There are plenty of fun outdoor activities near Las Vegas for adventure seekers to fit into your travel plans! From hiking, biking and rock climbing to fishing and kayaking, the Las Vegas area has some of the best outdoorsy things to do that will make you want to go now!
Viva Las Vegas! It means “Long Live the Meadows”. But where are these so called meadows? Well, these outdoor activities are near the Las Vegas strip and they’re waiting for you to explore this fascinating region of the United States.
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Top Outdoor Activities Near Las Vegas for the Adventure Driven
It’s an automatic for anyone who visits Las Vegas to take a tour of Hoover Dam. After taking 5 years to build during the Great Depression, it opened in 1936 and has been controlling water ever since.
Bordering Nevada and Arizona on the Colorado River, this massive dam is one outdoorsy thing you must do when visiting Las Vegas. The Bureau of Reclamation tour alone draws 1 million visitors each year.
Take a jaunt up to the Observation Deck for an incredible 360 degree panoramic view of the Colorado River, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam itself. And, inside the visitor center, you can learn about the history and see the monstrous power system and how the dam actually works.
Today, nearing its’ 100 year anniversary, Hoover Dam is one of the most visited Las Vegas tourist destinations of the desert southwest.
PRO TIP: Before making plans to visit Hoover Dam, we highly recommend reading our 12 Hoover Dam Tour Tips While Visiting Las Vegas!
Valley of Fire State Park
Address: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040
I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing Valley of Fire State Park is to visit. Its’ 150 million year old brilliant red rock and Aztec Sandstone formations are what gives it its’ name. Located 16 miles south of Overton, Nevada, Valley of Fire State Park is a public recreation and nature preservation area that covers nearly 46,000 acres!
You can drive your rental car, van or small RV through the Valley of Fire. There are two main entrances to the Valley of Fire. One on the East and the other on the West side of the park.
And from personal experience, only an hour drive from Las Vegas, it’s totally worth the day trip to get there. Valley of Fire State Park has stunning scenic drives through panoramic vistas, great hiking trails, a place to view petroglyphs and even camping.
Check out their map to see where all the cool places to visit at Valley of Fire are. And be aware, the visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The rest of the park closes at sunset.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Want to see more red rock formations? Bring your bicycle and hiking gear to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159.
Just pay the small entrance fee at the visitor center. Then mount up or lace up and weave your way through 13 miles of Joshua Trees and vivid red rocks amidst the mountain backdrop. It’s a fairly easy ride with just a few hills.
Red Rock Canyon offers countless different activities; including a 13-mile scenic drive or bicycle tour along with great hiking and mountain biking trails. Adding to the many outdoor enticements, there’s rock climbing, horseback riding, wildlife and nature viewing, birding, and picnic areas. And, when you get a bit tired, the visitor center has indoor and outdoor exhibits as well as a book store.
If you flew into Las Vegas and don’t have a bike, no need for FOMO (fear of missing out). There’s a quite a few bike rentals you can connect with. They will pickup and deliver your bike at your cycling destination.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area – Mount Charleston
If you want to enjoy a quiet day hike, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is the place to run away to. The Spring Mountains are a mountain range that runs along the west side of Las Vegas and south to the border with California. There are 27 named mountains in the Spring Mountains. But, the star of the show is the 11,918′ Mount Charleston, the big boy of the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.
The entire 316,000 acre region is administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The area runs from low meadows all the way up to the peak of Mount Charleston. The SMNRA is a part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The Spring Mountains are home to over 35 tree species and 1000 species of Nevada’s flora.
But, while Spring Mountains are beautiful to look at from a distance, hikers can take in the hidden treasures on their more than 28 hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous. Make sure you’re adequately prepared for your hike, mountain bike, backpacking or camping trip though because some of the backcountry terrain is rough. But the bragging rights and rewards are certainly camera worthy!
Depending on traffic, SMNRA is a quick 30 minute drive from downtown Las Vegas.
