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Road Trip - Las Vegas to Zion

Road Trip - Las Vegas to Zion

 There's a special mystique about the American Southwest.  This is a place where desert sands stretch out for miles, broken only by spiny cacti and dramatic plinths that rise up like deep red sky scrapers.  This desert is a land of paradox, a place that's arid and lush and the same time, full of emptiness and also full of life.  Only in this desert can you see the green hanging gardens of Zion National Park, the almost endless blue waters of Lake Mead, and the staggering depths of the Grand Canyon.  If you're ready for a truly breathtaking journey, don your sunglasses and head to Interstate 15 and the bustling city of Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, the most famous desert city in the United States, is known all over the world as an adult playground. But did you know that Las Vegas has also become a first-rate family destination? Over the last decade, the city has worked hard to expand its offerings, and now it has attractions for visitors of every age. Whether you're looking to stroll the casino floor, catch a show at the Venetian, or see the wild burros at the Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas can fit the bill.  This amazing city sees its tourist population boom in the spring and fall, so if you're looking to avoid the crowds, visit in winter or summer.  Given Las Vegas's warm desert climate, it's a great place for northerners to visit in January or February.

If you love houseboating, jet skiing, fishing, and water skiing, you won't want to miss this chance to visit Lake Mead.  Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers a wealth of things to do and places to go year-round. Its huge lakes cater to boaters, swimmers, sunbathers, and fishermen while its desert rewards hikers, wildlife photographers, and roadside sightseers. It is also home to thousands of desert plants and animals, adapted to survive in an extreme place where rain is scarce and temperatures soar. 

With Lake Mead and Lake Mohave as the central focus, visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area may enjoy a variety of water recreation activities in a rugged and picturesque setting. Lakes Mead and Mohave offer some of the country's best sport fishing. Boating and water skiing are favorite activities on the broad expanses of open water, along with kayaking and canoeing.

Several paved roads wind through the dramatic desert scenery of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Towering stark mountains, plateaus, desert basins of cactuses and creosote bush, and vertical-walled canyons are some of the sights motorists can discover. Short desert hikes lead to places you will never see from a boat or car.

From either Lake Mead or Las Vegas, you can hit the road by turning onto Interstate 15 and heading north.  Your route will take you through the stunning scenery of eastern Nevada, across the northwest corner of Arizona, and into Southern Utah.  Keep your camera handy as you pass through this dramatic country.

Interstate 15 will carry you to the charming city of St. George, which is perched on the edge of Zion National Park, one of the loveliest in the park system.  To experience Zion, you need to walk among the towering cliffs, or challenge your courage in a small narrow canyon. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream to pink to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons.

By 1909, Zion Canyon was practically inaccessible to outside visitors, and while only a few had laid eyes on the towering cliffs, the country still understood its significance and established Mukuntuweap National Monument. In 2009, National Park Service will celebrate the Nation's commitment to preservation and protection of the natural and cultural resources and providing visitor enjoyment in Zion National Park over the past 100 years.

While you're at Zion, be sure to take a hike to see the spring wildflowers or changing autumn leaves.  During any season, look for the 271 species of birds or go biking on the Pa'rus Trail.  You'll find plenty of hikes, long and short, horseback riding opportunities, and special ranger-guided tours and programs.

As you leave Zion, you'll be faced with a difficult choice.  To the north, Interstate 15 will carry you into the Dixie National Forest, then on to the mountainous areas of central and northern Utah.  To the east, you'll find the great wonders of Southern Utah: Natural Bridges National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Arches National Park

And for the truly intrepid, this is your jumping off point for a tour of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (featuring the robin's egg blue waters of Lake Powell), Monument Valley, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  If you have the time, this is an area that deserves a slow exploration.  There are so many hidden treasures and exceptional things to see, you'll find more than enough to fill your time.

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