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.

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

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

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Planning to Visit Lake Mead, Lake Powell, or Nevada State Parks This Summer? Here’s what to Expect.

Lake Powell water levels likely to go up nearly 69 feet by the end of July; Lake Mead at about 12 feet

Due to increased visitation and other factors, Glen Canyon and Lake Mead national recreation areas as well as some Nevada state parks have made changes that may affect summer travel plans.

According to Park representatives the majority of the coming changes as well as changes recently implemented are due to “multifaceted reasons” but primarily for the safety of the public.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

According to a press release issued by National Park Service (NPS) concerning Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the spring runoff has increased Lake Powell’s elevation to 3,562 feet. This has enabled access from the north side at Hall’s Crossing and allowed for the opening of its launch ramp.

Visitor services include a boat ramp comfort station and campground with family units. The marina office is open; however, the boat pump-out, boat fuel dock, Village Store, and snack bar are closed.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Midlake fuel remains unavailable. Due to low lake levels, the Dangling Rope Marina closed in 2022 and dilapidated structures have been removed.

The following boat ramps are open: Wahweap Main, Wahweap Stateline Auxiliary, Antelope Point Business, and Bullfrog North.

Other boat ramps that may be used for smaller motorized and non-motorized vessels are “launch at your own risk” and include Rainbow Bridge National Monument and Bullfrog Main.

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

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Higher-than-usual runoff has raised the water levels to 1,054 feet at Lake Mead and produced exciting news as several closed boat ramps and other areas have been reopened, according to an NPS press release.

The fuel dock, Katherine Landing by Boulder City reopened May 5 after four months of closure. The project updated the system utilized since the 1970s to provide safer measures in providing fuel and 47 new transient moorage slips for visitors and their vessels.

“We are really excited about this project,” Lake Mead Chief of Commercial Services Julie Drugatz said. “This partnership continues to enhance the experience for more than one million visitors annually to Katherine Landing.”

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

Echo Bay reopened a one-lane boat ramp on pipemat after closing last year in May. However, there is a caution to stay within the cones as vehicles will get stuck outside of the designated area.

Hemenway Harbor has four lanes available for use. Both Calville Bay and Temple Bar are launch at your own risk for smaller vessels only. All others remain closed for Lake Mead.

However, on the Lake Mohave side all boat ramps are open ranging from one lane to six open lanes.

Trail closures are in effect due to the extreme heat and environmental conditions of the area.

The following trails are closed until September 30: Goldstrike Canyon, White Rock Canyon and Trail, Arizona Hot Springs and Trail, Liberty Arch Trail, Lone Palm Trail, Sugar Loaf Trail, Lone Palm, and Sugar Loaf areas.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Nevada State Parks

According to Nevada Division of State Parks Information Office the main changes for the summer are trail closures. Valley of Fire State Park closed two popular trails on June 1—The Fire Wave and the Seven Wonders Loop Trail. These trails are closed when it is dangerously hot to hike them.

The popular state park nearby Moapa Valley has over 40,000 acres of red sandstone and cliff formations with natural wildlife. It also features Native American petroglyphs.

Currently, Cave Rock State Park is the only other park that has a hiking trailhead closed.

Other closures are campgrounds due to low demand or again due to safety concerns.

The Arch Rock Campground at Valley of Fire will be closed. The Atlatl Rock Campground will remain open to RVs and tents.

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

Several state parks and recreation areas have areas closed due to the high snow-melt and water runoff. Buckland Station State Historic Park, Kershaw-Ryan State Park, Walker River State Recreation Area, Walker Lake State Park, and Lahontan State Park have areas and features closed until further notice due to flooding and rising waters.

South Fork State Recreation Area has an advisory in effect for the dam spillway as running waters have stronger currents.

Cave Lake State Park, Fort Churchill State Park, and Sand Harbor State Park will have ongoing construction and locations closed or with limited access.

Boat ramps are open for those state parks where water activities are applicable.

Ice Age Fossils State Park remains fully closed as it is under development until Fall.

