The Ultimate Guide to Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers a wealth of things to do and places to go year-round. Its huge lakes cater to boaters, swimmers, sunbathers, and fishermen while its desert rewards hikers, wildlife photographers, and roadside sightseers.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a National Park Service (NPS) site with 1.5 million acres of mesmerizing landscapes, canyons, valleys, and two vast lakes of vibrant blue waters. This park is a playground for adventurers who love hiking, watersports, fishing, boating, scuba diving, and more.

This national recreation area offers a chance to see the Hoover Dam, enjoy the waters of Lake Mohave and Lake Mead, and retreat into nature in one of the park’s 9 designated wilderness areas.

Where Is Lake Mead National Recreation Area?

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is located in southeastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona. The closest major city to this park is Las Vegas, 26 miles away. 

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area opening hours and seasons

This national recreation area is open year-round, 24 hours a day. The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This facility is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. 

Driving to Lake Mead National Recreation Area

There are nine access points to this national recreation area so the route you choose will depend on the area from which you are coming and the entrance you want to utilize for your arrival. The best and most popular entrance is the one that takes you to the visitor center. U.S. Highway 93 is the main road used by those driving to the park. 

Getting around Lake Mead National Recreation Area

The best way to get around this park is by private vehicle. This vast recreation area has so many sites and attractions to explore; the best way to do this is by driving to the different areas and exploring on foot.

Of course, another good way to explore the park on the water is by boating or paddling on the bright blue waters of Lake Mohave and Lake Mead. The National Park Service offers printable and interactive maps to help you plan your itinerary. 

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What to see and do in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

This national recreation area covers 1.5 million acres of canyons, lakes, valleys, and mountains. There is no shortage of adventure at this park. Check out some of the most popular activities and sights at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. 

Boating

Over 290 square miles of waterways are within the boundaries of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Lake Mead and Lake Mohave provide some of the best boating opportunities for those who love to explore the park on the water. Whether you want to speed through the open water or float in a private cove, there are many fun and relaxation opportunities here. 

Boat rentals are available at the marinas on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Many types of boats are available to rent, including sports boats, fishing boats, paddle boats, pontoons, and houseboats. These locations also rent out water skis and wakeboards for even more adventures. 

Tip: Be sure to read the park’s boating rules and regulations to ensure you have a fun, safe time.

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Canoeing and kayaking

Thanks to all the water within the park’s boundaries, canoeing and kayaking are popular activities at this national recreation area. The views from the calm lake waters and majestic mountains surrounding them are breathtaking.

The Black Canyon Water Trail and Mohave Water Trail are the most popular trails for paddling but there are also many hidden coves throughout the park just waiting to be discovered.

Guided tours

A variety of guided tours are offered at this national recreation area. The park’s visitor center is a wonderful place to learn about the various tour options.

Some of the guided tour options include cruises, ranger-led hikes, and hunting and fishing adventures. The most popular tours include the Cruise to the Hoover Dam and the Float Down the Colorado River. There are also self-guided options should you choose to explore on your own. Taking advantage of the many tour options is a fantastic way to learn about and explore this impressive area. 

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Hiking

Although most visitors are attracted to Lake Mead National Recreation Area because of lakes Mead and Mohave more than 87 percent of the park protects a vast area of the eastern Mojave Desert. Perhaps the best way to explore this diverse ecosystem is on foot, traveling across open expanses of rock formations that contain all the colors of the rainbow.

Which trail is right for you? There are a variety of hikes that vary in difficulty and length. These trails are in the Lake Mead and Lake Mojave areas. The hiking trails show off the park’s diverse ecosystems and take hikers past incredible rainbow-colored rock formations, canons, and washes.

Some of the favorite trails include the Historic Railroad Trail, River Mountains Loop, and Owl Canyon. The best time to hike here is from October to April. The temperatures are cooler during these months and the journey is much more enjoyable. Visitors are not recommended to hike during the summer months as the temperatures are dangerously high. 

Scenic drives

There are two main scenic drives in Lake Mead National Recreation Area: Lakeshore Road and Northshore Road. These drives travel through the mountains, canyons, and desert basins. Driving these roads offers visitors excellent opportunities to enjoy the views and capture photos of the bright blue waters and colorful mountains.

Visitors also enjoy stopping for picnics while driving along these roads. Cyclists, pedestrians, and wildlife use these scenic roads, so stay alert and mindful of those sharing the road with you. 

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Visitor center

The Lake Mead Visitor Center is an excellent place to visit before starting your park adventures. This facility is just a few miles north of the Hoover Dam and has so much to offer park visitors. 

Park rangers are stationed at the visitor center to help you plan a fantastic adventure or answer any questions. You can obtain park maps brochures, get a national park passport stamp, or turn in a Junior Ranger booklet to earn your Junior Ranger Badge.

There is also a store inside this facility that is run by the Western National Parks Association. This store offers guests a chance to buy books about the park, Native American arts, crafts, jewelry, posters, clothing, and postcards.

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Best times to visit Lake Mead National Recreation Area

You’re guaranteed an unforgettable trip any time you’re able to visit this national recreation area. There are better times than others to plan a trip here especially if you hope to participate in particular activities. Take a look at the best times to visit this park.

Best time to visit Lake Mead National Recreation Area for summer fun

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is an exciting place for summer fun. The best time to visit during the summer months is in June. The high temperatures typically reach the upper 90s and the lows dip down to the low 70s. There is an average of 0 days of precipitation during the time making the summer adventure opportunities never-ending.

Best time to visit Lake Mead National Recreation Area to avoid the crowds

The best way to explore a new place is without having to worry about crowds and traffic. If you want to experience this national recreation area without crowds, plan to come in November. This time of year is the least busy making it a perfect time to enjoy the park at your own pace. 

Best time to visit Lake Mead National Recreation Area for ideal weather

Weather can make or break a trip, so planning around typical weather patterns is a great idea. If you want to experience this park when the weather is ideal, plan to come in April. The daily lows are in the mid-50s and the highs are in the upper 70s. It typically only rains an average of 1 day in April but it’s wise to come prepared for rain just in case.

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Annual events in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

This national recreation area hosts several events on a regular basis throughout the year. Some of the regularly scheduled events include star parties, guided hikes through the wetlands, and hikes to Majestic Canyon. There are also some annual events.

National Public Lands Day Litter Cleanup

Each September, Lake Mead National Recreation Area participates in the National Public Lands Day Litter Cleanup. This free event is an excellent way for visitors to positively impact the park and help remove litter from the beaches and other areas. A benefit to visiting on this day is that participants will receive a voucher to visit a federal public land at no charge. 

Rage Triathlon

Each year in April, the Rage Triathlon takes place at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This race has taken place since 2001 and offers a fantastic way to experience this park. It winds through beach campgrounds and along river and mountain trails. The Rage Triathlon is considered one of the region’s most scenic desert landscape triathlons.

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Where to stay in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area has an abundance of options for those who want to stay within the park’s boundaries or in a nearby town. Check out some of the best places to stay both in and near this recreation area. 

Inside the park

There are many options for accommodations within this national recreation area. From campgrounds to resorts and lodges, the options are many. Check out some of the different places to stay within this park.

