The Vegas Strip is the hub for hotels, casinos, shows and fine dining. But the destination also offers access to the great outdoors with hiking trails, four-wheeling and a landscape sculpted by time. Restless travelers, adrenaline junkies and nature lovers can find a full range of things to do outdoors near Las Vegas.

You don’t need to travel far to access vibrant sandstone canyons or the snow-dusted peaks of Mount Charleston in the winter. Plus, the kind of adventure you have is completely up to you. Take in this surprisingly rich ecosystem from the saddle of a mountain bike or the seat of a luxury helicopter. Splurge on a flightseeing adventure or take a scenic drive for the cost of a state park day pass. Ambitious travelers can go all the way to the Grand Canyon on a lengthier day trip – it’s about four hours each way – but you can also have outdoor adventures just a short 20-minute drive from your hotel on the Strip.


Planning and Safety in the Great Outdoors

There are a few details to keep in mind as you research things to do outdoors near Las Vegas. In the summer, get an early start to enjoy the day’s best weather – and don’t forget to bring lots of water to stay hydrated. In fall, winter and spring, snow is unpredictable at higher altitudes. At any time of year, desert nights can be chillier than you might think. Also, be sure to check the park websites for hours and access. Most charge a per-car fee; many open early and close at sunset.

No matter when you venture out, the desert ecosystem can change quickly so be prepared and observe all safety precautions. Guided tours can alleviate any concerns around planning, transportation and weather conditions.

Hike, Bike, Climb, Gaze

Many of the trails in Mount Charleston start at 6,000 feet; the park tops out at almost 12,000 feet at Charleston Peak. Altitude means the weather can change in a moment; summer storms can bring lightning and, for the rest of the year, snow. Arrive prepared and check in at the ranger station for a forecast and advice on where to hike. Hikers will share designated trails with cyclists and equestrians. In winter, join the park’s guided snowshoe program (fees apply) or head to the full ski and snowboard resort at Lee Canyon. Give yourself an hour to drive to Mount Charleston from the Strip.

The ancient sandstone outcroppings in Valley of Fire State Park make for remarkable photos; get there at sunrise for the best light. Situated about an hour from the Strip, here you can hike to wind-sculpted arches, scramble through narrow stone passageways, and admire the wide range of colors in this geologic wonderland. Drop into the visitors center to get hiking recommendations and to find out which trails allow bikes or where you can go rock climbing.

For stargazing to rival the lights on the Strip, drive about two hours west to Death Valley National Park. The park has a free night-sky ranger program – check the park’s calendar to confirm dates and times – but you don’t need a guide to appreciate the blanket of stars overhead. Death Valley is the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America, with Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level. The International Dark Sky Association gives Death Valley its highest rating – so while binoculars or a telescope are handy additions to your gear, you’ll see a staggering amount of detail even without them. Always check the forecast before you head there, as this unmatched ecosystem changes frequently and visitors’ services are limited.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers a full menu of outdoor activities about a half an hour from the Strip, including a 13-mile scenic drive, miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking and road biking. Heads up: The scenic drive through Nevada’s first conservation area requires reservations for entry between October 1 and May 31. One popular time to explore here is during wildflower season, which is typically from mid-March through early May. If the landscape looks familiar to you, it’s because the canyon appears in hundreds of movies and TV shows.

Guided Adventures from Water to Sky and Everything in Between

Choose your own adrenaline level and drive a four-wheeler with Awesome Adventures. Take a single- or two-seater down to the Colorado River, explore a gold mine, and take in the scenery of Eldorado Canyon. There are age, weight and licensing requirements for passengers and drivers, so review those before you book. Tours include all the gear, pickup, water and lunch, and they’ll teach you how to drive your ride.

Want someone else to do the driving? Pink Jeep Tours ventures off the Strip and into nature. For a full day out, head to the Grand Canyon; you’ll have a few hours in the park plus the ride out and back. For less road time, spend half a day at either Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area or Valley of Fire State Park. Pink Jeep guides are experts in the natural and cultural history of the region; you’ll learn about the geology that shaped the landscape and the people who made their homes in the Nevada desert. Children over 3 years old are welcome, making this a fun, family-friendly way to experience the outdoors. And yes, the ride is bright pink, whether it’s the tour trekker or the open-air, off-road four-wheeler.

You’ll do the paddling but EZ Kayak Tours & Rentals will provide everything else for a stunning kayak adventure to Emerald Cave. Kids can participate but check the age requirements before you book; they’re different for the kayaks and the shuttle from the Strip. Beginners needn’t worry; experienced guides will have you comfortable on the water in no time. The changing light reflected on the water in the cave is always beautiful, but there’s wildlife too; in the right seasons you might see bighorn sheep, coyotes and eagles.

For the ultimate overview of Vegas and the surrounding landscape, go up in the air with Maverick Helicopters. The ECO-Star helicopters are designed for safety and noise reduction – and every seat on this flightseeing adventure has an outstanding view. For the golden light – and the bright lights of the Strip at night – take the sunset tour. Land at a private viewpoint, partake in a champagne toast, and say “Cheers!” to the natural beauty surrounding the dynamic city of Las Vegas.

Arts and Engineering

The brightly colored boulders of Seven Magic Mountains are not a mirage. They’re a large-scale art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. This delightful shock of color in the Nevada desert is free to visit, though the Nevada Museum of Art welcomes contributions toward the maintenance of the site.

Combine a trip to see Seven Magic Mountains with a visit to the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, as both locations are about 20 miles from the Strip. The site contains over 300 rock art panels, and some 1,700 designs spanning thousands of years of history. Check in at the visitor’s center to walk the Petroglyph trail and remember that the park limits visitor numbers to protect this fragile and important site.

A 900-foot-tall monument to innovation and audacity, Hoover Dam was once the tallest dam in the world. Tour the visitor’s center to learn how this enormous feat of engineering came to be and take in the jaw-dropping views from the observation deck. The full tour includes the inspection tunnels and a ride on the original elevator to the top of the dam. Plan for an hour’s drive from Las Vegas and go early to beat the crowds at this popular attraction.

Explore More Vegas

The striking red landscape, the reflective light in Emerald Cave and the views from Hoover Dam – they’re all a photographer’s dream and an essential addition to your Vegas itinerary. You’ve probably worked up an appetite with all this exploring, so check out our must-try restaurants and enjoy this incredible destination!