Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas – Getting out of The Strip

RED ROCK CANYON, LAS VEGAS: When you think about Las Vegas, for most of the tourists, you don’t really imagine it being a place where people go hiking or mountain climbing or go mingling with nature as much. Only half an hour ride from the heart of Las Vegas Blvd, Red Rock Canyon is a fantastic getaway from the city chaos and to appreciate the great outdoors. Locals love Las Vegas, not for the boulevard, but for the spectacular hills and valleys that it has to offer. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

This is an open museum to enjoy some natural views, stunning landscapes, rock formations, and learn some facts on how Indian tribes lived here hundreds of years ago in the harsh environment. My kids definitely loved it and learned a lot on some local history, native Americans and their lifestyle, geology, and etc. According to our guide, the park has so many hiking trails that even if you hike everyday of the year in Red Rock Canyon, you still won’t have to repeat your trail. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

I booked this trip online through Viator with Red Rock Canyon Discovery Tour weeks before reaching Las Vegas. For about $75 per person, we had this guided 3 hours of tour. We started around 9am and were dropped off by noon. There are other longer and different versions of Red Rock Canyon tours with different activities and prices. But for me and the kids, 3 hours out of The Strip was perfect and were back to the city right on time for lunch. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Stratosphere Hotel or The Strat this time. Red Rock Canyon Discovery Tour doesn’t have pick up from here. So we met up with the guide in front of Treasure Island on The Strip. 

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during the winter holiday of 2019 when we came to Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon can be slightly colder than the city. Make sure to bring a hoodie or a heavy sweater and wear very comfortable shoes here. If you are coming in summer, bring plenty of water and maybe a hat. Since it’s out in the desert, I can imagine the extreme heat can cause some serious problems if you are not prepared, especially if you are planning to hike. 

EATING and SHOPPING: There isn’t really any place to eat in the conservation area that we’ve seen. Not sure if picnic is allowed here either. Officially camping is prohibited inside the park but climbers still do camp on the high hills when it gets dark. 

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: After the visitors center, we stayed on the Scenic Loop Drive to stop at different areas of the park. The roads are clearly marked with all the signs. Some places we stopped at are below:

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

CALICO HILLS: This was our first and probably my favorite spot. Beautiful red rocks, small hills, canyons, and the sheer rugged beauty of this place is simply breathtaking. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

HIGH POINT OVERLOOK: This was another look out point with vast landscape and small mountains. 

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

WILLOW SPRINGS: There are few hidden falls and streams in the park which we didn’t get to see. Willow Springs is a point where a tiny stream flows in the woods. We also saw ancient handprints on a stone wall here. Other tribal hieroglyphics can be found few areas in this park. Our guide also gave us some insights how native Americans used different plants for different purposes and how they helped them survive. 

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Can you see some hand prints? Red Rock Canyon, NV

 

Highlights of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA: With so much of astonishing and infinite beauty everywhere, this must be Iceland. And Snaefellsnes Peninsula gives you a small taste of almost everything in Iceland. Therefore it’s called “Iceland in miniature”.

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

The magnificent mountain range that you’ll pass by going towards Snaefellsnes is just an appetizer for this journey. A trip around the peninsula allows its visitors to enjoy dotted coastal lines, snaky rivers, tall falls, mesmerising lava fields covered with moss, silhouetted volcanic craters and hills against the skyline, bird cliffs, picturesque old churches, and staggering mountains…all in one region. The whole bus trip was absolutely stunning with changing scenes and jaw-dropping landscapes. 

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Natural beauty is the main attraction of this region. And the geology of the Snaefellsnes area is very diverse. Magnificent lava formations are widespread here. The lava fields and the vegetation covering the lava is very sensitive and damage to moss on fields of block lava may take generations to heal. That’s why walking on them is not permissible. Some of the lava fields are from the more than 3 million years old that forms the bottom layer. Resting on them are layers of rocks which were formed beneath glaciers during the Ice Age (less than 3 million years old). And for the top most part of these lava fields is younger than 11,000 years old. 

