Around Las Vegas: Great Places for a Drive
1 hide detailAmerica's largest man-made lake
Our Local Expert Says:
Stop at Callville Bay and take the short Callville Trail hike for spectacular views of Lake Mead and the surrounding mountains in this jewel of the Mojave Desert, just a short drive from Las Vegas.
With over 500 miles of shoreline, Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers world class fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking and canoeing, scuba diving, hiking, camping, desert vistas and roadside sightseeing. The contrasts between water and desert, mountains and flat lands, blue skies and colorful desert rock are astounding. The North Shore Drive is an adventure as the road follows the shoreline, cutting through canyons and crossing mountains. The countryside is a collection of rock formations formed by wild weather and volcanic activity. Don't miss the Lake Mead Visitor Center, also called the Alan Bible Visitor Center, with its interactive exhibits and historical artifact displays.
2 hide detailOther-worldly rock formations on the edge of Lake Mead
Our Local Expert Says:
Atlatl Rock has numerous petroglphys, a picnic area, and a campground nearby.
Nevada's oldest state park, founded in 1935, is where red sandstone monoliths and the Mojave Desert meet. Petroglyphs, some almost 3,000 years, old tell the stories of the Anasazi. Petrified trees tell of a time when this ancient valley was lush with vegetation.
Located about an hour outside of Las Vegas, the Valley of Fire sits on the edge of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Its remote location and brilliantly colored rock formations are a favorite of photographers, film makers, and nature lovers. Far more lightly visited than Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire is a great place to really explore the desert. Petroglyphs are abundant here, and wildlife is easy to spot (since there are so few people). Look for big horn sheep, coyotes, ravens, tarantuallas, and other desert dwellers. Stop at the visitor's center to learn about the history, geology, and flora/fauna of the Valley of Fire.
Star Trek fans may recognize the area around White Domes, a land with brilliantly contrasting sandstone formations, as the place where Captain Kirk died. You'll also find the remnanats of an earlier movie set if you take the hike at White Domes--it's a moderately challenging trail that requires rock scrambling at the beginning, and which leads through an amazing slot canyon. Slot canyons, found throughout the Southwestern United States, allow a person to stand in the middle of the canyon and touch both sides. Dangerous during flash floods, these fascinating paths through the rocks are intriguing and beautiful.
For a short and easy trail, try Mouse's Tank. The trail allegedly got its name because it was a hideout for a Paiute named Mouse, and the tanks are the tinajas (areas in the rocks that fill with water). Kids will love scrambling over the easy-to-climb rocks. Keep your eyes peeled along the trail for petroglyphs, and if you're there in the evening, watch for the bats that are out swooping up bugs as the sun goes down.
Valley of Fire offers camping, hiking, picnicking and spectacular photography. It's a popular outdoor wedding location because of its striking scenery. The camping spots fill up fast in the cooler months, especially on the weekend, so if you'd like to camp here, arrive early. Park fees are often on a honor basis, but rangers do come through and check periodically.
3 hide detailScenic, one-way, 13-mile loop. Spectacular sandstone cliffs.
Our Local Expert Says:
The hilly, curvy road is a blast to drive--but look out for bikers and hikers.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area has one paved road through its protected lands. The Red Rock "Loop," as locals refer to it, is a 13-mile, one-way scenic drive that weaves past the spectacular rock formations in Red Rock Canyon. The road itself is great fun to drive--if you like winding, curvy, slightly hilly roads with no guardrails. The Loop is a favorite photo-shoot backdrop for car clubs of all kinds, precisely because it's a such an enjoyable drive. This is a one-way road, but in its former life, this road was two-lanes. Drivers who like to take it slow should move to the right and let the faster cars pass.
The first pull-outs on the Loop overlook the Calico Hills. These overlooks are crowded with tourists, hikers, photographers, and rock climbers. Take a good look at the Calico Hills and you're likely to find several climbers clinging to its vertical rock walls.
Sandstone Quarry is another popular stop along the Scenic Drive. Its name signifies exactly what it formerly was, and visitors who want to stretch their legs but not go for a hike will find this a good stop, but there are no picnic tables here.
High Point Overlook has a roomy parking lot and coin-operated binoculars. You can see the southwestern tip of the Las Vegas Valley from here, along with an expansive view of Red Rock's cliffs. If you can catch a full moon rising over the Calico Hills, it makes a great picture from this spot.
Further down the road, drivers will find picnic tables at Willow Springs, close to the Children's Discovery Trail and the Lost Creek Trail. (Experienced 4WD drivers may want to try Rocky Gap Road, which goes over the mountains here. Check on road conditions before attempting this drive).
Photographers adore the Red Rock Scenic Loop, and if you're in this group, plan on pulling over often. Red Rock's scenery appears frequently in movies, and it's also a favorite spot for weddings, romantic drives and picnics.
Visitors who don't want to hike or climb can still enjoy a drive along the Loop, which ends back at State Route 159. The Red Rock Overlook sits just off SR159, and it has covered picnic tables. Drivers can pull in here for a panoramic view of Red Rock Canyon, and there's no entrance fee. A short trail climbs a hill just east of the parking lot, and several benches give people the chance to stop and rest, or simply to stop and enjoy the view.
The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop is open from daylight to dark; hours change according to the seasons. Admission is $7 per vehicle.
4 hide detailA 2 1/2 hour drive through the Spring Mountains
The Spring Mountain Scenic Loop is an approximately 2 1/2 hour drive beginning at the intersection of U.S. Highway 95 and State Highway 157 (Kyle Canyon Highway, north of Las Vegas. The loop also includes State 156 (Lee Canyon Highway), and State Highway 158 (Deer Creek Highway), which connects Kyle and Lee Canyon Highways. The elevation gain from 2,500 feet to 8,500 feet present in a rich diversity of plant communities, from a desert basin dotted with Joshua trees to ponderosa pine and bristlecone pine forest. This scenic loop drive combines scenes of dramatic limestone cliffs, narrow forested canyons and panoramic views to the east of the basin and range topography unique to Nevada. A 30 degree temperature drop is not uncommon with the gain in elevation.
5 hide detailCasinos Galore!
When most people imagine Las Vegas, the first thing that comes to mind is The Strip—the four mile stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard with all the famous casinos and hotels. Bordered by Mandalay Bay in the south and the Stratosphere in the north, visitors can enjoy 30+ casinos which are attractions in themselves. Fabulous shopping, dining, and world-class entertainment can all be found here. Pick up the latest designer bag in the boutiques at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace Hotel Casino. Or peruse the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian Resort & Casino. Watch the dancing Fountains at Bellagio, or take in an imported Broadway show. Attempts have been made to make The Strip more pedestrian-friendly by adding footbridges, free shuttles, cable-pulled trams, and the Las Vegas Monorail (frequency and rates vary).