While you’re there, make it an overnight so you can also take in Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
8757 Spring Meadows Rd, Amargosa Valley, NV 89020
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is another of our amazing outdoor activities near Las Vegas; just a 90-mile drive. Known as the Galapagos of the Mojave Desert, Ash Meadows is located halfway between Las Vegas and Death Valley National Park.
Why we think Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is worth visiting is it is home to second greatest concentrations of endemic species in North America. 26 species claim Ash Meadows’ 24,000 acres as their only habitat in the entire world; including the Pupfish which are best known for their ability to survive in extreme desert hot spring environment since the Pleistocene period (ice age).
According to the National Park Service as of 2022, there are 175 Pupfish that reside in Ash Meadows’ NWR hot springs. But seeing this amazing endangered species isn’t the only reason to visit Ash Meadows NWR.
There’s some great hiking and exploring to do at Ash Meadows. It’s a great place to just go and enjoy the serene and quiet environment. It’s wheelchair accessible boardwalks allow everyone to enjoy this piece of heaven that offers fantastic views. There’s also picnic areas, so bring your cooler lunch.
And lastly, Ash Meadows’ state of the art visitor center is quite impressive considering where it is and how far one must travel on the dirt road to get there.
Death Valley National Park
While it’s a 2 hour drive from the Strip, Death Valley National Park is one of the favorite outdoor activities near Las Vegas. Straddling eastern California and Nevada, it’s the largest National Park south of Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
Known for its’ climate extremes, Death Valley is the most intriguing because of its’ diversity in terrains, natural environments and all that lives there. It’s the continent’s hottest and driest spot. But also, it lays claim to having the lowest elevation; Badwater Basin that sits 282′ below sea level.
But that’s not just the only mysterious draw that encourages visitors to take the drive and explore the park. Death Valley National Park is known for Titus Canyon, with a ghost town and colorful rocks. And the Telescope Peak Trail weaves past pine trees. You certainly shouldn’t miss north of the spiky salt mounds known as the Devil’s Golf Course. But watch where you step, rattlesnakes live in Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. And, you can close your visit with a magnificent sunset perched atop Dante’s View that looks down to the salt flats.
There are so many outdoor activities and adventures that we hope you put this one on your Las Vegas travel itinerary. If you tent camp or bring your RV, you can score a campsite right in the park or be really adventurous and camp in Death Valley’s backcountry. If hiking is where adventure leads you, Death Valley National Park has over 100 hiking trails that will lure you to amazing views and experiences.
So, bring your hiking shoes and fill up your hydration pack because you’re going to need lots of water! Don’t forget your National Park Pass and get your NP passport stamped so you can show you survived the harshest environment south of the Canadian border!
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is located less than 20 miles from Nevada’s Las Vegas Strip. The monument is 35 square miles; stretching along US Highway 95 north of Aliante and Centennial Hills to Creech Air Force Base.
Administered by the National Park Service, Tule Springs Fossil Beds is the first National Park Service monument established (2014) to protect the Ice Age Paleontological discovers. It’s specifically dedicated to the preservation, public education, and scientific study of Ice Age fossils.
The 22,650 acre Tule Springs contains some of the oldest prehistoric fossils of extinct mammoths, lions, camels, horses, bison, dire wolves, and several other creatures that roamed what once were wetlands of the area; dating back thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. Tule Springs Fossil Beds also presents the perfect habitat for the Las Vegas Bearpoppy flowers.
Currently (2022), there is no visitor center, facilities or parking areas at Tule Springs. From TripAdvisor reviews, because it’s one of the newest National Parks, there’s not much in line of guidance and actual hiking trails. There are a few informational outdoor kiosks that explain the history. Visitors can get there by foot, bicycle, car, or bus.
NATIONAL PARK NOTE: Per NPS, since 1916, The Organic Act has directed parks to “conserve the scenery” and natural objects, including fossils. In 2009, the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act was signed into law, requiring parks to manage and protect fossils for scientific and educational values. Learn more about fossil policy and regulations in the National Park Service.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
10 Lakeshore Rd, Boulder City, NV 89005
Lake Mead is a reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam (above) on the Colorado River in the Southwestern United States. It is located 24 miles east of Las Vegas and shared by two states; Nevada and Arizona. Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States according to its’ water capacity.
