You might be one of those who people who doesn’t “get” Vegas. The charms of Sin City are completely lost on you, but there’s a conference at Caesar's, and your company has sent you. Or maybe it’s the location for your buddy’s bachelor party. So you reluctantly pack your bags.
Or perhaps you do enjoy small doses of Vegas, but you need a break from Cirque, Celine, and the slots. You’d prefer a happy medium of manufactured diversions and natural ones.
Wherever you are on the love it-hate it Vegas spectrum, you’ll be happy to find that there are a handful of ways to round out your L.V. experience with open-air activities. And they’re each within about an hour’s drive of the city.
A little more than 50 miles northeast of the Strip is Valley of Fire State Park. It’s named for the red sandstone rocks common throughout the park, but it might also be tagged Valley of Fire for its blazing heat. In the summertime, temps regularly rise above 100 and sometimes reach 120 degrees. Still, in the cool of another season, this desert valley is an interesting place for a hike. Along the trails, you’ll stumble on Native American petroglyphs at formations such as Mouse’s Tank and unreal views at White Domes, which was also the setting for the 1960s Western film, The Professionals.
Biking and Climbing
A quick 30-minute drive from Vegas, Red Rock Canyon is a collection of nearly 200,000 acres filled with rust-colored rocks. You can rent some wheels from an outfitter such as Las Vegas Cyclery and wheel your way through the park’s crimson cliffs via the 13-mile Scenic Drive. Cyclists share this challenging, one-way route with cars.
Another way to enjoy the rocks is by scaling them. The canyon contains hundreds of routes for both sport and traditional climbing, but most require fairly significant hikes and scrambles to reach them. If you’re not comfortable going it alone, you can hire a guide through organizations like the American Alpine Institute or the local Red Rock Climbing Center.
The Hoover Dam is just a 40-minute drive east of Las Vegas, and one of the best ways to view the giant, concrete barrier is on the water. You can tour the Depression-era dam by signing up for a kayak tour, such as those offered by Evolution Expeditions. This operator leads tours that head downstream on the Colorado River from the base of the dam. You can choose from a 4-mile/five-hour kayak tour, as well as a 12-mile/seven-hour tour, depending on your preference and stamina.