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Vegas’ Great Outdoors: Eight Breathtaking Attractions You Need To See Now

Last updated: June 20, 2018 at 12:00 pm. Posted by in Things to Do in Las Vegas. Comments Off on Vegas’ Great Outdoors: Eight Breathtaking Attractions You Need To See Now.

Need a little breather from the hustle and bustle of the Strip? There are plenty of attractions on the Las Vegas Strip, but here are things to do in the Vegas, the great outdoors edition. Don’t worry — this is not a geography lesson. It’s more like jumping into a “Wish You Were Here” postcard. You’ll end up having a blast and schooling your loved ones on why they should check these desert beauties out. Be prepared to be wowed:

Las Vegas Points of Interest: Outdoors Edition

Valley of Fire is about a one hour drive from the Las Vegas Strip

Valley of Fire. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair.

Valley of Fire

The neon lights of the Strip have some serious competition because Valley of Fire State Park is a natural beauty. Located 50 miles north from the city (about an hour drive), Valley of Fire bursts with illuminating, vivid colors. (That’s right — #NoFilter needed.) You’ll see splashes of bright red at every turn, as well as breathtaking sunsets.

The 36,000-acre Valley of Fire park gets its name from its fiery red sandstone. And while we’d all love to claim bragging rights of calling Valley of Fire home, only animals (like kit foxes, coyotes, rattlesnakes and bighorn sheep) live here. Visiting is highly encouraged – the park gets thousands of visitors a year.

This park also has fun rock formations in shapes like a piano or elephant. There are also plenty of other indiscernible shapes, but feel free use your imagination. You can relive your childhood days of cloud-watching and come up with your own ideas.

Valley of Fire is a popular place for picnics as well as camping, especially in the fall. And of course, all you hiking aficionados will get stellar photos.

Grand Canyon

If you have even more time to spare while you’re in Vegas, the majestic Grand Canyon makes for an ideal day trip. Sure, you might have seen it in brochures, TV and online, but none of these do justice for this massive natural wonder. It’s been around forever too: We’re talking millions of years.

If you’re driving, the South Rim is the most accessible. Tour buses can take you out to the West Rim, where you’ll find the Skywalk glass bridge, which sits 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. But no need to worry — it holds millions of pounds and can take the strongest of winds. (You can always link arms with your buddy too!)

If you’re an adventurous hiker, the Grand Canyon is the place to do it. When you get to the bottom of the canyon, you can cool off in the Colorado River. Take a refreshing dip or if you have the energy, do a smooth water or whitewater rafting adventure. No matter what you do (whether it’s camping, hiking, rafting or plain sightseeing), we implore you to bring a hat and sunscreen, especially during summer. You want to remember your day at the Grand Canyon and a sunburn shouldn’t be your memento.

Hike, bike and climb in Red Rock Canyon it's a short thirty five minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip

Hike, bike and climb in Red Rock Canyon. Photos courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

Red Rock Canyon

Short on time and Grand Canyon is out of the question? Save Grand Canyon for your next trip and head to Red Rock Canyon, which is about half an hour southwest of the Strip. Since it’s so close, it gets more than a million visitors each year. This includes both tourists and locals. Plus, the 13-mile scenic loop around the canyon is a real treat.

Like the aforementioned Valley of Fire, Red Rock has tons of, well, red rock. But it’s more than just bright red boulders — you’ll discover everything from pictographs and waterfalls to hundreds of different animal species. If you’re lucky, you might see rabbits, bighorn sheep and wild cats (be careful around these guys!). In addition to gorgeous rock formations, there are colorful plant life and various cactus plants. Since Red Rock is so close to the city, we say you have time for a long, pleasant picnic.

Located forty miles from the Vegas Strip, Mount Charleston is another nearby destination

Mount Charleston. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair.

Mount Charleston 

Located about 40 miles northwest of the Strip, Mount Charleston is another nearby nature destination to escape the heat. If you’re a fan of greenery and fresh, crisp air (like me, a Pacific Northwest native) and really want to escape the desert landscape, Mount Charleston is for you. Plus, nothing tops cool mountain breezes in the summertime, right?

Vegas is full of palm trees and cactus, but here you’ll find juniper and Ponderosa pine. You might even spot some deer. (Are you sure we’re still in Vegas?) The Mary Jane Falls trail is popular since it ends in a waterfall. You’ll want to go during the cooler months since this is when the flow is most prosperous. The water is fresh, so tons of hikers take advantage to refill their water bottles.

