I was in Las Vegas recently and though it has its many charms (and vices), I think it can get a liiiiittle overwhelming.
If you’re looking to get away from the glitz and gambling (and TERRIFYING street performers) of Sin City, have no fear, nature is here to cradle you in its sweet, sandy arms.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Valley of Fire State Park in Moapa Valley (which I sadly did NOT get to visit), Nevada and Zion National Park in Utah are all features that are under 3 hours away.
Some quick tips before you step foot into ANY of these places. If you aren’t keen on reading further, at least read this:
- Bring lots of water – often at visitors centers or at the head of a trail their will be a water fountain or water refill station, but if you’re out on the trail, you’re probably out of luck
- Which brings me to my next point, GO before you go (I stole this phrase from a Zion sign) – hit the bathroom before you hit the trail and scope out any other pit stops along the way
- If a sign says DON’T do something – like don’t stray from the trail, don’t swim in the water, don’t feed the deer – then don’t do these things, it’s safer for you and the surrounding environment
- Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to check the websites of these places for weather conditions or any other alerts like a trail or park closure – it would be a real bummer to drive all the way only to find out the trail you wanted to hike is closed
Now onto the good stuff!
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is a great place for hikers, bikers, climbers and it’s barely 30 minutes out from the Las Vegas Strip. If you’re one of those I’d-rather-admire-nature-from-the-car types (or your feet are hurting from walking up and down the Strip because you’re too cheap to pay for parking), they have a one-way scenic drive for some easy 40-minute cruisin’.
There’s a fee per car, per bike or per pedestrian but these are really minimal – we paid $7 for our car – but check the website for fees if you’re really concerned.
Plenty of stops along the way of the drive for you to enjoy the activity you prefer. Ask for a map when you pay your fee or when you stop at the visitor center (or check it out online, which I would do before you arrive, because cell service in no bueno due to canyon). I did a little bit of exploring and photographing – I think I’d like to dedicate myself to an actual hike the next time I visit.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park
Zion National Park in Utah is just a bit over two-and-a-half hours away from Las Vegas, so dedicating a day to it is pretty easy to do, not just because the drive, but because of how much there is to see.
There are nine designated stops inside of the park and they have a pretty nifty shuttle system that runs through Springdale (the town outside of Zion) and the rest of the canyon. It’s a great way to avoid any parking problems and it’s also FREE-NINETY-NINE (meaning, you know, free). It seems to run in early Spring – Late Fall/Early Winter. We were there during Thanksgiving weekend and that seemed to be the last shuttle run. Private vehicles are also allowed to drive along the same scenic drive.
Although the shuttle is free, there is a fee to get into the park. And be forewarned, if you go during a holiday/holiday weekend, it will be crowded as HECK.
I could ramble on for days about the trails, camping and climbing available, the cute little Zion lodge you can stay at or just how beautiful it is, but my words and these few photos cannot do it justice. You simply have to see for yourself how vast and HUGE these formations are.
I’d like to boogie on back here some day soon (when it’s warmer, because I’m a big baby) to do some serious hiking and exploring. I encourage you, if you’re visiting to slow down and take some time, to not just only enjoy Zion but to check out the picturesque small towns on the way in.
If you were waffling about visiting either of these places, I hope this makes you decidedly un-waffled and that you take the plunge!
Until next time, safe travels!