I always said, you can take the girl out of Alaska, but you can’t take Alaska out of the girl. Growing up surrounded by amazing nature I was constantly outside exploring. When I moved to Vegas my friends frequently asked me how I survived living in the desert for two years. Simple. I do what I did back at home, just in a lot less clothing! The area surrounding Las Vegas, Nevada has some amazing nature and lots of outdoor adventures and things to do to satisfy every outdoor lover’s need for exploration. With Las Vegas’ central location in the South West, you can easily explore hot springs, National Parks, kayak, rock climb, hike, bike, and even snowboard or ski! Next time you’re in Vegas and need a break from the strip, try one of these adrenaline-fueled outdoor activities near Las Vegas.
Most of these things to do in the outdoors require a car or going through a company because you will need to be properly outfitted. If you have any questions or think you need help planning one of these adventures I am just an email away. Remember the desert can be a dangerous place. Some of these activities, like long hikes or bike rides, can be better in the winter with cooler temperatures. Similarly, higher altitudes in the winter can mean snow and ice. Always tell a friend where you’re going, bring water and food and if you’re not experienced hire a guide to help you.
1. Go Hiking
Hiking in Mt. Charleston
Mary Jane Falls
View from the Mummy Springs trail
The mountain range, just west of Las Vegas, hosts a bevy of hiking trails in a climate that feels like North California. My favorite hike for beginners is Mary Jane Falls. While this hike is quite steep climbing about 1,000 feet, it’s fairly short, about 2 miles. The view from the top looking down at Kyle Canyon is worth it though. Don’t expect to see falls here unless it’s springtime or just rained.
Another one of my favorite hikes in this area is out to Mummy Mountain. It is a 5-mile hike out and back trail. The beginning has a decent amount of elevation gain, but once you reach the highest altitude the views are amazing. Make sure to pay your respects to Raintree, the 3,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine, which is thought to be the oldest living thing in the state of Nevada. Bring lots of water and a warmer jacket in the winter and fall. The temps drop down to freezing due to the elevation.
Gold Strike Canyon Hot Springs Hike
The secured ropes for climbing up and down.
View at the end of Gold Strike
This is a well-known secret among locals. It’s an awesome trek out to the Colorado River. During your hike, you can relax in a hot tub style hot spring and challenge yourself with minimal repelling. The tail head is hard to find, but if you’re coming from Las Vegas take exit 2 off I93 BEFORE you cross the Pat Tillman Bridge. At the end of the exit ramp, make a right at the stop sign and go down the hill into a dirt parking lot where you will see other cars and the trailhead sign. This hike can take up to 4 hours, includes 8 fixed ropes for climbing and while the elevation gain is minimal it has a reputation for “kicking my butt.” The first 1.5 miles or so is pretty easy walking through a dried up lake bed. After that, you’ll find the first obstacle if you use common sense you can make it down and up, but if you’re scared you can hire a guide or ask another hiker to help you. Make sure you’re not out after dark and are aware of your surroundings, look for white arrows, pointing to the trail. Bring snacks, water, have fun and BE SAFE!
If you want a group to hike with our need help planning check out Grand Canyon Tour Company They have great hiking options and are knowledgeable.
Lake Mead Hiking
Get away from the crowds with a private and intimate guided hike in a very small group. The hike is catered to your needs and even allows for quiet time if you want to meditate or do yoga in a peaceful natural setting. Since every guided hike is different, you’re guaranteed to escape crowds and connect with nature. They even provide you with backpacks and hiking poles as needed.
2. Kayaking & SUPing
Las Vegas may be located smack dab in the middle of the desert, but it’s close to the mighty Colorado River and Lake Mead, which means water sports like kayaking and stand up paddle boarding!
Kayaking in the Colorado River
My favorite Kayak trip goes up the Colorado River with views of the Hoover Dam! Along the way, you can spot wildlife and explore Emerald Cave, which is really as green as it looks!. There’s a great new company in town that just opened up called Blazing Paddles and they offer great tours of the Colorado River. If you happen to be in Vegas during a full moon, don’t miss their full moon evening tour, with glowing Kayaks! I had a few friends who were kayak guides for this company and the owner is from my home state, Alaska. They are fantastic!
Kayaking and SUPing in Lake Mead
Lake Mead is a great place to explore by kayak or stand up paddleboard. If you prefer to just relax by a body of water other than a pool, just hang out by the beach for the afternoon and soak up some sun. The water is nice and warm so my favorite thing to do is kayak out to the little islands and swim around. This lake can be quite dangerous, due to high winds, so please always wear a life jacket and don’t go into the lake when windy. I know we were bad girls in this photo, but we had life jackets in the kayak and there was no wind.
If you want to head out to Lake Mead, check out Kayak Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is a haven for cyclists. With stunning scenic routes just outside the city, you can get your daily dose of exercise with a killer view! Don’t worry there is awesome downhill mountain biking too, for us adrenaline junkies.
Road Biking in Las Vegas
Red Rock Canyon Loop
This is seriously one of the most beautiful bike rides out there! The main road is a 20-mile loop, starting on Blue Diamond Road, turning into Red Rock Canyon Road and ends at West Charleston Blvd. If that’s still not enough you can take the scenic route through Red Rock National Preserve, where you pay for entry starting at the visitor center and you get a bonus 13 miles of literally breathtaking red rocks, Joshua trees, and towering mountains. Most of this ride is fairly flat, with some hills. If you’re a bit too hungover and need the aid of an E-Bike rent from EZ Ride LV. They will provide E-bike rental, gear, pick up, and drop off.
Cycling at Lake Mead
If water isn’t your thing, but you still want to see the lake there are some amazing bike trails that run from Henderson-Bounder-Lake Mead and around the lake. This is a technical ride with hills and some serpentine turns thanks to land carved out by lava from ages ago. So, be prepared to have your booty kicked and bring lots of water to replenish all the sweat you’ll be losing.
