Las Vegas is synonymous with casinos, flash hotels, and even flashier neon lights. It's a city that illuminates the Mojave Desert in Nevada from dusk until dawn. Las Vegas never sleeps and the infamous Las Vegas Strip, the same as pretty much the rest of the city, is on the go twenty-four hours a day. That non-stop pace of life, whether you're vacationing or working there, can become tiring and you could find yourself more exhausted than if you'd run a marathon. The almost constant high temperatures of Las Vegas's desert climate can be particularly draining and can leave you dog-tired, even if you've not been overexerting yourself.
There are some great places to escape to right on the boundaries of the city limits like the Red Rock Canyon and the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas. The Valley of Fire State Park is just a short drive to the north-east, but there's no escaping the fact that you can stay at any of those three and you'll still be in the Mojave Desert. Pack up your rig, trailer or van with all you need for two or three days and hit the I 15 northbound on a weekend road trip from Las Vegas to Boulder in Colorado for a complete change of atmosphere.
Don't leave your camera at home. You'll be motoring along a super scenic route after you've passed through Utah that will have you stopping every so often to snap off shot after shot of incredible landscapes. You'll be able to forget all about the glare of neon as these scenes will be illuminated by natural light only. Believe it, after being in Las Vegas, your optic nerves will thank you for the experience.
There's one thing it won't take you long to realize when you're making your weekend road trip from Las Vegas to Boulder and that's the fact that it is an incredibly scenic drive. If you want to capture images of all the amazing viewpoints you'll pass on the route, you'll need at least three mega-sized memory cards for your camera. The closer you get to Boulder the better the views will get.
Just two and a quarter hours out of Vegas and you'll be driving through Kolob Canyon. The canyon is part of the Zion National Park, and you won't even need to leave your vehicle to appreciate it. Leave the I 15 at junction 40, stop off at the visitor center, then make the five-mile trip through the multi-colored canyons with your camera at the ready.
After you've changed highways from the I 15 to the I 70 and have motored through the Manti-La Sal National Forest, you'll be pulling the parking break on so many times your arm will begin to ache. The Salt Wash View Area, the Dutchman's Arch, the San Rafael Swell View Area, Sego Canyon and the Hanging Lake Park are all places you'll want to take photos of before you get to Boulder. There are so many incredible places to see, you may well find yourself considering forgetting about going back to Las Vegas completely.
Whether you're in a city or taking a weekend road trip from Las Vegas to Boulder, it's nice to have a little bit of personal pampering. After camping out at the Fremont Indian State Park while you're in the area, head over to Monroe and the Mystic Hot Springs. All of the luxury spas in those glamorous Vegas hotels will fade in comparison to the natural spa experience you'll have there. It's all outdoors so taking a soak in the evening will add a whole new level to stargazing too.
At first glance you may well think that the two pools and six antique bath tubs look a little incongruous, but as you lay back and relax in the thermally heated mineral-rich water, you'll soon change your mind. Look up at the universe and you'll see the Milky Way or if you're taking a dip in the springs during the daytime, the endless blue of the Utah skies. Whichever you go for, don't miss getting a back massage under the flow of warm water in the waterfall pool. You'll feel amazing afterward.
As you continue to motor north through Utah, combine a cultural visit with some outback recreation by making a stop at the Fremont Indian State Park and Museum. The state park lies within the boundaries of the Fishlake National Forest just east of Cove Fort and if you want to pitch up camp there, you'll find there are two campgrounds ideal for RVs, though you'll need to make a reservation before arriving. The Sam Stowe Campground stays open all year but the Castle Rock Campground closes in fall or after there's been a snowfall.
The museum houses a collection of artifacts that were recovered from an archaeological dig of a Fremont Indian village in the area. After seeing all the treasures there, hike out along one of the many trails that crisscross the valley and you'll discover hundreds of examples of rock art decorating the canyon walls. At night while you're sitting outside your rig by the side of your campfire, what you've seen during the day will leave you pondering on the simplicity of that ancient civilization compared to the one you left behind in Vegas.
While you've been in Las Vegas, you'll probably have grown accustomed to seeing spurting fountains and cascades illuminated with multi-colored lights pretty much everywhere you go. While they are undeniably spectacular, those man-made creations are nowhere near as incredible as what nature can produce. After you've been on the road for around three hours and passed through the community of Leeds on the I 15, turn off for Toquerville. From there head along the winding Spring Drive until it comes to an end then park up and hike to the Toquerville Falls.
Toquerville Falls are a sensational natural water source that flows over a rock face and forms a pool. It's a superb spot to jump in for a swim after you've done the short hike of around an hour and then to just sit and admire the falls before making the hike back.
If you decide you'd like to make camp somewhere and then visit the falls you'll find a campground in the Quail Creek State Park which is accessible via Harrisburg off the I 15. The campsites are on the side of Quail Creek Reservoir and are equipped with picnic tables and grills. If you're not towing a boat and want to rent a kayak or canoe you can do that at the ranger station. If you're taking your road trip from Las Vegas to Boulder in the winter, take your skis and you'll be able to have a go on the campground's slalom ski course.
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By the time you arrive in Boulder after your weekend road trip from Las Vegas, you'll be feeling like a different person. As you explore Boulder that will continue, because it is nothing like Las Vegas. Boulder is a city with minimal neon, a humid rather than dry desert climate, and one that focuses on healthy living rather than manic nightlife and gambling.
With a weekly cycle ride around the city and the Nordic-style, mad event of the Polar Bear Plunge where folks jump into the frozen, but invigorating waters of the Boulder Reservoir, it is a world away from the glam of Las Vegas. But don't worry, you don't need to participate in either event if you don't want to. Watching is just as much fun as taking part, especially when you have your camera in hand.