Las Vegas is famous for a lot of things besides outdoor adventures. What many people don't realize about the city is that it's actually surrounded by a beautiful and varied desert environment. There is cactus and sand, of course, but also deep flowing rivers, pine-forested mountains, waterfall-filled canyons, and fantastic rock formations.
Getting away from the city for even one day reveals nature's showmanship, deserving of at least as much attention as the manmade attractions within Las Vegas. In fact, within easy driving distance are multiple national recreation or conservation areas, national monuments, and state parks. These hold far more opportunities than we can describe here, but we've selected a few of the best hikes to do in a day from Las Vegas. For any of these adventures, you can leave your home or hotel in the morning and be back just as The Strip lights up in the evening.
- Fire Wave Trail: One of many stunning hikes in Valley of Fire State Park, this one tours some of the most colorful rock creations in a trip of just over a mile.
- Fortification Hill: Hike this high mesa for unbeatable vantage over Lake Mead and the distant Spring Mountains.
- Las Vegas Overlook: A commanding view of the Vegas Strip and surrounding mountains awaits atop the overlook trail, also known as Muffin Ridge, just outside Red Rock Canyon.
- Ice Box Canyon: From the scenic loop in Red Rock Canyon, a trail leads across a short section of desert and into a tight canyon with huge walls. Rock hopping and scrambling up this shady slot leads to a stream and tall waterfall that flows with spring runoff.
- Calico Tanks: Another spectacular hike in Red Rock Canyon, this moderate uphill journey follows a rocky wash to pristine pools of water in a rocky hilltop and distant views of Las Vegas.
- First Creek Pool + Waterfall: When snow melts out of the mountains in the spring, First Creek flows with water and a cascade fills a pool tucked away in the cliffs near Red Rock Canyon.
- Frenchman Mountain: One of the highest peaks on the rim of Las Vegas Valley, Frenchman's summit is guarded by a long, steep hike up a gravel road, but the view on top is well worth it.
- Arizona Hot Springs: Hot spring pools hidden inside a slot canyon near a cold, clear river sounds too good to be true, but it exists near Vegas. A sunny desert hike is required, but paradise awaits at the end.
- Petroglyph Canyon: Sloan Canyon National Conservation area protects thousands of petroglyphs left by the area's original inhabitants. Many of them can be admired by hiking this aptly named desert trail outside south of Henderson.
- Mary Jane Falls: High up in the cool air of the Spring Mountains, a moderate trail leads to a seasonal waterfall. Take a longer and more difficult adventure if you wish to see the even more spectacular Big Falls nearby.
- Bristlecone Trail: The Spring Mountains are a high-elevation retreat from the desert for both people and plants. Bristlecone pines are an alpine species that can live to be thousands of years old, and you can walk among them on this gorgeous mountain trail.