Get away from the charm of Las Vegas by spending time at these national parks which are within an hour of the Strip.
You might not think “outdoors” when contemplating a Vegas trip, but you’ll change your mind after reading about these nature spots that are located within a short distance from the Strip.
Tule Springs Fossil Beds
Parts of the Ice Age slap you in the face at this outdoor park. Sandy mountains dominate the landscape and sparse shrubs grow through cracks in the ground. The area has retained the same look for 200,000 years ago; fossils dating from that time period have been discovered here. Small animals dominate the scenery but you might view an occasional bobcat or coyote roaming the grounds. Otherwise there’s no developed facilities; it’s a very quiet place. With some luck you might find a fossil laying on the ground.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
For $8 you’re greeted by gorgeous mountainscapes, hiking trails offering beautiful views of the desert, small red canyons carved by ancient glaciers and undisturbed night skies for stargazing (read about the darkest night skies for stargazing). You can road bike, hike, rock climb or take the 13-mile scenery tour offering picturesque views of Nevada nature. You can also pitch a tent at the developed campground or the backcountry campground (located 5,000 feet above ground elevation).
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
There aren’t many areas where desert and snow collide, but this region (just 30 minutes away from Vegas) offers such a contradictory landscape. In the winter seasons you can ski and snowboard at the Las Vegas Ski and Snow Resort. In summer months locals escape the extreme heat of the valley by heading up Mt. Charleston byway to the top of Mt. Charleston at 8,500 feet elevation—relaxing in 20-degree cooler weather. With over 25 hiking trails, 7 campgrounds, 7 picnicking areas, 4 trails for bicycling and 4 trails for backpacking.
Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
Measuring 48,438 acres this conservation area represents one of the largest in the country. From lowland dry lake beds to volcanic rock peaks, you can view a variety of scenery. The main attraction area is the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Site, one of Southern Nevada’s most significant cultural resources. Certain areas of the park are open to cross-country hiking in addition to walking along designated trails.
Desert National Wildlife Refuge
It’s the largest National Wildlife Refuge outside of Alaska. There are four main areas to visit: Corn Creek, Alamo Road, Mormon Well Road and Gass Peak Road. 600 to 800 bighorn sheep roam the grounds every year but these animals can be difficult to find. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service there are:
- 320 bird species.
- 53 mammal species.
- 35 reptile species.
- Four amphibian species.
- 500 plant species.
Valley of Fire State Park
Red sandstone formations are the main attractions of this Nevada state park. The climate varies from 0 degrees in winter to 120 degrees during summer months. Visitors can hike and camp. You can even find rock art created by ancient culture.
Lake Mead Recreation Area
Lake Mead offers a variety of outdoor activities—hiking, road biking, ATV cruising, hunting, camping, backpacking, boating, kayaking, scuba diving and more. You can camp within the Lake Mead or Lake Mohave campgrounds or on primitive campgrounds in designated backcountry areas. If you’re feeling touristy, drive or find transportation to the nearby Hoover Dam.