Under the administration and support of the National Park Service, the 1.5 million acres surrounding Lake Mead (result from Hoover Dam construction) and Lake Mohave (result from the Davis Dam construction), they joined; creating an outdoor adventurer’s dream.
Today, encompassing a little under 250 square miles, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a popular playground for outdoor adventurers and explorers. Its’ 700-mile shoreline showcases spectacular cliff and canyon views present the ideal setting for outdoor adventures.
It’s the perfect place to escape the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas. There, visitors can enjoy all types of water activities such as kayaking and canoeing, fishing, scuba diving as well as an array of desert enjoyment too! It also offers several and ventures; camping, hiking, bicycling, camping, horseback riding.
Be aware, due to the region’s drought intensity, Lake Mead’s dwindling water levels, may affect some outdoor activities. The Lake Mead Visitor Center is 4 miles northeast of Boulder City on U.S. 93 at NV 166.
Emerald Cove – Black Canyon
Just 45 minutes from Sin City, you can escape the busy bright lights for a relaxing paddle in bright green water. It’s nothing like you’ve ever seen! And, it’s the perfect venue for those who would like to try their hand at kayaking.
Along the Colorado River, Emerald Cove, (some refer to it as Emerald Cave) is a sea cave system in the Black Canyon National Water Trail in Lake Mead. Emerald Cave is located 2 miles up river from Willow Beach. But, you can paddle down the 26-mile stretch of river through jagged cliffs, canyons, and the natural hot springs.
The reason for its’ brilliant emerald green color is due to a generous amounts of algae under the surface of the Colorado River. When the sun peaks through the canyon, it brings out an incredible emerald green that literally glows under and all around you.
Now, according to Female Hiker, “The only way to get to Emerald Cove is by boat, either through kayaking, canoeing, SUPing or your own motorized boat. It is only 2 miles from Willow Beach shore, and if you only wanted to do Emerald Cove you could easily do the trip in 1.5-2 hours.”
You need to park at Willow Beach, Arizona which is 50 minutes from Las Vegas or 1 hour from Kingman, Arizona. To enter, you will need to purchase a Lake Mead Pass at the entrance station.
If you feel comfortable going by yourself, just be prepared and know proper kayak safety. But if you’re a little unsure of yourself or a beginner, I highly recommend joining in on an organized tour of Emerald Cove.
PRO TIP: Be honest about your paddling abilities. Because there is no cell phone signal in the Black Canyon to call for emergency rescue service! We recommend to keep close eye on your watch, not only a cell phone to keep track of time! Make certain you leave a FLOAT PLAN with loved one back at the beach.
Weather in the Las Vegas region
It’s important to be aware of the weather and temperatures in the Las Vegas Region and all of those listed above.
The best time to visit Las Vegas is from March to May and from September to November. While you’ll find plenty of travel deals throughout the year, the spring and fall shoulder seasons offer the most moderate weather.
The hottest month in Las Vegas is July with an average temperature of 92°F. August is the month with the most sunshine hours. However, Death Valley is much hotter, so plan your hydration accordingly. Always bring more water than you think you need.
The coldest month is December with a lows in the 30s at night and highs of upper 50s and 60s in the day.
This region of the country rarely gets snow with the exception of Mt. Charleston and Spring Mountains. But Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park have been known to get an occasional dusting in the winter. That said, new fallen snow makes for beautiful photography against the red rocks.
And lastly, if you’re hiking in low lying areas such as Death Valley and near rivers and streams, be aware of flash floods and stay out of the desert washes.
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Final thoughts on our 9 top outdoor activities near Las Vegas
Now you have plenty of outdoor activities near Las Vegas to plan for! The bright lights of Sin City are the big draw. However, you really need to plan some time to experience the amazing outdoorsy things. In fact, there’s so much you can do near Las Vegas that you’re going to want to plan another trip to take it all in.
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