If you think everyone in Las Vegas heads for the world famous Strip whenever they have some leisure time, think again. Outdoor activities abound all around the area. So apply sunscreen liberally, load a cooler with water, and get outside for all the real Vegas action away from the tables!
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
A worthy tourist attraction just 30 minutes from the Strip, Red Rock Canyon remains a favorite outdoor activities spot for locals. Hike, camp, and picnic amid spectacular red boulders, wildlife, and vegetation. If you’re in the mood, take a right when exiting Red Rock onto Blue Diamond Road and check out Bonnie Springs Ranch just a little further down. Turn left toward the Bonnie Springs parking area, perhaps stopping for a snapshot of the burros that often line the route. From there, park and board the antique caboose headed for the replica of the old Western town, which is complete with staged shootouts, saloon show, and other spectacles. A petting zoo and a surprisingly good restaurant are also on the premises.
Valley of Fire
A little farther off-Strip than Red Rock, Valley of Fire contains petrified wood and 3,000 year old Indian petroglyphs. The fire-red sandstone found in these amazing natural rock formations was created over 100 million years ago and gives the area its name. Today, visitors and residents enjoy roaming the same lands once inhabited by ancient Native American tribes.
Going to “the Lake” ranks high among popular outdoor activities for Las Vegas locals. This watering hole was made possible by the massive Hoover Dam project. Boating or relaxing along the beach makes residents forget they actually live in the desert. Jet Ski use in Lake Mead has been phased out due to concerns about the higher level of emissions from these types of watercraft, but commercial boats offer opportunities to cruise the lake’s scenery and enjoy refreshments.
For the more adventurous among us, Nelsons Landing, located outside of the main recreation area, is a popular spot for cliff jumping and diving. From Boulder City, follow signs towards Searchlight then turn left onto SR-165 to Nelson. Continue for an additional mile and a half to the landing and scenic circle. Stop and explore the Eldorado Canyon mines, which are also located along this route.
Just a little over half an hour from the Strip, Mount Charleston offers skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and sledding in the winter and a cool (generally a good 20 degrees cooler than the Valley!) place for outdoor activities and exploring nature in the summer.
Wet ‘n Wild
Existent for many years on the north end of the Strip, the original Las Vegas Wet ‘n Wild closed in 2004 to make way for high rise construction, but 2013 saw the reopening of the franchise off-Strip in the southwest. Judging by attendance rates, the newly built water park has secured a permanent place in the hearts of Las Vegas locals.
In addition to all these attractions, the Valley boasts a highly developed trail system and a well-designed parks system with facilities all over town. These provide plenty of spaces and places for outdoor activities all year round.