What States Are in the Southwest?

Written by Justin Zipprich
Updated: May 17, 2023
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If you love warm temperatures and gorgeous landscapes, then you should check out the beautiful southwest. When most experts talk about states in the southwest, they are typically discussing eight different areas. They are:

  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Utah

Today, we will talk a bit about these lovely states and the attributes that make them attractive to so many Americans.

The American Southwest

The southwest contains many marvels of America, including the Hoover Dam.


First, let’s talk about the main attributes of the states in the southwest and the allure that the states have for many people in this country. Although there are plenty of cities and millions of citizens, in general, the states that make up the southwest are known for sprawling deserts, high elevations, and mountains. Needless to say, the southwest is a very geographically diverse region. 

Humans began to settle in the southwest over 12,000 years ago, and that is why you can see so many cave drawings if you find yourself in the right place. In the mid-1800s, many people started to move to the southwest. Today, many people continue to call the southwest home due to the opportunities for mining, technology, gambling, industry, and retirement.

This continues to be a region where there is a large Hispanic population, and Spanish is a commonly spoken language. There are also many Native American tribes that still call this area home. 

The many stunning sights in the southwest include the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Canyon de Chelly, and the Alamo, among others. There are also plenty of opportunities for water sports, bicycling, hiking, camping, and more. However, the area can also be very hot for a lot of the year, so visitors and residents must be careful. Finally, there is a lot of fascinating wildlife in the region, including coyotes, scorpions, spiders, snakes, Africanized bees, and more. 

The States in the Southwest

Old flag of New Mexico state, region of the United States

The American Southwest is composed of eight states, including New Mexico.


Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer when it comes to the topic of the states in the southwest. However, most will agree that Arizona, New Mexico, and adjacent states of California, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah make the list. Let’s talk a bit about each state and some of the attributes that make them all unique.

New Mexico

There are two places that all experts agree are included in the states in the southwest, and the first one is New Mexico. Geographically placed perfectly in the south and to the west of the middle of the country, New Mexico is a perfect example of many of the places that make up this region. The area that became New Mexico was claimed by Spain in the 16th century and it has continued to have Spanish influence. 

Although there is a lot of flat land, New Mexico has become increasingly urbanized over the years. Two-fifths of the population lives in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. However, there is a lot of natural wonder in this place. Two of the most beautiful places are the rock caverns near Carlsbad and the gypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument.

Other fun things to do and sights to see in New Mexico include Smokey Bear Historical Park, Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort, Church Street Market, National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and Four Corners Monument, among others.


The other major state that is always included in the list of states in the southwest is Arizona. When people think about Arizona, many think about hot temperatures and gorgeous landscapes. The fact is that Arizona has some of the oldest records of human existence in the United States, back when people used to live in caves, so it is a place of great history. This is also another region where Spanish settlers started to call home back in the 1530s, and it continues to have a Hispanic influence to this day.

In 1851, Americans started to visit the area as they created a safe route to get to California. In the 1950s, there was a lot of copper discovered in the region, and Arizona continues to be the place where two-thirds of U.S. copper is produced. Arizona became a state in 1912, and citizens and visitors have been enjoying the wonderful landscapes to this day. 

There is a lot to discover and tons of fun to be had in Arizona. Some of the most noteworthy sights and activities include the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Monument Valley, gorgeous Sedona, Hoover Dam, the Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and more.


Far to the west is California, which many consider a part of the conversation when we talk about the states in the southwest. It was the 31st state added to America, and it was already the most populous state by the 1960s. Of all of those people, three-fourths of people live in either the Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego metropolitan areas. To add to the southwestern flair, most of the eastern part of California is desert, and it also has the Trans-Sierra desert that rises up to 7,400 feet above sea level. There are also plenty of mountains and valleys in the state.

There is a ton to see and do in California. The list starts with visiting Hollywood, Santa Monica, and the many movie studios and amusement parks. There is also Big Sur, Venice Beach Boardwalk, Death Valley National Park, Santa Cruz Vineyards, the San Diego Zoo, and more.


