Strangely enough, there are those that even live in Las Vegas that aren’t aware of all the amazing outdoor and fun activities you can have in the Las Vegas area. However, there are tons of adventures you can get into with yourself or your entire family to enjoy as close as thirty minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip. From Red Rock Canyon, located just on the outskirts of Las Vegas to Zion National Park in Utah, you can spend weeks and weeks in the area just exploring all the sites and learning about nature and the beautiful rich habitat of the southwest. Yes, there is a lot more to Las Vegas than Gambling and Clubs, and none of the adventures require alcohol to enjoy making them perfectly to bring your kids.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a 2.5-hour drive away from Las Vegas. Located in Springdale, Utah, this national park features awe-inspiring views that may make some people want to stay for more than the day. The park is known for its variety of color with white, red, and pink rock formations among gorgeous greenery from the conifer forests and plethora of color from the wildflowers. The park has desert areas as well as ponds and waterfalls accessible by hiking trails. According to the NPS, Zion is home to 68 species of mammal, ranging from the petite kangaroo rat to the sturdy, surefooted bighorn sheep. The most frequent mammal sightings are mule deer, foxes, bats, bighorn sheep, and rock squirrels.
Joshua Tree National Park
A rich cultural history and surreal geologic wonders add to the mystique that resides in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. Spanning nearly 800,000 acres, the park can be quite unforgiving in the summer heat, but during the spring it’s a different story. In additional to the park, make sure you spend some time to explore the funky town, as there are number of artists and local businesses that you won’t find anywhere else. Mostly nocturnal animals include: snakes, bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, coyotes, and black-tailed jackrabbits. Animals that thrive in Joshua Tree often have special adaptations for dealing with limited water and high summer temperatures. The smaller mammals and all reptiles take refuge from the heat underground.
Bonnie Springs Ranch
Las Vegas tourists looking for a fun day trip with their kids should check out Bonnie Springs Ranch, a 115-acre area located around 30 minutes away. The ranch has Wild West-style fun for the whole family, including a zoo, train, museums, and horseback rides. The town is open Wednesday to Sunday, and has gun fights and shows to entertain visitors. In addition to the Old West attractions, Bonnie Springs has modern fun like karaoke and Sunday football viewing. The stables are open daily and has pony rides for children. Kids can see a variety of animals at the zoo, including wolves and a Canadian Lynx.
Only half an hour to 45 minutes from the Strip is Lake Mead, the 16th biggest man-made lake in the world. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is the perfect place to enjoy the sun and work on one’s tan during the day, and then head back to Vegas to party all night. There’s swimming, boating, hiking, and jet skiing for people in an active mood. There are also shaded areas for picnics and plenty of beach area for lounging around on the 820 miles (1320 km) of shoreline. Lake Mead offers year-round fun. Visitors are treated to unique views of lava hills, Joshua trees, bighorn sheep, and red sandstone rocks thanks to the positioning of the lake where the ecosystems of the Great Basin, the Mojave desert, and the Sonoran desert meet. Showers, restaurants, and other amenities make a trip to Lake Mead a pleasant experience.
Red Rock Canyon
For a good, long hike or just a short jaunt through nature, Red Rock Canyon offers tourists a relaxing day trip away from the bright lights of Vegas. The park has 19 hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult, and offers views of thousands of plants and wildlife. The wild tortoises and stunning rock formations are highlights for most visitors. A 13-mile (21 km) scenic drive is another popular option. Depending upon what time of the year people visit Red Rock Canyon, there are various events happening much of the time. Guided hikes, bird watching, and art projects are among the typical events. You can learn more from the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association
Take a 45 minute drive out of Las Vegas and you will arrive at the highest mountain in both the Spring Mountains and Clark County, Nevada. While most already know about the splendor of Red Rock Canyon, spending a spring day hiking or having a picnic atop Mount Charleston are among the best ways to enjoy nature in Nevada. You can also make a weekend of it by booking in at the charming Mount Charleston Resort. Mount Charleston is a large (56,600 acres) wilderness area that includes the highest peak in southern Nevada, Mt. Charleston (11,918 feet), and all of the higher elevations in the Spring Mountains. Much of the land over about 7,000 feet is included in the wilderness area. These mountains are rugged, with towering carbonate cliffs, steep hillsides, and deep narrow canyons. The highest, wind-swept summit ridges are barren, but the lower ridges and slopes are cloaked in a forest of ancient bristlecone pine. Lower down, extensive forests of ponderosa pine and white fir provide habitat for the Palmer’s chipmunk, a species that only occurs in the Spring Mountains. Below those forests, a Pinyon-Juniper Woodland dominates the landscape. The only herd of Rocky Mountain elk in Clark County can be found near Cold Creek. Snowmelt and a few springs provide water for wildlife in the high country.
