Kayaking with Evolution Expeditions in the Lake Mead National Recreation area in Nevada. The lake … [+]
The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Las Vegas is not “natural.” The city is celebrated as gaudy, flashy, ersatz, fake, a monument to excess.
Yet the Strip rose out of the desert, with an impressive natural world just a few miles away. If you have a car, you can go on your own. If you do not have a vehicle, want to go on an organized ‘expedition’ or go boating or camping, you might check out companies like EvolutionExpeditions or Lake Mead Mohave Adventures.
The closest must-see outdoor spot in Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, named for its ‘red’ rock formations. A half-hour drive northwest from the strip will take you to Red Rock, on the edge of the city’s ever-expanding Sumerlin suburb.
Red Rock is operated by the Federal Bureau of Land Management. Entry fees were $15 per car when we went. But if you have an annual or lifetime pass, you can enter for the $2 cost of an online reservation.
The area gets its name from the reddish tint created by iron oxide deposits. The rocks seem to change in intensity as your drive the park. The road around Red Rock is a 13-mile one-way scenic loop that starts and ends at Highway 160. If the temperature has soared above one hundred degrees, or your time is limited, you can still appreciate one of the most glorious vistas in the West from the air-conditioned comfort of your car.
Nonetheless, the area is renowned for hiking, rock climbing, and the occasional bicyclist doing the loop. There are easily walkable trails around the area’s hills and canyons reached by parking pull-offs from the main road. And if you are lucky, you might see a pack of the wild burros who roam the area.
LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 3: The colorful rock formations of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation … [+]
Another imposing natural destination is Mt. Charleston, about a half an hour from Las Vegas. The Spring Mountain National Recreation Area includes Mt. Charleston (11,918 feet), high enough to have snow much of the year. In the winter people often come up for sledding and other forms of snow play. …….