The five closest national parks to ASU

The Southwest has diverse options for students who want a nature-filled escape

Fall break – the glorious mini-vacation that sneaks up out of nowhere every year. Lucky for last-minute vacation planners, ASU is in the perfect location for people seeking a wide variety of beautiful weekend destinations during the season.

If you are hoping to escape the city and immerse yourself in the scenery that make the West wild, the region hosts numerous national parks within driving distance of the University. 

Arizona alone is home to 38,978,890 square miles of protected land. Arizona and its neighboring states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and California, are among the World Atlas' top-10 list of states with the most square miles of protected land. 

Among this protected land, America’s Southwest features a plethora of national monuments, forests, memorials and historic sites offering students bountiful options to explore the kaleidoscope of geography, culture and history that is unique to the region. 

Narrow your search for the perfect fall break getaway with the five closest national parks to the University:

1. Saguaro National Park, AZ

Home to the world’s largest cactus, an iconic symbol of the American Southwest, Saguaro National Park is split into two districts to the east and west of Tucson, Arizona with 91,337 acres of land between the two districts. 

Merging the Saguaro National Monument and Saguaro Wilderness Area, the area was officially named a national park in 1994.  

Saguaro National Park is the closest national park to ASU and offers a wide array of plant wildlife to explore under the shadow of colossal cacti and the backdrop of spectacular desert scenery. 

Miles from Tempe campus: 104 miles

Hours on fastest route: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Current weather: Saguaro National Park Monthly Forecast

Try this trail: Tanque Verde Ridge Trail 

Cost: $15 per vehicle 

2. Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

Petrified Forest is a gem of Northeastern Arizona and home to one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood. The colorful park features petroglyphs, ancient ruins and museums full of ancient Hopi art. 

While it was named a National Park in 1962, the petrified trees in the park date back over 200 million years.

The park offers a great option for students looking for fresh scenery with strong historical and cultural ties. 

Miles from Tempe campus: 193 miles

Hours on fastest route: 3 hours and 13 minutes

Current temperature: Petrified Forest National Park Monthly Forecast

Try this trail: Painted Desert Rim Trail 

Cost: $20 per vehicle admitting all passengers of a non-commercial vehicle for seven days

3. Joshua Tree National Park, CA

A sea of rugged desert terrain, boulders, buttresses and abnormal trees; Joshua Tree National Park is the destination for those with a soft spot for the strange yet beautiful.

Located outside of greater Palm Springs area, the park's vibrant quirkiness has been the host for music festivals goers and backpackers alike.

Miles from Tempe campus: 231 miles

Hours on fastest route: 3 hours and 27 minutes

Current temperature: Joshua Tree National Park Monthly Forecast

Try this trail: Mastodon Peak

Cost: $30 per vehicle admitting all passengers of a non-commercial vehicle for seven days

4. Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim), AZ

If you are going to school in the Grand Canyon state and haven't had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon, you're doing something wrong. 

The Grand Canyon, named one of the Seven Natural Wonders, has grandiose beauty which is at once overwhelming and awe-inspiring.

With experiences for both the seasoned adventurer and city dweller, making the trek up to the Grand Canyon is a must-do for any true Sun Devil. 

Miles from Tempe campus: 238 miles

Hours on fastest route: 3 hours and 49 minutess

Current temperature: Grand Canyon National Park Monthly Forecast

Try this trail: Bright Angel Trail

Cost: $35 per vehicle admitting all passengers of a non-commercial vehicle for one day

5. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Bryce Canyon, located near the Utah-Arizona border in the southwestern region of the state, is widely recognized for the dense formation of hoodoos, tall protruding rock formations which range from the height of a human to a 10-story building. 

Designated as a national park in 1928, the amphitheater of erosion has since become one of the most popular destinations in Utah with over a million visitors each year. 

A mecca for photographers and nature enthusiasts, Bryce Canyon National Park is a great option for those willing to venture further for an incredible national park experience. 

Miles from Tempe campus: 432 miles

Hours on fastest route: 7 hours and 2 minutess

Current temperature: Bryce Canyon National Park Monthly Forecast 

Try this trail: Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail 

Cost: $35 per vehicle admitting all passengers of a non-commercial vehicle for one day




Reach the reporter at goldham@asu.edu and follow @graceoldham123 on Twitter. 

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.