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Campgrounds

Spend your next camping adventure on the lake. With over 900 camping and RV sites at 15 different locations, there is a variety of desert and lakeside landscapes sure to please everyone. Lake Mead National Recreation Area’s campgrounds offer restrooms, running water, dump stations, grills, picnic tables and shade. RVs and tents are welcome.

Most of the campgrounds can be reserved but there are a few that are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some of the campgrounds are operated by the National Park Service such as Boulder Beach, Callville Bay, Cottonwood Cove, Echo Bay, Las Vegas Bay, and Temple Bar.

Concessioner campgrounds including recreational vehicle hook-ups are also available within the park. These campgrounds include Katherin Landing and Willow Beach.

Bottom line:

If you prefer to set up camp and sleep under the stars, you will find so many options at Lake Mead that you may have difficulty narrowing down where to pitch your tent.

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Cottonwood Cove Resort and Marina

Cottonwood Cove Resort and Marina is a beautiful option for those wanting to stay within the park’s boundaries. This Spanish-style resort is right off the shores of Lake Mohave and offers red-roofed motel rooms and lots of amenities for a comfortable stay. 

This lodging option features covered outdoor patios with tables and chairs for lounging and taking in breathtaking sunsets and lakefront views. There are also outdoor barbecues for those who prefer to cook outdoors. 

Another unique choice for visitors who want to get off the grid is renting a houseboat during your stay. This is a great way to experience the lake and take a break from the duties of home.

Lake Mohave Resort at Katherine Landing

Several types of accommodations are available at Lake Mohave Resort at Katherine Landing. Visitors can choose from mid-century-style rooms, a full hook-up RV or tent site, and even private homes. This resort has gorgeous views of the desert scenery and Lake Mohave.

The lodge offers standard double or standard king rooms. These rooms feature a private bathroom, air conditioning, coffee makers, and satellite televisions to make you feel at home. There is also a spectacular restaurant on-site to take care of any cravings you may have during your stay. 

Visitors who stay here can enjoy world-class boating, water skiing, scuba diving, wakeboarding, and fishing for largemouth, smallmouth, and striper bass. 

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Temple Bar Marina Resort

Temple Bar Marina Resort is located on Lake Mead on the Arizona side of the park. This resort offers lake view lodging, an RV park, access to hundreds of beaches and coves, an on-site store, gift shop, café, bar, and launch ramp. This is an incredible option for a home base when visiting this national recreation area. 

Temple Bar has standard motel rooms and cabins for those who want a more traditional type of stay. Visitors can choose from standard rooms with lake views or desert views, fishing cabins, or suites with kitchen access. Whatever type of stay you prefer this resort has a perfect solution for your travel needs. 

Towns near Lake Mead National Recreation Area

There are several towns near this recreation area for those who prefer to set up a base camp outside the park’s boundaries. Whether you seek a quiet, small town or a lively, larger city, there’s a perfect place for you in these towns.

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Boulder City, Nevada

Boulder City is a charming small town with a rich historical heritage, only 6 miles from the park. For those wanting to stay near the recreation area, this town has a variety of options for dining, lodging, and entertainment.

This city has a variety of accommodations including RV resorts, contemporary hotels, and budget-friendly motels. Whether you’re looking for a unique stay in a themed motel, a luxury stay in a hotel, or a relaxing visit to a resort, there are plenty of options in this city. 

Food enthusiasts are in for a treat in this city. A variety of restaurants, including cafes, sushi bars, diners, and Mexican taquerias are scattered throughout this town.

For recreation, there are incredible opportunities available in this town. From kayaking to golfing, visiting museums, and exploring several types of parks, there’s no shortage of fun here. You are also in the perfect location for exploring famous landmarks like the Hoover Dam. 

Boulder City is an ideal home away from home for those visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Its proximity to the park and its incredible opportunities for food, fun, and lodging make the choice of where to settle an easy one. 

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Henderson, Nevada

Henderson is located approximately 19 miles from the national recreation area. This city is a great place to make a home base during a visit to this park. It has perfect options for those traveling with family, friends, or solo. 

The accommodations in this town range from luxury hotels to smaller, more affordable motels to 5-star luxury resorts. Whatever budget or type of stay you have in mind, you can find a perfect option for your vacation needs here. 

This city has fantastic restaurants including pizza parlors, formal dining rooms, authentic cultural cuisine, diners, and cafes. This city has something to offer every palate. 

If you’re looking for fun, this is the right place. Henderson has countless opportunities for outdoor recreation including hiking, playgrounds, splash pads, skate parks, and bicycle trails.

Where to eat in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

There are eight different restaurants within the boundaries of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. These restaurants serve a variety of cuisines and are located in or near the marinas. Here are two popular choices.

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Harbor House Café and Lounge

The Harbor House Café and Lounge is a floating restaurant and bar right on Lake Mead. This dining option serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks daily. 

The menu seems endless at this restaurant. From freshly tossed salads to stacked sandwiches, breakfast specialties, and fish and chips, there’s something for every palate here. Some of the most popular menu items include the classic club sandwich, buffalo chicken wrap, and the Harbor Burger.

Be sure to stop by this café and lounge when visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Not only will you enjoy a fantastic meal but you can also take in the gorgeous views of the surrounding slips, lake, and mountains. 

Temple Bar Café

Temple Bar Café is located at the Temple Bar Marina. This restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Breakfast burritos, stacks of fluffy pancakes, signature sandwiches, juicy burgers, and sizzling pizzas are just some of the items on the menu here. Customers rave about patty melt, Rueben sandwiches, homemade biscuits and gravy, and home-cooked weekly specials. 

For a delicious meal in this recreation area, you won’t regret a stop at Temple Bar Café. It’s a great place to rest up and refuel for more adventures in the park.

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area facts

1. Lake Mead National Recreation Area was established in 1964. This was America’s first national recreation area. 

2. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the third largest NPS area other than the parks in Alaska. This recreation area covers 1.5 million acres. 

3. This area was occupied by desert Indian cultures that existed 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. It’s believed that the ancestral Puebloan people were the first to inhabit this land. These people group hunted game, gathered edible plants in the area, and practiced farming.

4. Lake Mead is a large reservoir on the Colorado River. This lake was formed by Hoover Dam located in Black Canyon. Lake Mead is the largest U.S. reservoir by volume coming in right before Lake Powell. 

5. An abundance of animals call Lake Mead National Recreation Area home thanks to its diverse ecosystems. These animals have special adaptations that help them survive the harsh environment. Some commonly seen animals here include the Desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, desert tortoises, Gila monsters, and 19 species of bats. 

Final thoughts

Whether you seek outdoor adventure or solitude in nature, Lake Mead National Recreational Area is a bucket list location. With so many options to hike, fish, boat, view wildlife, attend a guided program, and tour amazing places, it’s easy to spend several days exploring this beautiful park. Book your trip to Lake Mead today and discover what brings in millions of visitors from around the world each year.

