By Andrea Romano
June 23, 2018

The Chihuahuan Desert is the most biologically diverse desert in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most diverse in the world. Over 175,000 square miles spanning northern Mexico, southwestern Texas, and southern New Mexico and Arizona, the desert is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals.

Back in the 1800s, the desert itself was covered in tall grass, but due to overgrazing, agriculture and oil drilling, only the species of plants that have been able to survive the harsh conditions remain.

Visitors to the Chihuahuan Desert can enjoy long hikes to find rare plants and animals; the desert is home to more species of cacti than anywhere else. According to the National Park Service, the claret cup cactus, which blooms in late spring, can grow up to five feet in diameter with dozens of crimson-colored flowers.

However, since the Chihuahuan Desert is actually a “shrub desert” you might not see as many cacti as you would elsewhere, so spotting a flowering cactus can be a rare treat.

Getty Images

The desert is also home to the dunes sagebrush lizard, an increasingly disappearing species of lizard that lives in the sandy dunes. The Center for Biological Diversity is currently petitioning for the reptile to be officially protected as an endangered species.

The Chihuahuan desert only receives about 36 to 48 inches of rain annually, usually between July and October. The summers tend to be extremely hot and the winters are very cold, so the best time to visit the desert in the fall and spring. Springtime especially is best for seeing plants in full bloom. However, travelers should be ready for a variety of weather conditions.