Get off the Strip: 7 Outdoor Activities in Las Vegas

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When I tell people that I live in Las Vegas, they often give me look. The kind of look that makes me think they feel sorry for me. Or that I’m silently being judged for having Vegas as my home base. They might say “oh…I’m not really a Vegas person” or “48 hours in Vegas is as much as I could handle.”

There is one thing I’m sure of. Most of these people never leave the strip. They never venture out of the smoky casinos or glitzy nightclubs to get a breath of the fresh desert air. Maybe they go in their hotel pool…but that’s about it.

After living here for 6 months, I’ve come to discover that Vegas has so much more to offer, including some really unique outdoor opportunities that I would have never known existed.

7 Outdoor Activities in Las Vegas

1) Hiking

There are many options for hiking around Vegas, and the best spots depend on the season. In summer, head up to Mount Charleston to get some reprieve from the heat. Higher elevations here result in temperatures that can be as much as 20 degrees cooler than in downtown Vegas.

The Raintree Trail is a 6 mile out and back forested trail whose main attraction is a huge 3,000 year old bristlecone pine tree. The trail gains 1,100 feet, so you’ll get a decent workout along with some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains that look nothing like you would expect in Vegas.

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In the winter, Mt. Charleston actually gets snow. There’s even a ski resort…can you believe that? So during those cooler months, you are better off going to Red Rock or Lake Mead.

IMG_6938Mt. Charleston in the early spring

In Lake Mead, my favorite hike is Anniversary Narrows. The trail begins in a wash and ends in a twisted narrow slot canyon with a variety of colors and geologic features. If you’ve never done any slot canyon hiking, this is a beautiful, beginner-friendly hike that will make you hungry for more slot-canyon adventures. Go here for directions and a description of the trail.

**UPDATE: AS OF FEBRUARY 2015, ACCESS TO ANNIVERSARY NARROWS HAS BEEN CLOSED **

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For more hiking options, download the free AllTrails app for your smart phone. This awesome trail app, which I discussed in a previous blog post, maps out the best trails in the Vegas area and provides many detailed trail reviews.

2) Biking

The areas around Lake Mead offer excellent biking opportunities.

The River Mountains Loop Trail is paved bike path that connects Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the towns of Boulder City and Henderson. The 35-mile trail circles the edge of the River Mountains with beautiful views of Lake Mead and the Las Vegas Valley, giving bikers a taste of the Nevada desert. You might even get lucky and encounter the large population of bighorn sheep that lives here.

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There are many access points, but one of the easiest to get to from the strip is at the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino (2800 South Boulder Highway, Henderson, NV 89002) where there is a large parking lot. This trailhead is also where the mile markers begin. Most bikers prefer to ride clockwise from Railroad Pass.

When choosing your direction, you must decide whether you’d prefer mostly downhill with a few short punches of steep uphill (clockwise) or long gradual climbing for the majority of the day with a few fun descents (counter-clockwise).

For maps, a complete list of access points, and more information on the trail, visit the River Mountains Loop Trail website.

If you need to rent a bike, check out All Mountain Cyclery in Boulder City. They are the best bike shop around and are conveniently located less than a mile from the trail access point at Bootleg Canyon.

3) Scenic Driving

Vegas nightlife get the best of you? Go the easy route and take a scenic drive through Red Rock National Recreation Area. The 13 mile one-way route traverses the best scenery in the park and provides plentiful opportunities to pull over and snap some photos of the bright rock formations. And once you are out there, if you are up for it, you can take an easy stroll through Calico Basin.

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** More Adventures Near Las Vegas **

Essential Guide to Zion National Park

A Secret Vegas Oasis: Padding the Black Canyon

Havasu Falls Camping Guide

4) Stand up Paddle Boarding

Lake Las Vegas is a Mediterranean themed resort community about 30 minutes from the Strip that is situated on a 320-acre lake and surrounded by desert mountains. Paddle to the Core, located right on the beach at the Lake Las Vegas Westin Hotel, rents stand-up-paddle (SUP) boards by the hour. Spend your morning out on the lake exploring the numerous coves, and afterwards grab lunch and a glass of wine in the village at one of the several lakeside restaurants. Paddle to the Core also offers beginner SUP classes to first-timers or SUP yoga classes to more advanced paddle boarders.

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IMG_6941Lake Las Vegas is a easy escape from the madness of the Strip

5) HOT-SPRINGING

The section of Colorado River below Hoover Dam is named the Black Canyon and is famous for its slot canyon hot springs. The easiest to get to on foot is Arizona hot springs, which is a beautiful pool located in a narrow slot canyon just above the river. Getting there requires a moderate 5.6 mile round trip hike and a climb up a 20 foot ladder that was installed by the National Park Service. The effort is more than worth it, especially in the winter when it is cooler and you can enjoy a nice long soak. Visit this National Park Service link for maps and more detailed information on the trail.

