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6 Nature Escapes From Las Vegas

A getaway to Sin City, Nevada likely brings to mind images of late-night gambling, drinks, and buffets or perhaps walks along the glowing lights of the Las Vegas Strip in the middle of the night. And don’t get me wrong, these things are absolutely a must when visiting Las Vegas. But the perhaps lesser-known attraction of the area is the many nature escapes from Las Vegas that can get you away from the hustle and bustle for a day or two and transport you into a nature lovers’ paradise. So, when planning your trip to Las Vegas, I would recommend including at least one of these day trip ideas to see a different side of Vegas!

a car driving towards the city of Las Vegas at sunset
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Image by Kevin Schmid from Pixabay

The Valley of Fire State Park

The Valley of Fire State Park sits just under an hour outside of Vegas but transports you to an entirely different world. The park’s unique combination of colorful rock formations will leave you in awe. Spread out on 40,00 acres of land, Valley of Fire State Park contains red sandstone formations blended with gray and tan limestone. Another feature of the park is the petroglyphs carved into the sandstone scattered throughout the park that is over 2,000 years old.

When visiting the park, you will want to make a stop at the Visitor Center to learn about the geology and history of the area. Other activities within the park include a scenic drive, plenty of hiking options, and rock climbing. Wildlife spotting opportunities are abundant, with bighorn sheep spotted on and off the roadways! Always use caution when driving!

Some of the top sites to see in the park include the Beehives, Atlatl Rock, where you can view some of the park’s petroglyphs, Arch Rock, Elephant Rock, Mouse’s Tank, Rainbow Vista, Pink Canyon, and the Fire Wave.

If you want to stay overnight, you can choose from two campgrounds, RV sites, or group-use campsites. Traditional campsites are first-come, first-served while the group sites are by reservation. There is an entrance fee for entering the park of $10 for Nevada residents and $15 for out of state visitors.

colorful rock formations of Valley of Fire state park, one of the best nature escapes from Las Vegas
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Valley of Fire State Park. Photo Credit: Navigation Junkie.

The Hoover Dam and Colorado River

The Hoover Dam is one of the most popular day trips from Las Vegas that will appeal to both the history bluff and nature lover. With tons of outdoor activities to be found in the area, it is one of the best nature escapes from Las Vegas. The Hoover Dam, built between 1931 and 1936, is a concrete arch-gravity dam that holds back the Colorado River. It is located on the border between Arizona and Nevada.

There are many ways to see the dam, from driving across it, pulling over in one of the pullout areas, or by taking a tour. If you wish to take a tour, you will need to stop into the visitors center for reservations, which are first come, first serve. You can purchase guided tours of the power plant ahead of time for $15.

For those who are looking to enjoy the dam while also enjoying the nature of the area, you can join a Hoover Dam kayak tour. The full day tour will take you from the base of the Hoover Dam down the Colorado River and Black Canyon, past waterfalls, wildlife, a sauna cave, and hot springs pools.

the hoover dam holding back the Colorado River
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The Hoover Dam. Photo Credit: Image by MrUweS from Pixabay

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon, although a completely different landscape than Las Vegas, is just a half hour drive outside of the city. Red Rock Canyon is strewn with massive red rock formations extending out of the desert terrain.

Activities at Red Rock Canyon include a 13-mile-long scenic drive, cycling, hiking trails, wildlife viewing, petroglyph viewing, rock climbing, and camping. If you choose to do the 13-mile scenic drive, be sure to stop at the many overlooks along the way for spectacular views. To learn about the history and geology of the park through indoor and outdoor exhibits visit the visitor center.

Hiking is one of the top activities with 26 different trails throughout the park that will take you down into the canyons and up to some of the highest points in the park. Some of the easiest hikes are the Moenkopi Loop trail that will take you past the Wilson Cliffs, fossils, and cacti and the Red Spring Boardwalk. The Calico Hills trail is another great option that is a little longer. If you prefer, you can take a guided tour of Red Rock Canyon, including bike tours, horseback riding, and pink jeep tours.

There is an entrance fee of $15 per car to enter Red Rock Canyon.

A section of red rock formations inside Red Rock canyon of Las Vegas, one of the best nature escapes from Las Vegas
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Red Rock Canyon. Photo Credit: Photo by CARL HUNLEY JR on Unsplash.

Dune Buggy Rental

For one of the most thrilling nature escapes from Las Vegas, consider renting an ATV or dune buggy to soar through the sand dunes that surround the city. You will find many different rental and tour options around Las Vegas, each providing a unique experience. You can find guided and unguided tours, so it is up to you if you want to head out on your own or ride side by side with an expert. You can ride over sand dunes or choose a slower paced tour through the Valley of Fire State Park.

Lake Mead

Lake Mead is a national recreation area and reservoir created by the Hoover Dam. A 40-minute from Las Vegas will take you to countless opportunities for outdoor adventure, including hiking, horseback riding, biking, water skiing, fishing, wildlife viewing, canoeing, swimming, kayaking, scenic drives, camping, and scuba diving. You can combine a visit to the Lake Mead area with a visit to the Hoover Dam.

 If you want to get out on the waters if Lake Mead on a guided tour you can join a Desert Princess Cruise, a 90-minute paddle wheeler boat ride on the lake. If you prefer, you can find plenty of marinas around the lake that offer boat rentals to explore the lake on your own. You can also rent kayaks and paddleboards from Lake Mead kayak rentals or opt for the clear bottom kayak full day or half day tour. Jet ski rentals is another option for getting out on the lake.

Lake Mead recreation area in Nevada
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Lake Mead. Photo Credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Mt. Charleston

Mt. Charleston and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, about 40 minutes outside of the city, is another one of the best nature escapes from Las Vegas. The area contains trails for all skill levels, with easy, wheel-chair accessible trails to more strenuous hikes to the highest peak in Southern Nevada, Charleston Peak which extends to 11,916 feet.

For those who would prefer to enjoy the area in a more leisurely way, there are plenty of scenic byways throughout the area to enjoy the scenery and stop for photo ops. Other activities in the area include biking, off road driving, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. During the summer months you can take the Lee Canyon Ski Resort scenic chair ride for panoramic views of the mountains.

On occasion, visitors are lucky enough to see the wild horses and burros that roam the area. If visiting in the winter, you can enjoy sledding, skiing, and snow tubing at Lee Canyon. For those looking to make it an overnight trip, there are plenty of camping options in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

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When you’ve had your fill of slot machines and night life, and your stomach can’t stand the taste of another specialty drink, turn to the adventure filled nature escapes in and around Las Vegas!
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