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

The biggest change will come after September 1 when all Nevada parks and recreation areas will have a full online reservation system in place.

According to Nevada Division of State Parks Information Office, a lot of people are happy they are going to reservations because it guarantees they will get to go. A lot of people wouldn’t drive seven hours and not guarantee a camping spot.

The online reservation system titled Reserve Nevada will offer full services including buying day-use passes, booking campsites and cabins, purchasing annual permits, and making special event reservations.

The system will have the parks phased in with Valley of Fire kickstarting the program. Big Bend of the Colorado by Laughlin and Washoe Lake by Reno will follow in October. The rest of the parks including the popular Cathedral Gorge will be fully utilizing the online system by the end of the year.

Visitors need to be aware that that both state and national parks will have fire restrictions and other advisories in effect throughout the summer at different times.

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

For more information on parks and recreational areas, click on the links below:

Worth Pondering…

…a curious ensemble of wonderful features—carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcove gulches, mounds, and monuments…

We decided to call it Glen Canyon.

—John Wesley Powell (1869)

8 Colossal Facts about Hoover Dam

Constructed nearly 90 years ago the magnificent Hoover Dam still stands strong and serves the Southwest with power production, flood control, and irrigation

The Hoover Dam can be called both a monument and a marvel reaching a staggering 60 stories toward the sky and at one time reigning as the world’s largest dam. This symbol of American engineering ingenuity—initially constructed to control the Colorado River’s floodwaters—attracts more than 7 million visitors each year to the Arizona-Nevada border to catch a glimpse of the dam’s massive curved wall and its waters below. Read on for six facts about the Hoover Dam from its original name to its dramatic World War II history.

Hoover Dam with shadow of Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Flood damage was a major reason for the Hoover Dam’s construction

The Colorado River helped carve out the American West and Southwest flowing for 1,450 miles and providing water to seven states: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Nevada. However, thanks to snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains the river was also prone to flooding. One such example of this flooding occurred between 1905 and 1907 when the Colorado River broke through its banks and flooded 100,000 acres of farmland in Southern California.

This was around the same time that the Bureau of Reclamation started planning for a dam in the Boulder Canyon region on the Colorado River. Plans were set in motion but flood control was not the only thing they had to think about. Water supply was another main reason for building the Hoover Dam.

Lastly, the Hoover Dam was built for power. Although this was not as vital as preventing flooding or providing irrigation it is a function of the dam that continues to this day.

Hoover Dam with shadow of Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Building the dam meant first building an entire city

Constructing a large-scale dam meant hiring a massive workforce: By the end of the project, the employee roster swelled to 21,000 people. An average day had 3,500 workers reporting to the construction site though that number rose during busy periods like in June 1934 when as many as 5,218 men reported to the jobsite per day. Bringing in that many workers and their families meant the federal government had to have a plan—which is how the town of Boulder City, Nevada came to exist.

In December 1928, President Calvin Coolidge authorized the creation of Boulder City on federal land specifically to house workers. Construction of the town’s buildings began in 1931. Families were housed in cottages while single men slept in dormitories and meals were provided in a jumbo-sized mess hall that served 6,000 meals per day. Boulder City was also equipped with a state-of-the-art hospital to handle jobsite accidents, a fire department, a train station, and a movie theater.

Hoover Dam with shadow of Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Constructing Hoover Dam required massive amounts of concrete

Building a structure as large as the Hoover Dam requires massive amounts of construction materials. The dam reaches 726 feet tall, a whopping 171 feet taller than the Washington Monument and the dam’s base is as thick as two football fields are long. Reaching those dimensions required engineers and builders to use a substantial amount of concrete—so much that the sheer volume (4.5 million cubic yards) could be used to pave a cross-country road starting in San Francisco and ending in New York City.

Ultimately, the dam had a $49 million price tag—about $882 million today—with an additional $71 million for its power plant and generators. However, the dam’s construction costs were fully repaid with interest by 1987 thanks to the sale of the electrical power it generated and continues to generate.

