Los Angeles to Las Vegas, between canyons
othing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” The words of Jack Kerouac from his legendary book On the Road are the ideal mantra for a journey across the United States. Departure point: Los Angeles. That is where the legendary Routes 1 and 66 start. But L.A. is also the first stop for many other adventures, starting with the Grand Canyon, a symbol of Arizona. The Colorado River is responsible for this peculiar landscape, having carved it out, little by little. The erosion dates back 6 million years, although scientists are still debating exact origins of the famous natural landmark.
Four and a half million people visit it each year. Nine out of ten go to the southernmost point because it is much harder to access the canyon from the north. What few people know is that it isn’t a single (grand) canyon. It is a series of canyons from different periods and with varying features. It seems to have every shade of red, and the colour alters, depending on the time of day. The result? A changing panorama where it is impossible to get bored.
Mini Las Vegas
Between Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon, drivers often stop at Laughlin. Big Bend State Recreation Area is in the centre of this city, packed with hotels and casinos. The most impatient stay at one of the nine resorts and bet their first dollars here.
On the way to the next canyon, you cross Lake Powell, straddling the states of Arizona and Utah. It is the second largest man-made lake in the United States, measuring some 300km in length. It was created by the Glen Canyon Dam, with water from the Colorado River, and at its deepest points, it reaches 122m. You can explore this small oasis, surrounded by red rocks, by boat, diving or even on water skis.
About six hours from the lake is Bryce Canyon, Utah. Its sharp rocks make it easy to identify. You can discover it by hiking at night, taking practical geology classes or on horseback. In winter, they organise walks with snowshoes. Also in Utah, Zyon Canyon is characterised by the colours of its rocks, with varying shades of pink and red. While not all the canyons are accessible, canyoning is common practice there. It is less than 250km from Las Vegas airport.
Visitors will soon forget the stark contrast between the city of sin and the canyons. The casino lights have the same hypnotic effect as a sunset at the Grand Canyon, and the city offers activity-packed entertainment, 24 hours a day. Shows, poker games and the liveliest nightlife in the country collide on both sides of the Strip, the city’s main artery.
But before you go home, there is one more stop to make: Death Valley. The warning is in the name. During the summer months, temperatures oscillate between 38ºC and 49ºC. The winters are much colder, and you will be able to see snowcapped peaks. The landscape can be summed up as 3.4 million acres of desert and mountains. Never-ending roads. Desert from left to right. Or, as Kerouac himself said, everything ahead.