Details

  • Area: 1,495,806 acres
  • Established: October 13, 1936
  • Recreation visits in 2023: 5,798,541
  • Entrance fee: $25 per vehicle, valid for 7 consecutive days

Worth Pondering…

Most travelers hurry too much…the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open … with real inward attention. …you can extract the essence of a place once you know how.

―Lawrence Durrell

10 Road Trip Destinations from Las Vegas

Pack your bags and check your tires; it’s time for a road trip from Las Vegas

Vegas baby! For many, a trip to Sin City is simply slot machines, video poker, and getting stuffed at all-you-can-eat buffets. But if Lady Luck isn’t on your side or you’re just looking for an adventure away from the strip, Las Vegas is a great starting point for a road trip. Whether it’s a quick day trip or a longer outing Las Vegas is perfectly positioned to give you some amazing experiences.

Ready to plan your route? Here are 10 ideas for road trip destinations from Las Vegas that are less than 300 miles in distance.

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1. Lake Mead

Distance from Las Vegas: 30 miles

Estimated time: 45 minutes

The Nevada desert isn’t known for its large bodies of water but believe it or not Las Vegas is home to one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. So if you’re looking for some waterfront fun, Lake Mead has got you covered. Take the boat out for some high-speed adventures or bike around the trails before cooling off in one of the swimming areas.

If you want someone to show you around, there are numerous guided tours on the lake. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the stunning views of this desert oasis.

Not enough for you? They also have kayaking, camping, hiking trails, fishing, horseback riding, scuba diving, and so much more.

>> Get more tips for visiting Lake Mead

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Hoover Dam

Distance from Las Vegas: 37 miles

Estimated time: 45 minutes

The Hoover Dam is one of mankind’s most ambitious projects. It stands at a whopping 726 feet tall and crosses the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona. Bonus, it’s just a hop, skip, and jump away from the dazzling lights of Las Vegas.

Choose from either the 30-minute or 1-hour guided tour that takes you into the bowels of the dam to learn about the power it generates and what it does for the surrounding desert. Don’t want a tour? It’s free to walk along the top and take in the scenery, plus you can still learn a thing or two with the many informative plaques lining the walkway.

>> Get more tips for visiting Hoover Dam

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Laughlin

Distance from Las Vegas: 100 miles

Estimated time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Laughlin is more relaxed than Vegas, a natural choice for a quick getaway. The town has created a niche with Nevada-style gaming but without the high-speed lifestyle of the Las Vegas Strip. Stretch your legs while exploring Laughlin on foot at the Riverwalk. Well-maintained and offering fantastic views of the city and the Colorado River, the Laughlin Riverwalk is a great way to get from one casino to the other while soaking up sights like Don Laughlin’s Riverside to the boats sailing by.

The coolest way to get around town is by water taxi. These small boats, piloted by certified captains, zip around on the river from one property to another. Most casinos have their own dock and if you stand around on one, a water taxi will show up fairly quick.

>> Get more tips for visiting Laughlin

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. St. George

Distance from Las Vegas: 120 miles

Estimated time: 2 hours

St. George is the first place you’ll run into after cutting through the northwest corner of Arizona and crossing the border into Utah. The city combines a charming downtown area with a thriving art scene and proximity to four state parks including the bright red sandy beaches of the Sand Hollow reservoir. Outdoor explorers will be most excited to know St. George is the largest city outside Zion National Park, one of the most colorful examples of rock formations, sweeping cliffs, and waterfalls.

There’s plenty to enjoy in Southern Utah and visitors can arrive in St. George in two hours. The destination is great for those who enjoy the outdoors as it’s near Zion National Park, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, and Dixie National Forest. Or, travel a little further for a day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park or the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Zion National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 165 miles

Estimated time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

With over 229 square miles, more than 35 hiking trails, cliffs towering more than 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, and more species of plants than the Hawaiian Islands, Zion National Park is a pretty incredible place. Zion Canyon is accessed from Highway 9 heading east from St. George. Because of this area’s popularity, the park runs a shuttle to accommodate more visitors at once. Two of the park’s most popular hikes (Angels Landing and The Narrows) can be found in the main canyon along with many other incredible trails.

Driving the 6-mile Mt. Carmel Highway through the park provides visitors easy access to viewpoints while offering that winding-road experience. It is easily accessible throughout the park’s most popular area and the richly brick-colored highway with canary-yellow stripes plays well visually against the soft color of the canyons.  

>> Get more tips for visiting Zion National Park

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Cedar Breaks National Monument

Distance from Las Vegas: 226 miles

Estimated time: 4 hours

Cedar Breaks’ majestic amphitheater is a three-mile-long cirque made up of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in Southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, the monument sits entirely above 10,000 feet. The Amphitheater is like a naturally formed coliseum that plunges 2,000 feet below taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cedar Breaks National Monument

El Paseo Shopping District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Palm Springs

Distance from Las Vegas: 230 miles

Estimated time: 4 hours

If you want to vacation at the spot that was popular with old-school Hollywood film stars and the Rat Pack, consider visiting Palm Springs. Visitors can browse vintage shops, art galleries, or boutiques at the El Paseo Shopping District. A ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can also provide a view over the valley at an elevation of more than 8,500 feet. There are also many options to sit poolside at resorts or visit spas in the city.

>> Get more tips for visiting Palm Springs

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 250 miles

Estimated time: 4 hours

See a different kind of desert landscape with a road trip to Joshua Tree on I-15 from Las Vegas. Many people head to the park for hiking through the rugged rock formations and distinctive Joshua trees. It’s also an excellent spot for stargazing, rock climbing, and camping. Just be sure to be prepared for the weather which can be very hot or cold depending on the time of year and day.

Make sure to come prepared for your visit to Joshua Tree. There is no drinkable water available in the park, so bring plenty with you. This is the desert after all!

>> Get more tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Grand Canyon

Distance from Las Vegas: 280 miles

Estimated time: 5 hours

You’ll go through a few playlists getting to the Grand Canyon but I promise it lives up to the hype. Grand Canyon National Park is a hugely popular destination for hiking, mule rides, whitewater rafting, and other outdoor activities and is well worth the tank of gas to get there and back.

A deep gorge carved by the Colorado River about seventeen million years ago, the Grand Canyon stretches for more than 250 miles and is up to 18 miles in width and more than a mile deep in some areas. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming. One looks over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

>> Get more tips for visiting Grand Canyon National Park

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10. Sedona

Distance from Las Vegas: 280 miles

Estimated time: 5 hours

With a population just north of 10,000, Sedona has a reputation that far outweighs its size. It is, after all, one of the most beautiful small towns in America. The town’s innumerable hiking trails bring you to stunning vistas and iconic destinations like Cathedral Rock.

Forget traditional museums; those visiting Sedona will have museums without walls with Mother Nature leading the exhibition. The town is surrounded by incredible scenery punctuated by vortex sites and rock formations that will have you scratching your head. Plus, after a big day of exploring, you can kick back at the many local wineries before enjoying the iconic desert sunset.

>> Get more tips for visiting Sedona

Worth Pondering…

Las Vegas is a 24-hour city. It never stops.

—Eli Roth

Winter Isn’t For These Birds

Are you dreaming of a snowless destination for the winter?

