Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Southwest Road Trip -- from Las Vegas

Hey Jamie,

My wife and I are going to be visiting Las Vegas for a week very soon and we are really interested in taking some nice day trips and possible over nighters. We love to visit national parks and see the sights in the area. We wanted to write to you to find out if you had any recommendations about national parks we could visit and other areas/sights that we should see.

We have seen the Grand Canyon, Red Rock Canyon, and Death Valley on our previous trips to Vegas. We were thinking to heading a little more east and visiting Zion, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, and some others.

What do you recommend and what routes do you recommend? Thanks for the help.

P.S. Your book is amazing and we use it on all of our trips.




Hi Brian --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and for saying such nice things about my book. I hope I can point you toward some great stuff outside Las Vegas -- and there is definitely a lot to see (even in winter!)

Zion National Park should definitely be top of your itinerary -- and you're in luck, because the rustic old 1920s lodge there has just been renovated, and is offering "winter break" packages at pretty good prices ($89 a night and up! URL: http://www.zionlodge.com/Zion-in-Winter-7345.html ).

The red rock sentinels of Zion look even more fabulous with a dusting of snow, and I suspect that Bryce and the other wonders of that part of the West will be amazing to see, as well. I once went on a ranger-guided "snowshoe" hike just under the rim at Bryce, and is was wonderful (and free, I think -- they still seem to do these, weekends and some weekdays). Bryce Canyon Lodge doesn't have rooms in winter, but nearby Ruby's Inn does.

If you had 3 or 4 days (or longer!), you could do a nice loop trip, heading east from Las Vegas to Zion, then along Hwy-12 to Bryce, Hwy-24 across Capitol Reef, then either up to Arches and Canyonlands, or (more quickly) down Hwy-95 (Natural Bridges is nice, too). Monument Valley stands along the Utah / Arizona border, and to get back to Las Vegas you can either loop back via Zion or take the longer way and follow old Route 66 (which survives in the shadow of Interstate 40) and come into Las Vegas via Hoover Dam and a new US93 bridge over the Colorado River.

That sounds like a great trip, doesn't it? Years ago I wrote a Road Trip USA: Southwest guide, and the Four Corners area was definitely my favorite part.

There are lots of possibilities, for sure, and the nice thing about a road trip is that you have more flexibility in the face of changing conditions. If you are indeed going "soon", be prepared because the weather will be cold, for sure, since most of the area is at a pretty high elevation (Vegas is about 2000 feet, Zion is about 4000 feet, and Bryce is about 8000 feet -- higher than the South Rim of the Grand Canyon!).

Because many of these very scenic roads (like Hwy-12) are quite treacherous in snowy conditions, you'd probably want to scale back the trip if the weather looks threatening -- maybe you could just "hole up" in a cabin at Zion, and simply enjoy that.

Hope this helps. Happy Trails, and Happy New Year!

with best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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