The Canyoneer’s Guide To Las Vegas

Okay, there are scads of canyons in the Las Vegas area. But there are three especially spectacular ones that everyone should see, all designated as US national parks.

Grand Canyon

At 277 miles in length, up to a mile deep and 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon is usually the first people think of, as well it should be, since it’s the third-ranked cleft in the earth’s crust.

Author and pilot Mike with five star grand canyon tours

One of the best ways to see the canyon is from the air. That in mind, I found myself boarding a Five Star Grand Canyon Tours helicopter at the Boulder City Airport. Our pilot, Mike, gave us first-class views of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the extinct volcano, Fortification Hill, once a Mormon stronghold.

Hoover Dam

Following this we cruised below the rim of the multi-layered canyon for awe-inspiring views before landing in the Hualapai reservation for views from Guano and Eagle Points. At the latter a massive rock formation evokes the form of an eagle in flight. At Guano Point hikers can climb up for a panoramic 360-degree view of the canyon and take a look at the infrastructure for the abandoned guano mine, put out of business when an air force jet rammed into the canyon-spanning cable.

If you wish you can also try out the Sky Walk, that is, if you don’t mind staring down almost a mile through the Plexiglas floor on which you are standing.

Sky Walk

Two less well known but equally amazing canyons are found in southern Utah, and can be done on a single day tour out of Las Vegas, offered by Adventure Photo Tours.

Adventure Photo Tours Van reflecting natural beauty of Zion Canyon

Zion National Park is 15 miles long and half a mile wide and it features unique formations dubbed with biblical names by an exploration-minded minister in the 19th century. Hence you will find mountains and formations with such names as the Three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Joseph), Angels Landing, the Pulpit and the Altar of Sacrifice. The canyon was carved out by the pristine though not particularly spectacular Virgin River, much as the Colorado River etched out the Grand Canyon.

Zion National Park, Utah: West temple, Sundial, Altar of Sacrifice

A bit further on is Bryce Canyon, perhaps my favorite. The orange-to-pink rippled spires, so-called “hoodoos,” evoke a fairy-tale landscape where hobbits or elves might dwell. It was named by 18th-century settler Ebenezer Bryce, who, somewhat lacking in inspiration, summed up the canyon as “a heck of a good place to lose a cow.”

Bryce Canyon

For those who wish more than to merely sample the parks, all offer multi-day accommodation. Bear in mind that this is often booked a year or more in advance.


If you go …

National Park Service
Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park


Photo Credits

All Photos By George Burden – All Rights Reserved


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