Any road trip can be an adventure, but rolling from Joshua Tree to St. George is going to expose you to geography, culture and city vibes all in one journey. This area is blessed with a wide variety of unusual wildlife, prehistoric rock art, and paleontology, and then smack in the middle you hit the bright lights and glitz of Las Vegas. One minute you will be admiring the starlit sky and wondering at the awesome desert silence, the next you could be watching stars prance across the stage as one-armed bandits clatter and ring in the background.
The journey distance is just 369 miles and could easily be completed in just over six hours but that would defeat the object of what you are trying to do here. This is not just a matter of getting from A to B. Instead it is an opportunity to explore an area of the country that many people will never get to experience. Traveling in your own self contained home, you will be free to change plans to suit yourself, explore places far from the nearest hotel or motel and still have all the comforts of home.
The next leg of the journey which will take you to St. George will only take half an hour. Though this is one of southern Utah’s most modern cities, you haven’t quite left the prehistoric world yet. The dinosaur discovery site at Johnson Farm is a museum housing thousands of petrified dinosaur, fish, and insect tracks that date back to the early Jurassic period.
Also worth a visit in St George is the Red Hill Desert garden. This unusual botanical collection covering five acres consists of over 5000 plants, uniquely adapted to survive in the desert.
The Mormon influence is strongly imprinted on this town and it is most obvious on the monuments and historic buildings. The St George Temple, the first to be built in Utah, stands 175 feet high but can only be viewed from the outside. For a more in-depth appreciation of Mormon culture, the visitor center is run by local missionaries who can help with information and there are touch screen displays offering further explanation.
Less than two and a half hours of easy driving from Vegas will bring you to the Little Black Mountain. This boulder dotted area is home to over five hundred pieces of petroglyphic rock art. These incredible paintings, done over a period of six thousand years, are something that you should not miss. They include images of lizards, turtles bear paws and other wildlife that would have roamed this area at the time.
The significance of these ancient works of art has long been lost to modern man. That is a mystery you will be able to ponder as you wander among the sandstone boulders and look up at the cliffs that lead up onto the 500 foot mesa above you. The walking in this giant outdoor art gallery is easy so you won’t be put under any strain, though it is a good idea to carry a water bottle with as you go.
The sudden transition from silent desert to Las Vegas might come as a bit of a shock, but you will soon recover. The journey time is just two hours and once there, there is no shortage of ways to keep yourself occupied in this city. There are, of course, a myriad of casinos dotted along the strip if gambling is your thing.
If you would prefer something a little different, then how about trying The Mob Museum? Set in a former courthouse, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement provides a window not only into organized in Las Vegas but right across the country.
For those looking for something more nerve-tingling, then Vegas offers two terrifying zip line rides. SlotZilla is a seven-story high descent. You are fired from what looks like a giant slot machine and you shoot along for two city blocks. The second one, called the Zoom Line, starts at eleven stories high and you fly for five blocks. Both should give you the adrenalin rush you are after.
The most practical RV park is at Circus Circus. Although not as aesthetically pleasing as some you might have stayed at in the desert, its ease of accessibility makes up for it. You are only a few minutes’ walk from the main strip.
This is an unusual park in that it is formed at the confluence of two deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado. Head for the Tutonia Peak Trail which will take you around two hours and fifteen minutes to reach. To get there you will travel along the Cima road which passes through some of the most abundant swathes of Joshua trees in the whole park. These trees are members of the Agave family and they were given their name by early Mormon settlers who thought they bore a resemblance to Saint Joshua with his arms raised in supplication.
The trail is not a difficult one to walk and when you get up to the peak you will be rewarded with 360° views of the desert around you. In this park, you are allowed to camp where you like. If you would prefer an RV park then Hole in the Wall campground is a state park that offers freshwater and well-serviced ablution facilities. For entertainment, you will have the wide desert starscape.
The desert, which to the uninitiated, may at first seem like just a blank open space, soon becomes somewhere both addictive and haunting. Once you have spent some time surrounded by its vastness and enveloped in its tranquillity it will be a place you want to come back to again and again.
The RV road trip from Joshua Tree to St. George is unusual in that you get to experience both the seclusion of this great outdoor arena and the hustle and bustle of the world's most infamous casino city. There can be few trips that offer greater contrast in one long weekend.