If you clicked on this article because you suspect the headline is click-bait, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
It's true: Las Vegas does have an active – even outdoorsy – side. And I'm not just talking about hiking up and down The Strip or marathon shopping trips. The desert that envelopes Las Vegas has so much to offer: rambling trails, outlandish features, dramatic panoramas, wide-open spaces and hardy scrub punctuated by fleeting desert flowers. Boots and a walking stick may not be de rigeur of a Vegas wardrobe, but maybe they should be. Here are four good reasons to squeeze some athletic wear into your carry-on the next time you visit Las Vegas.
Hike: Valley of Fire State Park
Less than an hour away from the neon glitz and glamour of Las Vegas is incredible raw and natural beauty. Valley of the Fire State Park is marked by 40,000 acres of distinct red Aztec sandstone in an otherwise grey limestone landscape. By and far, the park charms outdoor rec users with its otherworldly appearance. The Valley's craggy outcroppings invite exploration, while petroglyphs, wave formations, petrified wood and slot canyons beg intrigue. Visiting for sunrise or sunset is especially stunning, when the area is awash in a kaleidoscope of colours.
Elephant Rock | Krzysztof Wiktor
Take a hike: Valley of the Fire State Park boasts 11 trails ranging from 0.3 to 6.8 miles. Wayfinding shouldn't be a problem, but dehydration might be. Pack plenty of water and dress for direct sun exposure.
Don't have a car? Would you prefer to be guided? Love Hikes will take care of it all – you just pick the intensity of your adventure.
Bike/Hike: Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon, as its name suggests, is another concentration of eye-catching red Aztec sandstone. Just 15 miles from The Strip, it's highly accessible and can be treated as a half- or full-day excursion. Time it right and you'll be there in less than 30 minutes.
Bureau of Land Management (CCby2.0)
Red Rock Canyon contains some geological features that are of particular interest to desert hikers. The Keystone Thrust, a fault that runs as far north as Canada, is most visible here. Staring at 3,000-foot-high walls is like peering into ancient history – some 65 million years into the past, to be (more or less) exact. Tracks of small theropod dinosaurs have even been found in the area. Taking a guided hike offers a deeper look into the Thrust's features, desert botany and other hidden gems.
Bureau of Land Management (CCby2.0)
Pick your adventure: Red Rock Canyon can be explored on foot, bike, or both. A 14.7-mile, two-lane scenic drive loops through the area, which naturally attracts cyclists. Trailheads are dispersed along the loop, and trails range from 0.75 to 6 miles in length. Most of the hikes are rated easy to moderate, with the exception of Turtlehead Peak, thanks to its nearly 2,000-foot elevation gain.
No need to BYOB (bring your own bike); rentals are available. If you had a late night on The Strip the evening before, we wouldn't blame you for letting an electric cruiser do most of the work.
Mountain Bike: Boulder City
(Dare go after dark?)
You already know that Las Vegas is famous the world over for its nightlife, but you're probably in the dark when it comes to its night-riding. Re-read that. Night. Riding.
Hop on your bike: Whether you venture out after dusk or under a high desert sun, mountain bikers should make for the Bootleg Canyon trail system. The trail network offers up 36 miles of purpose-built track. Don't expect any lazy desert riding here. Bootleg Canyon boasts jagged peaks and verticals of up to 1,000 feet. Talk about a wild ride.
How about marrying thrills with a bit of casual sightseeing? Catch views of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam while peddling a historic trail. The route traces part of the original railroad that hauled construction workers and materials to the Hoover Dam. Black Canyon Gorge, tunnels and Mojave scenery are welcome distractions.
Hike: The Grand Canyon
Hey, what about hiking the Grand Canyon? There are a few things to consider...
The West Rim is most accessible to Las Vegas and takes some two-and-a-half hours to reach by car. Not unrealistic for a day trip (especially by Canadian road trip standards!), but hiking opportunities are lean for those wanting to tackle some real elevation.
Grand Canyon National Park | chess_ocampo
The best Grand Canyon hiking lies on the South and North Rim, located in Grand Canyon National Park. You'll want to add two days to your Las Vegas itinerary so you can road trip the 5-hour drive and stay overnight. (Hiking rim-to-floor and back in a single day is highly discouraged.) Spending the night also means you'll get the added benefit of sunrise and sunset. Check out North and South Rim hikes here.
Take wing: Can't extend your Las Vegas trip? Don't fret, grow wings. Helicopters can get you from The Strip to the West Rim in 45 minutes. Oh, and it's a hell of a lot more fun than driving.
En route, you'll be treated to a Hoover Dam flyby and buzz over Lake Mead and Valley of the Fire State Park. At Guano Point you can get some dirt on your boots by scrambling up Highpoint Hike. Take a seat and drink in the panoramic views of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River below.
More Las Vegas adventure on Explore: