Las Vegas is a desert hideaway where anything goes. People visit for various reasons, but one of the big ones is a high-octane adrenalin rush of drinking, gambling, and partying. It’s often the type of vacation that leaves you feeling like you need a vacation.
But what if you could get that second little relaxation trip during your crazy Vegas vacay? You can! There are a bunch of good excursions within short proximity to Sin City, and a lot of them offer a completely different experience than what you’ll find on the Strip.
About 135 miles from Las Vegas, Death Valley features the lowest elevation in North America, about 280 feet below sea level. Don’t expect it to be a respite from the Sin City heat, though; it’s frequently one of the hottest destinations in the U.S.
If you’re in the mood for a tasty meal, stop at Furnace Creek, then explore Zabriskie Point, Badwater, 20-Mule Canyon, and Stovepipe Wells. If you’re there in the spring, take time to be mesmerized by the colorful wildflowers. If time permits, check out Scotty’s Castle, otherwise known as “Death Valley Ranch.” It’s definitely more ranch than castle, but the mission revival-style villa offers great tours nonetheless.
Just over a half hour from the strip, the Hoover Dam is not only an incredible piece of engineering, but a scenic beauty. The amount of concrete in the dam (4,360,000 cubic yards) allows it to create an entire lake (Lake Mead), which doubles as the country’s largest reservoir. The adjoining Lake Mead National Recreation Area is nice, but the two warm springs, Rogers and Blue Point, are more interesting with all of their wildlife. The nearby town of St. Thomas provides some interesting archaeology for those in the mood for history that’s a little more ancient.
Only 15 minutes or so west of Vegas, these famous desert rock formations have great views, plus fantastic hiking and rock climbing for those who like adventure. The sandstone formations are easily visible as you approach the park. Photography buffs should aim to be there for sunrise or sunset, or both! Be sure to make your way to higher elevations to get great shots of the Keystone Thrust, a 3,000-foot escarpment produced by a thrust fault.
A great spot to cool off just 45 minutes from Las Vegas, you can frequently see temperatures drop by 20 or even 30 degrees here. If you like hiking, skiing, horseback riding, or just getting away, this is a great spot to check out. If you want to camp for a night, Mount Charleston is probably your best bet in the area.
The Grand Canyon isn’t a realistic day trip just because of the distance – almost a 300-mile drive. But you’ll also want to spend more than a day, regardless, due to the sheer number of activities on offer. It’s worth extending your Vegas trip by a few days, though, as the Grand Canyon truly is one of earth’s natural wonders. In a way, it’s exactly what you imagine: a big, ole hole in the earth. But it’s also so much more, thanks to its natural beauty and breathtaking outdoor activities.
Photo credit: Gayinspandex [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.
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