Distance: 260 miles. Trip time: 4 hours. Pitstops made: 5. Actual trip time: 7 hours. Regrets: ZERO.
Leave it to me to nearly double the amount of time between destinations, but what’s the point of a road trip if you don’t stop to enjoy the scenery?! The drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon is not something I was particularly looking forward to, so naturally it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the entire month’s adventures. The progression of the land from Scenic U.S. Route 93 east to I-40 and north is so gorgeous — desert flatlands turn to red rocks, roadside shrubbery turns from neutral sands to lush yellow flowers, purple stems and the road slowly transforms into steep, windy paths that narrow between emerging canyon walls. The drive itself is a vacation!
It can be tempting to rock right through the journey, but if time is on your side here are 5 Vegas to Grand Canyon pitstops worth making along the way:
Pitstop #1: Lake Mead Vantage Point at Hoover Dam Inn
25 miles east of the Las Vegas strip, at the west-most point of the entrance lot for the Hoover Dam Inn, is a roadside vantage point for Lake Mead. Tucked through a parking lot and about 10 minutes walking down a clear-cut path marked by a large red rock, you’ll be overlooking the largest resevoir in the U.S. by volume, and the last water you’ll see for hundreds of miles. This quick trail is the pitstop of least resistance to get a peek without detouring for too long into the main Recreation Area.
Location: 25 miles east of the Las Vegas strip, through the Hoover Dam Inn parking lot
Time needed: 20 minutes
Pitstop #2: Hoover Dam
Impounding Lake Mead at the Arizona/Nevada state line is the historical, controversial, major tourist attracting U.S. Hoover Dam. A major source of power for AZ, NV and CA, the pitstop to see one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century (Golden Gate Bridge + Panama Canal also make the list) is a no-brainer en route to one of the natural wonders of the world!
Location: Arizona/Nevada State Line
Time needed: 1-3 hours, depending if you want to take a tour
Cost: $10 parking + tour fees
Pitstop #3: Mile Marker 27
Do you guys ever pass those abandoned houses or whatevers-they-are on the side of the road and wonder what heck they are and how they got there? This always puzzles me, and if I’m in the driver’s seat I usually pull over for a closer look. Mile marker 27 won’t be a must-stop for every traveller, but if you’re looking for a driving break and want to let your curiosity do some wandering, this little roadside tiki-what awaits!
Location: 33 miles south of Hoover Dam
Time needed: 5-10 minutes
Pitstop #4: Historical Route 66
What would a great American road trip be without a stop on Route 66?! What started as a pitstop for fuel turned into just over an hour strolling around this strange little desert town full of off-the map oddities. Pictured: a vintage trinkets and bread rations pick-up shop. Try finding that one on Yelp.
Sidenote: when I did make that fuel stop here, a cheery gas attendant came out to greet me — with a visible pistol on his belt. o.O No clue what the laws are in this part of the wild west.
Location: Buffalo Pointe Inn (437 Historic Route 66) will get you to the heart of the area
Time needed: 20 minutes – 2 hours to stroll around
Cost: $0 + whatever you spend on trinkets!
Pitstop #5: Kaibab National Forest
You’re so very close! Kaibab National Forest borders the Grand Canyon north and south, so when you hit these signs you know you’re almost there. If you can stand to stop, the forest grounds are a great place to savor the last bit of your trek into the park before joining the crowds at the South Rim. Whitetail and mule deer, elk, antelope, turkeys and coyotes inhabit in the area, so keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on your way into the barren lands!
Location: 50 mi south of the Grand Canyon to just below the Utah state line
Time needed: 20 minutes – infinite hours to hike or stroll around
Wait… what about Dallas?
But wait?! Weren’t you in Dallas? Turns out that part of March Madness was mostly a bust. The city was rainy and cold for my hardly 24 hours in town, so I enjoyed a few warm hotel hours catching up on writing, a final girls’ night with Kristin + local style blogger Ashley, and even squeezed in a too-brief visit with my cousin during a late night Deep Ellum (grunge town) band stint… but it was nothing worth crafting a whole post about. SXSW recovery is quite the feat so the down time was a much appreciated change of pace for the day.
Notable mentions: $10 HotelTonight* room thanks to a refund credit I forgot about, manis/pedis on couches at Le Nail Salon, craft cocktails at West Village’s super cute dinner/drinks spot Public School 214 and a missed opportunity to try a Voodoo-rivaling maple bacon doughnut at Glazed Donut Works. Until next time.
Next stop: Grand Canyon!
*Use referral code CMORGAN106 for $25 off your first HotelTonight booking :D