Hoover Dam with shadow of Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Hoover Dam originally had a different name

Hoover Dam gets its name from President Herbert Hoover though it nearly had a different one thanks to the influence of the Great Depression. Before becoming the 31st President in 1929, Hoover was a successful mining engineer and businessman familiar with the Colorado River; as secretary of commerce he had proposed damming the river to prevent flooding and to provide water for Southern California. Once underway, the dam which was overseen by Hoover during his presidency was called the Boulder Canyon Project. However, in September 1930, Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur announced at a ceremony marking the start of construction that the dam’s name would be changed to honor Hoover’s role in its development.

Construction continued through the Great Depression but Hoover’s presidency did not. President Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the Oval Office and in 1933 his pick for secretary of the interior decided to backtrack on the name due to personal animosity and public anger over Hoover’s handling of the Great Depression, once again calling it the Boulder Dam. Both names were used interchangeably until April 1947 when President Harry S. Truman approved the final name: Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam with shadow of Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Hoover Dam was heavily guarded during World War II

In the lead-up to World War II, the federal government became increasingly worried that the Hoover Dam would be a target of sabotage from Axis forces knocking out its ability to provide electricity and water. In 1939, public officials discussed shielding the dam by closing its power plant to the public while also heavily restricting and scrutinizing employees who entered.

In November of that year, the State Department received word from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico that German agents had plotted to bomb the dam hoping to knock out its high-voltage power lines and slow aviation manufacturing in nearby Los Angeles. A massive effort to protect the dam was soon underway including the addition of floodlights, installation of nets that could snag approaching boats, and increased patrols on Lake Mead which was closed to the public. However, the government’s move to protect the dam remained classified with public officials claiming rumors of foreign sabotage were “ridiculous” and unfounded. The incident was kept under wraps until 2001 when historians uncovered unsealed documents at the National Archives.

Lake Mead © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Lake Mead is the country’s largest reservoir

Dams rely on reservoirs (man-made lakes) that store water. As Hoover Dam is one of the largest dams in the world it makes sense that its reservoir would be massive and it is; Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. The expansive lake is multipurpose; it provides drinking water for nearly 25 million people and its 550 miles of shoreline have been used by outdoor enthusiasts since it became the country’s first national recreation area managed by the National Park Service in 1964.

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

7. Hoover Dam can be admired from the bridge

While there are more than enough things to see and enjoy at Hoover Dam, visitors can also marvel at and even walk across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. As the world’s tallest concrete arch bridge, it is the first concrete-steel arch composite bridge in the United States and towers 880 feet over Hoover Dam.

The 1,905-foot-long man made bridge connects both Nevada and Arizona roadways so it’s fitting that it’s named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge as it honors a hero from each state. With 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 16 million pounds of steel, the massive engineered wonder is the widest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors who aren’t afraid of heights can even walk across the bridge for some great photo opportunities of Hoover Dam and Black Canyon below.

Hoover Dam as seen from Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Visitors can tour Hoover Dam

A Hoover Dam tour is a fun and interactive way to see and learn what Hoover Dam is all about. Tours are guided and allow visitors to explore lesser-known parts of the dam and lasts longer than the Powerplant Tour.

The Hoover Dam Tour includes a one-hour guided tour of the powerplant and passageways within the dam itself while the Powerplant Tour is a 30-minute tour of the powerplant only. Both tours include admission to the Visitor Center.

Hoover Dam tours cost $30 per person. Hoover Dam Powerplant Tours cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and those ages 4 to 16. Military members pay $12 for admission or free if in uniform. Children under 4 are also admitted for free. Parking costs $10.

If you’re short on time or budget, skip the Hoover Dam tour and walk across the Top of the Dam for free. Visitors will enjoy sweeping vistas of the bridge and surrounding geographic features along with vertigo-inducing views looking straight down the dam.

