Thousands of people commute on Interstate Highway 15 between Las Vegas, Nevada and St George, Utah each day. Plenty of tourists also travel on I-15 to Mesquite, Hurricane and Zion National Park in this region 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 only a 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 Las Vegas, just to get a few extra minutes of nightlife in. People that went for broke while overstaying their visit in Las Vegas usually waste no time getting back to Utah too. One might say that driving on this stretch of Interstate 15 through 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 between Las Vegas and St George, relatively few cars actually venture onto the solitary exit ramp that goes to one of the most scenic places in the Arizona Strip, 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 has to take the time to get off the highway to get the best views of this scenic destination, yet few 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.
The few inquisitive souls who actually do slow down and take a break from the highway at the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area will be rewarded with majestic scenic views and plenty of things to do. Tall mountains, red sandstone outcrops, deep gorges and the peaceful Virgin River basin create a dramatic landscape for recreation activities 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 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 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 basecamp or finding 4×4 ATV rentals.
It is funny how so many busy people that commute 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 may only a few hundred yards off the highway, yet it is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle!
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