Vegas Day Trips in the Desert

The words Las Vegas conjure up images of glitz, glam and gambling but in reality, the “outside world” provides great desert adventures for your Vegas day trips.

Las Vegas, Nevada easily caters to outdoor enthusiasts, families, and to those who just want to discover and enjoy its nearby scenic desert landscape. Here are just a few things Las Vegas offers.

Entry market to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rocks form the entrance to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Day Trip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

For those who love to hike, rock climb and experience the desert nature; Red Rock Conservation Area is the place for you. This impressive state park is located about 15 miles off the Las Vegas Strip, and will leave you breathless with its 3,000 foot high red rock formations. Its highest point is the La Madre Mountain, standing at 8,154 feet. The park’s vibrant, unique red color comes naturally from the iron oxide in the rock.

Within the park lies a 13-mile scenic loop that is popular for biking, leisurely car drives and Harley rides. There are plenty of stopping points along the way for selfies and unforgettable family pictures against the gorgeous backdrop. The Red Rock Area offers something for everyone whether you want to hike, go horseback riding, rock climbing, biking, motorcycle riding or camping during the designated season.

The Visitor’s Center is worth the stop and features different exhibits that will teach your family the history of the area. The kids can also pick up a map to find the various hiking trails. You will have the chance to see an assortment of wildlife (the park is home to more than 200 species!) including burros, rabbits, eagles, mountain lions and coyotes.

This park has other attractions, too. Spring Mountain Ranch has the oldest buildings in Nevada, and you can tour an 1860s blacksmith shop, Sandstone Cabin and the ranch house. There’s also, in most years, an active Summer Theatre company. Ask about the authentic and original Indian handprints and petroglyphs found in the park.

Mount Charleston Day Trip from Vegas

Mount Charleston Lodge near the peak of Mt. Charleston.
Mount Charleston Lodge serves meals to hikers and skiers near the peak of Mt. Charleston.

Head up to the Northwest area of the city where the Las Vegas locals go to escape the summer heat or hit the snow for some winter sports. Mount Charleston is the beautiful green (or snowcapped mountain in winter months) escape from the desert. Situated roughly 45 minutes off the Las Vegas Strip, Mount Charleston will offer you activities for all seasons. The summer months bring plenty of outstanding campgrounds to pitch a tent and go explore, but there are also plenty of glamping opportunities for those seeking creature comforts.

The Retreat on Charleston Peak offers lodging for a few nights to enjoy a comfy bed, a lot of luxurious perks and a great hot meal in the fine restaurant. There’s also a bar and lounge area where parents can stop for their favorite cocktail. They offer different packages ranging from a romance package to a ski and snow option.

Ready for a hike on Mount Charleston? There are several hiking trails to enjoy during good weather that lead to some of my favorite scenic stops like Mary Jane Falls. In the winter, head up to Lee Canyon to go tubing, snowboarding or skiing.

Vegas Day Trip to Valley of Fire

Head about an hour from the Las Vegas Strip along the North East part of the valley to find a state park protecting the absolutely stunning Valley of Fire.

It’s easy to see where this unique area gets its name. Show the kids the rock formations that seem to be on fire while reflecting the sun’s rays. This is my family’s favorite place to hop on a motorcycle and spend the day riding. The rock formations and array of colors make for some wonderful snapshots. I promise you, the scenery on this stretch of road is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!

Stop by the Visitor’s Center with convenient restrooms, maps of campgrounds, RV parking areas, trails and other areas. There’s also a petrified wood yard and places to see Indian petroglyphs dating back 3,000 years, and a range of wildlife including foxes, roadrunners and black tailed jackrabbits.

There are endless places to set up camp, stop for a picnic, go hiking and take pictures! Stay a few days and make this a weekend adventure.

Vegas Day Trip to Lake Mead Recreational Area

Lake Mead seen from overhead.
There are several scenic routes to and around Lake Mead — all ideal drives after a desert hike.

If this is part of a longer road trip, take the opportunity to drive along the entire stretch ss you exit the state park that leads to Lake Mead Recreation Area. Follow this scenic route to make your way to the adorable town of Boulder City.

The Lake Mead region is perfect for the water junkie — jet skiing, boating, fishing, camping on the beach and water tubing and all of it right behind the famous Hoover Dam! There are places nearby where you can rent any equipment you might need to make for a memorable weekend.

Remember to bring a tub of sunscreen and plenty of water.

Tips for Outdoor Adventures in the Desert

Las Vegas does have a crazy and lively reputation, but it also has a laid back, scenic and outdoor adventurous side too.

Need a family-friendly hotel in Las Vegas? Stay longer in the area and you can do Deborah Walls’ favorite hikes (she’s a favorite guidebook author of mine and has great Las Vegas hiking ideas for younger kids.) Here are my top tips:

  1. During the summer season, be sure to carry plenty of water as the temperature can exceed 105ºF most days.
  2. Sunscreen, reapplied every two hours, is a must.
  3. Your family should exercise caution whenever in the outdoors.
  4. Always be on the lookout for rattlesnakes and flash flooding that can occur in the off trail areas without warning.
  5. Above all, have fun and enjoy the beautiful landscape of one of our favorite desert adventures around our Las Vegas home.

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