Explore the many outdoor options during your Las Vegas stay
The absence of live entertainment, spas, nightclubs and dayclubs on the Strip during the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to rethink How to Vegas. Sure, you can gamble, you can go on a shopping spree, you can eat at some of the world’s finest restaurants and, with the unfortunate drop-off in tourism, it’s possible you could explore the Vegas Strip in ways that were previously near-impossible. All of those activities are encouraged, and despite some social distancing measures, they’ll definitely contribute to a joyful and fulfilling visit. But what if that’s not enough? You may not know it, but away from the Strip, Vegas is a mini-paradise for the everyday adventurer. There are mountains to climb, trails to explore, a man-made lake to admire and nature to observe. A new normal means it’s time to find a new way to experience Vegas. So, come on. Head outside and get off the grid with some off-Strip outdoor activities.
Take a Hike
Start off your morning by exploring one of the many hiking trails in Las Vegas. Near Lake Mead, right outside of Boulder City, is the Historic Railroad Trail (nps.gov), an easy 7.5-mile trek (round trip) that follows the old railway that transported machinery and supplies to Hoover Dam during its construction. Along the path, you’ll pass through five massive tunnels, which helps measure the scope of the dam’s construction and shows how the project was a major feat of engineering. Another great option for easy hiking trails is Lone Mountain Park. There’s a flat-ground desert trail that loops around the tiny mountain and offers great views of the city. But if you’d like to make that view even better, climb to the mountain’s peak.
If you decide to check out either of those hiking areas, remember that the weather may quickly reach triple digits, so bring a lot of water and don’t forget your sunscreen. If you’d rather not deal with the heat, however, Mount Charleston is a much cooler refuge, with temperatures nearly 20 degrees lower than in the valley. It’s home to the popular Mary Jane Falls and Cathedral Rock trails, to name a few, which are a little tougher and rockier than the previously mentioned trails, but the crisp mountain air and stunning scenery—as well as seeing a side of Las Vegas that you probably didn’t know existed—will make it all worth it.
If hiking doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want to observe and enjoy nature, that’s not a problem. The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve (cityofhenderson.com) is a tranquil place to view resident birds like roadrunners and verdin, as well as nesting American avocets and black-necked stilts. Go to Floyd Lamb State Park and you might wonder if you’re still in Las Vegas. The small oasis has lush vegetation, a quaint ranch and a few fishing ponds filled with ducks and geese—you’ll even come across a few peacocks. But if you want to see some nature without leaving your car, take a drive along the 13-mile scenic loop at Red Rock Canyon (redrockcanyonlv.org), where you’ll be able to view unique red rock formations and wide-open desert landscapes. If you feel compelled to leave the cool air-conditioning of your car, however, there are several observation points and overlooks where you can walk around and further explore the canyon.
In speaking of canyons, while it’s not Vegas, the Grand Canyon is too close to not be part of a Southern Nevada experience. If you don’t know where to start, try Grand Canyon West (grandcanyonwest.com). They offer a one-stop shop of ways to view the Grand Canyon and its surrounding areas, such as walking along the glass-paneled Skywalk or taking a helicopter tour. There’s also a convenient shuttle service that circulates through Guano Point, Eagle Point and Hualapai Ranch, allowing you to explore the West Rim at your own pace.
Take a Splash
Let’s face it—the desert heat can be oppressive, and standing in the sun for hours while hiking and observing nature could sound unappealing. But you can beat the heat by splashing around in cool waters. Lake Las Vegas Water Sports (lakelasvegaswatersports.com) is the total package for fun on the water, with electric boats, kayaks and paddle boards available for rent (reservations highly recommended). Or head a little farther down the road and you’ll find Lake Mead (nps.gov). It’s one of the nation’s largest man-made lakes, so there’s a lot to explore. But there’s a catch: During the pandemic, the lake is open to annual pass holders only, which costs $45 (and must be purchased online). Entry to the lake allows you to access relaxing beach areas, including Boulder Beach, and its several marinas, like Lake Mead Marina and Lake Mead Boat Harbor, where you can rent pontoon boats, sports boats and WaveRunners through Boating Lake Mead (boatinglakemead.com). Maybe all that water will remind you of something like the Bellagio Fountains, and you’ll want to head right back to what you came for: that fabulous Las Vegas Strip.