Some time ago, a friend of mine revealed a secret to me … he’s going to marry his girl in Las Vegas. 🙂 I say: “If you’re already there, it would be a crime not to visit the National Parks in the west of the United States. So here’s the list of my recommendations for you, brother …” 🙂
This National Park, located in the state of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, is deeply engraved in my soul. I visited it shortly in 2003 on a road trip with my Czech friends but had to come back the following year to explore it more thoroughly.
Yosemite valley was formed by a giant glacier of the ice age that left a U-shaped valley almost 1,200 meters deep. Its magnificent beauty attracts every year millions of visitors from all around the world. A mountain called Half Dome was cut by the glacier in half and has been a source of amazement to all visitors ever since it is there. It used to be assumed to be “perfectly inaccessible” until 1875 when it was climbed by George Anderson, who also laid the metal wires that are used for climbing up until now.
It is a 10 to 12 hour hike to the top but I guarantee it will be worth the effort. You’ll get a glimpse of a river that finds its way on the rocky surface and drops hundreds of meters down the Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls (in the afternoon sun there is a rainbow shining inside the water). The final climb of the dome might scare an inexperienced climber but I guarantee that the view from the top will be worth it!
The face of Half Dome is classified by grade VI and its first solo climb belongs to Alex Honnold, who also holds the record in the shortest climb: 1:22 hrs.
It was also in Yosemite where I humbly stood in front of colossal El Capitan (shortly El Cap), a 900 meters tall granite rock that offers a challenge to thousands of climbers. Many of them climb it in 3 – 4 days and I could come to watch their little lanterns shine on the rock wall in the middle of the night.
Practical info for visiting Yosemite National Park:
To get to the Yosemite Valley, you can travel via Amtrak train, or Greyhound buses with connection buses from YARTS company.
Here you can book a place in a camping ground.
You need an extra permission to climb Half Dome because the number of persons permitted to climb per day is regulated due to security reasons. Here you can find more information.
There is free bus transport all around the Yosemite Valley.
This National Park neighbors with Yosemite and can surely compete with its natural beauty. But what is the most magnificent about this place, are the giant sequoia trees. Probably the best known is the General Sherman tree which is also one of the largest trees on Earth.
Death Valley stands in your way if you’re driving from Las Vegas to Sequoia and Yosemite so sooner or later, you will find yourself driving for miles and miles through this incredible land where nothing lives. Although, you might encounter a coyote, hyena or a scorpion. 🙂 Make sure you have a good A/C in your car or you will sweat a lot. The temperatures here vary between 45°C in the day and 5 °C at night time. The light reflecting on the sand dunes makes an incredible scenery, especially when the sun gets low.
Not so well-known but one of my favorites when it comes to natural wonders, Zion Park is a true jewel on your way to Bryce Canyon. The origin of its name comes from the Mormons who settled this area in 1847. Red coloured rocks, formed in a canyon with Virgin river running through. You may find many cute spots with pools and waterfalls, rocks carved by running water, even a weeping rock. A climb to Angel’s landing will show you the entire valley from angel’s perspective.
Let me tell you a legend … “Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in this place. There were many of them. They were of many kinds – birds, animals, lizards and such things. They were not people but hey had power to make themselves look that way. For some reason the Legend People in that place were bad; they did something that was not good, perhaps a fight, perhaps some stole something … Because they were bad, Coyote turned them all into rocks. You can see them in that place now all turned into rocks; some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding onto others. You can see their faces, with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks. The name of that place is Angka-ku-wass-a-wits (red painted faces).” Nice story, no? But if you take a closer look, either from the top or while walking in between these giant pillars, perhaps you find some resemblance with those Legend People. 🙂
The beauty of Grand Canyon attracts millions of people and yes, it drove me to come see it as well. When we arrived, we got a sight of not one, but three storms, rumbling wildly above the canyon. Grand Canyon is 446 km long, up to 29 km wide and the depth of its valley is more than 1,800 meters. In its colorful layers, you can discover Earth’s geological history of nearly two billion years.
Wander deep into the Rockies, camp next to cascade falls but don’t forget to hang your food on the trees or else a hungry bear will come and eat it. This a typical but yet never boring alpine nature with deep pine forests, lush meadows, lakes and rivers running down on its own pace. These creeks are the origin of the Colorado river that runs down the Grand Canyon.
Discover dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful or hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope. All that can be found in Yellowstone National Park, which is covering nearly 9,000 km2 wilderness recreation area, located on a volcanic hot spot.
Not really close to Las Vegas but worth to visit if you like ragged mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes (with icebergs floating on them) and grizzly bears perhaps. This landscape is closest to the Canadian one, its rough climate, the potential danger of spotting a bear – yes, the locals equipped me with a huge can of bear spray. From a full moon hike around there, I carry this unforgettable image of Two-medicine lake, completely calm, mirroring stars and a full moon!
… so what do you think, did you get inspired for a road trip? 🙂