-Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
What it is: Mind-boggling cliff-dwellings created almost 1,000 years ago by the Anasazi.
Why you should go: To see a little bit of history, and explore the majestic four corners region of Colorado.
What you should do: Visit the cliff palace and balcony house, and take Wetherill Mesa drive to hike mesa top sites and cliff-dwelling overlooks.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south to Highway 285 west. Turn left on US 50, and after 65 miles, turn right on CO-112. Turn right onto US 160, and after about 150 miles, turn left onto Ruins Road.
-Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
What it is: Hundreds of feet high sand dunes nestled in the scenic Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Why you should go: To see an ecosystem that you wouldnâ€™t expect to find in Colorado.
What you should do: Climb to the top of Star Dune, the tallest in the park, and then sled down.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south to the Walsenberg exit, take Highway 160 west, and after 57 miles, turn right on CO 150.
-Arches National Park, Utah
What it is: The greatest concentration of rock arches and sandstone formations in the world.
Why you should go: Forty arches have collapsed since 1970 due to erosion. See these wonders before itâ€™s too late!
What you should do: Hike to Delicate Arch, an awe-inspiring formation in the middle of a sandstone bowl, and be sure to tell your friends youâ€™ve seen the â€œreal versionâ€ of the Utah license plate.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south to Interstate 70 west. Drive for almost 320 miles until Exit 182. Turn left on US 191 S, and the park entrance will be on your left.
-Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado/Utah
What it is: a monument near the Colorado/Utah border with the remains of the dinosaurs who once roamed there still embedded in the rocks.
Why you should go: Because this is as close to living â€œJurassic Parkâ€ as you can get.
What you should do: Take a ranger-led tour to see dinosaur fossils weathering out of the rocks near hiking trails.
How to get there: Take Hwy 287 north, and turn left on CO-14. After 120 miles, turn sharp right onto US 40, and continue for 151 miles.
-Devilâ€™s Tower National Monument, Wyoming
What it is: An awe-inspiring 1,267 tall rock rising from the hills of Wyoming.
Why you should go: To see the first national monument, which then-president Teddy Roosevelt coined in 1906.
What you should do: Hike the 1.6 mile Tower Trail around the tower, and if youâ€™re feeling really brave, climb the tower itself. The Durrance route, the easiest, is rated a 5.6.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 north for 170 miles, getting off at exit 140. Turn left onto WY-59, and after 111 miles, merged onto Interstate 90 E. Take exit 154 and turn right onto US-14. Turn left onto WY-24 and then left onto WY-110.
-Badlands National Park, South Dakota
What it is: A desolate landscape categorized by prairie grasses and unique geologic formations.
Why you should go: To see landscape that truly is empty and untouched.
What you should do: Cycle the 23 mile Sage Creek loop through the parkâ€™s rolling grasslands.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 north for 155 miles to exit 126. Turn left onto US 20 for 41.7 miles. Turn left onto US 85 and continue for 46.7 miles. Turn right onto US 16 and continue for 46 miles. Turn left onto SD 79 north, and continue for .1 miles. Merge onto US 16, and after 5 miles, merge onto Interstate 90 E. Take exit 240.
-Taos, New Mexico
What it is: An awesome southwestern town that offers some of the best skiing in the country.
Why you should go: Because Vail and Copper Mountain are just getting boring. Also, because Julia Roberts owns a ranch there.
What you should do: Ski the way difficult and gnarly Taos Valley ski resort, and later, kick back and drink a margarita at the Taos Inn.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south for 217.2 miles. Get off at exit 52, and turn slight right onto US 87. Turn right onto US 160, follow that for 47.1 miles. Turn left onto CO-159, which after 33.8 miles turns into NM 522. Follow that for 42 miles.
-The Oklahoma Panhandle, Oklahoma
What it is: The park of Oklahoma bordered by Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas that, coincidentally enough, looks like a panhandle.