Winter is for the birds. Do you find yourself repeating this throughout the snow-filled colder months? Or perhaps, some other version of this sentiment that isn’t exactly appropriate for publication?

Winter is a wonderful and beautiful time of year in Canada and the northern states but this season’s charms aren’t for everybody. Freezing temperatures, an abundance of snow, and icy conditions soon have many people dreaming of warmer climes. Many northerners like to temporarily trade in their winter gear for shorts and sandals with a winter getaway to a sunny destination. But this plan only provides some temporary relief until one needs to come back home to frigid reality.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One popular solution is to skip winter altogether by RVing to a warmer location until spring. People who follow this plan are often referred to as snowbirds. Many snowbirds migrate from the northern United States but numerous Canadian snowbirds also make the move. The word has been used in its popular context since the 1980s to mark the trend of retirees flocking south for the winter.

While this lifestyle has long been most suited to seniors, the increasing popularity of remote work options has opened up opportunities for people from all demographics to become snowbirds. They can be found all across the southern states but their most popular destinations are Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Southern California.

Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond these popular destinations, more and more snowbirds have been choosing other states such as South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. Generally, these states offer much milder winters than a snowbird’s home state allowing migrating active adults to avoid frigid temperatures and precipitation.

There are many reasons that people choose to travel to warmer locations for the winter. Personal preference is often a big factor but choosing to be snowbirds can significantly improve the quality of life for those with health conditions or mobility issues.

Corpus Christi sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For many of us, things like shovelling snow, dealing with icy conditions, and freezing temperatures are simply some of the less enjoyable aspects of winter. These facets of winter living can keep a person housebound and isolated for those dealing with certain health conditions and/or mobility issues.

We know what snowbirds do best: RV south. There are tons of incredible destinations all over the U.S. that are sunny, beautiful, and certainly not frozen over in the winter. Here are some great destinations for northern snowbirds and why they’re so appealing.

Phoenix as seen from the Hole in the Rock at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phoenix, Arizona

Some reasons you’ll love Pheonix in the winter include the incredible hiking and biking, shopping and live music, time spent in the mountains, excellent opportunities to golf on beautiful courses, the gorgeous desert with blooming wildflowers, warm weather all year, and tons of fantastic RV parks. Phoenix has more than 300 days of sunshine each year and you will instantly forget that winter is ever a thing.

>> Get more tips for visiting Phoenix

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Palm Springs, California

Visiting the desert in winter means idyllic weather. You can expect temperatures over 70 degrees so pack your warm-weather clothing. With its abundance of golf courses, spas, shopping, and upscale dining, Palm Springs is a fantastic option to wait out the colder months. The warm, desert heat is perfect for those looking to escape the snow and there are many luxury RV resorts full of amenities. If you’re looking for the perfect place to park your RV this winter, Palm Springs might be it.

>> Get more tips for visiting Palm Springs

Near Fort Myers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Myers, Florida

A snowbird’s destination list wouldn’t be complete without the Sunshine State. Just about anywhere in Florida could be considered a good destination for snowbirds, but some areas are more popular than others.

Fort Myers has various activities and experiences for all different interests. You can take a fishing charter out before sunrise and make it back in time to soak up the last of the afternoon rays on Estero Island. Spend your days traversing the shops and avenues or stay beachside with clear water views and seaside restaurants. There are plenty of museums for history buffs and national baseball tournaments for athletes and fans.

Texas State Aquarium at Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Gulf Coast of Texas

If you have yet to consider the Texas Gulf Coast the ideal snowbird destination, you need to add it to your list. There is a 350-mile-long stretch of sandy beaches and unique places to visit along the whole thing. Kick your feet up and relax on South Padre Island, stroll along Galveston‘s seawall to its one-of-a-kind Pleasure Pier, or explore Corpus Christi‘s fascinating museums.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Texas Gulf Coast

Lesser know snowbird destinations

Increasingly, more and more RV travelers are seeking alternative snowbird destinations in their quest to escape the winter cold. If you’d love to spend some time in a milder climate or are just dreaming of new experiences and the usual hot spots don’t entice you, you might be intrigued by one of these six unexpected snowbird destinations.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah, Georgia

Full of history, architecture, gardens, and art, Savannah, Georgia, is a fantastic place to spend the winter. Wander the historic squares and see the preserved buildings and cultivated gardens or explore the local restaurants and shops. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Savannah

Signage near Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas, Nevada

For those who love dining and nightlife, Las Vegas can’t be beaten. The temperature stays warm throughout winter and with endless restaurants, shows, and shopping options, there’s always plenty to do. Nearby Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Lake Mead National Recreation Area provide hiking for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Golfing at Hurricane near St. George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. George, Utah

Think Utah winters are all about cold weather and snow-capped mountain peaks? Think again. The desert city of St. George in the southwestern corner of the state (aka Utah Dixie), is closer in climate (and distance) to Las Vegas than to the ski resorts in northern Utah. St. George has been a snowbird destination for decades but it’s becoming more popular as the city grows. And it’s not hard to see why: Sunny over 300 days a year on average with winter temperatures in the 50s and 60s and relatively little precipitation. Plus it’s close proximity to Zion National Park!

Main Street Downtown La Cruces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Cruces, New Mexico

While New Mexico might not immediately come to mind when you’re deciding where to spend the winter months, the southern part of the state has a lot to offer. With sweeping views of both the desert and rugged mountains and mild temperatures in the 50s and 60s, Las Cruces is an up-and-coming destination for snowbirds. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Las Cruces

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Florida isn’t the only state where snowbirds can relax on the beach. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, gives visitors easy access to the ocean with fewer crowds. There are plenty of options for shopping, fishing, golf, and, of course, a sandy beach. Myrtle Beach is a fantastic place to spend the winter months on the East Coast. 

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island lies in southern Georgia on the Atlantic. With its mild weather, you can golf year-round here. It’s also a sought-after location for snowbirds who like to explore nature, birdwatch, and beachcomb. In addition, there’s a sea turtle rehabilitation center on the island.

>> Get more tips for visiting Jekyll Island

Worth Pondering…

One of the things I had a hard time getting used to when I came to California in ’78 was Santa Claus in shorts.

—Dennis Franz

10 of the Hottest Cities in America

It’s summer. It’s hot. That’s what summers do.

Some of the most populated cities across the United States are also some of the hottest places to be during the summer with temperatures regularly climbing above 100 degrees F.

Many cities don’t come close to the extreme heat experienced in Death Valley, California; however, the population in Death Valley is just a small fraction of that of many towns across the country.

Cities are warming at twice the global average because buildings and pavement absorb and trap so much heat. Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Miami have named chief heat officers to find ways to prevent the often deadly impacts of extreme heat. 

From the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the deserts of the Southwest, here are 10 of the hottest cities across the United States with a population of over 250,000.

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is home to over 1.6 million people and regularly experiences some of the highest temperatures of any city across the country. The temperature climbs above the 100-degree mark daily from the end of May through the middle of September. These blistering hot days are followed up by warm nights with the low temperature sometimes failing to drop below 90.

