Cruising West to Vegas

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Western USA in an RV

After we had driven away from the Grand Canyon on our family RV holiday, I felt a sense of sadness about leaving the landscape that has always been such an iconic part of the Western United States. Yet, due to the variety of natural beauty in the west, the Grand Canyon receded into my memory and was replaced with other less revered but still spectacular views and experiences. Along the many highways that we cruised, the landscape seamlessly changed and never failed to capture my attention.

With the Grand Canyon behind us, we headed north to Zion National Park in Utah. Zion was one of the highlights of the holiday for me, because it was unexpectedly fun and enthralling. I highly recommend hiking in the Narrows, where you can wade through a river surrounded by cliffs on either side, which I found a refreshing experience, though the rocks can be slippery. It is sensible to wear suitable clothing and shoes and not rush, as my mum found out, when she nearly slid head-first into the river. The peak time to go into the Narrows is the summer and autumn when the water is refreshingly cool. It is possible to go in the winter and spring, but wearing wet or dry suits is recommended if you go then.

In Zion National Park, there are a variety of non-guided or guided hikes that range from easy, one-day excursions in the Narrows and on the rocks above the river, to longer, more challenging overnight trips. Alongside hiking, Zion offers a range of adventure activities from rock climbing, golf, and cycling, as well as helicopter and off-road tours. The Rocks Odyssey Guiding Co. offer rock climbing trips in Zion for £96 per person and Zion helicopter tours range from $45 to $299, depending on the length of the trip. There are also off-road tours from Zion ATV & UTV tours from $125, where more of the landscape is accessible.

After the delights of the national park, we cruised west to Las Vegas. As we arrived in Las Vegas, the heat of the day was almost unbearable, so I was incredibly thankful that the RV Park we stayed in, had a pool (Las Vegas KOA, which is located just off the strip, and cost $73.95 per night). Having said that, Las Vegas has a different feel at night, with its iconic and instantly recognisable Strip lit up – though to experience the city fully, you need to be over 21. Beyond the strip, there is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (open 6am to 8pm from April to September), where those looking for an outdoor escape from gambling and commercialised, crowded streets can hike, rock climb and drive in tranquil, picturesque surroundings.

Amongst the cultural highlights in downtown Las Vegas is the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (otherwise known as the Mob Museum), which is open 9am to 9pm, all week. Tickets range from $20.95 for adults, $13.95 for children aged eleven to seventeen, and children under ten can get free admission. Plus 12% can be saved on ticket prices by booking online. Audio tours are available for an extra $4 and group tours are an extra $10. Amongst the highlights of the Mob Museum is its interactive history on Prohibition (1919-1933), when mobsters, such as Al Capone became notoriously powerful and violent in the United States.

Next on our trip, we headed north-west to Mammoth Lakes in California, which had a far cooler climate, as well as a secluded and peaceful atmosphere in the mountains, compared to the bustling and sometimes uncompromisingly humid nature of Las Vegas. Mammoth Lakes is particularly famed for its ski resorts but in the summer season, outdoor activities, such as hiking, swimming and tennis are just as enjoyable. I enjoyed this chance to admire the amazing landscape, as well as relax in the cool, refreshing water.

We then headed to Yosemite National Park. Like at Zion National Park and Mammoth Lakes, I was taken aback by the beauty of the landscape. I enjoyed hiking through Yosemite, despite it being far busier than Zion and Mammoth Lakes. Yosemite had a vast and diverse landscape, with gigantic boulders, seemingly endless forests and large waterfalls that crashed down with intense speed into the river below. Among the paid activities available in Yosemite,are a three-day Yosemite camping trip from £361.96 per person, a Yosemite hiking excursion from £84.89 per person, and a Yosemite Valley tour from £69.46 per person. One activity that our family particularly enjoyed was the river rafting tour, which is available from $29.50 per person, where we floated slowly and had time to admire the landscape.

To end our trip, we headed back to San Francisco, where we had begun our trip and were greeted by an overcast sky. Shortly afterwards we were on a flight back to Heathrow, satisfied with a packed and enthralling three-week holiday through the Western United States. It was truly an unforgettable trip, with the diversity of the landscape and cities, the numerous activities and cultural exhibits we had experienced along the way, as well as the new experience of living in a RV for a three-week period.

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