Getting to Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, takes a little more time and trouble than some weekend jaunts, but the rewards are also a little bigger. You’ll not only see three of the nation’s most impressive natural bridges, but on the way there, you will see some more of the Southwest’s most spectacular scenery.
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Just east of the Sierra Nevada range, near the small tourist town of Lee Vining, Calif., is one of the most unusual bodies of water you’ll ever visit. Mono Lake is one of the oldest in North America and has no outlet, and for that reason, mineral salts have become so concentrated in the lake that fish cannot live in it. These high concentrations combined with other local conditions to form towers of rock tufa, extending high above the water surface and are equally beloved by birds and photographers.
With the arrival of warm weather and school almost out, this is the time to think about a summer visit to the cooler climates of Northern Nevada. One of the most stunning areas you can visit lies just east of Elko: the Ruby Mountains.
Hackberry Canyon in the southwestern section of the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument remains so enchantingly unspoiled it’s easy to forget you’re in the 21st century. And that’s the point of going there. While the hike is quite remote, the reward is a stunning narrow canyon, carved by a perennial stream, flanked by lush vegetation. If you go right now, there are also wildflowers.
Lincoln County, our nearest neighboring county to the north, is rich in sites where you can see unspoiled petroglyphs, the mysterious rock carvings that have graced cliffs and boulders since prehistoric times. Two of my favorite sites in that area are the White River Narrows Archaeological District and the Mt. Irish Rock Art and Archaeological District, both located off of state Route 318, north of Alamo and Hiko.
Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, is a viewpoint atop a giant red sandstone monolith, offering one of the best panoramic views in the park, which is to say one of the best in the American West. The 5-mile round-trip hike to Angels Landing is famous among hikers throughout the world, mostly because it is one scary trail, especially in the last bone-chilling half-mile. If this hike is on your bucket list, it’s good to do it in spring, after the sun has melted any ice that might have made the path slick and before summer brings the year’s largest crowds to the park and hot temperatures.
Black Canyon National Water Trail in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is one of only 16 national water trails in the United States and the first one in the Southwest. Designated last year, this Colorado River corridor stretches from Hoover Dam about 30 miles downstream to Lake Mojave.
Many of the treasures offered by the 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve can be found only by traveling on remote gravel roads. One such destination is Fort Piute in the extreme eastern region of the park.
With the Pacific Ocean, tons of sun, mild temperatures and an unlimited amount of outdoor activities in which to take part, San Diego makes an ideal destination for a short family trip. Or perhaps a romantic one.
We skiers and snowboarders dwelling in Southern Nevada mostly haunt our beloved and handy Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort. But sometimes we want a change of slopes and scenery for just a few days. One of the best getaways for that purpose is the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff. It’s not only close enough for easy access but also has the advantage of excellent nearby nightlife.
Temple Bar is only an hour and a half or so from Las Vegas, yet somehow has remained underutilized, if not undiscovered, by most of the city’s outdoor lovers. That reason alone would recommend it as an especially relaxing getaway destination, but there are plenty of other reasons.
Lake Havasu City, Ariz., makes a great weekend getaway this time of year. During February, you’ll get to choose from an abundance of outdoor activities, including some of the city’s most popular annual events. And you’ll enjoy temperatures a little warmer than in Las Vegas — pleasant for wintertime.
One way to beat the January blues is by taking a day trip to nearby Death Valley National Park, Calif. Depending on where you live in the Las Vegas Valley, you can be at the hub of the park, Furnace Creek, in 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Careful as you may be in choosing Christmas gifts for your children, it’s a rare gift that won’t eventually be broken, outgrown or worn out. But good memories can last a lifetime, and those few days after Christmas morning, but before school resumes, offer an unparalleled opportunity to build those memories along the trails of Southern Nevada
For some reason doubtless buried in our prehistoric past, most humans find volcanos interesting, as long as they’re not spewing molten rock and poison gas. If you’d like to visit one that has behaved itself for about 10,000 years but still shows the interesting geologic features acquired in its flaming youth, Amboy Crater makes a fine day trip this time of year. The temperature will be 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the same day in Las Vegas, and the route I suggest will take you through the Mojave National Preserve, an agreeable place in early winter.
Visitors flock from all over the world to see Bryce Canyon National Park’s natural amphitheaters filled with pinnacles, spires and the spooky limestone formations called hoodoos. They mostly come in the agreeable high-country summer, yet some claim winter is the best time. Though Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with the gift of snowfall, when she does, it makes every detail of this colorful landscape seem to pop out of the white background like a watercolor by an expert artist.
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, just south of the ranching community of Alamo, encompasses 5,382 acres of lakes, marshes, meadows, riparian areas and open desert. The three largest bodies of water in the refuge are Upper Lake, Middle Pond and Lower Lake, fed by thermal springs.
Longtime Southern Nevadans who love the Mojave Desert nevertheless often develop a desire to explore other arid landscapes. Typically, they dream of the Sonoran Desert, whose scenery may have inspired them to live in the Southwest. An excellent place to fulfill that desire is in and around Tucson, Ariz. There are dozens of places to take in the flora and fauna, but two places stand out: Saguaro National Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which has one of the world’s best zoos.
The monsoon season is over, the crowds have gone, and the daytime temperatures are ideal — perfect conditions for a fall trip to Lake Powell. The lake, which boasts more than 1,800 miles of shoreline, lies within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, on the border of Arizona and Utah. The lake was created when the Glen Canyon Dam was built. Although the dam was, and still is, a controversial topic for many, the lake it created has become an outdoor person’s paradise.
The Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon is one of the most significant rock art sites in North America. It is in a remote area of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. A trip there requires plenty of preparation, plus the equipment and willingness to drive a 30-mile gravel road to the trailhead. Once there, you’ll need to hike down through the slick rock, which contains a few high drop-offs into the canyon. It is a moderately strenuous hike of about 6.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation loss/gain of about 800 feet at the beginning and that much to climb back up at hike’s end.
Editor’s note: Be sure to check road conditions before traveling.
With the opening of school and the approach of holidays, most of us become too busy to escape for long from our city lives. That makes the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge a good choice for a September escape. Lying in Nevada near the California state line, it’s close enough to enjoy thoroughly in a single day, yet it’s a little farther north, a little higher, and therefore a little cooler, than our own valley. Now is an especially good time to go if you enjoy birdwatching or counting how many different kinds you can see, for the fall migratory season is upon us, and more than 275 species have been recorded there.
Grand Canyon National Park is visited by nearly 5 million people a year, and not surprisingly, many complain that it’s crowded. But you don’t have to endure that because the vast majority of those millions gaze upon the canyon from its South Rim. Those who choose the North Rim get much more elbow room.
A visit to Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a feast for the eyes and soul. There, you will find sheer red sandstone cliffs rising 1,000 feet above the fertile farmland of the canyons, where prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan ruins and hundreds of other archaeological sites dot the landscape. People have lived there nearly 5,000 years; it is believed to be the longest continuous occupancy of any site on the Colorado Plateau.
Nevada is home to 23 state parks, the majority with only one unique feature. But Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is in a class of its own, as it features not only a well-preserved historic mining town but also remains of the ancient ichthyosaur (pronounced ICK-thee-o-saur), our state fossil.