Phoenix recorded its hottest summer ever in 2020 with 50 days at or above 110 degrees and a record 28 nights when the temperature never dropped below 90 degrees. 

Papago Park, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat is killing about 300 people per year in Phoenix. 

Phoenix is trying to beat the heat by turning its black asphalt streets gray. A special sealant reflects rather than absorbs the hot desert sun.  

Related: Excessive Heat Warnings: Safety Tips for RVers

America’s hottest city is working to avoid getting even hotter—starting with its streets. As heat waves across the country continue, Phoenix is covering black asphalt roads with a gray sealant that reflects the sun rather than absorbing heat. Mayor Kate Gallego says the sealant which has so far been used on 73 miles of city streets reduces the temperature of asphalt by 10 to 12 degrees.

Phoenix as seen from Hole in the Rock at Papago Park, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to cool pavement the city is creating 100 cool corridors and planting hundreds of trees whose shade can drop the ambient air temperature by about 30 to 40 degrees compared to full sun. Phoenix is also experimenting with reflective roofs and cooling sidewalks. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination in the southwestern United States but visitors may want to plan to visit areas with air conditioning during the summer months. The city averages over 70 days a year with temperatures in the triple digits and has reached its all-time record high of 117 on several occasions.

People traveling to popular tourist destinations nearby such as Lake Mead National Recreation, Red Rock Canyon, or the Hoover Dam should also expect to encounter extreme heat and should take the proper precautions to stay safe.

Sabino Canyon, Tucson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Tucson, Arizona

Tucson sits on the edge of the Sonoran Desert and is nearly as hot as Phoenix located 100 miles to the northwest. One of Tucson’s hottest summers in recent years occurred in 2013 when the city climbed into the 100s for 39 consecutive days including all of June.

Monsoonal thunderstorms can provide temporary breaks in the extreme summer heat but they can also kick up dust storms called haboobs that can greatly reduce visibility and cause dangerous travel conditions.

Olive grove in the Central Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Riverside, California

While the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean help to limit temperatures along coastal areas of Southern California areas father inland can experience much hotter conditions. Riverside, approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles has recorded triple-digit heat every month from April through October with an all-time high of 118. This is higher than the record in Las Vegas and just a few degrees shy of the record high in Phoenix.

Related: Dust Storms and Haboobs: Safety Tips for RVers

The Alamo, San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is home to more than 1.5 million people and experiences long stretch with temperatures in the 90s during the height of summer. On average, the city reaches the 90-degree mark more than 110 days out of the year as well as several days in the low 100s. August is the hottest month of the year in San Antonio with an average high temperature near 97, one of the highest averages across the entire country among major cities.

Lake Okeechobee west of Miami © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Miami, Florida

Although the mercury in southern Florida doesn’t climb as high as it does in the southwestern United States during the summer, Miami’s proximity to the tropics can make it feel oppressively hot, especially for those not accustomed to the high humidity levels. Miami has never recorded a temperature of 100 but the strong summer sun paired with the humidity can send the AccuWeather RealFeel temperature over 110 on the hottest afternoons of the year.

Miami is also one of the warmest cities in the country during the winter with afternoon temperatures often climbing near 80.

Gulf Coast south of Houston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Houston, Texas

Tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico has a strong influence on the weather pattern along the coast of Texas including in Houston, the state’s most populated city with over 2 million people. The humidity helps to boost the AccuWeather RealFeel temperature above 100 daily. Moisture from the Gulf also helps to fuel rain and thunderstorms making Houston the wettest among the county’s hottest cities averaging over 100 days a year with rain.

Lake Kaweah east of Fresno © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Fresno, California

Outside of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, the Central Valley is California’s hottest region with temperatures often reaching the triple digits. This includes Fresno, home to over half a million people. In 2018, the city experienced 30 consecutive days with a temperature at or above the 100-degree mark, the longest stretch in the city’s history.

Related: Heat Alert: The Hidden Symptoms of Extreme Heat

Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, southwest of Dallas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Dallas, Texas

Located farther inland from the Gulf of Mexico than Houston or San Antonio, Dallas can experience some of the hottest weather of all of Texas’ major cities. Being farther away from the source of tropical moisture allows temperatures to be slightly higher than near the coast with daily highs in the mid- to upper 90s from the end of June into early September.

Although the summer heat can be more intense in Dallas than Houston or San Antonio, the city experiences cooler winters with temperatures frequently dipping below freezing.

Disney World © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Orlando, Florida

One of Florida’s hottest cities is also one of its most popular tourist spots with a record-setting 72 million people visiting in 2017. Unlike Miami, temperatures in Orlando can occasionally reach the 100-degree mark with an all-time record high of 103. Overnight temperatures also remain warm as they rarely dip below 60 from June through September.

Orlando also remains warm throughout the winter with afternoon highs in the 70s and overnight lows that rarely drop below 30.

Worth Pondering…

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

—Yogi Berra

How Vegas Used To Be

Laughlin. It’s a town that doesn’t try to please everyone. The glitziest thing here is the sunlight shimmering off the Colorado River.

Coursing more than a thousand miles from the Rockies to the Sea of Cortez, the Colorado River provides irrigation, public water, and hydroelectric power to parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Laughlin and the Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A hundred miles downstream from the Grand Canyon, Laughlin’s Colorado River water is so blue and clear, you can even see to the bottom at night. In Laughlin, the river offers a wide spectrum of recreational activities. Enjoy boating, water skiing, jet skiing, and fishing or a refreshing dip in the brisk water. Launch ramp facilities are plentiful along the river as well as a multitude of watercraft rental services.

For a more relaxed pace, take a leisurely, scenic ride or dinner cruise aboard paddlewheel steamship replicas and tour boats while listening to a narrated history of Laughlin and the surrounding area. You can also take a two-hour sunset dinner cruise on The Celebration which is super affordable and more than likely comes with an Elvis impersonator.

Laughlin River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The river can also be enjoyed by strolling along Laughlin’s River Walk. Extending from the Riverside Resort to the River Palms, visitors can take a relaxing walk along the river’s edge.

Related: A Cheaper Mini-Vegas

Laughlin is a more relaxed Las Vegas. They’ve created a niche with Nevada-style gaming, but without the high-speed lifestyle of the Las Vegas Strip. Things come and go quickly in Vegas, with near-constant development and change on the Strip. By comparison, Laughlin’s newest hotel was built in the mid-’90s.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And people seem to like that just fine. Laughlin is old-school, big on return customers who appreciate the familiar. It’s a family-friendly destination that draws folks from California, Arizona, and the rest of Nevada (in that order). They love prime rib and they love country music and the snowbirds escaping the wrath of a northern winter love the town. It’s Middle America, it’s Old West, and it’s mostly conservative. It’s the sort of place you go to escape the modern woes of Twitter.

You can gamble, have dinner, see a show, and book a room with a resort fee that’s well under $10. Parking is free and easy and the river, well, the river is just right there.

Laughlin looking across the Colorado River to Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The coolest way to get around town is by water taxi. These small boats, piloted by certified captains, zip around on the river from one property to another. Most casinos have their own dock and if you stand around on one, a water taxi will show up fairly quickly. A single ride is $5, although wristband deals are available for unlimited rides.

