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Natural Sites Within Driving Distance of Las Vegas

There are many natural sites within driving distance of Las Vegas. There is also one totally awesome man-made site.

If you are visiting Las Vegas, take a step away from the city as there is a lot more to see and do. This blog entry gives you information to consider and involves some fun, family friendly stops.

This represents my fourth and final blog entry on Las Vegas and relates to sights to see in the area around Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon

For those who want a change from the lights, noise and constant action found in the city, a peaceful, scenic canyon, just brimming with natural beauty, closely awaits in the form of Red Rock Canyon. Located west of Las Vegas and part of the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon was established as a national conservation area in 1990. I decided to rent a car and drive to the canyon to see what this was all about. Armed with a map of how to get to the canyon, I found it was a quick and easy drive from Las Vegas. First stop was the visitors center. I paid $15 for a one-day pass (the cost is per car). Once in the canyon, I just followed the marked scenic drive (about 21km/13 miles in distance). There were several places to stop, park and take photographs. These spots were also jumping off points for hikes.

The conservation area consists of about 800 kilometers of land but I saw only the area around the approach to the canyon and the scenery found along the marked scenic drive. Had I time, I would have tried to hike all of the areas I had read about but I would have needed more than a day to do that so I had to content myself with a two hour hike (which for me was a 2.75 hour hike), on one of the moderate trails off the scenic route.

Prior to taking my hike, I reviewed the ten warnings issued by the visitors center.

[if !supportLists]1. [endif]BRING SUFFICIENT WATER

I brought lots of water which meant once consumed, I had to visit the visitors center/pit stops several times.

[if !supportLists]2. [endif]PREPARE FOR EXTREME HEAT

Although the temperatures in Red Rock Canyon can average more than 38° C (100° F), during the

summer months, I went during the fall (and previously during the winter), period so I did not experience extreme heat. It was however warm enough for shorts and on the hiking trail with heat bouncing off the rocks, it was warm.

[if !supportLists]3. [endif]BEWARE OF STEEP CLIFFS

There was no danger of me falling from a cliff as I try to restrict my hiking to paths and stay away from standing on cliff edges. As for steep cliffs, I have developed a theory that anything on a steep incline is best left for the uber fit. Unless something is chasing me, the probability of me climbing a steep incline is zero.

[if !supportLists]4. [endif]WATCH FOR DESERT DWELLERS

I certainly watched where I put my hands and feet. A little incident that occurred in Cambodia, wherein I leaned against a wall that housed a large number of tarantulas, taught me that the casual leaning against a wall, rock or on the ground without due care for natural occupants, was a bad idea. I looked with great suspicion at any rock cropping that could house a snake or scorpion.


I came equipped with sunscreen, hat and appropriate apparel. I looked like an extra from a bad 1920s Tarzan movie.

[if !supportLists]6. [endif]BEWARE OF FLASH FLOODS

There was not a cloud in the sky so I felt somewhat safe. For those going when rain is forecast, be warned.

[if !supportLists]7. [endif]WATCH FOR LIGHTNING

Being a golfer, I am always on the lookout for lightning. See point #6 re clear skies.

[if !supportLists]8. [endif]PLAN AHEAD

My favourite piece of advice from the visitors center is “Do not hike above your skill level”. I want to assure the reader and the staff of the park that there is NEVER any danger of me hiking above my skill level.

[if !supportLists]9. [endif]DON’T RELY ON CELL SERVICE

Noted. The ability to yell loudly is a skill set fully outlined on my resume.

[if !supportLists]10.[endif]DON’T CLIMB ON WET SANDSTONE

Also noted. Being a person with little knowledge of petrology (geology), it would have been helpful to know what sandstone looks like. Thankfully, one of the pamphlets I picked up had a photo. If it had rained, I probably could have figured it out but to be honest, if it had rained I would have stayed in the car.

The red rock canyon, in certain areas is striking and if you want to see interesting rock formations, but not drive the longer distance to the Grand Canyon, this is a great alternative.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam lies about 60.35km (37.5) miles east of Las Vegas and is a marvel of man-made engineering. In fact, in 1994 it was declared one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. It is a concrete arch-gravity dam built specifically on the border between Nevada and Arizona in a place named the Black Canyon. The dam harnesses the water of the powerful Colorado River and it is responsible for the creation of Lake Mead. Completed in 1936, it was also the source of work during the great depression.

One can walk across the dam and I decided to do so as the opportunity to take photographs from the center was too tempting to pass up. I also fancied the idea of stating that I walked from one state to another. It sounded like a rather “fit” thing to do. The views from all angles of the dam are stunning. While on the dam, I noticed that the water in Lake Mead has become notably lower than that observed in previous years; a sign of the drought people had told me about when I was in Las Vegas. One other activity I undertook when visiting the dam was a power plant tour which I found to be both informative and educational.

As you are leaving the dam and heading towards the gift shops or parking lot, stop and read the information boards as there is a wealth of information there, including a story about a dog. I will leave it up to you to obtain the details.

The Grand Canyon

There are not enough superlatives to describe the stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon. Do I recommend a visit to see it? Yes! The drive from Las Vegas will take anywhere between 4 and a 1/2 to 6 hours depending on where in the Grand Canyon you want to go. As a day trip from Las Vegas, it is a long drive there and back. With 9 hours of driving a given, there is not a lot of time to view the Canyon on a day trip. However, the canyon is worth the drive even if it is to spend a mere two hours looking at the scenery.

You have to leave Nevada to get to the canyon as it is located in Arizona. Formed between 5 to 6 million years ago, the canyon is a mile-deep gorge that offers up spectacular scenery, wild white water and breathtaking vistas.

This blog is already too long to get into the details of the viewing points, best places to visit, and canyon walks. Suffice to say that Yavapai Point and Mather Point are two popular stops. The south rim also offers up gorgeous and exquisite views.

On my second trip to Las Vegas, my friend Lynne and I took a small plane flight through the canyon. Due to the dangerous updrafts and wind currents, these type of flights are no longer allowed however there are helicopter rides over over the canyon. For those who are visiting Las Vegas and who do not want to drive to the canyon, there are a number of different tours to take you there on a day trip. Most offer a stop at Hoover Dam on the way so it is possible to cross these two stops off your list with one day tour.

As always, if you have any comments or additional information, please feel free to add them to this blog.

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