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This was our second excursion in Iceland, after the Golden Circle, Kerid Volcano, and Blue Lagoon tour. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 in Reykjavik by Bustravel Iceland a little after 9am and were dropped off at the same place around 8pm. It was a minivan and our guide/driver was a very knowledgeable, funny, and accommodating gentleman in this trip. We paid $100 per person for this excursion and meals were not included. But the good part is that you don’t need to tip the driver or the guide. 

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Bird cliffs in Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland and my sister flew in from the East Coast. We were in Iceland for 5 nights. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like me. 

EATING and SHOPPING: For lunch, we didn’t really stop at a proper lunch venue. We were taken to a small village and stopped in front of a departmental store selling hot food, like hotdogs and basic things. There was a cart on the opposite side of the street where we got our gyro-like sandwiches. 

PLACES I’VE VISITED: The best way to explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula is to drive around and take your own time to visit all the major sites and other places. But we did it with a tour guide. And following places are the ones we got to visit:

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Staggering beauty of Iceland

  1. SNAEFELLSJOKULL NATIONAL PARK: Located on the tip of the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula in western Iceland, this is one experience no tourists should miss. 
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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Mt. Snaefellsjokull dominates the landscape of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s a mystical place where lava fields reach out to the blue sea, craters dot the landscapes, and the cliffs mark the extreme edge of the country. 

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

2. GEROUBERG: This was our first stop…out in nowhere. This is a site of an interesting rock formation of long and hexagonal shaped stone basalt columns. This is one of those wonders of nature and leaves you in awe when you look at the stone pillars. Nothing much to do here really, we spent about 10 minutes taking pictures and then off to our second spot.

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GEROUBERG Basalt columns in Iceland

3. HELGAFELLSSVEIT FALLS: Probably not as famous as the other falls in this region but Helgafellssveit has definitely a beautiful surroundings of a magnificent river and hillsides. This picturesque and calm place deserves more tourists for its splendid beauty. 

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HELGAFELLSSVEIT FALLS and the surrounding view in Iceland

4. MT. KIRKJUFELL & KIRKJUFELLFOSS: After lunch, we came to this iconic falls of Iceland. On the northern shore of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, Kirkjufellfoss, is the impressive 463 meter high Kirkjufell, or Church Mountain. With its prominence view from different angles, no wonder this dramatic landmark is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It stands tall over the nearby fishing village Grundarfjörður. 

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Kirkjufellfoss in Iceland

 

The falls, Kirkjufellfoss, is very decoratively situated a short distance from the mountain, Kirkjufell…making it a picture perfect destination for its guests. With the mountain in the backdrop, Kirkjufellfoss is an incredible site to visit and hike. Yes, do hike the ramp beside the falls for the perfect view and a great photo opportunity. This picture alone inspired me to go to Iceland at the very beginning, and I’m sure it’s true for many tourists. 

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Kirkjufellfoss with Kirkjufell mountain in Iceland

5. SAXHOLL: It is a beautifully formed crater that erupted 3-4000 years ago. The crater rises 109 meters above sea level. The remnants of quarrying can be seen on one side of the crater. The summit at the top of the crater gives you a gorgeous view of the surrounding valley and landscape, which can be accessed by hiking up some steps. 

Going up the stairs to Saxholl Crater in Iceland

Going up the stairs to Saxholl Crater in Iceland

6. BLACK LAVA PEARL BEACH: Djúpalónssandur or the Black Lava Pearl Beach is one of the major destinations of Snaefellsnes. It looks like a wonderland right out of any hobbit books.  It’s not just the beach that’s beautiful about this place. The walk to the beach, called The Path of the Bull, was the highlight for me. With interesting rock formation, walking through this path was a thrill. 

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Going towards Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

 

This black beach with small pebbles, stunning black rocks, and cliffs in the distance is a photographer’s or hiker’s or nature-lover’s paradise. Tourists are told to be very careful here with the sneaky waves that can carry people out in the sea. Use caution when chasing the waves here. 

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Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

After the black beach, we stopped by the Snaefellsnes park’s visitor center. It has a small museum and information on the geological history and uniqueness. 

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Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

7. ARNARSTAPI: Our last stop of the day was the jaw-dropping tiny village on the southern side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Arnarstapi. This used to be a busy fishing hub once upon a time, but now a must-see site of Iceland. This is one of the magical places in this region where sea, lava rock formations, mountains, and cliffs meet with a vast natural beauty. And yes, this was one of my most favorite spots to photograph or spend time in Iceland. 