Related: Absolutely Best Road Trips from Las Vegas

The kitschy casino hotels might be the best part. Laughlin’s signature casino, Riverside Resort, feels pretty old-school and is almost always going through renovations. A rooftop pool deck has been updated with cabanas and a modern circular bar. The classic car collection adds to the 1960s ambiance.  

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Museum is located on both the street level and on the casino’s third floor in the South Tower. It features more than 70 of the most unique, classic, and rare automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles ever created, as well as antique slot machines and vintage gaming tables.

Nestled on the banks of the Colorado River, Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort RV Park offers picturesque views of mountains, sunrises, and sunsets. Pull into one of the 740 spaces with full hook-ups, laundry facilities, showers, and near dump station. Free shuttle service to and from Riverside Resort. Reservations recommended.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With over 250 rooms and 28 suites, The New Pioneer is right on the banks of the Colorado River. For those drawn to the spirit of the Old West, New Pioneer has a Tombstone-like facade and a gift shop full of kitsch items like goat’s milk soap and cowboy hats. It also has River Rick—a double of Vegas Vic, the iconic neon smoking cowboy that once stood outside the original Pioneer Club in Vegas.

The all-new Laughlin River Lodge barely lights up at night—making it the most aesthetically boring resort in the skyline. But it has a fun casino rewards system allowing players to cash in points on tangible prizes. Need a new crockpot or microwave? This is your place.

Aquarius Casino, Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The hotel has two casino floors including three separate themed casinos with specialty cocktails and food, billiards, a 24-hour restaurant, a General Store, room service, live entertainment, and outdoor pool. Strike Bowl is a new party palace with ten lanes of bowling, eGames room with 26 individual screens, kids play area with giant Lite Brite, and all available to book for a fun private party. Located on the west side of Casino Drive, the Tropicana Laughlin is the only hotel not on the Riverwalk. It recently added a taproom for Brew Brothers—a homegrown Reno favorite—that’s probably the best place for beer in town. 

Colorado Belle looks exactly like a vintage paddlewheel riverboat, but it doesn’t actually go anywhere. The casino floor has a classic old-school style that wouldn’t look out of place in Mississippi or New Orleans. The koi fish in the front moat are a nice touch. 

Related: Dam Bridge: Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

River’s Edge and Aquarius Casino, Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As for the rest, Harrah’s is at the south end of the casino strip, at a slight bend in the river, which makes it feel more secluded without really being that far away. Harrah’s Laughlin is the second-largest property in Laughlin with over 1,500 rooms, 104 suites, and 56,000 square feet of casino space including a non-smoking casino. In addition to the private hotel guest-only soft sand beach, the resort has three restaurants plus fast food options, two entertainment venues, two pools, a salon and day spa, a boutique, and a gift shop.

Across the Colorado River from Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edgewater is large with 1,000 guest rooms and centrally located. It offers in-room guest services, restaurants including fine dining and fast food outlets, gift shop, boat-trailer and RV parking, and free on-property security patrolled covered parking. The Edgewater has an electric vehicle charging station located just inside the entrance to the parking garage.

Golden Nugget has something of a boutique hotel vibe with just a few hundred rooms. The resort’s fine restaurants include Claim Jumper, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., The Deli and Bean & Bread. Guests can also enjoy luxurious, private cabanas overlooking the Colorado River, retail options featuring the latest fashions, and exciting nightlife at Rush Lounge.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Aquarius is the largest resort with 1,900 rooms and a centralized casino with restaurants around the perimeter. Amenities include a resort pool, fitness center, gift and sundries shop, fine dining, casual restaurants, and fast food outlets. The Cove is the only non-smoking cocktail lounge in Laughlin and Splash Lounge hosts live music most weekends.

If you want a small locals’ casino with no hotel attached, the Regency is your destination. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aside from hanging out on the river, the most common excuse to book a trip to Laughlin is a show at the Laughlin Events Center. The versatile outdoor amphitheater hosts events ranging from rodeos and racing to concerts by arena-level acts like Brad Paisley or KISS. The town also draws crowds for the Laughlin River Run motorcycle rally in April (37th annual; April 24-28, 2022), Spartan races in November, and SNORE Rage at the River off-road racing competition in December. 

Read Next: Chasing John Wesley Powell: Exploring the Colorado River—Canyonlands, Lake Powell & Grand Canyon

Worth Pondering…

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

—Anita Desai

Absolutely Best Road Trips from Las Vegas

The Strip barely scratches the surface

Las Vegas is located in the desert, so daytime temperatures in the summer regularly reach triple digits which can put a damper on outdoor activities. On the plus side, the winter heat is a nice escape for anyone fleeing ice and snow.

Las Vegas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Weather-wise, the best times to visit Las Vegas are spring and fall with highs hovering around 70 degrees in March and the low 80s in October. March, April, May, October, and November have the best weather for walking the Las Vegas Strip and getting out in the desert for hikes, and exploring the vast wilderness.

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So your idea of fun isn’t drinking yard-long margaritas inside a mind-bending, alternate universe? I get it. One of the benefits of enjoying a city in the middle of a vast wilderness is, in fact, that wilderness. When you’re in Las Vegas, you’re not limited to casinos on the Strip. Some of the grandest scenery is just a short drive away. Whether you head to the Valley of Fire, the famous Hoover Dam, or Death Valley, we’ve got where to go and what to do in each. These are the very best day trips from Las Vegas.

Not only are these destinations beautiful but whether you drive north, south, east, or west out of Las Vegas you’re sure to see mountains, canyons, or lakes, making each trip about far more than the destination but the whole road trip too!

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to Know Before Going on a Road Trip from Las Vegas

Located in the desert, Las Vegas and the surrounding areas are known for varying temperatures throughout the day and year. While these destinations are beautiful year-round, the weather plays a significant role in choosing when to travel.

During the summer months, it’s best to avoid the hottest desert locations located at low elevations. If you visit then, plan more intense activities during the morning and evening hours and plan for scenic drives and swimming during the day. Fall and spring generally have more moderate temperatures allowing for more physical activities during the day. Surprisingly, many places in the desert are occasionally hit with snowstorms during the winter. So stay up to date on weather conditions no matter the season you decide to travel.

The Best Road Trips from Las Vegas

The close proximity of national parks, recreation areas, and other cities make Las Vegas one of the best cities to road trip from. In any direction you travel, you’re sure to hit a beautiful site. Here are some of the best road trip destinations from Las Vegas.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Distance from Las Vegas: 31 miles

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is big, it’s diverse, and it’s extreme. Temperatures can be harsh, from 120 degrees in the summer to well below freezing in winter on the high plateaus.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the mouth of the Grand Canyon, the park follows the Arizona-Nevada border along what was formerly 140 miles of the Colorado River.

Lake Mead is impressive: 1.5 million acres, 110 miles in length when the lake is full, 550 miles of shoreline, around 500 feet at its greatest depth, 255 square miles of surface water, and when filled to capacity, 28 million acre-feet of water.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although much of Lake Mead can only be experienced by boat, a variety of campgrounds, marinas, lodges, and picnic areas around the lake make it possible for non-boaters to also enjoy the recreation area. Most activities are concentrated along the 20 miles of the southwest shore close to Las Vegas. Facilities include two large marinas at Boulder Beach and Las Vegas Bay plus campgrounds, beaches, picnic areas, and the main National Recreation Area visitor center.

