Las Vegas Day Trips
While Las Vegas may dominate Nevada's tourism industry, there are plenty of other things to do and see near Las Vegas. Fortunately, many companies offer day trips to these locations by air and land.
Bryce Canyon National Park is 250 miles northeast of Las Vegas. This national park is well known for its natural amphitheaters full of human-like rock spires. There are also arches and bridges in the park which were created by nature's great erosive power. These beautiful scenes are accentuated by the red, pink, and orange rocks and green ponderosa pines and pinion trees.
Many people enjoy hiking and horseback riding on the many paths in this spectacular park. There are several trails in the park that range in length and difficulty; therefore, hikers of all ages and fitness levels can have fun exploring this beautiful place. For wildlife watchers, there are over 59 mammal species, 175 species of birds, 11 species of reptiles, four species of amphibians, and over 1,000 species of insects in the park. During the winter wear warm clothing since it gets quite cool. Call (435)834-5322 for visitor information.
For those who are looking for a one-of-the-kind of a place, Death Valley National Park is the place for them because it is the hottest with averages well above 100ºF during the summer, driest with less than two inches of rain each year, and lowest known point at 282 feet below sea level in the continental United States. Despite these extremes, there is a surprising amount of flora and fauna life in the area.
Due to the nature of the area, sightseeing is the main activity here. Usually people take guided tours in automobiles and on ATVs and mountain bikes. Rangers provide guided interpretive tours between November and April (perhaps the most comfortable time of the year here), and historical tours are offered for a fee. At night Death Valley is a great place to star gaze.
Movie buffs will enjoy visiting here, too. Of note, the movies Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, Spartacus, National Lampoon's Vacation, and many more movies and television shows were partially shot here. Call (760)786-3200 for visitor information.
The Grand Canyon is perhaps one of the most popular natural tourist destinations in the country. Situated in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is a massive chasm carved in the Colorado Plateau by the Colorado River. People are attracted here throughout the year to see the vast and majestic views from the North or South Rim around the Grand Canyon. Tourists also enjoy hiking or horseback riding down into the canyon to explore the canyon's floor. Another popular activity in the area is tubing or river rafting down the Colorado River.
Since the Grand Canyon is such a popular tourist destination there are many companies that offer tours of the canyon by land, water, and air. Several of these companies offer transportation from Las Vegas. Tours from Las Vegas range in price from about $100 to about $550 per person, and they usually depart in the morning and last all day. Call (928)638-7888 for visitor information.x
Kingman is just 90 miles southwest of Las Vegas, and it is on historic Route 66. People from all over the world travel here to learn about the history of this roadway. It was a major thoroughfare for a massive exodus of the unemployed from the Midwest to California during the Great Depression. The Route 66 Museum in Kingman is a great place to visit.
Kingman has over 60 national historic sites, and many of them are buildings in downtown. Tours of these buildings and downtown are available for those who want to learn more about the Old West. However, Kingman is not just about history, there are alsorecreational activities in the area. For instance, the Camp Beale Loop Trail is a 3.2 mile path for hikers and mountain bikers who want to climb to the top of a mesa to get great views of the vicinity.
The last weekend of April is a good time for any classic car or Route 66 enthusiast because of the Annual Historic Route 66 Fun Run. This is not a running event, but an event when classic cars travel on Route 66 between Seligman, AZ to Topock/Golden Shores. The highlight of the weekend is a classic car show in Kingman on Saturday.
Call (866)427-7866 for visitor information.
The Lake Havasu area attracts a strange mix of people. Many seniors winter here. Arizona college students flock here for Spring Break, and many of the companies in Lake Havasu City cater to the party needs of these college students. During the summer the lake beckons many boaters and jet skiers.
Robert McCulloch, the city founder, wanted the Lake Havasu area to become a great tourist destination. In fact, to achieve this goal McCulloch bought the London Bridge (yes, the famous one from the English capital in the United Kingdom) in 1962 for $2,460,000 from the British Government and shipped to the city to rebuild it. Las Vegas - with your fake Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, volcano, and canals from Venice - take that! Why settle for seeing a fake when you can see the real deal?
Lake Havasu - London Bridge and all - successfully attracts millions of tourists of all ages and stages each year. It is worth a visit. Call (800)242-8278 for visitor information.
The Lake Mead National Recreational Area is just southeast of Las Vegas. Its major highlights are Lakes Mead and Mohave and the Hoover Dam. The lakes are known for their warms waters that swimmers, water skiers, tubers, and wake boarders love. The recreational area has camping areas that many people use - when they are not on a day trip from Las Vegas. These lakes on the Colorado River are made possible by the Hoover Dam, which is a tourist attraction on its own. This almost 227 foot tall impressive dam has attracted many people for several decades. In fact, some credit the dam for helping the Las Vegas region for becoming a tourist destination. Call (702)293-8990 for visitor information.
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Mt. Charleston is a great escape from the dry, hot climate of the Las Vegas during the summer. With an altitude of about 12,000 feet above sea level, the resort areas on Mt. Charleston enjoy average day temperatures of 80ºF while Las Vegas suffers from 100ºF average day temperatures. During the winter, Mt. Charleston gets snow, and many people come here to ski, sled, and enjoy other traditional winter sports at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort.
There is also fine dining here at the Mt. Charleston Lodge. The restaurant offers a wide range of options from half-pounder burgers and salads to elk chops and ostrich filets. With such variety on the menu, this is a great place for a casual or romantic dining experience during dinner or lunch. The great view of the Las Vegas Valley from over 7,000 feet above sea level makes this a particularly attractive dining location.
