The National Park Service is celebrating National Park Week from April 16 to April 24. During the week, admission is free to every national park, which includes Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Death Valley National Park. In addition to getting a break at the gates, many parks are offering hikes, programs, and other events.
Lake Mead is a short drive from Las Vegas. Naturally, you can enjoy all kinds of water sports on the lake, but you’ll also find some very interesting hikes there. On Monday, April 18, rangers will lead a hike along the Historic Railroad Trail. This trail is also sometimes called the Five Tunnels Trail because of the five tunnels hikers walk through. During the construction of Hoover Dam, a railroad was built to help bring in supplies. Tunnels had to be blasted through the rock to get to the construction site. Today, the tracks are gone, but the tunnels remain. Unlike many hiking trails around Las Vegas, the Historic Railroad Trail is flat—no trudging up steep hills or switchbacks. To learn about other hikes and events during Park Week, check Lake Mead’s website.
Death Valley National Park hugs the border of Nevada and California. Most of the park is in California, but a small portion extends into Nevada. It’s misleading to say that Death Valley is only a two-hour drive from Las Vegas because once you reach the park, its vast size allows you to explore for an entire day or longer.
Scotty’s Castle, in the northern part of the park, is a popular destination and is approximately three hours from Las Vegas. In the 1920s, “Death Valley Scotty,” born Walter Scott, was supposedly searching for gold, but his efforts kept running into pesky difficulties–or so he told the man funding his search. Scotty’s wealthy investor, Albert Mussey Johnson, started to wonder about Scotty’s gold mine. Johnson made a trip to Death Valley to check on the mine–and fell in love with the desert. There wasn’t any gold (as you might have guessed), but eventually there was a grand home: Death Valley Ranch—a.k.a. Scotty’s Castle. The National Park Service describes the building as ” … an engineer’s dream home, a wealthy matron’s vacation home and a man-of-mystery’s hideout and getaway.” Tours are given throughout the day and take about an hour. Cost is $11 for adults.