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hoover Dam

Distance from Las Vegas: 37 miles

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hoover Dam is one of the most recognizable and iconic manmade structures in the world, a 726-foot-high concrete arch-gravity dam that was completed in 1935. Until you visit Hoover Dam it’s difficult to appreciate its sheer size. It’s a dizzying sight from the dam itself. And it’s quite sobering, too, since more than 100 people lost their lives in the building of this spectacular feat of engineering. There are fun stops to make on the way back from a dam visit to complete the trip.

Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seeing Hoover Dam and getting a good tour of the place is crucial to understanding the point in American history when it was built. Take the Dam tour, a one-hour guided tour of the powerplant and its passageways. The tour starts with a film about the development of the dam and includes an elevator ride to the Nevada wing of the plant and eight of the dam’s generators as well as into the tunnels that served as inspection areas.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 130 miles to the West Rim (Skywalk Canyon Overlook); 280 miles to the South Rim; and 270 miles to the North Rim

John Wesley Powell said it best, “The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.” A universally recognizable iconic destination, Grand Canyon National Park is a true marvel of nature that’s on every RVer’s bucket list.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A deep gorge carved by the Colorado River about seventeen million years ago, the Grand Canyon stretches for more than 250 miles and is up to 18 miles in width and more than a mile deep in some areas. One look over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re seeking a secluded escape to Mother Nature, you should be prepared: The Grand Canyon can be very crowded. The South Rim—home to the Grand Canyon Village and the well-worn Bright Angel Trail—is particularly popular for sightseers and hikers. It is on this side that you’ll find the most amenities. However, for a true escapist experience, head to the North Rim.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 161 miles

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When it comes to standing in awe of nature’s magnificence, it’s hard to beat Zion National Park. And you don’t have to hike for days to see its sheer beauty; at just under 230 square miles, Zion is relatively small by national park standards, and the park’s most memorable features are found in easily accessible Zion Canyon.

Related: Roam Free in Greater Zion: Quail Creek State Park

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not surprisingly, Zion boasts towering monoliths with spiritual names. The Great White Throne is a glistening mass of white sandstone that towers out at 6,744 feet. Angel’s Landing is an imposing, dull reddish rock standing opposite the Great White Throne. The Organ is a colossal of red mountains with vertical sides. The Towers of Virgin are majestic—West Temple is at 7,795 feet (3,805 feet above the canyon floor), the highest point in the park. The Watchman is even more ornate and colorful as it soars 2,555 feet from the canyon floor and stands guard for the two RV campgrounds.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 186 miles

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths (popular with rock climbers), and oases. The park provides an introduction to the variety and complexity of the desert environment and a vivid contrast between the higher Mojave and lower Sonoran deserts that range in elevation from 900 feet to 5,185 feet at Keys View. This outstanding scenic point overlooks a breathtaking expanse of valleys, mountains, and deserts.

Related: Joshua Tree National Park Turns 25. But what is a Joshua tree?

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua trees, giant boulders, cholla cacti, and rugged mountains are some of the classic wonders that make up Joshua Tree National Park. The hiking is fantastic! There is a variety of self-guided nature trails and longer hikes that offer different perspectives of the park. The aptly-named Jumbo Rocks has a half-mile nature walk to Skull Rock and the Barker Dam walk (1.1-mile loop) is interesting in terms of the cultural history of the area.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 256 miles

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon. Rather it is a “break” or series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters. Erosion has shaped colorful limestones, sandstones, and mudstones into thousands of nature-chiseled spires, fins, pinnacles, and mazes collectively called “hoodoos”.

Related: Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef: A Great American Road Trip

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rim of the canyon is between 8,000 to 9,100 feet above sea level. In summer, daytime temperatures are in the 80s but fall to the 40s by night. Bryce Amphitheater is the park’s largest amphitheater and can be viewed from several points—Bryce, Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise points. Hiking is the best way to experience stunning mazes. The park has over 50 miles of hiking trails with a range of distances and elevation change. Most trails descend into the canyon and wind around the oddly shaped formations.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona

Distance from Las Vegas: 280 miles

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you delight in gazing at towering red rocks or driving through rugged canyons, then go to Sedona. If you admire exquisite art or are captivated by amazing architecture, then go to Sedona. If you want to see ancient cliff dwellings, hear tales of Hollywood cowboys or thrill to outdoor adventures, then (you guessed it) go to Sedona. Sedona is a must-stop.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona is a well-known hotbed of energy—one that’s conducive to both meditation and healing—and this is one of the reasons 4.5 million travelers flock here annually. That and the region’s red rocks: stunning sandstone formations that jut upward thousands of feet and change colors from orange to rust to crimson as the sun passes through the sky.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6 More Road Trips from Las Vegas (In case you’re not inspired yet!)

Mount Charleston (42 Miles): A cute mountain town, perfect for getting out into nature.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nelson Ghost Town (48 miles): Just past Henderson and Before Boulder City take a right (south) on 95 South and visit this old Gold Mining town now loved by photographers and music video producers alike.

Lake Havasu (155 miles): Visit the famous London Bridge or get out on the lake for some watersports.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (217 miles): And while there be sure to add on a visit to Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Antelope Canyons.

Related: Awesomeness beyond the Mighty 5 in Southern Utah

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia National Park (379 miles): The giant trees of Sequoia will fill you with awe—and give you a crick in your neck from staring up at them.

Road Trips from Las Vegas: Final Thoughts

With so many beautiful places located around Las Vegas make sure you get out of Sin City and explore the natural wonders of the desert! With activities for all types of adventurers, there is something for everyone. It’s rare you’ll drive more than an hour without stopping to take photos of the impressive sites!

Worth Pondering…

Las Vegas is a 24-hour city. It never stops.

—Eli Roth

A Cheaper Mini-Vegas

Laughlin is a more relaxed Las Vegas. They’ve created a niche with Nevada-style gaming, but without the high-speed lifestyle of the Las Vegas Strip.

While flying his plane over the Colorado River in 1964, Don Laughlin saw a world of potential in a strip of Nevada land across the river from Arizona’s Bullhead City. At the time the area was home to less than a thousand people. He took a big risk invested it into an old boarded-up eight-room motel. From there, success took over.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That motel added casino games and eventually evolved into the Riverside Resort with two massive towers. The town itself—about a 90-minute drive from Las Vegas—became official when postal services were established.

Don Laughlin is still going strong at 88 years and living in a penthouse at the top of his resort. The town that shares his name is now home to nine casino hotels, 10 if you include the Avi Resort about 15 miles south on Native American land. 