Worth Pondering…

This is our history—from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Hoover Dam, to the dredging of our ports and building of our most historic bridges—our American ancestors prioritized growth and investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

—Cory Booker

How to Plan a Southwest Road Trip

The landscapes across America’s Southwest are some of the most spectacular to be found anywhere on the planet

A Southwest road trip is America at its best. Picture yourself driving along desert roads sometimes for hours on end. Highways snake between burnt red canyons, beside acres of geological anomalies you can’t quite imagine until you’ve seen them for yourself. Your Southwest road trip itinerary may have you passing through tiny towns with names like Tropic and Beaver and diners slinging Navajo tacos alongside more classic greasy spoon fare.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A road trip is a perfect way to explore special spots in the Southwest—Nevada, Utah, and Arizona—where you can see ghost towns, hoodoos, natural arches, sandstone spectacles, dark-sky stars, and a huge hole in the ground.

But, the real reason to undertake a road trip through Utah, Arizona, and the rest of the American Southwest is the National Parks. Legendary parks include the Grand Canyon and Utah’s The Big FiveZionBryce, ArchesCapitol Reef, and Canyonlands. The Southwest is a quintessential part of any US National Parks road trip.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On top of that, there are tons of national monuments (Bears Ears, Dinosaur, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, Cedar Breaks, and Grand Staircase-Escalante, to name a few) and plenty more state parks and federal lands worth checking out. It goes without saying that you might not see everything in the American Southwest in one sweep. While fully customizable, I’d recommend at least a two-week itinerary to get the most out of your Nevada, Utah, and Arizona road trip.

Before you begin, consider purchasing an annual national parks pass at the first park you enter. That $80 pass gets everyone in your car into every national park for a full year. You don’t have to be an American citizen to buy an annual pass but if you are and you’re age 62-plus buy your lifetime pass for $80 and never again pay to enter a U.S. national park. (Considering that Zion National Park’s entry fee is $35 per car, getting the annual pass is something of a no-brainer.)

Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nevada: Ghosts, gold and Red Rock

While the lure of Sin City in Nevada is strong, there’s more to the Vegas environs than casinos and outlet malls. So sleep in Las Vegas to start your adventure, if you’d like, perhaps at Las Vegas RV Resort where we have stayed on several occasions.

Start with an easy ride to Red Rock Canyon Park where you’ll need a timed reservation to enter between October and May. It’s just 15 minutes west of the Strip but transports you to a completely different world of massive striated red rocks where easy walking trails lead to ancient Native American petroglyphs.

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

Red Rock is lovely but a favorite Nevada stop is Rhyolite, a gold-rush ghost town northwest of Vegas. Founded in 1904, it grew to a city of 5,000 residents—and was abandoned by 1916. Today it is a delightful mix of art installations (begun in 1981) known as the Goldwell Open Air Museum and the ghost town’s abandoned brick homes, banks, railroad depot, and a house built of glass bottles. The combination is absolutely fascinating and well worth the drive into what seems to be the middle of nowhere.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is located on the Colorado River about 25 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. With 1.5 million acres of mountains and valleys there are plenty of activities visitors can enjoy at and around Lake Mead. Bicyclists are welcome to ride on park roads, on routes designated for bicycle use, and hikers can enjoy beautiful trails with impeccable views. 

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah: Hoodoos, arches and more

Rolling north into southern Utah transports you into a world of contrasts from vast arid deserts to densely wooded mountains, massive sandstone cliffs, amazing natural-stone arches, and seriously wacky rock formations.

Begin in Zion, Utah’s first national park where most months you’ll need to park your car and ride the free shuttle from the visitor center into the park. This park and its famous sites—Zion Canyon, Kolob Arch, the Narrows, Great White Throne, and Angels Landing—are so popular that massive crowds form especially during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Jump on and off the shuttle as often as you’d like but don’t miss the last one as you’ll be walking nine miles to get out of the park if you do!

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park is probably the most eye-popping, mind-boggling place you will ever see with its hoodoos (to call them irregular rock formations is just inadequate) of every shape and size. It’s the largest concentration of these magical forms anywhere in the world and a true must-see.

Set up camp at one of Ruby’s beautiful campsites nestled in the pines. Located ½-mile from the entrance to Bryce Canyon, Ruby’s Campground & RV Park offers RV spaces with full hookups.

