With the holidays upon us, many of us find our stress reaching all-time highs, and our attention focused on material goods — not necessarily what we hope, but what in the world to give loved ones! Neither condition is good, and for once, I am going to suggest that running away may be the perfect cure. A family trip to a national park can remove you from the pressure cooker of commercialized Christmas, promote togetherness and perhaps even start a family tradition.
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Hualapai Mountain Park is a 2,300-acre preserve located just outside of Kingman, Ariz. Often overlooked in favor of larger and better known parks, it is a gem hidden in the pines with elevations ranging from 4,984 feet to 8,417 feet at Hualapai Peak.
Fortification Hill, just east of the Hoover Dam on the Arizona side of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, towers about 2,000 feet above Lake Mead’s Boulder Basin. Although it looks impenetrable, there is a short but strenuous route to the top where you will be treated to some of the finest views in the park.
For a short outing from Las Vegas, a trip to Corn Creek at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge is a great choice. Less than 30 miles from the city, you can stroll the short nature trails, visit a perennial stream and spring-fed ponds, see lush vegetation and also do some birding in a quiet outdoor environment.
October is a wonderful time to spend outdoors enjoying Zion National Park. Daytime temperatures will likely drop into the pleasant zone, and you’ll be there for the start of fall foliage season depending on the elevation. You can get double value for your visit if you participate in one of the workshops being offered by Zion Canyon Field Institute.
One of the finest backroad trips central Nevada offers to outdoor lovers is Kingston Canyon, lying about 27 miles south of Austin. It offers the multiple joys of hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping and just sightseeing. September is an ideal time to go there, as the weather will be neither too hot nor too cold.
In the heart of south-central Utah’s red rock country is Capitol Reef National Park. The park is well-known for slot canyons, natural arches and bridges, waterfalls and the Waterpocket Fold, a huge wrinkle in the earth that extends nearly 100 miles.
Yosemite National Park is one of those places everyone should see at least once in their lifetime, and over the next two months are ideal times to go. By happy coincidence, it is easiest to go there during the very months when Las Vegans most need to escape the heat.
In the torrid midsummer of Southern Nevada, the closest place for local folk to enjoy a cool outdoor escape is in the Mount Charleston area of the Spring Mountains National Recreation area. Since you’re likely to head there anyway, you might as well choose a trail that will show you some of the area’s most pleasant scenery while putting some miles on your boots
Glen Canyon, Ariz., contains one of the few stretches of river whose beauty rivals that of the Grand Canyon farther down the Colorado River. Through smooth-water raft trips, you will treated to a close-up view of Glen Canyon Dam, stunning scenery, plenty of wildlife, and pre-historic and historic sites.
One of the best things about living in Nevada is that, no matter what the season, you can find a place with ideal temperatures not too far away. A place that has them right now is Ely, in White Pine County, at an elevation of more than 6,400 feet.
Calf Creek in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument lies at the end of a 6-mile roundrip hike and offers a reliable view of one of the Southwest’s best waterfalls.
While there are hundreds of stunning slot canyons in our region, most of them are difficult to reach and many require technical skills to explore them. Two of the best, however — tops on my list for being visually stimulating — are pretty easy to access.
One of the better blessings of life in Southern Nevada is the ease of accessing Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The area’s one big drawback is its low elevation and lack of shade, meaning that daytime temperatures become unpleasant by late spring. So the ideal time to go there is in the next few weeks, especially if you wish to hike one of the trails, have a picnic, or catch the last of the wildflowers.
Arches National Park, just outside the town of Moab, Utah, lives up to its name. The park contains more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the densest concentration in the world. Besides arches, you will also get to see natural windows, balanced rocks, fins, pinnacles and hoodoos.
Over the next month or so is one of the finest times to enjoy Zion National Park, Utah. The weather is ideal; the leaves are popping out on the deciduous trees; wildflowers are appearing; and the birds are out and about enjoying springtime.
Footloose Las Vegans travel in all directions of the compass but tend to reserve southerly excursions for colder months. You still have time for at least one more trip southward before the weather warms too much.
One of the great advantages of living in this region is being able to enjoy nature up close and privately, along the many uncrowded back roads.
Joshua Tree National Park, just outside of Twentynine Palms, Calif., is often overlooked in favor of better-known parks, but it shouldn't be.
Zion National Park is the default destination for many Southern Nevadans who require frequent doses of wilderness, but in winter, snow and ice sometimes make its best-known trails too dangerous to hike.
A great winter activity for snow lovers is cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah.
For more than 60 years, the town of St. Thomas was a legend — Nevada's Atlantis, lying deep under the surface of Lake Mead. But after drought lowered the waters in 2002 and uncovered the old settlement, it has become an interesting and educational destination, with the bonus of a scenic drive to get there and back.
Grafton, Utah, offers one of those sweet visual experiences that decorate a traveler's memory like so many ornaments on a Christmas tree.
Getting outdoors for some fresh air and exercise this weekend could possibly solve two problems at once: overeating at Thanksgiving and keeping your family and out-of-town guests busy.
Right now, you might be seeing a tarantula or two while driving or hiking around the back country. Rather than dissolving into a quivering pool of arachnophobia, try to focus on the interesting aspects of our eight-footed friends.
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