With the overall tourist view of Las Vegas as a solitary metropolis in the desert, few visitors stop and realize there are several excellent adventures and day trips to be had using Las Vegas as a base. Get out of the darkened casinos, get off your butt and head out for some fun in the sun with either a self-directed or guided tour of Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.
You can easily rent a car or motor home in town to take the trip at your own pace, alowing you time to see all the sights along the way. Get on the US-93 highway headed wherever takes your fancy; just follow the signs. One of the first stops you might like to make along the way is in Boulder, Nevada — a total anomaly if there ever was one. Begun as a city to house workers building the Hoover Dam, Boulder outlawed gambling and alcohol from its inception. It’s still the only city in Nevada that does not allow gambling in any form, although in 1969, a law allowing the sale of alcohol was passed. Places of interest in and around Boulder include the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, where three of the desert environments in the United States meet. This exhibits a wide range of flora and fauna, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world.
A bit farther along US-93 lies Hoover Dam, a definite must-see along the route. Construction on the dam began in 1933 but, prior to that, workers had to eliminate loose rock from the walls of the Black Canyon where the dam would be built, and the waters of the Colorado River had to be diverted from the construction site. Details and pictures describing the 'high-scalers', who hung from ropes and used dynamite to loosen the rock, can be found at the Visitors’ Center at the south end of the Dam. You can also learn about the four tunnels constructed to divert the River, four tunnels with a combined length of over three miles with a concrete lining three feet thick.
After turning east from US-93 onto the I40 freeway, you’ll pass through Kingman, Arizona, famed for being one of the original towns along Route 66, the path traveled by easterners to escape the dustbowl conditions and depression economy of the 1930s, in order to take agricultural jobs in California. For a fun trip along the way, turn off at Kingman and take Historic Route 66 through small towns such Hackberry and Peach Springs, Arizona, where some of the original buildings along the route – hotels, stores, and shops – still stand, today. You might even decide to take a tour of the Grand Canyon Caverns, where an inland sea formed caves lined with limestone walls, during prehistoric times. Fossils and bones of ancient creatures have been found in the Caverns, and new finds are made each year.
Return to I40 at Seligman, Arizona and continue along it until it merges with the freeway once again, just before Pinaveta, Arizona. Head east to the exit (Exit 165) for the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world! Once at the National Park you will find so many adventures you won’t know which to try first. You might choose to wander the rim and wait to snap photos as the sunset shows the shadows creeping up the east wall. Or you might stay overnight and the next day; take a donkey ride down to floor of the Canyon — 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and as deep as a mile in some places. Be aware, although the donkeys are sure-footed and have been making the trip for years, sometimes the trails are narrow and this can be a harrowing experience for anyone afraid of heights!
For a more comfortable trip to the floor of the Canyon — although not necessarily less disconcerting — consider one of the guided tours by helicopter, where you can land at a real western working ranch and take a covered wagon ride to an old-fashioned barbeque lunch. Horseback riding trips are an optional extra at the ranch, and you’ll find your foot starts tapping along with the beat of the songs shared by the real cowboys as they tell of western myths and legends and share their cowboy poetry.
If the two-day trip sounds a bit overwhelming, you can do all of it — except Route 66 — in just one day, with guided tours straight from Las Vegas. Tour companies will pick you at your hotel and take you via helicopter past the scenic routes of Hoover Dam. You’ll even get to fly at rim level through the Grand Canyon before stopping at the ranch for lunch and entertainment. If the price of the helicopter adventure is a bit too much for your wallet, similar day trips can be made by bus from Las Vegas for a much less.
So, whether you decide to take a self-guided tour or depend on a local tour company to do the driving — or flying — for you, a trip to Las Vegas doesn't need to be only neon lights, dark casinos, and big name shows. Las Vegas is perfectly placed to let you see some amazing outdoor attractions and bring home pictures of your Las Vegas outdoor adventures.