Make your way up the road to see all of the incredible sights, hike down into the canyon for a closer look, and don’t miss the Milky Way stargazing led by a park ranger. Much of the Southwest is toasty in summer but you’ll need a warm coat for this park where the night (and early morning) temps can be seriously chilly at any time of year.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moving on to the northwest, Capitol Reef National Park is the true undiscovered gem of Utah. You’ll be gobsmacked at the huge cliffs of bright, rainbow-colored sandstone looming high above you with peculiarly shaped hoodoos hanging at perilous angles. Find hidden arches and petroglyphs, take a horseback ride or a hike and be sure to spot the iconic white sandstone dome, shaped like the U.S. Capitol building.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Approaching the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Utah/Arizona border brings a strange sense of deja vu if you’re a film fan. Turns out those iconic landscapes are real, not cinematic sets. Monument Valley served as the spectacular setting of numerous famous movies. Think Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Fort Apache for this is the place that John Wayne and John Ford turned into the world’s ultimate vision of the Wild West; later, Forrest Gump cemented it as an Instagram hotspot.

Monument Valley is owned by the Navajo Nation so book a camping site at The View RV Park and then drive in, paying $8 per person to see the Mittens, Elephant Butte, John Ford’s Point, Artist’s Point and more on the 17-mile loop drive within the park. Taking a Navajo-guided tour is an incredible way to learn more about this sacred place and the indigenous people who still call it home.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Sunrise, sunset, and a flyover at the Big Hole

The last stop on our Wild West road trip is Arizona’s big hole in the ground also known as the Grand Canyon. One of the world’s truly astonishing natural wonders, the canyon is the longest on the planet but not the deepest despite being more than a mile down. The Colorado River began eroding away this sandstone and limestone eons ago to create this eye-popping place.

El Tovar Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Book way ahead to stay at the iconic El Tovar Hotel inside the park for it’s the best way to see the sun rise and set right out your front door as the canyon changes hues. Alternately book a camping site at Mather Campground (no hookups) or Trailer Village (full hookups) in the South Rim Village.

Hike down into the canyon as far as you can go to see it up close but do remember that climbing back out is a lot harder to do. For an once-in-a-lifetime thrill, hop on a helicopter via Grand Canyon Helicopters at the airport just outside the south rim entrance, soar over the edge and swoop down into the canyon—a perfect ending to a Wild West journey filled with adventure.

>> DIG DEEPER

Worth Pondering…

One of my favorite things about America is our breathtaking collection of national and state parks, many of which boast wonders the Psalmist would envy.

—Eric Metaxas

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.

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

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 Riverside Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

The Best States for Snowbird Camping

One of the best parts of the RV lifestyle is the ability to simply follow warm weather wherever it may lead

While the pandemic increased the appeal of camping and outdoor recreation in the last 18 months, Google Trends data confirms that interest has in fact been growing rapidly for longer than that. Overall search interest in RVing was flat or on a slight decline for most of the 2000s and early 2010s. In more recent years, interest has grown rapidly, reaching an all-time high in 2020. Now, search interest in RVing during the offseason is comparable to peak season search interest from a decade ago.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This interest is also apparent across different demographic groups. The population of older Americans and Canadians—who have long been a major segment of the RV market—is growing as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age. But demand for RVs is also strong among Millennials and Gen Z, 49 percent of whom grew up with RVing and tend to be married, educated, and full-time working parents. Around two in five RV owners are aged 18 to 44, showing that camping and RVing have wide appeal.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While overall interest has increased, camping and outdoor recreational activities still follow seasonal patterns with most campers venturing outdoors during the summer months when temperatures are warmer. However, many states have excellent camping options year-round. Southern states from east to the west offer temperate winter climates, less precipitation, and ample natural attractions and parklands to entice outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, there is considerable variance across the Sunbelt states and within each state. For instance in Arizona expect freezing temperatures and snow in Flagstaff and sunny and warm temperatures in Phoenix, Yuma, and Tucson.