The state of Colorado is known as the mountain state, but only half of it lies in the Rocky Mountains. In addition, the land is filled with great plains and high plains. There is also the San Juan Mountains, which is a volcanic plateau with a lot of ice. Colorado was added in 1876 as the 38th state. Back in that day, the state was full of prospectors and homesteaders that were on the hunt for gold and silver. 

In addition to all of the natural beauty, there are also plenty of cities, including Denver and Aspen. Colorado gets a lot of tourists because of the natural splendor and the plethora of fun things to do. You can go white-water rafting, skiing, and snowboarding. Other sights to see include Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Pikes Peak in Pike National Forest. Plus, the Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, among others.


Another state that many people think of when discussing the states in the southwest is Nevada. The state is large (7th out of 50 as far as total area). However, it is very sparsely settled, and much of it is made up of desert. It was the 36th state added to the country, and its capital is Carson City. 

Most people live in urban areas, and half of the people in the state live in Las Vegas. With that said, there is a lot of beauty to see in Nevada. There is Lake Tahoe, Lake Mead, and the glory of the Hoover Dam. Other great activities to see include the Mob Museum, Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historical Park, National Atomic Testing Museum, Wynn Las Vegas Casino, and Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.


The great state of Oklahoma is varied as far as its landscapes and population. The terrain is made up of rolling hills and treeless high planes, depending on where you go. The state also has hundreds of lakes. Back in the 19th century, the state was known as the Indian Territory because it was home to many displaced Native American tribes. In 1907, Oklahoma was added to the country as the 46th state. The climate in Oklahoma makes it great for new animal and plant species. There are over 130 species of trees that are native specifically to Oklahoma. 

With so much diversity, there is a ton to do in Oklahoma. Among the sights to see and sights to enjoy are the Philbrook Museum of Art, Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, and the Science Museum Oklahoma. There is also the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Beavers Bend State Resort Park, and the many stops along the famous Route 66.


Texas was the 28th state added to the United States back in 1845. It is the second largest state behind Alaska. It is about 1,000 miles wide, both north and south and west and east. Back in the day, Texas was a part of the Spanish Empire. Then, it was a part of Mexico from 1821 to 1836. When it comes to the climate of Texas, you can basically divide it in half. East Texas is generally wet and is known for cotton, while West Texas is dry and known for cattle.

While many states in the southwest tend to be thought of as warm and dry. However, Texas has about every type of climate, depending on where you live. Some areas experience hot temperatures, while others have blizzards and snow. There are also many animals in Texas, including cattle, bison, and 100 species of snakes. 

As far as entertainment, there is a ton to do in Texas. Some of the activities of note include visiting the Alamo, San Antonio River Walk, the Space Center in Houston, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Plus you can visit the Texas State Capitol, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, among other fun stuff.


Finally, we have the great state of Utah, which is sometimes left off of the list despite its location on the U.S. map. Utah is another state that is blanketed in mountains, high plateaus, and deserts. The capital of Utah is Salt Lake City. Some of the geographical marvels of the area are the Great Basin and the Great Salt Lake. Plus, there is the Bonneville Salt Flats, among others.

Although it is in the southwest, the temperatures and climates of the state vary. While the southwest sees a lot of rain, the south can have dry summers and wet winters. But make no mistake. The state has four distinct seasons.

Although there is a lot of desert land, there is still plenty to do in Utah. If you visit, be sure to check out Zion National Park, gorgeous Lake Powell, Arches National Park, the skiing at Park City Mountain Resort, the Natural Bridges National Monument, and more.


So there you have it. This is the list that experts agree makes up the eight states in the southwest. The climates, landscapes, and activities in the area make the southwest a fascinating place to be. All of these states are beautiful places that are well worth a visit if you are in the area. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/gguy44

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About the Author

Justin Zipprich is a writer at A-Z Animals, where his primary focus is travel, state facts, pets, and mammals. Justin has been writing and editing animal content for over 7 years, though he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Western Illinois University, which he earned in 2005. As a resident of Texas, he loves discovering local animals and spending time with his wife and two kids.

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