Las Vegas – Gateway to Desert Escapes

My number one ‘back-country’ choice has always been the Valley of Fire – amazing desert canyons with petroglyphs and colors that epitomize the rocky beauty of the desert. See my article on greatestgetaways. And Red Rock Canyon offers panoramic 13-mile scenic drive as well as trails for bikes and hikes.

In my most recent trip to Nevada, however, I’ve a discovered a couple of back-country rivals where you can dump the car and tune-in with a totally different pace.

The first is white-water rafting down the Colorado River, below the Hoover Dam to Willow Beach near Boulder City (the only township in Nevada where gambling is illegal). Black Canyon River Adventures hold the license to manage the limited number of craft allowed to launch at the Dam, and do a crack-up job in maneuvering you through the adventure of riding the gentle rapids. Canyon walls that rise 2,000 feet from the water’s edge. Piping hot mineral spring water. Pretty darn cold river waters – actually a refreshing spray in the high-noon heat. And finding big horn sheep clinging with ease to the vertical rock face.

While most folks often gravitate to Lake Mead for the terrific fishing, I suggest you chill out on a Forever Resorts houseboat on Lake Mohave. Although based at Cottonwood Cove Resort & Marina, your floating home-away-from-home can be towed to any secluded spot with a sandy beach and hiking trails into the desert. The craft are geared to comfort – you gotta love the water slide off the top deck, and if you include add-on options such as a water ski boat, you have a zippy run-about to explore the fissured backwaters and coves, not to mention zipping along on a ski run, or being towed in a skimming donut.

Along the shore, you can expect to see Mountain Sheep and wild burros, evidence of desert creatures that awake in the cool of night – cougar, coyote, lizards and snakes, as well as crystal clear waters full of catfish, gar and even soft-shell turtles.

Cottonwood is only a half-hour boat ride from Willow Beach, so transfers from river raft to houseboat are seamless – and that includes any luggage that travels separately aboard by van. And because Cottonwood will also provide a ride back to the airport, the entire backcountry experience is worry-free of nitty-gritty details.

Win or lose in Las Vegas, combining the neon-city with desert waters delivers one of the most textured, sensory, and refreshing Nevada experiences around.


About Chris McBeath

Travel writer Chris McBeath has worked aboard cruise ships, opened hotels, managed convention centers, marketed spas and spa resorts, and written guide books and travel articles on nearly every aspect of travel.
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