This month, regular guest blogger Will Hide explores how buzzing Las Vegas can be an unlikely springboard for active adventurers...
“A little bit of this town goes a very long way,” said author and journalist Hunter S Thompson once about Las Vegas. You may or may not agree. For every person who fears and loathes the city, there’s another who just can’t get enough and goes back year after year. Even my family is divided.
When my sister decided to go there to celebrate a round number birthday a few years ago I thought she might come back disappointed as I’ve never been the biggest fan of the place. (My total gambling accumulation after five visits rests at 25 cents, so you could say that I’m somewhat missing the point). Afterwards I called her to hear about the trip. I wasn’t sure if the pause down the phone was a good or bad thing.
“Are you mad?” she asked, heavily emphasizing the last word. “I didn’t sleep for three days and went shopping with a 6ft 7 drag queen. I loved it!” Heavy emphasis on the “loved”.
It was only on my sixth trip to Las Vegas that I discovered Red Rock Canyon, just outside town. Why had no one ever told me about this place before? The scenery is absolutely mind blowing and I highly recommend you go there. It’s a great place to hike or mountain bike for half a day (take plenty of water – it gets hot), and, best of all, it’s only about a 30 minute drive from the flashing neon lights of The Strip.
Anyway my point – I’m getting there – is that the American West is a place of surprises when it comes to being active and even after several visits you’ll come across new things to discover. But mainly that if you want an activity holiday, it’s surprising how somewhere that you wouldn’t think could be part of said holiday, like Las Vegas or Los Angeles, can be. And that it can be a big part or just a small part.
Take Vegas. Beyond Red Rock Canyon it’s only a few hours drive to amazing national parks such as Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches, which are as attractive for their photography opportunities as their hiking potential. Then you’ve got Moab, the mountain biking capital of the world. Time it right and you can enjoy a walk in the desert and then, a half day’s drive north, some skiing around Salt Lake City, which has 15 resorts on its doorstep and “the Greatest Snow on Earth” as its slogan. To the south you’ve got the Grand Canyon, and over in Colorado to the east, white water rafting and dude ranches.
Even in LA you don’t have to sit in a traffic-clogged freeway forever to get an active experience. According to my Instagram feed every friend who goes there eventually ends up going for a hike in Runyon Canyon (a 160 acre park bordering the Hollywood Hills), kayaking off Malibu, yoga on a paddle board in the harbour at Marina Del Ray (yes, it’s a thing) or just running along the beach in Santa Monica, followed by a soy, no foam, no whip moccachino.
So of course, in the west of the USA, you’ve got the classic wide-open spaces that are the stuff that day dreams were made of growing up, whether we were watching cowboys and Indians or Thelma and Louise. But it’s easy to mix and match that with some urban experiences in cool little foodie spots such as Palm Springs in California, Scottsdale in Arizona or Breckenridge in Colorado.
Even if you never though the “great outdoors” was really your thing, you could spend at least one day of your holidays hiking or mountain biking, whether you’re flying into Denver, San Francisco or Seattle. The American West is the perfect spot to don your sporting gear and put your trainers on…who knows, trail running or horse riding may even become your new favourite hobby once you’re back home.
Even if Clapham Common doesn’t have quite the same allure as the Grand Canyon...