Last time I told you about my trip to Las Vegas as a tourist. This time I want to mention a few fascinating places I have visited over the years.
91.9% of Nevada falls under one of any number of land management programs. Because it is so controlled, much of the natural beauty has been carefully preserved and remains in nearly pristine condition for us to visit. Because it’s so hot and the terrain often hostile, Nevada is sparsely populated. Much of it holds the mystique of the old west, of pioneers and cowboys and Indians, of gunfights and range wars and cattle drives. Other places hold the secrets of the very earth, with the upheavals of mountains and rivers clearly visible to the naked eye.
Only a half an hour from Vegas is Red Rock Canyon, an area splashed with, what else, red rocks, as well as layers of the earth plainly visible. As one of many state parks, it has a visitor center that describes the wonders you will find in the canyon.
The Valley of Fire, another state park, is the oldest and largest in Nevada. Many red sandstone formations are named for the things they resemble, like a crab, or an Indian or eagles. Caves contain 3000 year old petro glyphs left by early Paiute Indians.
Lake Mead provides all the recreation a boater could hope for. Formed by the damming of the Colorado River while building Hoover Dam, it sprawls for 112 miles into the desert, skirting the Valley of Fire and of course Hoover Dam. Visitors can rent all manner of boats, even house boats and spend as much time as they want cruising on the crystal blue waters.
Not to be missed is Hoover Dam. The history of the building of the dam is one part of the fascinating visit, the beauty of the area is awesome.
While crossing the Spring Mountains, due west of Las Vegas, you will pass Mt. Potesi where Clark Gable’s wife, Carol Lombard, was killed in a plane crash in 1942. On the other side of the mountains you will come to Pahrump Valley, the Paiute word for big water. Once the largest short staple cotton producer in the world, it now boast the beginnings of a big town, a major stop on the way to California, just as it was in the Gold Rush days. From the valley you can view Mt. Charleston, the eighth highest mountain in the contiguous US. Very often it is covered with snow year round. Continuing that direction, you will enter Death Valley, where temperatures soar in excess of 130 degrees in the summer. Quite a contrast in such a short distance! Death Valley is just that, a big desert valley, but is home to Scotty’s Castle, a unique sight in any setting. Well worth a visit.
I can’t possibly mention all the places you could visit, like the China Date Farm, or Rhyolite, a gold rush era ghost town, or Bonnie Springs, near an Indian reservation, and of course, one of our nation’s most beautiful natural splendors, The Grand Canyon. Most everywhere you go you will find the welcome mat out. All the places I’ve mentioned are an easy day trip from Las Vegas, but most have accommodations for longer visits. Even LA and Hollywood are a mere 6 hour trip.
More adventurous travelers can set out on their own and visit small towns and off the beaten path wonders. There are huge ranches, small Mexican stores, Café’s, gift shops, luxury restaurants, even a mall all by itself out in the desert. So, if you ever find yourself in Vegas, and have had enough of the strip rent a car and go exploring. It’s like taking a step back in time, or stepping into a western movie.