Around 3,000 people travel to the Hoover Dam every day. At 726 feet (221 meters) tall, the enormous curved wall is an architectural marvel, that was constructed to control flooding, produce electricity and provide irrigated water. Visitors can tour the Hoover Dam, including a short video about the dam’s history and interactive displays. From the overlook, visitors get stunning views of the dam, Lake Mead, the Black Canyon, and the Colorado River. Tours of the power plant are also available for a small fee. The Hoover Dam is only 35 miles (56 km) south of Vegas in Boulder City. Drivers can reach the attraction on U.S. Route 93.
Valley of Fire State Park
Just one hour east of the Vegas Strip, Valley of Fire State Park is Nevada’s oldest and biggest state park with its founding dating back to 1935. Ancient trees and rock formations combine with 3,000 year-old petroglyphs left by early American Indians to create one of the most unique and beautiful areas in America. The name, Valley of Fire, comes from massive red sandstone formations created 150 million years ago. The uplifting and faulting coupled with erosion to create the landscape we see today. Humans are believed to have used the area from 300 B.C.E. to 1150 C.E. for hunting and gathering, but likely didn’t stay in the area long due to the lack of water. The desert plant life in the area is abundant, with creosote bush, burro bush, and brillte bush. The variety of cactus species include beaver tail and cholla make for great pictures, especially when the flowering begins in the spring. The roads in the spring are awash with color from the Desert Marigolds, Indigo Bush and Desert Mallow. Although there are plenty of animals in the Valley of Fire, many are nocturnal and not seen by the majority of visitors. Be on the lookout for many different kinds of lizards and snakes; and if you’re really lucky, you might spy Big Horn Sheep, Coyotes, Kit Foxes, Spotted Skunks, Black Tailed Jack Rabbits, and Antelope Ground Squirrels. Resident birds include the raven, house finch, sage sparrow, and roadrunner. Many migrant birds also pass through the park.
Lost City Museum of Archeology
The Lost City Museum of Archeology is in Overton, just north of the Valley of Fire, in the Moapa Valley. Formerly known as the Boulder Dam Park Museum, the Lost City is a must see for amateur archaeologists and students of history alike. The museum highlights the Pueblo Grande de Nevada, an ancient site showing signs of human occupation that is at least 8,000 years old. The extant ruins were founded by the Basketmaker people about AD 300. Later, the Ancestral Puebloans built a small town that was occupied until AD 1150. Laid out in the three wings of the museum building tourists will find a wide variety of archaeological treasures. Of note are the Anasazi artifacts and the original Pueblo foundation found by the US Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. The museum regularly hosts artwork by local artists.
The Grand Canyon
An American treasure and natural historic wonder, the 277-mile-long Grand Canyon is a must-see for anyone in the Southwest. Travel time between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon is 4.5 hours, but it’s worth the trip to see the layers of natural rock formations cut by the Colorado River over millions and millions of years. Ever wanted to feel like an ant scaling a rock? Inside the immersive canyon’s south rim, hiking opportunities abound, with breathtaking views of the rocky peaks and vistas to make any visitor feel the impact of this gigantic, beautiful earth. Animal life in the Grand Canyon is as diverse as plant life. The unique biospheres provide an abundance of food, water and shelter for all kinds of mammals, reptiles and birds. According to the National Park Service, the Canyon provides habitat for 355 bird species, 89 mammalian species and 56 reptile and amphibian species. Some species have even evolved specifically to suit themselves to the Grand Canyon’s special elevations and climates. Others are naturally uniquely suited to it. Because of the Grand Canyon Wildlife Program, species are protected, cultivated and studied ensuring their populations will continue to thrive. Visit the Grand Canyon