $98), decorated with reclaimed wood flooring and native sandstone and stucco, is framed by towering sandstone cliffs.