Located across the Californian border in Nevada and located so close to so many natural wonders is Las Vegas; a wonder in itself! Being only a couple hours drive from Death Valley, it would be rude not to make a stop at ‘Adults Disneyland’; where we stayed at The Palms for three nights.  We were fortunate to arrive early in the week when you can get really good deals at hotels; about the same price as hostels.  Prices obviously spike during the weekend.

Las Vegas is what you might expect Vegas to be like, it’s bright, over the top, impressive, fun and it makes you realize there are a lot of people out there is a lot of money in America. In my opinion I think the best way to do Las Vegas is to stay a week, let your hair down catch a few shows, place a few bets, spend the day with a Mojito beside the pool and bring plenty of cash money!! Our next destination is back to the western deserts to explore the world famous Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Mesa Verde etc.  All these National Parks have fees of about $25 USD per person, but if you arrive late, say 10pm, you get in for free, after another sleep in the van it’s all go again...

Zion National Park is our first stop in a large region called the Colorado Plateau which is known for its canyons, colourful deserts and Native Indian ruins/archaeological sites. While in Zion we spent the day hiking (there are many short or long duration hikes from the valley floor, a popular one being the four hour hike to Angels Landing) and learning about the history and processes which formed such a unique landscape. The hike to Angels Landing (1500 feet above the valley floor)atop the red white and pink sandstone cliff overlooking the Zion canyon, along the knife edge ridge trail is truly spectacular and a must for everyones bucket list!

After a day intrepidly exploring the unique and spectacular sights of Zion National Park we made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park; another world class National Park as we were to find out in the morning. Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah and is known for its crimson-colored hoodoos (spire-shaped formations).

I thought this was more impressive, if not as grand, than Zion due to the seemingly impossible colours of the landscape, let alone the shapes of the eroded hoodoos.  The pockets of late spring snow really added something special to the desert scene. The park’s main road leads past the expansive Bryce Amphitheater, a hoodoo-filled depression, but make sure you take the time to explore the amphitheater via the Queens Garden or Navajo Loop Trail. There is also the Rim Trail hiking path which offers a diverse range of viewpoints of the impossible landscape.

At the end of highway 63 that runs through the park is Rainbow Point, not far from here you’ll pass an isolated pocket of Bristlecone pine trees which are the oldest living organisms in the world. The Bristlecone pines that grow in the White Mountains that we past near Death Valley often live to over 4,000 years old! The oldest known Bristlecone known as "Methuselah" germinated in 3051B.C. making it 5,065 years old in 2016. Phenomenal.  After we were done in Bryce, we headed to our first ‘cultural’ attraction, Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde is a World Heritage Site known for some of the best preserved cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloan (often referred to as the Anasazi) approximately 900 years ago.  The park has a progression of dwelling types ranging over the 2000 year history of the natives living permanently in the area, progressing from houses on the plateau as basic homes dug into the ground, to the more complex stone building constructions under the limestone cliffs. More than 600 cliff dwellings and 4,700 archaeological sites tell the story of where these ancient people called home. It is believed many of these sites were abandoned by their inhabitants by 1300A.D. , possibly due to changing climatic conditions or successive megadroughts. Mesa Verde is a remarkable location to experience part of North Americas pre-history, well worth the visit for the curious intrepid traveller!

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