Laughlin’s population is approximately 10,000 while Bullhead City and its unincorporated area boast a population of about 42,000 permanent residents. An estimated 14,000 Nevada and Arizona residents currently work in Laughlin’s hotels and casinos. Multi-million dollar Laughlin housing developments have rushed into construction to keep pace with the business boom.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stretch your legs while exploring Laughlin on foot at the Riverwalk. Well maintained and offering fantastic views of the city and the Colorado River, the Laughlin Riverwalk is a great way to get from one casino to the other while soaking up sights like Don Laughlin’s Riverside to the boats sailing by.

The coolest way to get around town is by water taxi. These small boats, piloted by certified captains, zip around on the river from one property to another. Most casinos have their own dock and if you stand around on one, a water taxi will show up fairly quick. A single ride is $5, although wristband deals are available for unlimited rides.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If someone directs you to anything described as a “nightclub,” be warned it won’t be anything like Vegas. They’re mostly lounges with live bands and line dancing. Bikini Bay Bar & Nightclub is really a sports bar with pool tables and drinks served by girls in bikinis who dance on countertops. It’s probably the closest thing you’ll find to a strip club in Laughlin—and oddly enough, it’s at the outlet mall. 

One local gem is Losers’ Lounge, a two-level drinking spot where the walls are decorated with framed photos of “losers” throughout history like OJ Simpson and Tonya Harding. The gallery stays surprisingly up to date—recent additions include Bill Cosby and Lori Loughlin. 

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No trip to Laughlin is complete without a detour to Oatman, a Route 66 ghost town in Arizona that has become a bit more touristy over the years. The new escape room at the local jail is fun. But be sure to visit the Oatman Hotel for lunch. The restaurant has buffalo burgers and the walls (and even parts of the ceiling) are covered with dollar bills.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the real draw is the burros roaming Oatman whose ancestors were brought in to work during the mining days. A few unwritten rules to follow: first—burros and dogs don’t mix. Second—don’t feed the burros carrots, which are high in sugar and do a number on the digestive tract. You’re more than welcome to feed them alfalfa squares, sold in bags for a dollar. Finally—when the burros are in the middle of the road (which they frequently are), they have the right of way. Cars have to wait, no matter how long it takes. No honking, revving engines, or doing anything else to encourage them to move along. The burros own the town!

For another out-of-town excursion, Jet Boat tours travel nearly 60 miles down the river from Laughlin to Lake Havasu. You can hang out in the town for a few hours and check out London Bridge, a historic structure that actually spanned the River Thames and was brought over brick by brick. Along the way, the boat travels past the California town of Needles, the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, and vantage points that can only be seen from the water, including petroglyphs in Topock Gorge. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And if you’re looking for a selfie station take a photo with River Rick. Or at the Losers’ Lounge. Or at any one of the other gems in Don Laughlin’s little resort town.

Worth Pondering…

The road is there, it will always be there. You just have to decide when to take it.

—Chris Humphrey

Absolutely Best Road Trips from Las Vegas

If you’re tired of hanging out at the Strip, within a few hours, you can be at some of the most amazing landscapes the US has to offer

With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) everyone’s lives—yours and ours—were thrown into a scrambled state of flux. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack the RV again and head out on our next adventure. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you think Las Vegas is just this one lonely spot in the middle of the desert—well, you’re probably right. But here’s the good news. It’s the perfect starting point for taking more than a few good road trips. So if you’re getting bored of the casinos and glitz of Sin City pack up your toad and hit the road for some interesting and fun filled getaways within a few hours’ drive.

Best Quick Escape: Lake Mead, Nevada

Distance from Las Vegas: One hour

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a national park just minutes from Las Vegas that has Joshua trees, slot canyons, and night skies illuminated by the Milky Way. Lake Mead is the closest body of water of any significance to Las Vegas making it the first choice for swimming, boating, and jet skiing. With striking landscapes and brilliant blue waters, this year-round playground spreads across 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons, valleys and two vast lakes.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Entry to the Lake Mead National Recreation is $25 per person (or $15 per person walking or bicycling) and good for seven days. A day pass for the Lake Mead Resort & Marina is $10 per vehicle but if you plan on coming back, the yearly pass is a far better deal at $30.

Best Cultural Getaway: Sedona, Arizona 

Distance from Las Vegas: Four hours and 30 minutes

Sedona and Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona and Red Rock Country has more than 300 miles of trails for hiking and biking, surrounded by green pine trees that contrast sharply with the deep red hues of buttes and canyon walls.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some consider Sedona to be in a vortex with the energy of nature especially strong in four locations: Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon. So get in touch with your spirituality or, at the very least, bring a yoga mat and absorb the scenery in a way that works for you. Sedona is also home to more than 80 art shops and galleries, showcasing the best local talent.

Best Riverside Getaway: Laughlin, Nevada

Distance from Las Vegas: One hour and 30 minutes

Laughlan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated on the Colorado River, Laughlin has been transformed from a small mining town into an attractive tourist destination. While its neon lights are no match for Vegas, it does have numerous things to offer such as a scenic river walk, tons of outdoor activities, and the Laughlin River Run, a massive annual motorcycle event. You’ll be in hog heaven.

Laughlan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a river cruise or find a moment of zen at the mystical Laughlin Labyrinths, nine stone mazes that are both intriguing and energizing.

Vista del Sol RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking for a place to stay? Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort offers 740 spaces with full hook-ups, laundry facilities, showers, and free shuttles to the casino. Or cross the river and go for a spectacular view at the new Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona.

Best Getaway for Hiking: Zion National Park, Utah

Distance from Las Vegas: Two hours and 30 minutes

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit the road and travel through Nevada, Arizona, and finally Utah to Zion National Park as the desert suddenly gets a lot more colorful. You’ll find yourself walking among trees, waterfalls, rocks, and a towering canyon. Don’t overlook the winter months—peak solitude season with fewer crowds to go along with the sunsets and stargazing. Just bundle up at night. 

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not all hiking trails are created equal. The infamous Angels Landing is a 2.5-mile hike with steep and narrow pathways. It even comes with a warning sign with the number of people who have died on the trail.

Best Modern Marvel Getaway: Hoover Dam, Nevada/Arizona

Distance from Las Vegas: 45 minutes

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hoover Dam may be the most intriguing slab of concrete in the world. Highway travelers used to drive right over it but traffic is now diverted to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which offers a cool view but isn’t quite the same experience. Tours run daily, ready to give a nuts-and-bolts look at how the whole thing operates, producing electricity for California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Mike O’Calhaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boulder City is the closest town to the dam and has a small tourism industry based around the engineering masterpiece, the construction of which pretty much set the stage for modern Las Vegas. It’s one of the few communities in the entire state where gambling is not legal.

Most Awe-Inspiring Getaway: Grand Canyon, Arizona

Distance from Las Vegas: Four hours (45 minutes by helicopter)

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You know the deal. The Grand Canyon is the biggest hole in the ground in the U. S. making it a prime destination. There are more than a few tours that originate from Las Vegas including some by helicopter.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The South Rim is heavily visited and is run by the National Park Service. The Hualapai Tribe runs the West Rim and operates the famous skywalk. The remote North Rim is stunning but a pain to reach. No matter where you end up, please don’t fall down the canyon while trying to take a photo. It happens.

Worth Pondering…

Las Vegas is a 24-hour city. It never stops.

—Eli Roth