Vegas day trip: Red Rock Canyon

Should the endless glory of the Las Vegas strip ever cease to amaze you, consider heading to the local Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for a little bit of fresh air and R&R. Situated only 25 minutes northwest of the city, the nature reserve is a world away from the high frequency Vegas atmosphere, a serene, bucolic landscape where one can jump out of the car, hike around the massive, sandstone features and drink in the sprawling views of the Keystone Thrust.

Red Rock Canyon Road, a 13 mile one-way loop is the jagged, wandering backbone of the park, the starting point from which visitors can begin a day hike, technical climb or rock scramble and from where a long line of autos and bicycles gape at the surroundings.

It’s hard to not pull over at every outlook to jump out and take photos, but one of the first opportunities to do so is the best. About one mile into the park on the right, a precarious stacking of sandy red boulders and formations peers over the road, providing scenic hikes for all levels of adventurers. Fifteen minutes of this glorious nature will put any Vegas hangover at ease.

The scenic drive is open from 6AM until dusk and costs $5 to enter with a day pass. Make sure to arrive at least two hours before sunset so that you have plenty of time to enjoy the park.


Top 10 national parks, thanks to TripAdvisor

More than 3,000 TripAdvisor readers in the United States have selected the top 10 national parks. Big shock: nine out of 10 are out west. Only Maine made it onto the list. But, let’s face it – if you want big, impressive national parks, you have leave the East Coast.

These readers are definitely interested in the national park scene. More than 70 percent plan to visit one this year, up from 62 percent in 2008. And, searches on TripAdvisor for “national park” and “national parks” are up 21 percent for the first five months of 2009 (relative to the same period last year).

So, what are the top spots?

  1. Zion National Park, Utah
  2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  3. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
  4. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
  5. Redwood National and State Parks, California
  6. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
  7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  8. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  9. Yosemite National Park, California
  10. Acadia National Park, Maine

“As Americans look for inexpensive travel ideas this summer, many are seeking out the amazing natural beauty that lies in our country’s own back yard,” said Michele Perry, vice president of global communications for TripAdvisor. “National Parks can offer travelers an active, affordable and often awe-inspiring escape outdoors.”