So many of us, myself included, head to Las Vegas due to the allure of “The Strip”; the iconic neon-soaked boulevard of casinos, music venues, comedy clubs, and entertainment venues that never seem to make the last call. It is true, this part of Vegas has just about everything to offer anyone from all walks of life, yet very few people realize that just outside the Entertainment Capital of the World lies a world of outdoor recreation hotspots. Leaving the roulette table behind, let’s pack our backpacks and head out for some adventures.
Explore more of the United States with our guide to Top Travel Solo Destinations in the United States
Top Hiking Destinations
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Less than 20 miles from the city center, this area that is part of the Mojave Desert showcases spectacular scenery including fantastic rock formations, gullies, and open vistas. There are 26 different hikes and trails that take you from the deep canyons to the highest peaks. Lost Creek Trail is a moderate, rather short hike that leads to a secluded slot canyon and hidden seasonal waterfall (December-April). For a heart-pumping strenuous hike (2000 ft elevation gain in 5 miles!), check out Turtlehead Peak Trail. Be sure to stop in at the visitor center to get up-to-date information on all the trails and to learn more about the flora and fauna that you may encounter.
- Valley of Fire State Park
Roughly an hour northeast of Las Vegas, bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops mix with gray and tan limestone mountains to create unique geological features. On a bright sunny day, these formations look like they are on fire! Fire Wave Trail is a 1.5-mile hike that brings you to one of the most captivating spots of the park, a bowl-shaped depression marked with interchanging streaks of beige and red-orange colored sandstone. White Domes Trail descends into a slot canyon and passes through sandstone formations of different shapes and colors.
- Mount Charleston
Located just 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas, Mount Charleston offers up some magnificent hiking trails and reprieve from the heat, with snowfalls in the winter months! The South Loop Trail is a challenging, 16-mile round-trip hike that passes through a bristlecone forest on it’s way to the highest peak in the area. The Raintree Trail features beautiful wildflowers and epic vistas of the surrounding Spring Mountains.
Additional reading: Top8 Hikes in Zion National Park and Top Hikes in Bryce Canyon
Outdoor adventures, other than hiking
- River Mountains Trail Loop
This 35-mile paved bike path connects Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the towns of Boulder City and Henderson. This non-motorized trail combines the beauty of the rugged Mojave Desert with glimmering water of Lake Mead, as well as some challenging hill climbs.
- Black Canyon Water Trail
Whether you choose to paddle the entire 30 miles or break it down into smaller segments, this is an experience like no other. Discover isolated beaches, caves, hot springs, and some wild desert landscapes. The entire length of the trip is on flat water so it’s perfect for beginners and experienced paddlers. Guided tours are available or you can rent a vessel of your choice: paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. There is a fee for this activity as a permit is required through the National Park Service.
- Horseback riding through the desert
Leave the hiking boots, bikes, and kayaks behind and take to the equestrian lifestyle. Ride amongst creosote bushes and tumbleweeds through the Mojave Desert at Sandy Valley Ranch. Travel up to Red Rock Canyon and join Cowboy Trail Rides for an incredible experience that you will never forget. Excursions can be tailored to any riding level and you may even be asked to help herd up the cattle at the end of the day.
Additional reading: 16 Must See Parks in the Southwestern United States
Settle up for a night in these campgrounds
- McWilliams Campground
Located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, which is also home to Mount Charleston, is an isolated campground that offers single and double-family sites equipped with picnic tables, grills, and campfire rings. 75 total sites are available though not open all year round. Pine trees and sagebrush cover the grounds providing separation from your neighbors. RVs can be accommodated.
- AtlAtl Rock Campground
Located in Valley of Fire State Park, this campground provides tables, grills, and access to showers. This is a first-come, first-serve area with over 40 sites. Potable water is available and it is RV friendly. Perhaps the best highlight of this site is the canopy of stars that fills the night sky.
- Cathedral Gorge State Park Campground
Located in Cathedral Gorge State Park, this campground will provide access to a beautiful place to explore, full of caverns and miniature canyons. The 24 campsites all have electrical hookups, a fire ring, a grill, and a picnic table. Flush toilets and hot showers are also available. Bring along a volleyball because there is a court as well.
Are you new to camping and hesitant to give it a try? Read our Camping Tips: A Beginner’s Guide to Their First Trip.
Top Attractions Near Las Vegas
- Clark County Heritage Museum
This 30-acre site covers the history of Nevada from prehistoric to modern times. Heritage Street is a unique collection of historic homes, restored to recreate the lifestyles of important periods of local history. A mining exhibit filled with mineral specimens and resurrected ghost towns can be toured as well. At the Anna Robert Parks Exhibit Hall, guests can learn about the lives of the Pueblo and Paiute Indians.
- Bodies The Exhibition
Okay, this attraction is actually in the city but it’s so unique that it had to be included. Find out about your body’s internal systems as you examine more than 260 preserved organs and 13 whole-body specimens. The exhibits cover the skeletal system, musculature, the fetal cycle, and digestion.
- Hoover Dam
A National Historic Landmark, the dam spans the Black Canyon of the Colorado River and the southern portion of Lake Mead. It is the highest concrete dam in the western hemisphere, standing at more than 725 ft! One neat fact is that visitors can go from Nevada to Arizona by crossing the 1,900-foot-long bridge. Several tours are offered when visiting the dam and there are numerous outdoor activities at nearby Lake Mead.
Additional Reading: 27 Must See Parks in the Western United States
The Las Vegas Strip will provide plenty of fun and entertainment, and there are so many reasons and attractions that make it one of America’s most visited cities. Yet, be sure to explore the surrounding areas that make the state of Nevada an outdoor adventure mecca. So, after visiting Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon with Under30Experiences, use this guide as a reference to discovering more and continuing your adventure.
Additional camping articles:
For more great travel guides and all of our best content make sure you are signed up to our travel blog newsletter.