When it comes to touristic cities in the United States, Las Vegas occupies a very interesting spot, as the city itself is an attraction. The neon signs, the fancy casino-resorts, and the grotesquely huge buffets are things worth experiencing in of themselves. However, there is much more to the city than the tacky sensory overload that is The Strip.
Because you see, Vegas is really close to some of the most beautiful desserts in all of United States and getting to those natural wonders of the Mohave can give a whole new meaning to your trip, so in this post, we´ll be seeing some of those desert marvels, and how to access them with a rental car.
So, what are we waiting for, let’s go for it!
- Renting a car in Las Vegas
First things first, we must solve the issue of transportation. What issue? You might be asking, Well here’s the thing, Las Vegas, as shining and famous as it is, is a very remote city, located in the Mojave Desert; and while this dessert has some of the most beautiful locations in the US, it is still a desert, meaning there are very few public transport options. Now, this doesn’t mean that getting to those awesome places is hard, it just means that you must have a vehicle with you, which in most cases means renting a car. Luckily, this is a very easy thing to do in Vegas if you know where to look, then let’s see the basics of rental vehicles so that you can get one easily.
- Using a broker
Now, you’d think that renting a vehicle would be as simple as to just search “rental car” on the internet and then clicking on the first result, but in reality, that’s the least efficient way to do so.
If you want to save on time and money, you must make use of brokers, these are websites that do the searching for you and generally find you the best prices around. Some of those brokers like Miles Car Rental, have specialized websites for a city in particular, like Las Vegas. On these specialized sites, you´ll find a map with the locations of car rentals places and all the info related to the requirements for renting a vehicle.
- Nevada Traffic laws
I know that traffic laws aren’t that glamorous, but hey, there will be a lot of driving involved in this adventure so, you should know the law.
The speed limits within the city are 20-30 mph on rural roads, it ranges from 55-75 mph in undivided roads, and 65-75mhp on divided roads. As for the freeway, the limit stands at 55-65 within city limits and 70-80 outside of the city.
The max fine is capped at 20$ for each mile per hour over the permitted speed.
If you’re traveling with kids, remember that children under the age of 6, or under 60 pounds have an approved restraint system i.e. the carrier seat.
And, this goes without a saying, absolutely not texting and driving!
- Preparing for the trip
Whilst most of these trips can be done in a single day, you should prepare for each of them as if you were making a full road trip as most of these desert roads are quite remote, so it´s best to be ready for anything, here are some tips for the trip.
-Bring plenty of water, the Mojave is not as harsh as say the Sahara, but it’s still a desert, so dehydration will always be looming over you, be sure to always keep it away. The same can be true about hunger, so pack up on snacks before venturing outside of the city. Do as the astronauts do, and pack extra supplies if the trip will last two days pack as if it was going to last for three or four.
-Stop often and, if possible, distribute the driving responsibility among the people in your travel group, also remember to add some additional drivers when you’re making the reserve as only the designated people should be behind the wheel, otherwise you’ll get in trouble with the rental company.
Driving forces you to remain in a monotonous position for long periods, and this can take a toll on the body leaving you tired, which is dangerous when you’re behind the wheel so be sure to make as many stops as you feel necessary.
2. The wonders of the Mojave
And now, without further ado let’s review some of the amazing desert wonders that I promised you!
2.1 Valley of Fire State Park
The Valley of Fire is an unusual rock formation that features some of the most amazing colors you can ever find in a desert. There are landscapes of a potent rusty red, that look as if an out of control forest fire was suddenly turned into stone. In other places, the hills have a swirly pink and white pattern that looks… well, to be completely honest, it looks kind of like uncooked bacon. Hurray for the bacon hills!
However, the amazing vistas are not the only thing worth seeing in this place, as it has a lot of history, there are mysterious petroglyphs that dot some sections of the red rocks, and even a couple of petrified trees, so it’s also a historic site too! Not to mention that it has some of the most amazing scenic drives in the whole USA.
Under common traffic the trip takes about 50 minutes, making it one of the most accessible natural wonders around Las Vegas. To get there take the I-15 and the exit 75.
2.2 Death Valley National park
The hottest, driest and lowest point in the United Statesis at Death Valley National Park. The extreme temperatures and conditions have warped this place into an otherworldly landscape, full of canyons, salt flats, and dunes, that truly look as if they were taken from a distant, barely inhabitable planet.
There is all type of activities in the park, scenic drives, hiking and biking trails and even a tour that will take you to some of the places where Star Wars Episode IV was filmed (yes, this place is so otherworldly that it was actually used as the backdrop for an alien planet).
Now, this IS some of the most extreme environments on Earth, after all, it once held the title of the hottest place in the world, so come prepared, bring a LOT of extra water and follow the instructions given to you by the park rangers.
If you’re planning to make this trip is best to start from Las Vegas. There’s a 2-hour drive from Las Vegas, take the Veterans Memorial Highway, and then make a turn in the Amargosa valley rest stop, then another turn at Death Valley Junction.
2.3 The Black Canyon boating tour
It’s definitely strange to tell you to pack your swimsuit on a trip through the desert marvels of the Mojave, but hey, Las Vegas is strange like that, so do pack it, as there is an amazing boating adventure that starts at the famous Hoover Dam and follows the course of the Colorado River to some amazing and rather unknown places.
The first stop on the trip is Sauna Cave. This cave was dug during the construction of the Hoover Dam; however, it was dug right above a geothermal hotspot and so, the water from the Colorado River is heated and turned into steam that is trapped on the cave, making the place into a natural sauna!
Further downstream you´ll also find Emerald Cave, like many other caverns along the Colorado River, it was created naturally by the water flow, but this one has a strange particularity, at certain point of the day the sun hits the water just right and makes the whole cavern shine with a bright green light, making it look as if you were floating on a pool of liquid emeralds!
For this adventure, the best thing you can do is to stay at a motel in Boulder City and take a touristic plan from there. Boulder City is 30 minutes away from Las Vegas taking the Great Basin Highway and then taking the 15B exit. So, as you see there are many amazing activities to do on in the Mojave Desert. All you have to go is reserve a car rental in Las Vegas. This will allow you to get there easily, but there is much more to explore, like Red Rock Canyon, Zion National Park, and many others, so what are you waiting for? Hit those old dusty roads already!