One of the best details about Mt. Charleston is that it's about 40 miles away from Las Vegas. With such a close proximity to Las Vegas, this is a great day trip since playing - not travel - can dominate the day. One of the most popular activities on Mt. Charleston is hiking in the summer since there are 52 miles of marked trails, and some are paved and handicap accessible. Also there are over 180 campsites and 160 picnic sites.
Instead of a desolate desert scene, the Mojave National Preserve provides a spectacular area strewn with sand dunes, cinder cones, and mountains thousands of feet tall accented with Joshua Tree forests. While the area is brutally hot during summer months, it is very pleasant during autumn and winter months. If the winter and spring months had some rain, wild flowers should bloom in the area between March and May.
One of the great ways to see the Mojave National Preserve is to take the scenic drive loop that includes Baker, Kelso, Cima, and Primm (in that order). This will add only about an hour to a trip between Los Angeles and Las Vegas on Interstate 15. Exit Interstate 15 at either Baker or Primm and follow the route that includes Kelso and Cima. This drive will provide excellent views of cinder cones, lava flows, the Providence Mountains, and Joshua Trees. There is also a museum and information center in Kelso. People also enjoy riding ATVs in the national preserve while others enjoy hiking. The four mile round-trip trail to Teutonia Peak provides an excellent opportunity to hike through a Joshua Tree forest. The trailhead is about 11 miles south of Interstate 15 on Cima Road.
Call (760)252-6100 for visitor information.
Rachel, NV/Area 51
Visiting Rachel, NV is perfect for the science fiction junkie, conspiracy theorist, or pop culture addict. Rachel is a town of about 98 known humans and a supposed unknown amount of extraterrestrials. The town neighbors the alleged top secret United States military base Area 51. Many conjecture that this is where dead aliens are kept along with their space ships for research. Of course, UFO sighting are quiet common in the area.
In August 2002, it got its first fire truck.
Rachel is 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas on the other side of the restricted space of Nellis Air Force Base. It is on Nevada State Highway 375 - the world's only extraterrestrial highway (established in April 1996). Some consider it part of the fastest route between Yosemite National Park in California and Zion National Park in Utah. Please note that the Extraterrestrial Highway is open range. Watch out for roaming cattle, aliens, or UFOs. Despite the disappearance of road signs warning of possible alien abductions and a speed limit of warp 7, it is advisable to observe these warnings.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Just 17 miles west of Las Vegas is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and it is a great alternative to the glitz, glamour, and neon of The Strip. In fact, some outdoor enthusiasts consider Red Rock Canyon the real star of the desert here - not the ostentatious casinos. Here the desert scenery features 2,000 foot tall rock formations of red, orange, yellow, and black hues.
People flock to Red Rock Canyon to do many activities like hiking, biking, horseback riding, and rock climbing. Perhaps the best time to visit the canyon is during the autumn and winter since the temperatures are warm instead of brutally hot.
There is a one-way trail loop in the canyon that is excellent for cyclists that is 13 miles long. The trail leads to many of the canyons and pull outs in the conservation area. Calico Hills is one of the highlights as it is an excellent place to rock climb, and it provides several excellent views of the Calico Basin and Las Vegas. Those who do not climb will enjoy the chance to take shorter hikes and take in views at the overlooks here. There is a 30 foot waterfall in Spring Canyon, but it is dry during the summer.
There is a $5 day use fee charged, and Red Rock Canyon closes at 5 pm during the summer and at 8 pm during the winter. Park rangers do enforce this closing time, but visitors may call them to let them know that they will leave the area late (an easy way to avoid a fine). Call (760)252-6100 for visitor information.
St. George, Utah is a year round recreational haven less than a two hour drive away from Las Vegas on Interstate 15. Like Las Vegas, St. George enjoys hot summers and mild winters. The city is known for its outlet shopping, year round golf courses, two theater companies that bring Broadway to the desert, and great recreational facilities. October is a great time of year to visit the city since the St. George Marathon - one of the best marathons to build a vacation around according to Runner's World Magazine - and the Huntsman World Senior Games which attracts thousands of athletes (50 years and older) to compete in many sports. Call (800)869-6635 for visitor information.
Just 30 miles northeast of Las Vegas along Valley of Fire Road (a small toll is charged) is Valley of Fire State Park. This drive is 55 miles along Interstate 15, which is not as interesting as the Valley of Fire Road. The Valley of Fire is only six miles away from Lake Mead.
This area features petrified sand dunes and tree trunks that are accented by reds and pinks. In ancient times the Basket Weaver people and Anasazi Pueblo Indians called this area their home. These ancient inhabitants left many petroglyphs and pictographs that depict Indian life throughout the park; petroglyphs were pecked into rock while pictographs were painted onto rock. Many animals like foxes, roadrunner birds, snakes, and lizards call this park home, but most are nocturnal and rarely seen. One of the more prominent species in the park is the desert tortoise which is protected by Nevada state law and laws of several neighboring states. Please be extra cautious around them.
A $6 day use fee is charged at the park entrance. This is an excellent place to hike and picnic while enjoying some relaxation time away from the over stimulating Las Vegas. For more information about the park call (702)397-2088.
With over three million annual visitors, Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States - and for good reason. Zion Canyon, the main area of the park, was carved out by the Virgin River which flows down from the Colorado Plateau on its way to lower ground like the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona.
Like the other national parks of Southern Utah, Zion is full of stunning red rock that showcases dramatic rock formations. An example of this is the Checkerboard Mesa that has a checkerboard pattern etched in its sandstone surface. On a day trip people enjoy many activities like hiking, biking, tubing, and horseback riding. For more information call (435)772-3256. Also, check out Springdale, Utah at the main south entrance to the park.
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