More of a winter person? You’ll be surprised you can actually snowboard and ski nearby during the chilly months. Located not too far from Mount Charleston is the ski and snowboard resort, better known as Lee Canyon. Again, another unlikely activity a lot of visitors do in Vegas.

Hoover Dam - Places to visit around Las Vegas

Hoover Dam. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair.

Hoover Dam

In the voice of Martin Payne: Daaaamn, Gina! That’s what you’ll be saying when you go to the world’s most breathtaking man-made wonder, the Hoover Dam. Like the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam is something you’ve probably caught on TV or seen in photos. But it’s one attraction you need to see in person. It’s an easy 45-minute drive from the Strip, where you’ll be right along the Nevada / Arizona border.

See why more than a million visitors come here each year. The Hoover Dam towers more than 700 feet over the Colorado River. If you take a tour, you’ll have access to see the larger-than-life generators. To give you an idea just how large they are, they make the “Transformers” characters look like little action figures.

Visit Lake Mead, which is one of the largest man-made lakes

Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

We’ve talked about red rocks, lush trees and even snowy mountains. But how does a place a place like Vegas even have a lake? We kid you not. Take lake selfies and hashtag #Vegas and people will lose their minds.

Located about 30-40 minutes from the Strip, Lake Mead is one of the country’s largest man-made lakes. You can do just about everything at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, from kayaking and jet skiing to swimming and camping near the water. Curious where this body of water comes from exactly? It sources its water from the nearby Hoover Dam, which gets its water from the Colorado River. See? Everything is connected.

Seven Magic Mountains

If you’re driving from Interstate 15 from Los Angeles to Vegas (or vice versa) or plan on driving about half an hour away from the Strip, Seven Magic Mountains is a fun, colorful tourist spot. You’ll snap a bunch of cool photos in a matter of minutes. And trust us — these are the type of photos that gain all the likes.

This pit stop has colored rocks for a reason: According to artist / creator Ugo Rondistone, Seven Magic Mountains is a representation of the natural versus the artificial: The mountains and desert represent the natural element, while the artificial being the highway and traffic. Even if you don’t have the best photog skills, you’ll still come off as a pro. Let the rocks do all the talking.

Looks like this is going to stick around for a long time, too: The art installation got extended for another year, so you have time to mosey on over.

Springs Preserve

We’ll leave you with one of our favorite nature attractions that’s actually in town — the 180-acre Springs Preserve. Not only is this a suitable place for your little ones, you too will enjoy a nice getaway only 15 minutes northwest from the Strip. Plus, with events like the occasional ice cream social for the younger crowd and a beer and blues music festival for the grown-ups, it makes this off-Strip getaway even more appealing.

Make sure to stroll through the eight-acre botanical garden. It has more than 1,200 species of native and desert-adapted plants and hundreds of different wildflowers, vegetables, herbs, roses, cactus and more. Ready to take on a more challenging walk? The Springs Preserve has a trail that leads to a desert wetland, home to hundreds of native plants and wild birds.

If you are traveling with the kiddos, make sure to check out the flash flood exhibit inside the Origen Museum. You’ll feel the re-creation of a desert flash flood — 5,000 gallons worth. The animal habitat is another popular exhibit, where you’ll see everything from gray foxes and desert cottontails to snakes and creepy crawlers like scorpions. If you want to come home with mad skills, the on-site Divine Cafe offers cooking classes. There’s also an impressive menu if you just want to satisfy your appetite.

Honestly? It’s best to choose your own adventure. Wandering around the Springs Preserve at your own pace is entertaining on its own.

Love what you read and want to know more off-Strip adventures? Check out more of our favorite Vegas attractions.

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About The Author

I live for a crazy Vegas adventure, but not in ways you may think. Sure, our nightlife scene is all fun and dandy, but I love hitting up all the city's vegan spots, having staycations and catching shows by my favorite musical acts. Since I've ditched rainy Seattle 20+ years ago, I graduated from UNLV and covered Las Vegas hotel and entertainment articles for, the LA Times, Frommer's and our very own Total Vegas Blog. When I'm not writing, you'll find me hanging with my two girls, along with our shih-tzu and tiger cat.

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