There are 27 national monuments that are currently under threat of losing their protected status following an executive order signed by the current president. These especially impressive monuments are places you should really see now, before it’s too late.
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Hawaii (Nearby Hotels)
President Bush established this protected area initially, which was then largely expanded by President Obama in 2016 to encompass 583,000 square miles. This expanse of the Pacific that sits northwest of Hawaii is home to 7,ooo species, nearly a third of which can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. That includes endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, black coral, sharks, birds and a long list of others. While scuba diving is limited to research and education purposes, you can take a virtual dive at the Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo.
Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada (Nearby Hotels)
Gold Butte is Nevada’s slice of the Grand Canyon, covering nearly 350,000 acres. It was formed by the same geologic forces that created the Grand Canyon in Arizona and is considered a treasure trove of cultural, historic, and natural wonders. Petroglyphs and shelters that date back more than 12,000 years can be found throughout the area, and this is also home to populations of bighorn sheep, mule deer, chukar, and quail. This is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, popular for hiking, bird watching, camping, four-wheeling, mountain biking and viewing dramatic geologic formations that include slot canyons, alcoves and lots of fiery red rock.
Craters of the Moon, Idaho (Nearby Hotels)
Craters of the Moon is one of only a few spots in the U.S. where you can walk over what was once lava, and explore an underground lava tube crafted by molten rock. This massive ocean of lava flows with cinder cones and sagebrush scattered about, is a unique landscape that formed during eight major eruptive periods, between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago. Although there are no fiery lava flows here now, the gnarled, crusty terrain that was frozen in time traces the tale of rivers of lava which gushed from fissures across the Snake River Plain known as the Great Rift. It’s popular for hiking and caving, and in the winter, it’s a great place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Rio Grande Del Norte, New Mexico (Nearby Hotels)
One of northern New Mexico’s most spectacular natural landmarks is the Rio Grande Gorge, part of Rio Grande del Norte, which plummets 800 feet into rolling grasslands and sage covered mesas that bank up against its steep edge, and at the bottom, is the magnificent river itself. The Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument consists of 242,500 acres of public lands in Taos County, and is popular for hiking and horseback riding, fishing, rafting and swimming, as well as viewing an abundance of wildlife. Just a few of the animals that call it home include elk, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, golden eagles, peregrine falcons and sandhill cranes.
Giant Sequoia National Monument, California (Nearby Hotels)
There are more than 30 lesser known groves that are protected within Giant Sequoia National Monument. The habitat of these impressive trees is limited to a narrow swath of conifer forest along the western edges of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range just outside of Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. The southern section is home to the 269-foot-high Boole Tree, one of the ten largest Giant Sequoias, which can be seen along the Boole Tree Loop. The General Grant Grove to the north is an isolated section of Kings Canyon National Park within Giant Sequoia that hosts the more than 1,500-year-old General Grant Tree, the third largest known tree on the planet.
Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah (Nearby Hotels)
President Clinton designated 1.7 million acres in southern Utah to protect this series of stair-like plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon. The canyons are popular with hikers and backpackers who want to view the Devil’s Garden and Coyote Gulch, with its surreal arches, deep canyons, and natural rock bridges. Cottonwood Canyon Road, AKA Road 400, is a dirt road that connects U.S. Highway 89 with Utah SR 12, traversing portions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, that provides a unique view into its heart. As high clearance vehicles are recommended, it’s ideal for four-wheeling, allowing drivers to get an up close look at the many stunning natural feature.
Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona (Nearby Hotels)
Located in southern Arizona, the Sonoran Desert National Monument is made up of saguaro cactus forests and three picturesque mountain ranges, the Table Top Mountains, Sand Tank, and Maricopa, and is considered North America’s most biologically diverse desert. Wilderness seekers will discover a rough and remote region with numerous hiking and camping opportunities, including the 3.5-mile climb up Table Top Mountain which provides panoramic vistas of the desert below. Along the Lava Flow Trail, hikers enjoy views of lava and basalt rock formations, and there are miles and miles of trails that wind through the scenic Maricopa Mountains too.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico (Nearby Hotels)
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area, made up of the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains and Doña Ana Mountains, is located near Las Cruces, New Mexico and encompasses Chihuahuan Desert wild lands and unique pre-American, New Mexican and American history. It includes training sites for the Apollo Space Mission, the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Geronimo’s Cave, World War II aerial targets, along with thousands of Native American petroglyphs and pictographs. Photography, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping and wildlife viewing are all popular here.
San Gabriel Mountains, California (Nearby Hotels)
The San Gabriel Mountain range is a 346,000-acre inland range that provide 30 percent of the drinking water for 15 million residents, as well as much-needed green space near the vast Los Angeles metropolis, with hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The Mount Wilson Observatory is also housed here, open on weekends between April and November.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona (Nearby Hotels)
Located at the northern edge of Arizona, this 294,000-acre monument not only contains the awe-inspiring Vermilion Cliffs, but the Paria Plateau, Coyote Buttes and Paria Canyon. There are stunning vistas nearly everywhere you turn, and a fascinating history that can literally be seen, with the remarkable colors in the cliffs made of silt and minerals deposited over millions of years.