The Best Outdoorsy Things to Do in Las Vegas
Okay, the sun is showing itself (or is about to), and you’ve had your fill of flashing lights, loud sounds, and crowds. You need a switch. You’ve heard that Las Vegas is about more than casinos and madness, and you can see unspoiled mountains in practically every direction. So, what’s the deal? Does anyone do outdoorsy things in Vegas? And if so, where and how?
In reality, there are a ton of options, with more variety than you’d ever imagine. But let’s break it down to the closest, most distinctive choices. After all, the day is starting, and you need to pull the trigger quickly. Also, this list works pretty well for locals who are tired of hearing Vegas described as “just a boring-ass desert.” Shut it.Mark A Wilson
Officially named Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (phew!), this is the first suggestion nearly everyone will make, and for good reason: It’s only about 20 minutes from the Strip (west of Summerlin), and 2 million people pass through yearly to enjoy miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, horseback riding, and just checking out the geographic and historical wonders. The area is unified by a 13-mile drive loop, along which you can stop at several different points to take your pick of experiences. During summer months, you’ll definitely want to hit this up early. Bring your own water (and take the bottles back out with you). If you want to stay in the Wild West spirit, follow your visit with a trip to the restaurant/bar at Bonnie Springs Ranch—which has a petting zoo and re-created Old West town—just down the road. Serious karaoke scene.National Park Service
Ask a Vegas local, and they will probably say they’ve heard of Tule Springs… but have no idea (or just an inkling of) why. Here’s why: Tule Springs is a national monument incorporating one of the largest fossil beds in the country from 200,000–3,000 years ago, when this was an active wetland. It includes fossils of extinct lions, camelops, horses, bison, dire wolves, ground sloths, and so many mammoths it’s referred to as “mammoth central.” It’s so new as an official park that there are no established trails—pretty cool, but also something to prepare for.
Like they say on infomercials, but wait—there’s more! Tule Springs also offers huge patches of indigenous bear poppy flowers. And just a few miles due west on Tule Springs Road (actually the western edge of the same area), you’ll find Floyd Lamb State Park, which is still an active wetland, lush with greenery and several ponds stocked with fish (bring your rod). There’s also a small working horse ranch here on the site of an abandoned “divorce ranch” (google that) which is pretty cool to check out in itself. Plus, there are loads of geese, peacocks and rabbits roaming around. Trippy? A bit.Sarah Nichols
As long as you’re on the north side of things, think about driving even farther due west (more or less) up to Mt. Charleston, which may seem like even more of a stretch—a genuine Alpine-esque peak— complete with lodges and snow caps most of the year, yet still technically in the Mohave desert, barely 40 minutes from the Strip. Adjacent Lee Canyon offers snowboarding and skiing in season, but even during summer months this is a fantastically accessible break from the heat with lots of hiking trails and camping areas.Daniel S
Know about those first few already? Okay. Head in another direction, then, and drive all the way east on Tropicana Ave. until you hit the little-known Clark County Wetlands Park, which—despite its unimaginative name—is a remarkable enclave for all manner of wildlife, from turtles, beaver and ducks to coyotes and more than 200 species of birds. Nope, that’s not a typo. There are guided walks led by experts, a nature center with interactive exhibits if you want to dork out, and even dog-friendly events. Trailheads are open from 6am.Ken Neijima
On the surface, this grassy spot in cozy Boulder City (overlooking Lake Mead) might look like an average park, with a playground, basketball and tennis courts, and horseshoe pits. But chill out here for a while, and you’ll see the local fauna, bighorn sheep, come down from the hills and graze. Pretty crazy. As close as they get, though, don’t assume they’re tame. Those horns are not for show. Just sayin’. If you’re into fishing, you might also want to check out the Boulder City Urban Pond in nearby Veterans Memorial Park; it’s stocked with rainbow trout and catfish. Or explore more of what the huge Lake Mead National Recreation Area has to offer.
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