Start: Los Angeles
City of Angels, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Disneyland and highways. One of those highways, I-15 to be exact, can transport you from the teeming multitudes of L.A., via the wide-open spaces of the Mohave Desert, to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Beyond San Bernadino’s historic Arrowhead Springs Hotel and Spa lies Victorville, where the first two drafts of “Citizen Kane” were written. Movie buffs may recognize scenes around town from “Lethal Weapon,” “Face/Off” and “Kill Bill, Vol. II.”
Just up the road is Barstow, home of the Casa Del Desierto (an old Harvey House hotel) which now houses the Route 66 Mother Road Museum. The local Chamber sponsors an annual sandcastle contest in the dry riverbed across from the Harvey House.
Just east of Barstow is the old silver mining town of Calico. About a third of Calico’s original buildings still stand; the remaining structures have been carefully reconstructed to capture the Old West spirit.
Mojave National Preserve
Beyond the Cady and Bristol mountains lies the Mojave National Preserve, featuring sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, Joshua tree forests, and carpets of wildflowers. At 1.6 million acres, it is the third-largest administrative unit in the National Park Service, with opportunities to hike, backpack, camp, horseback ride and four-wheel.
Six miles southwest of Baker, Calif. on I-15, you can visit Zzyzx, home to the California State University Desert Studies Center. Three of the four major North American deserts are found at Mojave National Preserve: the Mojave, Great Basin and Sonoran.
Next stop is Las Vegas, billed as “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” known for gambling, shopping and fine dining. The most famous hotel casinos are located on Las Vegas Boulevard, otherwise known as “The Las Vegas Strip.”
Las Vegas has a bunch of museums, including two dedicated to “the Mob” gangsters that launched gambling in the city. There are also museums dedicated to the fine arts, automobiles, magic, the Air Force Thunderbirds, erotica, natural history, mining, African-Americans, neon signs, aviation, archeology, jewelry, Liberace, the Anasazi, Guinness Book of Records, outdoor sculpture, Native American artists, Hoover Dam, the atom bomb, and that doesn’t even count the galleries and antique shops. Whew!
Check out the Springs Preserve, where you’ll learn about desert ecology and wildlife, flash floods and the history of Las Vegas in this living museum. Now you can venture into Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area or Valley of Fire State Park — spectacular rock formations and many miles of trails to explore. You’re within striking distance of such attractions as Death Valley National Park, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Just before you leave Nevada while east-bound on I-15, is the resort of Mesquite, offering championship golf, mountain biking, hiking and ATV fun.
Cutting across the northwest corner of Arizona, I-15 brings travelers to St. George, Utah’s “Dixie” known for a mild climate and 10 golf courses. From here it is a short drive to Springdale and the southern entrance to Zion National Park and the spectacular Zion Valley.