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6) Kayaking

A few additional hot springs on the Colorado River, as well as Arizona Hot Springs, can also be reached by kayak. Several outfitters in the area rent kayaks and will drop you off below Hoover Dam and pick you up 12 miles downstream at Willow Beach. Along the way, you can stop and relax in the hot springs, explore side canyons, and sit back as the current pushes you downstream. Out of all of the outdoor activities in the Las Vegas area, this is my favorite. For more information, see my blog post “A Secret Vegas Oasis: Paddling the Black Canyon.”

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7) Zip-lining

Go for a flight over the Mojave Desert with Flightlinez zipline tour in Bootleg Canyon. The tour includes four separate zip lines with the longest line being almost half a mile. If the daytime tour isn’t thrilling enough, from April to October, they also offer a sunset tour. Knowing how epic the sunsets are here in Las Vegas, I bet this would be awesome.

ziplineSource: Flightlinez

See…Vegas isn’t so bad after all. Wanna come visit me?

And I’m still new to this city…so Vegas veterans, please share in the comments…what are your favorite things to do in Las Vegas?

There are 24 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

24 Comments on “Get off the Strip: 7 Outdoor Activities in Las Vegas

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  1. Don’t forget about horseback riding! In beautiful Red Rock Canyon Natoonal conservation area (20 minutes from the strip) is Cowboy Trakl Rides. They offer hourly rides as well as a sunset BBQ ride. The scenery is amazing, the staff is friendly, the horses are well cared for. You can call or book online, and they even offer transportation to and from the strip daily. Their website is http://www.cowboytrailrides.com or you can find them on Facebook.

      Thanks Jessica! That sounds like a lot of fun. I haven’t been horseback riding in years…maybe it’s time for me to give it a try. Thanks for reading my post!

    Really wonderful place. Las Vegas is a popular vacation destination, but planning a trip can seem overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the area.

      Hey John! Thanks for the comment. I’ve been totally surprised by all of the great outdoor opportunities in Vegas. And you are totally right. Most people don’t leave the strip because they aren’t even aware of what’s out there.

    Hey Kirsten its Nick again. Do you know of any good backpacking trails near Vegas such as in Red Rock, Mt. Charleston, or anywhere else that is close and would be a good place to start trying out our gear?

    Valley of fire is a great place for camping and hiking

      Yea that place is really rad. I wrote this post before I had a chance to go there..I should probably update and add it to the list. Thanks for chiming in! -Kristen

    A great beginners backpacking trip near Las Vegas is hiking to Arizona Hot Springs!!

      Yep! Love that one. I’ve hiked and paddled there and both are awesome.

    Anniversary narrows has been blocked by a private property owner as of February 2015 and is still inaccessible unless you climb a fence.

      Hey Rs – Thanks so much for the info. I just updated the post. Cheers, Kristen

    Hello Kristen: going to Vegas and for the first time we want to do as much as possible outdoor activities off the “Strip ” . ,
    I just read your BLOG ..!!excellent !!!
    We will be arriving on Sunday late night 3/13/16 until Thursday 3/17/16 .
    We are interested Doing one day bike riding ,, and doing something like the hot springs / kayaking the other day … If possible …
    Could you give me some tips … ? Thanks
    Joe

      You can definitely do both those things during your trip. Call the kayak company to see if they have any availability and you can rent bikes out in Boulder City. Have fun!

    Hi Kristen…I loved them all! Thanks and have a nice day.

    Heading out to LV Dec.18 – your site has been the most informative and I can’t wait to get there and spend some time outdoors! The strip is for after 5pm – who wants to be stuck in a stuffy building when it’s beautiful outdoors! Never been and hoping I can do the 6 mile hike – most I’ve ever walked in hilly terrain is 3 miles. What’s your take on the difficulty level of the hike to Arizona Hot Springs?

      It’s got some hills and it’s a little slick in some places, but nothing too challenging or technical.

    Great ideas! Any tips for places to stay for families that like this stuff better than “strip” stuff?

      Great question Jill! I would recommend checking out AirBnB so that you can select a private place to stay that is a little bit off the “strip” and you can personalize it to exactly what you are looking for.

    HI heading to Vegas on Saturday we are thinking of renting a car and heading out to the dessert. Wondering if people just pull off and spend a night in a tent. Is it worth bringing my gear? Oh coming in from Alberta Canada

    Thanks. Rose Ann

      There is dispersed camping in Lake Mead and organized campsites in Red Rock or Valley of Fire

    I just moved to Las Vegas from Colorado & thought my outdoor adventures would have to slow down. After reading your blog you have given me hope again. Thank you !!!!!!

      Awesome Angela. Vegas is full of fun stuff to do. Hope you are enjoying life there!

    Hi about how far is hoover dam from henderson? I’m going to visit this weekend and would love to go kayaking..

      Hey Felicia! Hope you had a great trip. It is about a 45 minute drive between the two.

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