Death Valley
Credit: Witold Skrypczak / Getty Images

Located below sea level near California's Mojave Desert, Death Valley is the largest national park south of Alaska and is one of the hottest and driest places on earth. The region is usually soaked in sun (rainfall averages less than two inches a year) but winter storms and summer monsoons occasionally overtake the area, and strong dust storms are relatively common. Despite these extreme conditions, Death Valley has more than 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, and 36 species of reptiles. This is a cyclist's park, with more than 300 miles of paved and level paths.

Don't Miss: In Grapevine Canyon on the north end of Death Valley is Scotty's Castle, also known as Death Valley Ranch and is the former vacation home of Albert Mussey Johnson, a Chicago millionaire who was once president of the National LIfe Insurance Company. He was also a friend of the infamous con man Death Valley Scotty, who convinced many that he had built the castle with funds from his his own secret mines, and is buried nearby.