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Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge features eroded hills full of cave-like branching slots. Fun to explore; rewarding to try to photograph from inside. This Nevada state park has a pleasant campground with amenities that include hot showers. About 2.7 hours from Las Vegas.

Cathedral George State Park, NV
Cathedral Gorge

Michael Heizer's Double Negative

Michael Heizer's 1969-70 land art piece Double Negative is cut into the edge of Mormon Mesa overlooking the scenic Virgin River valley. Hard to photograph, I found it to be an "interactive" piece that one needs to walk around, climb down into, view at both sunrise and sunset, etc. to appreciate its variations, scale, and bravado. Tried to see Heizer's even more monumental City, also in the region, but Heizer has deliberately made it inaccessible, pending completion, with a gated road and obscuring berms.

Double Negative, rim shot  Double Negative, inside shot  Double Negative, sky shot
Michael Heizer's Double Negative

Buffington Pockets

Buffington Pockets shares the features of Valley of Fire: twisted red rocks and ancient petroglyths. Valley of Fire is a state park accessible by car while Buffington Pockets is a power toy playground requiring 4WD, so check out Valley of Fire, first. If you are in the Buffington area (Moapa Valley), check out the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a warm springs oasis home to the endangered Moapa Dace.

Red rocks and sands of Buffington Pockets, NV
Buffington Pockets

Grapevine Canyon

The mouth of Grapevine Canyon, a dirt road drive from the highway and a short hike in, contains the densest petroglyth panels I have seen.

Native American petroglyths at Grapevine Canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
Petroglyths at Grapevine Canyon

Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve, about 1.5 hours southwest of LV, features a rich variety of desert environments. Paved and bladed roads make much of the hiking, camping, sightseeing, and wildlife accessible without an SUV. At this time of year, I found the desert in bloom, the Joshua trees in flower, and the desert tortoises active.

Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, California
Kelso Dunes

Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Desert National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Mojave north of LV, with three 4WD access points off Highways 93 and 95. Visitors are on their own and should be well researched and equipped for the backcountry. This year's forays were scouting trips for future expeditions.

Burnt Yucca Forest, Mormon Well Road, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
Recovering Yucca Forest - Mormon Well Road

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge is an oasis of lakes along Highway 93 about 80 miles north of LV. Birding, camping, and native rock art are its principal offerings, but it also contains a 4WD access into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Check with the office before using the 4WD roads, as some are no longer passable.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge,Nevada
Upper Lake

Ash Meadows

2+ hours outside of LV, on the way to Death Valley, is the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Springs fueled by the underground Amargosa River create oases and provide habitat for endangered species of desert pupfish. The lush vegetation and tropical-colored fish are a striking contrast to the surrounding alkaline uplands of the Mojave desert.

Point of Rocks Spring in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
Point of Rocks Spring

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park has a severe and subtle beauty that takes at least a couple of days to appreciate. Go during the cooler weather when you can hike around. It was already too hot in late April this year, although spring temperatures can vary widely year-to-year. ~3 hours from LV.


Mesquite Dunes near Stovepipe Wells

Zion National Park

Zion's spectacular geography delivers drives, hiking, and camping of all varieties and challenges. ~3 hrs. out of LV on a drive that crosses the desert and ascends up onto the Colorado plateau via the Virgin River Canyon.

Zion Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah
Heading Into Zion Narrows


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