7 Reasons to go Beyond the Las Vegas Strip

Less than an hour outside Las Vegas is a wonderful world of geologic history, natural colors, miles of hiking trails and great places to cool off on a hot summer day.

To many people the chance to get dolled up or skivvied down while throwing away money and drinking until you can’t feel your face is an exciting turn of events not to be missed. As a woman who spent many a weekend in Las Vegas as a 20-something this scenario has lost its luster. But that won’t ever stop me from visiting Las Vegas. I still like to throw a little money down a slot machine and enjoy a good show but my real love for this area now lies in what is just beyond the shimmering lights and staggering folks on the strip.

I’m talking about nature and there is a whole lot of it, outside Vegas. Just pick a direction and enjoy something beautiful. If you have just one extra day in Las Vegas here are some great places to explore, so grab your sense of direction and get going.

Here are 7 places to get you off the strip and into nature

Valley of Fire State Park
Entrance Fee: $10 per car
Getting there: Head north on Interstate 15 to see the Valley of Fire State Park. This was Nevada’s first State park and the amazing rock formations had me uttering wow wow wow at every turn. Its about an hour drive from Las Vegas. You will take exit 75 for Valley of fire freeway.

What to Expect: With over 40,000 acres it is renowned for its red sandstone features and miles of hiking trails. There are several places to ​stop and view the incredible geologic formations. You can see petrified logs from thousands of years ago, beautiful desert flowers, big horn sheep and unimaginable landscape. Not to miss is a short hike to the Fire Wave, a beautiful multicolored rock formation akin to The Wave in the Arizona desert. For a longer hike Fire Canyon Overlook is a beautiful hike through the desert floor with lots of flowers. Just don’t forget water: it gets HOTT! There are several places to stop along the way when you pass the park entrance and I would recommend getting out and wandering at all of them.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area 
Entrance Fee: $20 Per car or America The Beautiful Pass 
Getting There: Continue East from Valley of Fire State park to enter Lake Mead at its Northern access gate. There are 8 other access points in all directions around Lake Mead.

What to Expect: One of America’s most diverse national recreation areas with striking landscapes and brilliant blue water. 
Lake Mead National Recreation area is a year-round playground that spreads across 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons, valleys and two vast lakes where you can boat, hike, cycle, camp and fish. You can also see the Hoover Dam from the waters of Lake Mead or Lake Mohave, or find solitude in one of the park’s nine wilderness areas. Leaving Valley of Fire you can cross right into this area, find a pull off and go for a swim or head to one of the points of interest below. 
Main points of interest: 

  • Echo Bay
  • Stewarts Point
  • Hoover Dam ​
Willow Beach  & Hot Springs
Entrance Fee: Parking $10 Per car 
Getting There: Travel South on I-515 which merges onto US-93 South. Continue on US-93 South through Henderson to Boulder City. Once in Boulder City, turn left onto US-93 Truck Route (across the Hoover Dam). Drive South 14 miles on Highway 93. Turn right onto Willow Beach Road. Follow the signs and drive 4 miles down to the marina.What to Expect: South of the Hoover Dam, Willow beach is a lakeside adventure center. With boat rentals large and small, kayaks, canoes, a campground and 235 miles of shoreline if your looking for a way to beat the heat or get out on the water Willow beach is a great choice. Situated in the Black Canyon region of the Colorado River you can even go white water rafting. For Adventurers rent a kayak at Willow Beach and paddle up stream towards Hoover Dam, along the route you can stop at Arizona Hot Springs.

Red Rock Canyon
Entrance Fee: $7 Vehicle or Free with America The Beautiful Pass. 
Getting There: Directions 

What to Expect: Red Rock Canyon is an area to the West of Las Vegas that is protected for hiking, cycling and nature viewing. Part of the park service it has a rim road that takes you to several different trails and points of interest. There are 26 hiking trails, a popular & longer trail is Ice Box Canyon that brings you through the desert floor into a massive canyon that rises up high into the sky. Bring lots of water and a hat- many people need rescue from this canyon every year. 

Bonnie Springs 
Entrance Fee: Free
Getting There: Directions

What to Expect:  Stop in to Bonnie Springs on your visit to Red Rock Canyon. An old western town tucked into Red Rock Canyon with all the Western fun you can imagine. With Saloon, dancers, gunslinging, riding stables  a petting zoo and even a motel. Its the only gambling establishment out this way too. Stop in for lunch, or just some old western fun.
Hop on their scenic train ride or go on an hour long trail ride through the beautiful Red Rock desert.

Mt. Charleston
Entrance Fee: Free
Getting There:
What to ExpectIf you’re trying to escape the heat of the Las Vegas Strip. Mt. Charleston may be the perfect place to visit. At 7,500 feet above sea level it is on average 20 degrees cooler than Las Vegas. ​With tons of hiking trails, a grand hotel and lots of places to camp it is the perfect escape into nature. 

Sloan Canyon National Reserve ​
Entrance Fee: Free
Getting ThereDirections
What to Expect: Located near Henderson this wildlife refuge is just south of Las Vegas and offers many hikes. It is most popular for its collection of petroglyphs from ancient Native Americans that once lived throughout these hills.
Wherever your travels take you in Las Vegas make sure you set aside some time to explore these outer regions. Sometimes the best adventures are right under your nose.


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