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Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Located at the foot of Mt. Stapafell, Arnarstapi or Stapi is a popular tourist destination and a natural harbor with exquisite beauty. It’s a one hour of easy coastal walk that takes you around to display its crashing waves, lively bird cliffs, lush valleys with a mountain in the background. The seaside and the cliffs have been made a Natural Reserve in 1979. 

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Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Standing by the ocean, enjoy the dramatic views of seagulls’ nestings on the sea cliffs and hear their loud chirping. Look for the Arch Rock and basalt columns too. Overall, exploring this historic yet mesmerizing landscape will surely take everyone’s breath away. 

Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Got One Day in Irvine, CA?

My girls and I were in Palm Springs, California for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a sudden trip and urge to visit California. We were in Palm Springs for 4 nights and 31/2 days. We had a rental car, so planned to drive 2 hours to Irvine to visit some friends and spend some time in Irvine.

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

As far as the landscape and heat, Irvine is very different from Palm Springs. We stayed in Coachella Valley in Palm Springs which is a part of the Sonoran Desert. There aren’t any beaches here, only mountains and oases. Irvine, on the other hand, is more crowded, has lots of beaches to hang out, and milder weather.

 

We spent about 7 or 8 hours in Irvine with my high school friend, her sister, and her husband. Since my friend and her husband are local there, they took us to some not-so-touristy places where we did avoid some crowed and had a very relaxed time.

 

Lunch & Dinner – When you are in California, eating burger at In N Out is a must…or at least for me and my kids. Our lunch was animal style burgers and fries from In N Out. For dinner, my friends took us to California Pizza Kitchen. It’s a local Italian place with really good food. Their flatbread with chicken, shrimp and zucchini pasta, mac ‘n cheese fried balls, and cauliflower crusted pizza (no carb at all) are not only healthy, but also very tasty. Even my girls loved the carb free, cauliflower crust pizza.

 

Crystal Cove State Park: This was our first stop. It’s a small free public beach near Irvine. We took some pictures from the cliff side at first, then walked down to the beach. There were bathrooms and showers for the kids to change and take a shower after the beach time. Opposite of the park, there is a big shopping center with some restaurants and etc.

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park/Laguna Beach: Crescent Bay Park was absolutely a charm. It’s a really small park on the cliff of Laguna Beach. Some really beautiful houses stand in this neighborhood. We spent about 10 minutes in the Crescent Bay Park, took some pictures, then walked 10 minutes down the stairs to go to the Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach itself was a bit crowded. And since we already went in the water in Crystal Cove, we just hung out for only a few minutes and came up to go to the Top of the World before the sunset.

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

 

Top of the World: This is where the local or tourists come to enjoy beautiful sunset over the city. On one side, you can see the mountains and other the ocean. It does get a bit chilly in the late afternoon. We stayed there until the sun went down and it was a beautiful sunset indeed.

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

The Natural Wonders Of California

With its star-studded cities and sun-kissed beaches, it’s easy to forget that California is also blessed with many jaw-dropping natural wonders around the state. Oddly shaped rock formations, remnants of old volcanos, stark desert land, and stunning mountain vistas attract many visitors to the state. Following are a few must-see natural wonders you’ll want to see when visiting California.

La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits is home to one of the world’s most famous most famous fossil collections. Fascinating fossils of plants and animals have been uncovered here and are on exhibit along with mammoths, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, and more. Even the pits themselves are interesting with their bubbling tar. Take an Excavation Tour to learn the history of the tar pits and watch scientists working on fossils they have recently uncovered.

Natural Bridges

See the world famous yearly migration of monarch butterflies at this beach near Santa Cruz with its unique natural bridge. The best time to see these phenomenal monarch butterflies is usually from mid-October to late January. It’s also a great place to see rare shore birds, migrating whales, and otters and seals playing offshore. Tidepools along the beach give a glimpse of ocean life. The park’s coastal scrubs and grasslands offer a colorful display of wildflowers each spring. For a longer visit, there are several great hotels near Natural Bridges State Beach.

