Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert which means there isn’t a whole lot to do except blow all your money at the casinos and drink tons of alcohol. That is not entirely true.
The last time I was in Vegas (I was of actual drinking age, finally) I didn’t have a drop to drink. I did put some money in a slot machine though. It was just too tempting.
There are plenty of day trips from Las Vegas to keep you occupied out of the city if you are willing to rent a car and drive out of town.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead is perhaps the most famous reservoir lake in the American Southwest thanks to the Hoover Dam. Every year the Hoover Dam attracts thousands of visitors to the area.
The recreation area is more than just the dam though. On my last trip to Las Vegas, I spent a solid hour and a half driving through the recreation area as the sun set. There is nothing quite as beautiful as the sun setting over the desert.
Lake Mead also has plenty of beaches. Last time I went swimming there (about eight years ago), zebra mussel shells were scattered along the shores. People were also allowed to drive their vehicles onto the beach.
Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park is probably one of my favorite places to drive through. I have not had the opportunity to hike it yet because it just didn’t work out the last couple of times. But being able to see the colorful rock formations and geology more than makeup for it.
Last time I drove through, there was cloud cover, which is a welcome change while being in the desert
Mount Charleston is not what you’d expect to find an hour outside of the city. Especially when you make it to the top and see a lovely town hanging out in the cliffs. The other part of the mountain is a ski slope. Someday I will learn how to ski or snowboard.
Driving through the mountain as you climb higher and higher, the temperature drops. This can be really nice if you are looking to escape the scorching desert heat. There is a visitors center with some history and maps of the area. Of course, they also sell gifts.
I thought one of the coolest things about being up on the mountain was the pull off where you can see all the holes in the desert from when nuclear testing was done during WWII.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon isn’t as far of a drive as the previous three, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check your gas gage before heading into the canyon. I forgot to look at it and the light dinged as I entered the winding, one way, about 12-mile long road. I thought for sure I would run out of gas along the way. Somehow though, I made it back to a gas station.
The canyon is known for its red rocks, in case that wasn’t screaming obvious. If you stop at the visitors center and head out the back door to explore the exhibits set up, you can see sweeping desert views of the rocks that give the canyon its name. You also might see some lizards wandering the board walks.
What are your favorite day trips from Las Vegas?
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