-By Andrew Cash, M.D.

Suffering television reruns, fake news and tangential internet sites during yet another gorgeous summer? I suggest you get your motor running, head out on the highway…and go hiking!

The great outdoors is more than a 1980s John Candy classic. I recently developed an affinity for hiking during an excursion to Machu Picchu. The intended archeological exploration of a distant and mysterious civilization revealed a primitive desire to coexist with nature. I rediscovered an interest in natural wildlife and picturesque landscapes. I found a new hobby – a refreshing combination of exercise and exploration — which I think you might enjoy as well.

Hikes vary in length, terrain and difficulty. Hikes with flowing water add another dimension to refreshing enjoyment. I recommend the waterfalls at Ice Box Canyon (Red Rock Canyon) and Mary Jane Falls (Mount Charleston). Gold Strike Trail offers hot Summer baths and crisp Colorado River dipping at its distal extent.

Every turn throughout a hike can reveal something new and even majestic about the lay of the land. Most hikes start at the bottom of a mountain and provide an amazing viewpoint at the summit. Panoramic vistas of the Las Vegas valley can be adored atop Turtlehead Peak on the west side of town and Sunrise Mountain on the east. Even a leisurely ascent of Lone Mountain offers a bird’s eye view of Summerlin and the Strip.  Red Rock Canyon’s prehistoric canvas is better admired without the distraction of modern rush-hour traffic.

For the more adventurous, Angels Landing presents breathtaking aerial views of the river and cliffs at Zion Canyon. The death-defying climb pumps your calves and your adrenal glands. Its apical mesa doubles as a collective picnic table and sunbathers’ retreat. Simultaneously marvel from the 5,790-foot perspective, and in your sense of accomplishment.

Luckily, we are surrounded by amazing destinations which can be savored as day-, weekend- or week-long get-aways. Antelope Canyon resembles a tangible and vibrant three-dimensional tour of a Peter Lik gallery. However, the tour requires pre-registration through a local agency. Plan ahead, and enjoy Lake Powell nearby. California hosts the extreme climates of Death Valley, the cable-climb of Half Dome in Yosemite, and General Sherman’s Sequoia

Forest. Utah boasts the Mighty Five: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches and Zion. The “Granddaddy” of all canyons just a few hours east of us needs no introduction.

A wealth of information circulates online and amongst your friends if you just start poking around. Proper gear, supplies and information are generously offered at local REI stores. Pack appropriately, always carry plenty of water and never hike alone.  Head the warnings of travel advisories and potential flash floods. Numerous hiking groups routinely navigate the surrounding valleys and canyons, and welcome the interested.

The great outdoors serves as a limitless bonding experience for friends and families.  For those already familiar, I wish you had introduced me earlier; for those still evaded, I challenge you to dust-on your couch surfboard and explore one of America’s great pastimes.

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