Leaving Las Vegas: the Natural Southwest
Let’s play a word association game…
National Parks: wild
Cheap family vacations: camping
Las Vegas: ____
You might have thought about neon, alcohol, card games, or more unsavory subjects… anything but the great outdoors. However, just a few hours from Las Vegas are some of the most stunning natural destinations in the USA, from Death Valley up to Zion.
Those planning an affordable vacation to Las Vegas shouldn’t pass up a road trip around the Southwest’s best and brightest national wonders, with time left over for the kids (or adults!) to ride the gondolas at The Venetian and watch the jousting at Excaliber.
One person posted on a few natural highlights last week, and these are just a few of the hundreds of state and national parks, wildlife reserves, historical sites and natural wonders within a day’s drive of Las Vegas, Nevada. If you have more than two days, look up the area’s other wonders: ancient Native American cliff dwellings in Canyon de Chelly, the nearly mile-wide Meteor Crater, Dr. Seuss-like Joshua Tree National Park and the infamous Death Valley, to name a few. Of course, if you’re heading into the desert, make sure to take a well-charged mobile phone, sunscreen, and at least a gallon of water per person.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, to use its official title, is a popular water sports destination just 30-60 minutes’ drive from the Las Vegas strip. It is the country’s biggest reservoir, formed where the famous Hoover Dam (well worth a visit) blocks the storied Colorado River. Tour the dam, rent a boat or jet skis, go fishing or explore the sandstone shoreline on foot; Lake Mead is a fantastic half-day out if the neon lights of the city start to go to your head.
Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon
These sister parks are in Utah, just a 3-4 hour drive from Las Vegas, and feature some of the most surreal and unusual desert scenery in the world. Delicate rock arches teeter over pine trees, colourful sandstone stripes look like soft-serve swirls, and narrow canyons slice through the desert to reveal hidden passages where beams of light bounce off pools of water to dance across the cool red walls. Bryce Canyon’s otherworldly hoodoo formations are a particular highlight – the red and orange sandcastles of stone are created by wind and water erosion. Activities in both parks cater to all abilities, from 30 minute walks to serious desert treks, horseback riding trips and rock climbing.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s deepest canyons, and an absolute must-see… not everything would be worth a 4 hour 20 minute drive each way, but believe us, this is. Book a night’s accommodation in the area and catch the sunset or sunrise if you can, or ride a donkey down to the bottom for a different point of view. The truly brave should pop around to the North rim, to teeter over the 4,770 foot abyss on a terrifying glass-floored skywalk.
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How about you? Have you visited some of these beautiful places near Las Vegas? Tell me in the comments!
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