Why you should go there: To sing classics from the hit Broadway musical, â€œOklahoma!â€
What you should do: Check out Beaver Dunes State Park, which offers dune buggy riding on 300 acres of sand hills.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south to Interstate 70 east, after 200 miles, get off on the US 83 exit. Turn right onto US 83, and drive for 81.3 miles. Turn left onto US 64, and drive for 20 miles.
-Oleâ€™s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, Nebraska
What it is: A magical restaurant flanked by the heads of animals killed by its namesake, Ole.
Why you should go: You wouldnâ€™t expect to see a dead polar bear in Nebraska. But here, you will find one, as well as a black bear and a python.
What you should do: Eat some bar food, and look into the empty eyes of animals that have been sacrificed for your enjoyment.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 north to Cheyenne, merge onto Interstate 80 east and get off on exit 145.
-Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
What it is: Sixty-foot tall sculptures of four of the greatest U.S. presidents carved into a mountainside.
Why you should go: Because itâ€™s an American icon, thatâ€™s why. But, if you do a little bit of research, youâ€™ll find out that itâ€™s invoked quite a bit of controversy from the Native American community.
What you should do: Check out the visitorâ€™s center, and be sure to wait until nightfall to see the monument light up. Also take a trek to the nearby Crazy Horse memorial.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 north for 155.8 miles, take exit 156 and follow US 18 north. After 120 miles, turn left onto SD-89. After 15.3 miles, make a left onto SD-89, and after 11.5 miles, turn right onto Mt. Rushmore Road.
-Cimarron National Grassland, Kansas
What it is: 108,175 acres of an empty expanse of the Great Plains, dissected by the Cimmaron River.
Why you should go: Because itâ€™s in Kansas, which incidentally, is where the beginning of â€œThe Wizard of Ozâ€ happened.
What you should do: If youâ€™re lucky, mid-March marks the start of rare courting rituals between prairie chickens. If thatâ€™s not your thing, get your pioneer on and hike some of the 23.2 mile Prairie Trail that bisects the grassland.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south to Interstate 70 east, drive for 73.5 miles. Take the US 40 exit toward Kit Carson, and merge onto US 287 E. Follow that for 107.6 miles, before taking the US 50 ramp to Lamar, and merging onto US 287 south, which youâ€™ll follow for 56 miles. Turn left onto US 160, and turn right onto N Colorado St. Turn slight left onto CR-X, and take a slight right onto Road 2. Turn right onto Triplet.
-Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Nebraska
What it is: In Dinosaur National Monument, you get to see some dinosaur bones. At Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, you get to see the remains of ancient mammals.
Why you should go: Youâ€™re a big fan of â€œIce Age.â€
What you should do: Hike the one mile Daemonelix Trail through ancient sand dunes and fossil beds, and take in the sights and emptiness of the Great Plains.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 north toward Cheyenne. After 47 miles, merge onto US 85 north via exit 17. After 76.5 miles, merge onto US 26-E, and after 21.6 miles, turn left onto NE-29. Turn right onto River Road.
-Des Moines, New Mexico
What it is: A 143-person village that is not to be confused with Des Moines, Iowa.
Why you should go: Because youâ€™ll probably be the only one of your friends who has been to this particular Des Moines.
What you should do: Check out the Sierra Grande, a giant extinct volcano on the townâ€™s northeast side. Call people and tell them youâ€™re in Des Moines. Confuse them when you say youâ€™re in New Mexico.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south for 278.7 miles, and take the US 64 exit. Turn left onto US 87 and drive for 36.5 miles.
-Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Colorado
What it is: A dark, desolate and impossibly steep canyon located in western Colorado.
Why you should go: The black canyon is so steep that sunlight has difficult penetrating the canyon, causing the canyon walls to appear black. Itâ€™s like something out of â€œThe Lord of the Rings.â€
What you should do: Take a scenic drive around the south rim of the canyon. To stretch your legs, take the Oak Flat loop to get a peak at the inner reaches.
How to get there: Take Interstate 25 south to Interstate 70 west, take exit 116 toward CO 82. Turn slight right onto CO 133, and follow it for a little more than 70 miles. Turn left onto Pleasure Park Road.