While it may not feel like it at the moment, fall is fast approaching the Las Vegas valley. And with it comes our desire to get out of the air conditioning, get into nature, and enjoy the great outdoors that can be found all around Southern Nevada.
It may sound surprising, but many people have lived in Las Vegas all their lives and never taken the time to visit these wide open spaces and bask in their beauty. Don’t be one of them! In fact, we suggest you sit down right now and write up a weekend schedule to follow between now and the holidays – so you and your family can check each one of these great places off your bucket list. (And then YOU can be the one to ‘tsk, tsk!’ your friends who have never been to them! Isn’t that reason enough?!)
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Located just past the western edge of Las Vegas about 17 miles from downtown, Red Rock is home to iconic and spectacular scenery – notably the colorful rocks and dramatic cliffs that give a backdrop to the 13-mile one-way scenic drive known as “The Loop” – which features numerous hiking trails and scenic overlooks.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Just down the road from Red Rock on Highway 159, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is a small oasis in the Mojave Desert. Natural springs are complemented with grassy meadows, trees from a former orchard, and hiking trails. Picnic areas and observation views are abundant here, and the red ranch house – its historic interior preserved – serves as both the visitor center and the centerpiece of the park.
Clark County Wetlands Park
This 2,900-acre oasis utilizes reclaimed water from the urban area of Las Vegas to flow through the park, which allows a permanent wetlands plant community to thrive. Home to 212 species of birds – including snowy egrets, burrowing owls, wood ducks and great blue herons with wingspans of 6-and-a-half feet – it is also a habitat for more than 70 species of mammals and reptiles
This award-winning 180-acre family destination boasts a vibrant history that features botanical gardens, interactive science and nature exhibits, animal shows and trails. 110 acres display cultivated and natural gardens, wildlife habitat, walking and biking trails and educational resources. There are also more than 1,200 species of native and desert-adapted plants housed in themed areas. Indoor experiences include exhibition galleries dedicated to showcasing art and traveling exhibitions of local and national significance, on-site technologically advanced learning centers and the Nevada State Museum.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The most-visited entrance for Lake Mead is located four miles southeast of Boulder City, but there are other entrance points into this 1.5-million-acre park (that’s twice the size of Rhode Island!). It contains America’s largest man-made reservoir and features 50 miles of shoreline, multiple marinas, boating, fishing and water sports. It also caters to hikers, climbers, campers and car tours. (And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife!) Oh – did we mention there’s a big ol’ dam there, too?
Part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Mount Charleston is just 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas and encompasses more than 316,000 acres of remarkable beauty and surprising diversity. During the winter months, skiing is a top draw. But when the weather warms, hiking trails, camping and picnicking are popular, and visitors have been known to encounter wild horses and elk. The area is actually home to more than 50 sensitive plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Other activities include horseback riding, mountain biking and rock climbing.
Valley of Fire State Park
Located 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest state park. Its brilliantly colored sandstone formations were generated from 150 million years of weathering in the Mojave Desert. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park areas, while popular activities include camping, hiking, picnicking and photography. Seventy-two campsites are available for a fee, and a visitor center provides information about on-site attractions and the power of natural forces.
There you have it – seven perfectly wonderful sites that visitors from around the world make sure to see when they come to Las Vegas. Don’t you think it’s time you saw them for yourself? (we thought so….) Enjoy your travels!