It takes about three hours to reach the park entrance from the city. On the way, food is available in Mesquite, Nev., and in St. George, Utah. Zion is one of those places that defies easy description. All the appropriate adjectives-"awesome," "spectacular," "magnificent"-sound like exaggerations, but in fact they don't even do it justice. With its tall golden walls, the deep canyon is like an enchanted interior -- something you'd expect to see in a "Lord of the Rings" movie.
There is no bad time to visit Zion. In winter, you can take the scenic route through the canyon in your own vehicle, but from the end of March through the end of October, you must take one of the Park Service's shuttle buses. Either way, you can stop at several or all of the landmarks and viewing points along the route, then return to the park entrance at your leisure.
With more time, it's possible to explore other areas of the park and enjoy some of the trails to waterfalls and scenic views. The rustic and inviting Zion Lodge has rooms, cabins and a restaurant.
Red Rock Canyon By far the closest natural wonder to Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon, which is a mere 40-minute drive from the Strip. A one-way "scenic loop" through the most picturesque rock formations is like taking a hike without ever leaving your vehicle. Even so, it's worth stopping at some of the parking areas and walking a bit for even better views and a closer look at the flora and fauna in the area. If you're lucky, you might even meet a desert tortoise.
The sandstone cliffs at Bryce Canyon will impress you with their peculiar colors and they will delight your camera lens. Take a hike down into one of the canyons and watch as birds soar high above the pinnacles that surround you. This is worth the 210 mile, three hour drive from Las Vegas.