The Canadian dollar was over par the last few years when I went hiking and biking in Sedona AZ in the Southwest US, and way over par the time before that in Tucson. For those hikers that like a winter fix of hiking in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, or California (the favourites), this is a much tougher year. But, it's not impossible, and when you need a fix, look no further than Sin City - Las Vegas. Well known as a hub to reach other destinations, or, for gluttony, it is overshadowed as an outdoor hotspot in it's own right. It shouldn't be.|
Why Las Vegas? Well first of all Air Canada and other Canadian based airlines are seeing far fewer travellers to the US. So when the 20% off sale came around a few days ago (for 1 day), return fare from most Canadian cities to Las Vegas was $410 all in CAD - did I mention return!. I grabbed it. Another recent email from Air Canada (register for their alerts) just came in and it shows Phoenix Arizona (Sedona your destination) flights at $264 CAD book by March 10. Hello Sedona for hiking and biking!
Now let's get to Las Vegas - literally and figuratively. If you can sprint through the casino lobbies to get through the smoke, the rooms are generally quite acceptable. I've used Las Vegas as an entry point to get to Moab Utah and Sedona alike -- with a few local days in Vegas to hike Red Rock State Park, or, mountain bike the local trails around Cottonwood / Blue Diamond -- which by the way are great. Various epic loops exist including the famous "Dead Horse Loop" which incorporates the "3 mile smile", a classic that climbs a high plateau full of Joshua trees and descends with the kind of flow one can only dream about. Then there's Bootleg Canyon only 45 minutes south of Vegas, fast becoming a mountain bike destination with some DH and technical runs.
For accommodations you may want to be off-strip so that you can preserve your sanity, and, fortunately, you've got a resort casino called "Suncoast" that I've used in the past. At CAD $94 all in (just booked), this is a relative deal for a quality resort stay close to Red-Rock State park just outside of Las Vegas.
Red Rock State Park has plenty of hikes and scrambles, and it happens to be a climbing mecca also. One of my favourite hikes is Calico Tanks (pic above), the best red rock hike in the park that can be done in a just few hours. From there, go explore some of the longer all day hikes. But you can't beat the view from the top of Calico Tanks looking out over Las Vegas in the distance. Many of the Red Rock State parks hikes are on trailpeak.
Moving on, you've got day trip options for adventure; Zion at 2.5 hours away, the Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, and, then there's Moab Utah about 6 hours away. Sedona is also a days drive from Vegas via the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff, which we found to be snow free by Spring. These trips are inexpensive if you camp!
Yes camping, now it really doesn't matter what the exchange rate is. At $200 US a night to stay in a Hotel near Zion National Park, you will see camping in a whole new light, and, since you are hiking, all you need is your casual clothing and gear. Nearby Hurricane Ridge has some pretty renowned mountain biking that I've enjoyed in the past on the way to Moab Utah.
Check back in to this article for links to some of the past favourites, and then check back in mid-May for the new stuff. For me, this includes Zion Nation Park, one of the jewels of the US National Park System. There will be a return to Calico Tanks, a longer all-day hike or two, then, a must re-do ride of 3 mile smile. The rest will be new! At $100 or less CAD for resort hotels (you don't have to gamble), the camping option, and, cheap flights, the exchange rate isn't really a factor, so get out there and hike in the sun and big blue sky!.
Kurt - Founder www.trailpeak.com