Tag: Utah

Sandstone, Sweet Sandstone: Red Rock Canyon and Zion National Park

I was in Las Vegas recently and though it has its many charms (and vices), I think it can get a liiiiittle overwhelming.


I mean, what isn’t just INCREDIBLY charming about a large shoe?

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


Much red. So rock. Wow.

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’.


Climbers gon’ climb.

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.


If you love rocks, this is the place to be. If you don’t love rocks, it’s still pretty cool.

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.


10/10 would canyon again.

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!


Nevada Road Trip: Day Three and Four: Valley of Fire State Park and Stops Along the Way

Generated on Google Maps

Generated on Google Maps

After our morning at Lehman Caves, we started our way south, and took the park ranger’s advice on things to see as we headed towards the Nevada town of Mesquite where we were planning on staying for the night. Our first stop was the semi-obscure Parowan Gap Petroglyphs in Utah, which we were fairly certain we would miss on the road. However, just north of Cedar City we managed to see the signs pointing to the petroglyphs, and stopped to check them out. The area is named for the geological feature called a “gap” which is formed by wind and ancient rivers as they carve their way through rock. The gap is now home to a paved road, but as much as it attracts travelers in modern times, the gap attracted historic

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Native Americans as well, who left their beautiful art behind. The area is currently managed by the BLM, and while there is little more here than a fence keeping hikers away from the ancient carvings, and a dirt road to park, the Parowan Gap isn’t far from the main highway, so it is worth a stop. Petroglyphs are some of the most ancient art that we have, and it is always good to connect with the people of the past, and appreciate the landscapes that inspired them to create.

(c) AB Raschke

Kolob Canyons (c) AB Raschke

Heading further south, past Cedar City, we ran into a small part of Zion National Park- Kolob Canyons. I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing our visit here, because I think Zion deserves an entire post on its own, and I actually haven’t had the opportunity to visit the main section of the park. At any rate, Kolob Canyons is a great place to visit while traveling down the 15 towards Arizona. It showcases the red rock mountains that make Zion so famous, and so it is nice place to site-see and hike. Unfortunately, when I visited, there was still snow on the ground, which created a beautiful contract between the green of the sparse, ever-greens, the red of the mountain-sides, and brilliant white of the snow. However, this also meant that the trails were muddy, and hiking in my normal, light-weight Merrell Lithe Gloves was somewhat difficult in the circumstances. In better weather, and with better equipment, hiking during the early spring would have been nice. Kolob Canyons was fairly quiet when we visited, which is most likely rare during the high season.

(c) AB Raschke

Valley of Fire (c) AB Raschke

I’m a little hesitant to say it, but Zion wasn’t the highlight of this leg of our trip though. Rather, the Valley of Fire , a Nevada State Park that I had no idea existed before the Great Basin park ranger told us about it, turned out to be one of the most amazing things that we saw. In my defense though, it was declared a National Natural Landmark in 1968 (according to Wikipedia), and it has been a park since the mid 1930s, so I guess its appeal has been long-term as well. The park itself is characterized by some literally awesome sandstone formations- most of them a brilliant red in color, but the park is also home to formations of a variety of colors, which create some unbelievable vistas.

For travelers like us, who just had a few hours to spend in the park, but wanted to see as much as possible, the size and organization of the park is perfect (although, as I write this, I wonder about its impact on the ecology). There are picturesque roads leading to all the best formations, which can be easily reached and explored. There are also some moderate-easy trails for visitors like

Valley of Fire (c) AB Raschke

Valley of Fire (c) AB Raschke

myself that want to wander. In fact, some of my favorite memories from the Valley of Fire come from the trails where you can walk though narrow canyons of sandstone or over massive waving, dunes of ancient sand deserts.

There is also camping in the park, and a very nice visitor center, so overall, it is just a great place to visit, and definitely a highlight of our Nevada trip. The other nice thing about the Valley of Fire is that it is right next to the Lake Mead Recreational Area, so we were able to avoid driving through Las Vegas on our way home, and enjoyed the beautiful and varied landscapes that surround the lake.

I think I will be taking a break coming up, so don’t expect a post on May 1st. I have way too much going on with my graduate research right now.

If you have any questions about my experience in Nevada and Arizona or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

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