Mountain Biking In Boulder
I never thought I was much of a mountain biker until I hit the trails at Bootleg Canyon. This is a great place for anyone wanting to get their feet wet into the world of mountain biking or the more advanced rider. Race down the mountain while the glittering lights of Las Vegas twinkle below you. If you want to head out on your own, I recommend checking out the shuttle that runs on the weekends or checking out the company I have listed below.
Check out Bike Blast Las Vegas for all your biking needs from mountain, road and city tours.
4. Rock Climbing
This outdoor activity near Las Vegas gets overlooked quite a lot, but it’s one of the most fun and challenging. The Mountains surrounding Las Vegas are perfect for climbing as they have amazing natural foot and hand holes. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner because there’s climbing for all levels and with the help of the Alpine Institute you can advance your climbing or get it started for the first time.
Looking to relax and explore a local side of Las Vegas, then check out my local hipster and geek guide, for a side of Vegas you didn’t even know existed!
5. Horseback Riding
Enjoy the red rocks and desert landscape surrounding Las Vegas with a horseback ride into the sunset. As the sun sets enjoy a BBQ dinner, including vegetarian options and watch the stars behind to shine. If you are an early riser, try a horseback ride with breakfast.
5. Cliff Jumping
Jump in the car and head out to a side of Lake Mead called Nelson’s Landing. You even drive through a cool ghost town along the way. If you’re unsure of where to jump, ask the locals jumping, but the water is clear enough to tell where you can and can’t jump. Be safe!
6. Jeep Rides and ATV Adventures
I was lucky enough to have access to a jeep while living in Vegas, but there are companies that will take you on a rocking adventure in the desert. The desert surrounding Vegas was made for hardcore off-roading with ATVs, dune buggies, and Jeeps. Buckle up for the adventure of a lifetime, it is seriously a blast! (Kayak not included and don’t worry you won’t get stuck in the mud either, we’re special.)
Check out this epic ATV tour that takes you to the Colorado River, around Lake Mead, and even stop at the Hoover Dam! Or ride in a rough and tumble 4×4 Jeep Wrangler and explore the stunning desert on this wild adventure.
7. Visit Outdoor Nature Centers
Las Vegas Springs Preserve
This preserve is 180 acres of wildlife walks, animal encounters, and geology, and other science exhibits. Learn about local animals and plants in an educational outdoor experience for the whole family!
333 S Valley View Blvd, Las Vegas, NV
8. Scenic Drives
If you prefer to stay inside the cool confines of a car for longer scenic tours there are plenty of drives in the area. The roads have pull outs so you can get out and explore or go on a small hike before hopping back to check out the next stop.
Valley of Fire
Appropriately named for the rocks that appear to be molded from fire, this is the oldest state park in Nevada. The park is less than an hour’s drive from Las Vegas and takes you into the heart of the desert for geology like nowhere else. The firey rocks are Aztec Sandstone that was created during the age of the dinosaur from red desert sands. The area has a decent amount of Indigenous carvings in the rock, which are pretty cool if you can spot them. There’s plenty of photo opportunities, animal sightings and trailheads for longer walks into the wilderness. While this is easily accessed with a personal car, you can also book a tour for a scenic ride or a hike through the area. Whether you want a rough and tumble 4×4 adventure, a tour with photography assistance, or a more active guided hike there is something for you.
Red Rock National Preserve
This really is THE spot for top outdoor activities near Las Vegas. Instead of doing the loop on your bike, jump in the car for the same view with easier mobility. There are lots of convenient parking lots so you can pull out and stop along the way. My favorite thing to do is drive out there about an hour before the sunset, park in the second lot, and watch the sun sink over the red rocks.
Fun fact, this is also where my husband and I eloped. We met the mobile wedding wagon and hiked out to the desert in wedding flip flops and tied the knot!
9. Outdoor Photography
Some days I want to relax and find a good place to capture photos! I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you drive the Red Rock loop past the visitor center to watch the sunset, find the first parking lot after the switchback (it might be the 3rd or 4th one from the entrance of the Red Rock Preserve. Set up your camera on a tripod, catch the sunset then see the city light up over the hills.
10. Go Ziplining
No, I don’t mean go Ziplining over the stip! That isn’t outdoorsy enough for me. Head into Boulder the rough and tumble town next door and zip line over red mountain rocks in the mountains. Zip down 4 lines for a mile and a half of fun for everyone!
1644 Nevada Hwy, Boulder City, NV
11. Snowboard or Ski
Lee Canyon near Mt. Charleston turns into a winter wonderland for a few months over the season. This is a great hill for anyone wanting to try snowboarding as you won’t find black diamonds here, but you will have fun! If you’re a more advanced rider, and you’re willing to hike, there are actually some pretty good trails above the lift drop-off! Take a break with some nice hot chocolate in the lodge!
12. Take a Hot Air Baloon Ride
Get up early for a hot air balloon ride over the Mojave Desert. You even get a champagne or juice toast at the end of the 1-hour ride. This tour takes place just outside of Las Vegas so plan for an early and long day, but sunrise is one of my favorite times in the desert and it will be a great experience.
13. Explore Nearby National Parks
Las Vegas is near multiple National Parks, making it the perfect launching point for visiting the Grand Canyon National Park and Death Valley National Park or Zion National Park. Now if you ask me all three of these parks deserve more time to fully explore and appreciate them. All these tours are a long day, but if it is your only chance to see these amazing National Parks, then certainly take advantage!
14. Visit Antelope Canyon
Two of the most visited natural wonders in the United States Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend can be experienced on this long day trip from Las Vegas. These stunning natural areas are one for the bucket list.