Peace and tranquility may not be the first things that come to mind when planning a trip to Las Vegas, but that’s precisely what you’ll find at these three national parks within driving distance of the flashing lights and high-pitched sounds of Vegas.
Zion National Park
Just as you start to quiet your mind, you’ll arrive at Zion National Park, 2-1/2 hours outside of Vegas. Don’t forget your hiking shoes; some of the best views can be found once you step out of the car and start exploring the numerous paths throughout the park.
Zion’s red sandstone formations and rugged southwestern landscape stretch for miles in all directions. Some trails are more strenuous than others, but find one that suits you and set off into the backcountry. Keep in mind the time you have allotted when choosing a hike. A few miles may not seem far, but if there’s a sharp elevation increase, it could take awhile. Cycling enthusiasts will also enjoy biking the park’s routes.
Zion Canyon is closed to public traffic from March to November, but the National Park Service provides a free shuttle into the canyon as an alternative. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can hop on and off the shuttle at various lookout points along the tour. This gives you a chance to see the park’s beauty with ease.
If you want to stay over for a day or two, Zion Lodge offers hotel rooms and rustic cabins inside the park. Staying on site makes it convenient for full or partial days of sightseeing, hiking, or cycling.
Whether you stay for a few hours or a few days, Red Rock Grill is ready to serve up breakfast, lunch, or dinner and Castle Dome Café offers snacks and fast food in case you want to grab a bite and go.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is a 2-1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas, in the opposite direction of Zion. Autumn, winter, and spring are the best times for a trip to the southern California national park. In the months from October to April, you can expect the hottest place on earth to keep its temps under 100 degrees, but all bets are off in the other months.
Although you can hike and backpack in Death Valley if you so choose, a less hazardous way to explore the park is by air-conditioned vehicle. Either way, it’s a good idea to carry plenty of drinking water.
The park is a massive wilderness area with terrain ranging from salt flats and sand dunes to desert and canyons. In fact, you’ll encounter distant mountains that rise to 11,000 feet above sea level as well as the depth of Badwater Basin, which is 282 feet below sea level.
For a luxury stay, check out Furnace Creek Resort. You’ll have access to the world’s lowest golf course, tennis courts, spa services, and warm, spring-fed swimming pools as well as fine dining and, of course, comfortable rooms — a true oasis in the desert.
Grand Canyon National Park
If you’re up for a longer drive, peel out of Vegas and head for the Grand Canyon. It’ll take about 4-1/2 hours to get to the South Rim, but it’ll be well worth the trip. Alternatively, drive 3 hours to Williams, Arizona and take the Grand Canyon railway the rest of the trip.
From Grand Canyon Village, you can decide if you’ll see the sprawling landscape by car, on foot, or if you’d rather let someone else do the driving. If you choose the latter, you can board the park’s free shuttle service for a relaxing excursion to some of the most popular overlooks like Hopi Point and Pima Point.
You’ll definitely want more than one day to experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon Lodges provides six options for overnight accommodations inside the park. Depending on your preferences and the time of year, you can choose from a hotel-style room or an old-west cabin. Some of the rooms overlook the Canyon and others are only a short walk from the South Rim. You’ll want to make reservations well in advance in order to secure your choice.
You won’t have a hard time finding sustenance on the South Rim. The dining options vary from the cafeteria at Maswik Lodge and box lunches at the Canyon Café to steaks and seafood at the Arizona Room.
Wherever you go, enjoy the peace and beauty that comes from enjoying some of the country’s most treasured outdoor spaces.
Photo Credits: Zion National Park Lodge, Zion National Park Lodge, Furnace Creek Resort, Furnace Creek Resort, Grand Canyon National Park Service, and Grand Canyon National Park Service.