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Outdoor Activities in Las Vegas – State Parks, Hiking Trails & More!

Key Points:

  • There are numerous opportunities to explore the outdoors within a short drive from Las Vegas including State Parks, National Parks, Lake Mead, geographic marvels, and historic sites.
  • Some of the closest natural attractions to Las Vegas include Red Rock National Conservation Area (20 mins), Valley of Fire State Park (60 mins), and Hoover Dam (60 mins).
  • My favorite outdoor attraction is the St. Thomas Ghost Town, which was covered up by Lake Mead but is again accessible to visitors.

Looking to escape the crowds, smoke, and constant commotion on the Strip? I’d suggest exploring the abundance of outdoor activities that lie just outside of Las Vegas that commonly go overlooked.

In fact, Las Vegas can be a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous opportunities to enjoy and explore the outdoors lying within day-trip distance.

According to a 2022 Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA) survey, 16% of visitors indicated they visited nearby attractions during their trip.

I thought it would be helpful to detail some of the most popular outdoor things to do in and near Vegas with the intent of helping others get outside!

Top Outdoor Activities Near Las Vegas

Hoover Dam (42% of respondents): Oversize structures are not uncommon in Las Vegas, but the Hoover Dam is a next-level, must-see attraction located about an hour away from the Strip.

Standing at 726 feet tall and measuring 2 football fields thick at its base, the dam is an engineering marvel. The dam itself holds back Lake Mead, which according to the US Bureau of Reclamation could flood the entire state of New York with 1 foot of water.  

Visitors are able to explore the outdoor portions of the Hoover Dam for free, but tours cost extra (and are worth it).

With over 40% of survey respondents indicating interest in the Hoover Dam, it easily ranks as the top outdoor thing to do near Vegas.

Related: Check out my recent day trip from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam – With a tour recap!

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead photographed from above on the bridge

Grand Canyon (39% of respondents): Ranking as the second most popular outdoor activity near Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon offers two different experiences – The South and West Rims.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon, while further from Vegas (4-hour drive), is the more scenic option, often referred to as the “real” Grand Canyon.

The West Rim is a touch closer to the city (2.5-hour drive) and features a Skywalk attraction that extends out 70 feet over the edge and gives you a great view of the bottom of the canyon, 2,000 feet below through the walkway’s glass floor.

Horseshoe Bend at the Grand Canyon

If you prefer to take the scenic route, or would rather not drive check out Grand Canyon Tours through Maverick Helicopters. Tour options include landings, or even walking out on the glass bottom Skywalk Odessey which allows for a harrowing walk over the canyon.

Lake Mead (24% of respondents): The massive body of water created by the Hoover Dam is a prime way for tourists to beat the heat and find peaceful water recreation away from the craziness of Vegas.

While boating in the desert may seem odd, I’d recommend renting a wave runner or pontoon from the Lake Mead Marina and spending the day on the water.

Some of my fondest memories involve ripping over the surface of Lake Mead with my wife on a Jet-Ski, exploring remote alcoves, and even tooling up to the backside of the Hoover Dam.

Aerial view of Lake Mead

Zion National Park (10% of respondents): Get away from Vegas and check out the Main Canyon, Narrows, Weeping Rock, and the stunning Angel’s Landing at Zion, which is a 2-3 hour drive from resorts on the Strip.

If checking out the Narrows, which you should, ensure you prepare for the weather and rent water hiking shoes as your feet will be getting wet.

From February to November, you’ll need to take the National Park Service free shuttle out of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center which runs every 7-10 minutes.

River cutting through Zion National Park

Death Valley (7% of respondents): Make the drive from Las Vegas, an oasis in the desert, to the lowest, hottest national park in the United States.

Make time for Badwater Basin, a salt flat sitting 282 feet below sea level as well as the Devil’s Golf Course which is terrain made up of jagged salt spires so rough only the Devil could play a round.

Dante’s View is a can’t-miss sight overlooking the previously mentioned Badwater Basin from an elevation of 5,475 feet.

