America's Wild Wild West is still a Wilderness
By Dallas Sherringham
The western United States is once again becoming a favorite with Australian travellers according to the latest statistics.
Around a million of us will ‘Go West’ in 2023 to tourist hotspots like Las Vegas, Anaheim, Aspen and San Francisco. And unless you are a confident, competent driver, you will take a tour to these regions and sit back and enjoy the spectacular views.
However, driving yourself is the best way to see it with hire cars relatively cheap. If you look at the accompanying breakout you will immediately notice that prestige cars are almost as cheap to hire for a week from LA International as small cars.
The reason for this is fuel usage with a litre average price at $US1.00 or $US3.82 per gallon according to www.globalpetrolprices.com
However I would rather the larger car for its space and safety and pay the extra fuel for a V6 compared to the more economical four cylinder models. You have to pack all your gear in the car and keeping it in the boot, or trunk as Americans call it, is safer than leaving it on the back seat,
The drive from LA to Las Vegas is easy once you clear the city traffic, however you could deter to Palm Springs for a day or before continuing on to ‘Sin City’ for a few nights.
From Vegas you are heading east on the original Route 66 to a town called Williams which is a real Old West town. In Williams you can attend a real gunfight with real guns firing blanks.
Williams is the terminus for the Grand Canyon railway which runs right to the edge of the Canyon – try getting that one through a NSW Council!
From Williams, the road is an easy drive through the Ponderosa Pines to the national park.
Now, the West is still wild in places, with people still perishing in deserts like Death Valley, mountain lions appearing in unlikely places and black bears always a worry. At the Canyon it is the squirrels that are a big nuisance and they will grab cameras, phones and bags.
Looking out across the vista, you finally get an idea how big the Grand Canyon is, running for 400km in big curves with hundreds of off shoots along the way.
Much of the Canyon is still the wild, wild west and is under the control of the traditional Native American tribes.
I would allow a couple of nights at the Canyon just to take it all in and see it at sunrise and sunset.
From here you have a choice. If you are fan of Western Movies, you can head south east to Flagstaff, Tucson and Tombstone. On the hand, I would recommend driving back to Vegas and head to Valley of the Fires and Zion National Park.
Zion is as picturesque as the Grand Canyon and reminds me of the MacDonnell Ranges of our own Red Centre. From there you drive further east to the highlight of the road trip- Monument Valley. You’ve seen it in many Western Movies and even in ‘Forrest Gump’ but nothing prepares you for its awesome grandeur in real life.
From here, some Australians head back to LA via the stunning National Parks of the region to the south, while others head for Denver and the Rocky Mountains.
Wherever you choose to go, you will find this part of American a surprising region of great beauty and friendly locals…and wild.
ABOVE; Bryce Canyon BELOW: Monument Valley