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Any road trip through the Desert Southwest is full of unique twists and turns, regardless of whether you remain on the interstate or head off along enticing back roads. Long the destination for gold prospectors and other dreamers, the mountains and valleys of the Arizona, Nevada and Utah deserts today provide a glimpse of mankind’s historical interaction with the area’s fantastic natural landscapes.
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Vegas to Kingman, AZ
Once you take US 93 toward Boulder City, casinos and the freeway take a backseat to the glittering waters of Lake Mead. Take a tour of historic Hoover Dam or walk across the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge spanning the Colorado River. The town of Dolan Springs outside of Kingman offers access to the Mt. Tipton Wilderness Area and hiking trails among the Joshua trees.
Kingman, AZ to Grand Canyon National Park
The just-under-2-hour trip to Williams along I-40 passes through a scenic backdrop of rocky mountains and gradually greening desert. Motorists can make an optional pit stop in Seligman, where historic Route 66 draws near the interstate. Between Williams and the South Rim along SR 64, you can shop for Native American crafts and visit the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Valle.
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Grand Canyon National Park to Kanab, UT
SR 64 leaving Grand Canyon Village changes its cardinal direction to east-west in order to take motorists around the eastern end of the park. The road ends at US 89, which begins to whet a traveler’s appetite for the exotic with the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument near the Utah state line. A detour to Glen Canyon Dam and nearby Lake Powell is well worth the time.
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Kanab, UT to Bryce Canyon National Park
The drive time on this leg is less than 2 hours, giving you more time to soak up the scenery of windswept hoodoos crafted by centuries of erosion in this natural amphitheater known as Bryce Canyon. The 18-mile Park Road provides fantastic vantage points. Outdoor types will relish a more intimate view of nature’s handiwork via the park’s numerous hiking trails.
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Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park
You may decide to extend your trip once at Zion National Park, which offers a plethora of activities ranging from hiking and horseback riding to canyoneering and climbing. Start out by exploring the multi-hued, rocky wonders of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, open to private vehicles only during the slower winter months. Peak-season visitors must use the park’s shuttle buses.
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Zion National Park to Vegas
The red-hued Zion-Mount Carmel Highway leads you from the park toward I-15 and Las Vegas. After exiting Zion National Park, the route passes several tiny communities before entering the town of Hurricane. This makes a great stopping point to stretch your legs before the 2-hour interstate jaunt to Vegas. Visitors can hike a small portion of the historic Hurricane Canal here.