Located about 170 miles from Las Vegas, Grafton is 8.1 miles from Zion National Park, well worth the short drive to see the canyon and Emerald Pools. Fuel up with a Southwest chicken and black bean salad at Cafe Soleil or with a rotating regional specialty like wild game meatloaf at The Spotted Dog Cafe. Then visit an art gallery in the historic John Jacob Ruesch home before finding lodging at Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens in Springdale, the gateway city to the park.
Hike and Stargaze in the Mojave National Preserve in California
If this 1.6 million-acre desert wilderness could talk, it would tell stories about the Mojave Indians who settled here centuries ago, before the arrival of railroads and fortune-seeking miners. Those late arrivers began to show up in 1872, when mines sprung up throughout the desert. Steel from the iron ore mined at the Vulcan Mine in the 1940s was used to build U.S. ships during World War II.
Located about 60 miles southwest of Las Vegas, the preserve will delight both history buffs and nature lovers. The petroglyphs, military outposts and long-abandoned mines are a visual link to the past, while the canyons, mountains and mesas provide solitude from busy urban life. Hiking is a great way to explore the area’s massive dunes; try the 3-mile round-trip Kelso Dunes trail. See the world’s largest Joshua tree forest and views of Cima Dome on the 3-mile round-trip Teutonia Peak Trail, the Mitchell Caverns on guided tours, or ancient lava flows in the Cinder Cone Natural Area off Kelbaker Road. For world-class stargazing in the preserve, stay the night. Sites at the Hole-in-the-Wall Campground are first come, first served.
Stop by the Kelso Depot, which was once a home base for Union Pacific Railroad employees but today serves as a visitor center. Here you’ll find information about the preserve and exhibits describing the area’s cultural and natural history.