Off The Beaten Path

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Few dams are artistic achievements, but Hoover Dam is an architectural gem. Seen from below, the sensuous geometry of the 725ft (220m) high concrete wall contrasts sharply with the rugged red rock of the canyon walls. You can see exhibits on the dam's construction and inner workings at the visitors' center. A 50-story elevator ride takes you down to the turbine room at the bottom of the dam. The view from the base brings home the fact that the dam is one of the highest in the world. Guided tours are available.

Stretching to the north and east of the dam is the artificial body of water it created: the 110 mile long (180km) Lake Mead. It's a good spot for boating, water-skiing, fishing and even scuba diving. Hoover Dam is an hour's drive southeast of downtown Las Vegas, where several companies offer bus tours.

Red Rock Canyon

Fewer than 20 miles (30km) west of the Strip, Red Rock Canyon is everything Vegas isn't: raw, natural and very old - 65 million years old. A 3000ft (900m) escarpment rises on the western edge of the valley. The canyon's most striking features - Joshua trees, multicolored sandstone, jagged peaks - can be seen from a 13 mile (20km) loop drive. There are many spots for picnicking, hiking and climbing along the way. There's a good visitors' center at the start of the loop.


If the flashing lights of Vegas blow your circuits, the funky, laid-back little town of Overton is less than two hours' drive from Glitter Gulch. Settled in the 1880s, Overton hasn't changed much since. Aside from a few motels, bars and stores, there isn't much to do here aside from the museum, but it's a good place to escape the hubub of the Strip.

Just north of Overton are 1000 year old Anasazi Indian pueblos - actually, they're reconstructions on the original foundations. The pueblos are part of the Lost City Museum, which features a collection of locally found artifacts dating back 10,000 years. Overton is about 50 miles (80km) northeast of downtown Las Vegas.

Grand Canyon

Just a few hours' drive east from Las Vegas is America's most popular national park. The south rim of the Grand Canyon is an easy overnighter from the Strip (the north rim is an additional five hours). The canyon is 225 miles (365km) long and nearly 10 miles (16km) wide, and the multicolored rock strata go down a mile to the Colorado River below. You may think your life is complete just to stand at the edge and look down at one-third of the earth's geologic history (though from the top you can't see the 1.7 billion year old rocks at the bottom). The canyon offers excellent hiking, horse riding and rafting.


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