Rockport-Fulton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are many factors to consider when determining the best states for warm winter recreation, I selected average maximum temperature, average minimum temperature, average monthly precipitation, and the total land area allocated to parks and wildlife.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Weather statistics are long-term averages for December–February, sourced from NOAA, and land area statistics are from the USDA. In the event of a tie, the state with the higher average winter maximum temperature was ranked above.

Related: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

Based on the above model, here are the 10 best states for warm winter camping.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Alabama

Composite index: 62.6

Average maximum temperature: 57.7

Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 35.3

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 5.2

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 548,000

Okefenokee, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Georgia

Composite index: 67.5

Average maximum temperature: 58.6

Cumberland Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 35.9

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 4.3

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 747,000

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. North Carolina

Composite index: 67.8

Average maximum temperature: 51.9

Average minimum temperature: 30.3

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 3.8

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 1,575,000

Related: Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter

Mainstreet Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. New Mexico

Composite index: 69.9

Average maximum temperature: 49.3

Elephant Lake Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 21.2

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 0.7

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 2,720,000

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

6. Nevada

Composite index: 70.5

Average maximum temperature: 42.8

Above Hoover Dam, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 20.7

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.1

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 6,580,000

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Louisiana

Composite index: 74.5

Average maximum temperature: 61.4

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 40.4

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 5.1

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 1,276,000

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. California

Composite index: 79.3

Average maximum temperature: 53.5

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

Coachella Valley Preserve, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 33.6

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 3.9

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 19,623,000

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Texas

Composite index: 83.3

Average maximum temperature: 59.7

Padre Island, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 34.9

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.6

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 3,167,000

Ajo, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Arizona

Composite index: 85.7

Average maximum temperature: 54.9

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 29.7

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.2

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 7,704,000

Related: What Makes Arizona Such a Hotspot for Snowbirds?

Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Florida

Composite index: 87.5

Average maximum temperature: 69.9

Average minimum temperature: 47.4

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 2.9

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 3,920,000

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While this model provided useful fodder for further discussion, it yielded both predictable and surprising results. It is no surprise that Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California ranked 1-4, but I had to wonder how North Carolina made the list while South Carolina and Mississippi did not.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Top 10 States with the Best Winter Weather

Here are 10 states that will make your winter warmer

It’s winter! Welcome to the season when conversations center around the weather and how unbelievably cold and miserable it is outside.In most of America, winter sucks. It is cold out. Pipes freeze. Lips, noses, and cheeks get chapped and raw. Black ice kills. It’s horrible.Growing up in Alberta, I have experienced the personal hell that is winter’s awkwardly long, frigid embrace. That’s why I’m a snowbird.

No. 10 is a state that might not come to mind when thinking of a safe haven from cold temperatures.

Golfing in Utah Dixie © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Utah

Below the rim of the Great Basin sits Utah‘s warm-weather retreat, the town of St. George. And there’s good reason they call this area Utah Dixie. Like New Mexico and Nevada, you can generally count on the fact that winters will be packed with sunshine. 

Main Street Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. New Mexico

Did you know that New Mexico is basically southeastern Arizona? I mean, in the sense of topography. They both have high plains, mountain ranges, deserts, and basins.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Nevada

Other than in the northern reaches of the state, Nevada’s generally pretty well protected from the worst aspects of winter.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Mississippi

While North Mississippi can get hit with a little blizzard action (snow tornadoes!) it’s far from the norm. And even when a cold snap does hit, people are generally back to porch-sittin’, sweet tea-sippin’ weather in no time. There are also 26 miles of pristine water and white sand beaches in Mississippi without anywhere near the number of tourists or tacky T-shirt shops you’d find in Florida. And, unlike the other beach towns on the Gulf, Biloxi and Gulfport have casinos. And don’t overlook funky Bay St. Louis. Overall, Mississippi is a state with reasonably painless winters.

