Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area ~ The Arizona Strip

Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area ~ The Arizona Strip

Thousands of people drive on I-15 when commuting between Las Vegas, Nevada and St George, Utah each day.  Plenty of tourists also travel on I-15 to these two local major metropolitan areas and this road leads to destinations in Mesquite, Hurricane, Zion and Salt Lake City too.  The flow of traffic between Utah and Nevada through the Arizona Strip is always hurried, so the drive can be a bit dicy.  It seems like drivers on this section of road through the Arizona Strip only focus upon making good travel time and it is difficult to not get caught up in the rat race.

One would be surprised to see how few people take a break from the road when traveling from St George to Las Vegas or vice versa.  Folks that get the weekend off, usually hop in the car with an overnight bag and they speed all the way to Vegas, just to get a few extra minutes of nightlife in.  People that went for broke while overstaying their visit in Vegas usually waste no time getting back to Utah too.  One might say that driving on the stretch of Interstate 15through the Arizona Strip between Nevada and Utah is truly a life in the fast lane experience. Because this section of road zig-zags on a steep downhill grade through some deep narrow canyons, the drive is a dangerous one as well.

Fortunately there is one little spot along I-15 in the Arizona Strip that is perfect for letting the nerves settle down during the hectic scary drive. No matter how much traffic is flowing on I-15 between Las Vegas and St George, relatively few cars will actually venture off onto the one and only exit ramp that leads to one of the most scenic places in the Arizona Strip territory, which happens to be the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area!    

The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is unique, to say the least!  The view from I-15 of this spectacular canyon simply does not do justice.  A traveler simply has to take the time to get off the highway to get the best views of this scenic destination, yet few travelers are willing to give up a few extra minutes of travel time to do so.  This is part of what makes the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area so unique.  It seems like every time that I have visited this place I was the only person there, while thousands of other cars hurry along on I-15 just a few hundred yards away.

Those few who actually do slow down and take a break from the highway at the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area are rewarded with majestic scenic views and plenty of things to do.  This section of BLM territory is set in some very rough terrain.  Tall mountains, red sandstone outcrops, deep gorges and the peaceful Virgin River basin create a dramatic landscape that is like no other place on earth! 

There are hiking and mountain bike trails that lead to plenty more panoramic views in this recreation area.  The Virgin River draws plenty of wildlife and this is a great place to catch a glimpse of Bighorn Sheep or Mountain Goats on the high rocky crags.  Spending an afternoon panning for gold or rock collecting along the river is relaxing way to spend the day too.  Chasing jackrabbits and teasing the ravens always has a way of making one forget that the highway is even there.  

The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is well maintained and the facilities are top notch.  There is running water, the restrooms are cooled and there are plenty of picnic tables.  This BLM recreation area also offers 24 hour camping with RV land yacht slips.  Because Las Vegas and a few National Parks are close by, there are always plenty of open campsites to choose from at this lesser known destination in the Arizona Strip.  

From Las Vegas, the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is about 90 minutes north on I-15.  From Mesquite, Nevada or St George, Utah, this destination is only about a 20 minute drive.  There really is nothing in this section of Arizona other than wilderness, so the two towns across either border are the best bet for setting up a base camp to adventure or finding 4×4 ATV rentals.

 It is funny how so many busy commuters between Utah and Nevada do not even realize that the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area even exists.  The exit sign passes by like a blur, when traveling in a hurry on the highway through the steep Virgin River Canyon Pass.  For those who prefer to not be part of the rat race, touring at a leisurely pace sure does have its benefits.  The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area is the perfect place to get off the road and stretch the legs and maybe set a spell.  The Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area may only a few hundred yards off the highway, yet it is a million miles away!                    

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Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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