There are also numerous ghost towns scattered about that are eerily fascinating. Death Valley is about 2.5 hours outside of Las Vegas by car so leave early and bring water. Lots of it.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley

Valley of Fire (7% of respondents): Valley of Fire is a Nevada State Park situated 58 miles (1 hour) outside of Las Vegas.

The park is named for the brilliant color of the sandstone formations that make up the landscape.

Among the many highlights of the park are petroglyphs that were left by prehistoric inhabitants of the valley.

I found the hiking trails at Valley of Fire to be an unbelievable experience. The trails are the perfect combination of challenging, scenic, and surprising. Uniquely, I encountered no less than 20 bighorn sheep during my half day in the park, oftentimes just feet away.

Although only 7% of respondents planned to make Valley of Fire a priority, I’d personally put it much closer to the top of this list of outdoor activities in Las Vegas. It’s stunning.

More details on my day trip from Las Vegas to the Valley of Fire State Park can be found here!

View of the road in the foreground and a bright red rock formation behind
Just gorgeous. Even from the road.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (7% of respondents): Another outdoor ogvbfrt3w2asis located a mere 20-minutes from the Strip is Red Rock Canyon, a national conservation area that offers a diverse set of hiking trails along a 13-mile scenic drive.

Like with Valley of Fire above, I really enjoyed the hiking at Red Rock, which ranged from easy to challenging. Of course, the trails were absurdly scenic, with my favorite being Ice Box Trail, pictured below.

More details on my day trip to Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas can be found here!

sun drenched peak in between the canyon walls
A sun-drenched peak in between the canyon walls.

Bryce Canyon (6% of respondents): A popular day trip from Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon offers stunning views from Bryce and Inspiration Points.

One of the most stunning features of the park though are the Hoodoos which are odd-shaped pillars of rock shaped by the forces of erosion over the years.

Natural Bridge at Bryce Canyon

Other Notable Outdoor Activities in Las Vegas

Although the outdoor activities below weren’t included in the LVCVA visitor profile survey I based this article on, they’re popular and deserve mention.

Seven Magic Mountains: An outdoor artistic display, Seven Magic Mountains are 7 stacks of colorful rocks that range from 30 – 35 feet tall.

Situated in the middle of the desert, these colorful pillars offer a notable contrast to the surrounding environment and have quickly become one of the more Instagrammable spots in Las Vegas.

Best yet, the outdoor art installation is a mere half-hour drive south on I-15 from resorts on the Strip.

Colorful rocks stacked at Seven Magic Mountains

Old Mormon Fort: Located a mile from Fremont Street, the Old Mormon Fort was where Las Vegas got its start in the mid-1800s.

Today, you can learn about the various owners and uses the fort site has had over the years, and explore an outdoor re-creation of the Old Mormon Fort Structure.

I recently stopped by – See my full review of the Old Mormon Fort.

A guard tower rises above the walls in the corner of the fort.

Ghost Towns: There are a number of ghost towns near Las Vegas that make for a great outdoor adventure.

The one I personally find most interesting is St. Thomas, a small town that flooded in the 1930s as Lake Mead filled in behind the newly completed Hoover Dam. The former Mormon settlement was first inhabited in 1865 and reached a population of around 500 people according to the National Parks Service.

With the recent drought, the town is no longer submerged and can be explored, however, only the foundations are left.

I recently visited – See my St. Thomas Ghost Town review.

Hanning Store ruins, with few walls standing and a chimney to the right.
St. Thomas Ghost Town

If you’re spending more than a short weekend in Las Vegas, taking a day trip away from the constant slot ringing, cigarette smoke and card flickers on the Strip can be a welcome getaway. While the opulent casinos get all the press, don’t overlook getting some fresh air.  

See Also: Learn more about Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation just south of Las Vegas.

Feature Image: ©nstanev/123RF.COM

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Saturday 8th of August 2020

Thanks for the info ! Stay well.

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