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With its towering casinos, bright lights and glamorous shows, there’s a lot to see and do in Las Vegas. If the neon starts to get a bit much, however, you can always take to the road. The city is within easy drive of some of North America’s most spectacular scenery, as well as fascinating remnants of the historic Wild West. Even the cultural capital of Los Angeles is surprisingly easy to get to. Whether you’re taking a planned tour or setting your own course with car hire from Las Vegas; the city is a great base for exploring the West.
Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona, damming the Colorado River to create the vast expanse of Lake Mead. Completed in 1936, this huge concrete structure is still one of the most spectacular feats of engineering in the United States. The dam itself, together with its beautiful views, attract more than a million visitors every year. Near the dam is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which also contains nearby Lake Mohave. This area features boating, swimming, fishing and hiking amidst rugged desert scenery. Lake Mead and the dam are only 35 miles (56 km) from central Las Vegas; the journey should take less than an hour in good traffic.
Zion National Park
Further to the northwest, near the town of Springdale, Utah, is Zion National Park. Centered around Zion Canyon, this park is famous for its striking red sandstone cliffs and wide variety of plants and animals. Hiking in the park ranges from simple half-hour strolls to grueling twelve-mile treks. Rock climbing and horseback riding are also great ways to enjoy the diverse scenery and wildlife of the park. Zion National Park is 165 miles (266 km) from Las Vegas, making the trip about two and a half hours by car. Most of the journey is northeast along I-15, with Utah Route 9 forming the last leg of the journey to Zion.
The Grand Canyon
No trip to the Southwest would be complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon. Formed by the Colorado River over 40 million years, the Grand Canyon is up to 18 miles (29 km) wide in places and stretches for 277 miles (446 km) across the state of Arizona. It is one of the most famous natural wonders in the world, drawing over five million tourists every year. The South Rim of the canyon is open throughout the year, while the North Rim is typically open only during the summer (although the Southwestern summer extends throughout September). Hiking, mule riding and river rafting are all possible in the canyon, although for many people simply enjoying the view is enough. The Grand Canyon is 269 miles (433 km) to the east from Las Vegas, with a journey time of about four hours along US Route 93 and I-40.
A four-hour journey in the opposite direction along I-15 will bring drivers to Los Angeles, California, the largest city in the western USA. Famous as the home of the movie industry, LA has much more to offer than just Hollywood glamor: its world-class shopping, fine dining, amusement parks (including the original Disneyland in nearby Anaheim) and magnificent museums attract over 25 million visitors every year. Sights not to miss included the Getty Museum, a famous free private art gallery nestled in the hills overlooking the city, and the La Brea Tar Pits, which preserve the remains of prehistoric animals. The epitome of American urban sprawl, Los Angeles is a city only really possible to see by car.