Alligator in southern Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Louisiana

You think they’d have Mardi Gras in February if that wasn’t an ideal time for a party?!?!! Wait—what do you mean “it’s set by the church calendar to always fall the day before Ash Wednesday?” Well, you think they would’ve petitioned the pope for a change by now if that humid subtropical climate didn’t laissez les bon temps rouler?!?  Yeah, I have no idea either, I guess. 

If I could eat in only three states for the rest of my life, Louisiana would be in this select group.

Boudin at Don’s Specialty Meats in Scott, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More to the point, y’all know the high regard to which I hold the food culture of Cajun Country and the rest of Louisiana (thank you for Tabasco, po’ boys, gumbo, crawfish, jambalaya, boudin, and crackling) and nature abounds.

Alabama Gulf Coast near Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Alabama

The people of Alabama asked the Lord that He make the climate of Alabama suitable to play football outside year-round and He listened to the people and granted them a mild winter climate for which to play His game. Except up in Huntsville. While mostly known for college football and slow cooked ribs, Alabama is actually geographically diverse with the rolling foothills of the Smoky Mountains in the North, open plains in the center, and the Gulf Coast’s sandy shores in the south. This makes Alabama an excellent destination for RVers.

Corpus Christi Bay, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Texas

According to a quick eyeballing of the globe, Texas is roughly the size of South America or something, and you can’t speak on the weather in Brazil like it’s the same as Chile, right? West Texas is mostly arid desert and you can get the occasional blizzard that shuts down Amarillo. East Texas is subtropical and humid even in the winter. At a spot where the U.S.-Mexico border and the Gulf of Mexico meet sits Brownsville. Warm winds blowing off the sea on 70-degree days make for an ideal scene in the wintertime especially if you’re dealing with stiff, frigid winds blowing feet of snow against the front door back home. With all that said, outside of the Northern Plains, the average temps in Texas in the winter usually stay in the mid-60s during the day, and that’s pretty darn nice.

Lovers Key, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Florida

It goes without saying that the warm weather is a major draw to Florida in December, January, and February. Look out the window… if it’s anything other than sunny and 75 degrees, you probably wish you were in South Florida right now. Just think—you could go from freezing in the cold to boating, golfing, or laying out in the sun. And Key West is the furthest from depressing Northern winter you can get in the Lower 48.

Near Desert Hot Springs in the Coachella Valley, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. California

Yes, California has issues and does a lot of things wrong. Lots of ’em. Let’s talk for a minute about how this state has every single kind of scenic beauty you could possibly want. Start in the south with the expansive, natural beaches set against towering cliffs. Then move inland to the moon-like desertcapes in the Mojave and Joshua Tree. Then it’s a short drive to Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and the other desert cities of Coachella Valley where the winter weather is near perfect.

Usery Mountain Regional Park near Mesa, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Arizona

Ah, Arizona. Occasionally, retired executives from the northeast will accidentally move to Flagstaff and get very sad and angry when they realize the average winter temperature is somewhere in the 20s. But most of Arizona offers up that dry desert day heat (it was 75 in Phoenix last week) that is good for arthritis. Arizona is a warm-weather perch for snowbirds from around North America and one of the most popular getaway destinations in the Southwest.

Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona

Home to cactus, prickly pears, rattlesnakes, the Grand Canyon, roadrunners, the world’s oldest rodeo, and the bolo tie, the state is rich in attractions that entertain the young and the not-so-young. From eroded red rock formations to large urban centers, from the Grand Canyon’s stunning vistas to small mountain towns, from Old West legends to Native American and Mexican culture, and from professional sporting events to world-class golf—Arizona has it all!

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Lake Mead National Recreation Area: Big, Diverse & Extreme

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

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.

The Colorado River is dammed on both sides of the Grand Canyon, forming two huge artificial lakes: Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

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

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. The main attraction here are the two large lakes: Mead and Mohave.

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

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

Sixty-seven-mile-long Lake Mohave, formed by Davis Dam near Bullhead City, still retains in its upper reaches some of the character of the old Colorado River. Literally millions of people use Lake Mead National Recreation Area each year with many of these visitors returning again and again to find that special cove, or campground, or just to sit on the shore and enjoy solitude of a quality that only nature can supply.

