Home to the glittering Vegas Strip and mega-hotels, Las Vegas may not be synonymous with the great outdoors. But in fact, the area boasts 316,000 acres of wilderness, awe-inspiring canyons, towering mountain peaks, deep water lakes and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking paths. Who knew! So grab your gear and read on for a primer on outdoor fun in and around the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Vibrant ancient red sandstone formations rise in sculpted shapes from the desert floor at Valley of Fire State Park – 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Here there are a handful of short trails including the popular Elephant Rock, which is good for all ages. While at Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, get up close and personal with 4000-year-old ancient rock art (petroglyphs) while hiking the 3.7-mile Petroglyph Canyon Trail.
On the valley’s western edge is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area with 26 different hiking trails for the novice to the experienced adventurer. Beginners enjoy the out-and-back 2-mile Calico Tank hike; the moderately strenuous Keystone Thrust skirts a 60-million-year-old fault line; and experienced hikers are attracted to the 6.1. miles White Rock and La Madre Springs Loop Trail.
One of the best things about Mt. Charleston is the temperature – usually 25 degrees cooler than the valley. Boasting more than 60 miles of trails, most treks start at over 6000 feet in elevation with some culminating at the 11,916 feet Charleston Peak. If you’re a fan of winter sports, the mountain is your playground. You can hit the slopes at Mt. Charleston Ski and Snowboard Resort with 445 acres of terrain, four lifts and 30 trails. Best of all, it’s only 30 minutes from Vegas.
It’s an understatement to say that Las Vegas and surrounding suburbs are cyclist-friendly. With hundreds of miles of paved bike paths, riders can essentially circumvent the valley on two wheels – although a few gaps still exist in the evolving Vegas Valley Rim Trail. Explore the 7-mile I-215 West Beltway Trail, the 9-mile Flamingo Arroyo Trail and the 14-mile Las Vegas Wash Trail.
When it comes to cycling, Las Vegas really “torque-the-talk”. So much that the Regional Transportation Commission’s very popular RTC Bike Share program logged more than 16,000 rides in its first year. The program currently has 21 stations throughout downtown Las Vegas where riders can check out a bike, including e-bikes. In total, Las Vegas has 444 miles of bike lanes.
When the need for getting off-road strikes, join your hiking friends at Rock Red Canyon or Mt. Charleston for easy to challenging bike trails. Even Hoover Dam calls to the adventurer with a route that goes through six tunnels; provides great views of Lake Mead and a large easy to follow the path right down to the top of the dam.
Las Vegas water sports aren’t limited to Strip pool parties. Twenty-five miles from the city is Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the U.S. – ideal for boating and water sports, kayaking and canoeing. With more than 290 square miles of waterway, boaters can enjoy the thrill of open water navigation or chill-out while dropping anchor in a private cove. For fishing enthusiasts, more than 700 miles of fishable shoreline provide anglers the opportunity to hook striped bass and rainbow trout. Bring your own boat or rent one for the day from one of the many marinas.