Mount Wilson

Get a stunning view of the San Gabriel Mountains above the Angeles National Forest at 5,713 feet when visiting Mount Wilson. They even have an observatory that was once the best-known one in the world during the early 20th century. They have a collection of the most detailed photos ever taken of the surface of Mars. Hike the Mount Wilson Trail that loops around a breathtaking waterfall. The 12.5-mile loop is best for experienced hikers.

Joshua Tree National Park

See the charmingly twisted Joshua trees at the 1,235 square-mile Joshua Tree National Park. The area lies between two separate ecosystems, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. The rugged rock formations and stark desert are quite dramatic. Camp out and go for long hikes to contemplate the park’s natural beauty.

Mojave National Preserve

The 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve is park nestled in the beautiful Mojave Desert. Marvel at the unusual Hole-in-the-Wall cliffs, cinder cones, and lava flows. Listen closely and you’ll hear the “singing” of the humongous dune mounds of Kelso Dunes. Located in Southern California, it’s truly a place of immense beauty.

Old Faithful

Travel out to the Napa Valley to see the lovely wine country and pay a visit to Old Faithful near the town of Calistoga. It isn’t as powerful as the one at Yellowstone, but it erupts faithfully every 10 to 45 minutes depending on the season and amount of rainfall the area has had. This part of the valley was once a volcano that erupted about 4.3 million years ago. The remains simmer to create today’s hot springs. The geyser is powered by nature but was actually created when a 19th-century settler who was digging for a well.

You’ll find more natural wonders scattered about in all parts of California. Leave the glamour and glitz of the city to experience them.

What to Do in the Poconos in Every Season

The Poconos region spans 2,400 square miles and is known for its mountainous peaks, abundant forests, waterfalls, wildlife, and ample opportunities to get out and explore the countryside. Indeed, one of the best things about this area is that you can visit any time of year and find something fun to do. Here’s a small fraction of what you can look forward to during each season in the Poconos.

Spring

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Image via Flickr by Alexander Day

Between the lows of winter and the highs of summer, spring is one of the best times to get outdoors and go hiking or biking in the Pocono Mountains. Plan a trip to one of these areas:

  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
  • Bushkill Falls
  • Dingmans Falls

You’ll find dozens of locations and trails to explore, but each of these will give you a look at the area’s best waterfalls. The tallest one at Bushkill towers at over 100 feet high.

One of the best things about exploring the state parks and nature areas in the Poconos is that the mountain range is a popular spot for discount hotels, luxury accommodations, and everything in between. Check out a Poconos hotel room from Hotel Planner in the area to enjoy proximity to these natural spots and all the other local attractions.

Summer

Summer in the Poconos is ideal for swimming and water sports. A visit to one of the waterfalls will cool you down, but you can also go swimming or camping at Worthington State Forest or Beltzville State Park. You’ll find beach areas at Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area and Gouldsboro State Park as well.

The area is also home to a couple of water parks that the whole family will love. Visit Camelbeach Waterpark, which features indoor and outdoor pools and slides, or go to Aquatopia, which has water slides, water rides, and a swim-up bar where you can order a cocktail and some bar food.

Fall

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Image via Flickr by Ravi_Shah

Poconos is in a northeastern part of the United States that ignites with color every fall. From September through November, you can visit locations throughout the states to see the changing leaves. If your priority is to see the rich fall foliage deep in the mountains, keep an eye on the color forecast throughout the year in order to plan a successful vacation. The color zones run through the Poconos, so you should have several weeks in the fall when you can visit and see this phenomenon.

Fall is also a popular season for festivals in the Poconos. If you’re visiting this time of year, attend the Apple Harvest & Timber Festivals, Black Bear Film Festival, or Pocono Food Truck & Art on the Mountain event.

Winter

The area’s many ski resorts open their lifts and trails in the winter. These are a few of the areas where you can take the family for lessons, equipment rentals, and skiing and snowboarding fun:

  • Big Boulder Ski Area
  • Blue Mountain Resort
  • Camelback Mountain
  • Jack Frost Mountain
  • Shawnee Mountain Ski Area

Poconos promises tons of outdoor fun regardless of when you visit. Add these activities to your itinerary to make the most of your time in the Pennsylvania mountains.

 

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