When you imagine Las Vegas you probably think of bright lights, hordes of people, way too many bars, massive maze-like hotels, and expensive food. And you are not wrong. Vegas is all of that and more.
It is also located at an amazing crossroads for tons of outdoor adventure. From climbing to hiking to water sports. Las Vegas has a lot more to offer than just overindulgence in alcohol and gambling. Don’t believe us? Just wait.
In under 30 minutes, from The Strip no less, you can get to two National Conservation Areas and the Clark County Wetlands Park, home to a 45,000-square foot nature center. In under an hour you can be at Mt. Charleston, which sits at 11,916 feet - making it the eighth highest peak in Nevada, and the 34th “most prominent peak” in the United States. You can also make it to the Hoover Dam on Lake Mead, Lake Mead itself, and heck, even into another state entirely (Arizona).
And if you are willing to drive more than an hour, the world really becomes your oyster: Zion National Park is just over 2.5 hours, Valley of Fire State Park is right around the hour mark (depending on where you want to go), Death Valley National Park is under two hours, and Grand Canyon National Park is just over four.
Starting to reevaluate Las Vegas? We know we did once we started to really look at its incredibly optimal location.
So what about actual outdoor activities? While many places can have beautiful nature nearby, it really all depends on the activities you can actually do there. Luckily, Las Vegas doesn’t just talk the talk, but it also walks the walk.
For example, mountain biking.
While it doesn’t have an exorbitantly high number of trails like places such as Moab, Fruita, Crested Butte, or Bend, it does still have plenty to offer (we would rate those places 10/10 in terms of mountain biking - we would in turn rate Vegas 7/10, for it does still have 514 miles of trail).
Some of the best trails are found in the Blue Diamond/Cottonwood Valley area of Red Rocks National Conservation Area. Like the trail 3 Mile Smile via Badger Pass, a 9.9-mile singletrack figure 8 that climbs just over 1,000 feet. Or there is the 10.5-mile Blue Diamond Loop that is a great first ride in the area to get you acclimated to the terrain. Plus, it is just gorgeous.
Another great spot to check out is the Boulder City area, including trails near Henderson (like the 601 Trail to 701 Trail).
Now let's talk about climbing.
If you are more into actually getting on the rock instead of cruising over it, consider checking out Red Rocks (again). This is a climbing mecca - especially come winter time when many other places are covered in snow.
With over two thousand routes, everyone (and we mean everyone) can find something to do. From intense 10+ pitch routes to short but sweet sport climbs. You could spend days, even weeks here, and likely never be on the same rock. This area is so good, that one of the best climbers in the world lives in the Vegas area. And in his words, “Red Rock is a “global, world-class climbing destination.”
There is tons of information out there touting Red Rocks as the place to climb, not only in Las Vegas, or Nevada even, but in the whole USA (maybe the world?). So we feel like we don’t necessarily need to add to the deluge - but if you are curious about the area and want to look at some routes, check out Mountain Project for all your climbing questions.
If you are looking to climb, but want to get away from the crowds, then consider heading out to places such as The Promised Land, a limestone gem hidden in the hills behind Las Vegas (and along a rough dirt road), or Potosi Mountain, another hidden gem just south of Mountain Spring off State Road 160.
The whole area west and south of Las Vegas is covered in climbing routes, so no matter your skill level you will surely be able to find something to take on.
But wait, there's more.
While climbing might be Vegas’s bread and butter, and mountain biking is a rising pursuit, the area is also full of hikes (especially in the Mt. Charleston area or Red Rocks) - or if you are looking for some truly stunning views, head to Mt. Trumbull in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona. There are also water sports on Lake Mead, canyoneering in Death Valley (one of our favorite adventures), and lots of off-the-beaten-path attractions to be explored. Like Nelson Ghost Town, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, or Gold Butte National Monument, an incredible natural area with bright red sandstone, incredibly eroded landforms, and backroads that twist and turn through the desert landscape.
When you think of Las Vegas, we bet over the top gaudiness, bright (bright) lights, and horror stories of bachelorette and bachelor parties gone wrong come to mind. And while all of that is very true (those lights are BLINDING), Vegas is so much more than just debauchery.
It has mountain biking. World-class climbing. Stunning desert hikes. Ghost towns. Water sports. It has so much adventure that it could be positively sinful (haha had to). So what we are trying to say, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is that you should not write off this over-the-top town when considering your next adventure. Las Vegas is easy to get to, has tons of places to stay, has plenty of food options and some pretty sweet pools to cool off in after a day in the sun.
(The only thing to remember is that because it is in the desert, Las Vegas can get veeeery hot in the summer. So maybe consider it a “winter-only” getaway)
Looking for more adventures in the Las Vegas area? Then check out this map by Roadtrippers.