After the madness of Vegas, time for something different. I had planned for six days in Vegas – two or three days each for sightseeing, and for getting over jetlag, both literally after crossing the pacific, and culturally after having been to half a dozen decidedly non-Western world countries. Plus one day for being an idiot who forgot that crossing the international date line over the pacific meant coming into Vegas a day earlier.
But six days in Vegas is too much of a circus. Luckily it turns out there are several good options for getting out into nature from there. Not the grand canyon – you could theoretically make it as a day trip, but that would mean either going only to the western edge, or spending more time on the trip than there.
For the first trip, I decided to take it easy and go to red rock canyon, which is not even a proper national park, but a “national conservation area”, and not that famous, but the info online sounded promising, I love desert environments, and it’s an easy 40 minute drive from Vegas.
Yup, desert, as promised, like straight from a Western movie. Desolate, stark, and eerily beautiful.
The US and Germany have a completely different approach to national parks. In Germany, an area being a national park means it’s protected from any damaging human influence, and should be left alone. And if you can hike in it without desturbing the animals, you are allowed to do so, in some areas, and we might even have a map for you. In the US, a national park is a national park because it’s beautiful and unique, and sure it should be protected, but mainly so people can see and enjoy it.
Also, the range of tourists is much wider in the US, from “hardcore hiker spending two weeks without human contact” to “overweight city slicker never moving further than 100 yards from his car”.
Which is too say, American national parks are great at being easy and user-friendly for visitors. Red Rock specifically has one big, one-way ring road leading through it, with a small parking lot every few miles, wherever there is a scenic view or a convenient starting point for a few hikes.
I did not have the time to go on any major hike, and I wanted to see as much as possible in a day, so I only did a few small hikes, more like walking a bit away from the road to a nice spot. But even those small walks were really beautiful, and as soon as the main road comes out of sight, the crowds thin out, and it feels like you’re alone in the desert.
I don’t know what it is about an empty desert landscape – maybe it’s because it’s so different from everything I am used to in daily life. But I could just stand in a spot like this and drink in the view for hours.
Speaking of drinking, it was good to have brought along a ton of water – Nevada in June is as hot as it sounds, with temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees, out in the open under the hot sun. I was glad to get back into the car to enjoy a bit of A/C on the way between the different viewpoints. (In fact, this is the only time on the whole trip I got sick, catching quite a cold from the rapid temperature changes. But try telling yourself not to crank up the air conditioning when you’ve just come back from an hour of hiking in the desert).
I really loved red rock canyon, one of the highlights not just of the US, but of the whole trip.
Not much more to say except you should go there, and to post some more pretty pictures.