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.

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

Named after Dr. Elwood Mead, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner from 1924 to 1936, Lake Mead began filling in 1935 following the completion of Boulder Dam, later designated the Hoover Dam after the 31st president, across the river at Black Canyon, 25 miles from Las Vegas.

Indeed, it was the construction of the dam and the arrival of thousands of workers which prompted the legalization of gambling in Nevada and the consequent growth of the city.

The scenery is impressive enough—clear blue water beneath gaunt rocky cliffs, but much can only be appreciated using a boat as the majority of the innumerable sheltered coves and flooded canyons, often with clean, empty beaches for camping, are quite inaccessible by road.

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are very few maintained trails though hiking opportunities are numerous. Most are cross-country, off-trail routes—destinations include narrow canyons, rock art sites, springs, and rock formations.

There are numerous access points to the shoreline especially the section northwest of Hoover Dam in Nevada which has numerous beaches, camping areas, and marinas.

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

The Northshore Road (NV-16) parallels the water for 40 miles passing through a colorful and  empty desert environment with numerous side roads leading towards the water of which three are to developed marinas: Callville Bay, Echo Bay, and Overton Beach, though this latter is currently closed due to low water levels.

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

The surrounding desert is characterized by barren mountain ranges with occasional bright red or orange sandstone outcrops; nearby Valley of Fire State Park is spectacular. Aptly named, Valley of Fire features vivid sandstone cliffs and eroded rock formations in fiery hues.

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

But the most visited section of Lake Mead is that closest 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.

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

Lake Mead RV Village at Boulder Beach is a full-service campground that provides cable TV. Daily rates range from $34 to $50 plus 12 percent Clark County tax. Back-in, pull-through, and lakeview sites are available.

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

The west side of Lake Mead has a number of free primitive campsites along tracks forking off Northshore Road, for example at Stewarts Point, near Overton Beach at the north end of the lake. Here, camping is allowed on a large area of the shoreline, which is flat, sandy, and sheltered.

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

A variety of camping experiences are also available around Lake Mohave including Cottonwood Cove, Katherine Landing, and Willow Beach.

Worth Pondering…

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye, looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

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

A Quirky Gambling Town

How Vegas used to be

Here’s the craziest thing about Laughlin, Nevada: It didn’t even exist 55 years ago. In 1964, pilot Don Laughlin was cashing in as the owner of the 101 Club in North Las Vegas and, while flying his plane over the Colorado River, 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 with Bullhead City across the Colorado River © 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. (You can’t have a post office without having a town name) The postmaster at the time was of Irish heritage and liked the name Laughlin, so all the stars seemed to align.

Laughlin along the Riverwalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Don was just getting started. Over the years, his civic projects would include an airport expansion, flood control work, and the opening of a ranch that provided beef to Laughlin’s restaurants. He even financed a bridge that crossed the water between Nevada and Arizona—right next to the Riverside Resort, of course. 

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

In case you’re wondering, 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 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Looking across the Colorado River from the Laughlin Riverwalk © 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.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Try walking along the Riverwalk in the evening to enjoy the live bands that play on various sections of the walkway. If you’re not sure about what you want to do taking a stroll along this stretch of pathway is a great way to see what the city has to offer on any given day as well.

Laughlin © 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 quick. A single ride is $5, although wristband deals are available for unlimited rides.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 in the lobby adds to the 1960s ambiance.  

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aquarius is the largest resort with 1,900 rooms and a centralized casino with restaurants around the perimeter.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated across the Colorado River and up the hill from Laughlin is the small but historic town of Oatman, Arizona. Famed for being a living ghost town, Oatman was once a bustling community of over 10,000 people but has now dwindled down to a population of just over 100 people.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite being just a whisper of what it once was, Oatman is still a fantastic place for history buffs to visit thanks to its many historical buildings. There are also fantastic photo opportunities to be had in Oatman as well as exciting shows to catch, like those of the Ghost Rider Gunfighters, who perform gunfight recreations daily.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase