Las Vegas may be considered a place for having fun inside, but visitors are starting to discover the wealth of active adventures around the city. In the rugged terrain of the Mojave Desert surrounding Las Vegas, you’ll find an array of hiking, biking, and canoeing opportunities.
Want to see striking sandstone rock formations, hidden springs, and desert wildlife? Take a desert hike at Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, or around Lake Mead. Winter is one of the best times to explore the desert around Las Vegas. During summer, you’ll want to get an early start to beat the heat. Maps of hiking trails are available in each of these areas at either the entrance stations or the visitor center.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, just outside Red Rock Canyon, offers visitors hiking as well as historic buildings and a picnic area set in what was once an orchard. The oldest historic buildings at Spring Mountain Ranch date back to the 1860s. Hike to the top of nearby hills and you’ll get a great view of the main ranch house, a building once owned by Howard Hughes.
Bootleg Canyon, just outside Boulder City, attracts mountain bike riders from all over the world to take on the challenging trails rated “Epic” by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Thirty-five miles of desert trails traverse the canyon. Bicycle rentals are available in Boulder City at places like All Mountain Cyclery, close to Bootleg Canyon, and BC Adventure Bicycles near Boulder City’s Historic District.
For a calmer ride on mostly even ground, try the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail on the other side of Boulder City, heading toward Hoover Dam. A railroad had to be built to Hoover Dam when it was under construction, and this trail follow the train tracks that were set down for the trains that took supplies to the face of the dam.
On the far west side of Las Vegas, many bicycling enthusiasts “do the loop” at Red Rock Canyon, the 13-mile one-way scenic drive through the canyon. This is a feat for the very fit—the road is a winding, hilly stretch of asphalt that skirts the base of Red Rock’s cliffs. Most people drive up West Charleston to get to Red Rock, and two bike rentals shops are just a few miles outside the Canyon: Pro Cyclery, which rents road bikes, and Las Vegas Cyclery, which rents mountain bikes.
Using a tour company is probably the best way to sign up for a canoeing trip on Lake Mead or below Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Experienced guides can take you into remote and hidden areas in both places.
The vast expanses of Lake Mead offer a huge area to explore. Low waters have changed Lake Mead, exposing areas previously deep underwater and giving people a view unseen in decades.
The area just below Hoover Dam on the Colorado is spectacularly beautiful, with towering cliffs that make you feel very small. A knowledgeable tour guide can take you to the warm springs that are hidden at the bases of the cliffs. This area is often accessed by launching at Willow Springs (which is in Arizona), just on the other side of Hoover Dam.
Whatever your choice of adventures around Las Vegas, be prepared for a desert environment. Bring plenty of water, don’t forget some sunscreen, and be sure to let someone know where you’re going.