There's more to Vegas than casinos and nightclubs, Daria Bachman of the Discovery Nut shares the best things to do outside Las Vegas that are off the strip.
Las Vegas is known around the world as a mecca of gambling and entertainment. While this stereotype certainly rings true on the Las Vegas Strip, there is far more to Sin City than endless casinos and glowing neon lights.
Things to do Outside Las Vegas – Away from the Strip
After you spend several days partying and visiting all of the staples of the Las Vegas Strip, take a trip away from hustle and bustle to discover the places that few tourists in Las Vegas know about.
After all, this city is home to some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Southwest, amazing hiking trails, and towering mountains, so your trip is not complete without venturing out in nature.
1. Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area
Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area is arguably the most popular outdoor spot in the Las Vegas area. Located just 25 minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip, the area is commonly referred to as Red Rock by locals and tourists.
The area is home to a number of trails that are suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced hikers. It is also one of the top destinations in the United States for rock climbing, and it's not uncommon to see rock climbers hanging off the bright orange cliffs around the park.
Entrance to the park costs $15. If you plan on visiting other national parks especially in the neighboring Utah or California, I recommend purchasing an $80 America the Beautiful Pass which covers most of the national parks in the United States. With an average cost of $35 to enter the park, the pass will pay off very quickly.
To get to Red Rock Canyon, take Interstate-215 toward west and exit at West Charleston Boulevard. Continue driving west toward the entrance of the 13-mile loop.
2. Valley of Fire State Park
Located about one hour away from Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is the largest state park in Nevada.
Home to ancient petroglyphs, sweeping vistas and jagged sandstone formations, Valley of Fire can take an entire day to explore.
Additionally, the park also has a number of campsites for those who want to stay there in RV's or tents.
The entrance to the park costs $15 and you will get a map with all of the spots at the entrance booth.
While Valley of Fire is a great spot to visit at any time of a year, you should be aware of the dangers of the extreme heat that lasts from late spring through early fall in the Mojave Desert.
If you are not accustomed to high temperatures, make sure you have enough water and snacks for your trip.
To get to Valley of Fire, hop on Interstate-15 and drive north about 50 miles. As you get close to the park, you will see a big brown sign on the right side of the highway.
Get off Interstate -15 and turn onto the Valley of Fire Highway. The gas station across from the truck stop on your left side is the last place to buy food, water, and gas before you get to the park.
3. Mount Charleston
Seeking cooler temperatures amid the triple-digit heat of Sin City? Mount Charleston is the highest peak near Las Vegas that stands at 12,000 feet and provides a quiet retreat and plenty of opportunities for a physical exercise.
Part of the Spring Mountain Range, Mount Charleston is located about 35 miles away from Las Vegas and has countless hiking trails of varying difficulty.
If you are ready for the ultimate adventure, hike a 17-mile trail to the top of Mount Charleston. The hike will take you through green meadows with bright wildflowers and will test your hiking skills, as it goes along steep curves.
When you reach the top, you will be treated to an amazing panorama of the vast desert below you, so make sure you spare enough time to take in all of the views.
The Mount Charleston area has over 200 campsites and over 150 picnic areas and designated spots for RV. And for those who are seeking a more comfortable way to relax, Mount Charleston Lodge provides 24 cabins and a full-fledged restaurant.
If you visit Las Vegas in winter, Mount Charleston's Lee Canyon is the place for skiing and snowboarding. Keep in mind that it gets pretty crowded on weekends, however, even if you don't want to do any sports, it's always fun to see snow in the desert.
4. Gold Butte National Monument
If you are looking for a true wilderness paradise where a few locals let alone tourists venture, take a trip to Gold Butte National Monument.
Designated in 2016, this spectacular monument covers close to 300,000 areas of the rugged Mojave Desert which is home to amazing rock art sites and the critically endangered desert tortoise.
Here you will find a few trails and no public facilities. The area, however, boasts dark night skies and several camping spots, so if you are looking to do some stargazing in a quiet place, Gold Butte is the place to visit.
The area only has one paved road that leads into the monument and if you want to drive through the area and visit all of its landmarks, you will need a four-wheel drive.
To get to Gold Butte National Monument, you need to take Interstate-15 north. Take Exit 112 toward Riverside/Bunkerville and go south from there. After you cross the bridge over the Virgin River, make a right turn and drive straight until you reach the entrance of the park.
5. Black Canyon
Located in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Black Canyon sits right below the well-known Hoover Dam.
Head to Willow Beach if you want to kayak or boat through Black Canyon Water Trail that meanders along sheer cliffs, remote coves, and sandy beaches. Willow Beach also offers a full-service marina, kayak rentals, and a campground.
If you take a kayaking tour, check out Emerald Cove, a secluded spot with bright green water and shimmering light that make for a stunning photo opportunity.
To get to Willow Beach, head toward Boulder City and turn left on US 93 across Hoover Dam. Drive for about 13 miles on Highway 93 before making a turn to Willow Beach Road.
6. Eldorado Canyon
One of the most amazing Wild West places in the southwest is located at the intersection of the Colorado River and Black Canyon about 40 minutes away from Las Vegas.
Home to the Techatticup mine, Eldorado Canyon marks the end of the Black Canyon Water Trail. However, it wasn't Eldorado Canyon's geographic location that gave it notoriety.
In the 1800's it was one of the most crime-ridden and lawless places in the United States. On top of being one of Nevada's richest goldmines, Techatticup mine was also very remote and it was not uncommon for those who worked there to resolve conflicts through physical altercations.
Today, Eldorado Canyon is a popular place for photographers thanks to its photogenic features.
- Important note: If you plan on taking photos for things like blogs or anything that goes beyond just snapping photos on your smartphone, make sure to purchase a permit at the main store that is located on site.
To learn more about the history of the place, take a guided tour through the mine. There's only a limited number of spots available and they tend to fill up quickly, so it's better to book your spot over the phone especially if you travel during summer months which is a peak season for the Las Vegas tourism.
7. Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
Otherwise known as Sloan Canyon, this area boasts gorgeous desert scenery, several hundreds of petroglyph panels and a number of great hikes.
One of the most challenging and rewarding hikes within Sloan Canyon is the Black Mountain trail which leads you toward the top of the peak overlooking the southeastern part of the city and the Las Vegas Strip.
While the hike could be challenging during the hot weather, it's a great place to exercise when temperatures cool down.
Get Out of Vegas
Whatever brings you to Las Vegas, it's important to get out of the touristy area and see some of the area's greatest natural gems. Whether you like hiking, kayaking or even rock climbing, Las Vegas has it all.
Next time you visit Sin City, make sure to get outside into the places advertised into the glossy tourist brochures and enjoy the beauty of the desert.
The Discovery Nut is a website about traveling to the less discovered locations and encouraging others to get out of their comfort zone.
Daria Bachmann has founded The Discovery Nut as she wanted to share her passion for traveling to the less known places through writing and videos that can be found on her website and YouTube channel.
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