In the eighth installment of a series that highlights the natural beauty and wildlife viewing opportunities available within the U.S., our focus turns to Southwest, where in the last year, New Mexico has made a concerted effort to promote its specialized ecotourism events, activities, and lodgings. Not to be outdone, Arizona has also advanced its ecotourism marketing including links for volunteering at Grand Canyon National Park. With plenty of opportunities for birding, whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, or just taking in the breathtaking scenery, the Southwest is a sure-hit for all eco-minded travelers.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route runs between Chicago and Los Angeles with ample stops in New Mexico and Arizona. With its sleeping, dining, and private bathroom accommodations, it may offer a fun alternative to driving the Interstate. Once at your destination, you could rent a hybrid car or take a bicycle tour through the region. Tours include lodging, dining, local sightseeing, national forest visits, luggage transfer, small group sizes and all the nature you can take in along the way.
Suggested family ecotour itinerary:
- Santa Fe National Forest – with four major wilderness regions including the Chama River Canyon Wilderness area, the Santa Fe National Forest is home to black bear, deer, elk, big horn sheep, turkeys and grouse. Hike, fish or go horseback riding on the Hart Trail or the Continental Divide Trial.
- Gila National Forest in New Mexico is also adjacent to the Apache National Forest – whether it’s biking along the canyon, mountain, meadow and semi-desert paths or swimming in the hot springs, you will marvel at the bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and the red-tailed hawks soaring overhead. Also, the Apache National Forest offers Kids in the Woods conservation and education programs throughout the summer.
- In addition to visiting the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona (which is well covered by Stacey Wittig: Grand Canyon Hiking Examiner and Linda Updike: Grand Canyon National Park Examiner), the Tonto National Forest is habitat for many endangered and sensitive species including the Pygmy Owl, Desert Pupfish, and Peregrine Falcon. As part of your stay, you could choose to volunteer, hike through a desert cave, bike one of the thousands of trails, or even whitewater raft down the Salt River.
Suggested green lodging:
- The Madeleine has the distinction of being the first bed and breakfast in New Mexico. Built in 1886, it started as Santa Fe’s first alternative healer, when it was known as “the Palace of Health”, to then become “The House of Birds” given its luscious gardens, which doubles as a spa.
Check out our other eco-certified trips through North America!