Location: New Mexico (198 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas)
Annual visitors: 79,108
If you’re looking for a remote desert adventure, it’s hard to beat Gila Cliff Dwellings, established in 1907. The cliffs were used for shelter for millennia by nomadic people until the late 1200s, when the Mogollon Culture built up the caves into proper dwellings. They abandoned the area after only a few decades, but their story lives on in the cave walls.
The site also contains ruins from the Mimbres Culture; one of the more dramatic features is Cliff Dweller Canyon, with 46 rooms spread among five caves.
The cliff dwellings are part of the Gila Wilderness, which became the world’s first protected wilderness on June 3, 1924. This means motorized vehicles and even bicycles are not allowed within its boundaries. But there are several campgrounds along the one small highway that lead to it.
Gila is also accessible from Tucson, Ariz. and Albuquerque, N.M., but El Paso is the closest large city.
*All figures are from 2018, updated in 2019