Travel Guide

7 Epic Outdoor Day Trips Worth Visiting Less Than 1-Hour from Las Vegas!

Smoky casinos. Flashing lights. Pool parties. Those are the first things that come to mind when you think about Las Vegas. 

But did you know that Las Vegas is also home to some of the most famous canyons, majestic hot springs, waterfalls, and even snowy mountains? 

When I first moved to Las Vegas in August 2020, I had no idea that this area is every outdoor lover’s paradise. Within an hour's drive from my home, I’d be able to hike, bike, camp, swim, rock climb, or ski (believe it or not!). Although I’ve spent many weekends over the last 8 months adventuring around Las Vegas exploring what the outdoor scene has to offer, I still feel like I’ve barely touched the surface!

The biggest thing I realized since moving to Las Vegas: You don't have to drive 3-4 hours to Zion National Park or the Grand Canyons if you're in Las Vegas and want an outdoor adventure!

So if you're in Las Vegas looking for things to do during the day (like an outdoorsy day trip!) but short on time, I've compiled this list of my all-time favorite outdoor adventures and activities within an hour of Las Vegas!

*I've had many friends visit me in Las Vegas for just a weekend (or even a few days) and they’ve each told me that these spots made their trip EPIC.

A female hiking in Las Vegas, looking out at red canyons and desert shrubbery.
Hiking Guardian Angel Pass trail in Red Rock Canyon, a short 35-minute drive from Las Vegas.

7 Outdoor Activities Near Las Vegas

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1. Valley of Fire State Park

  • Activities: sightsee, hike, camp
  • Driving distance from Las Vegas Strip: 1 hour 7 minutes; 56 miles
  • Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle ($15 per vehicle for non-Nevada residents)

Valley of Fire is one of those places where you take pictures, and it just doesn't do the landscape any justice!

Located in the Mojave Desert, Valley of Fire is home to 40,000 acres of vibrant red geological formations made from Aztec sandstone. The color of these stunning rocks lights up the entire valley, especially during sunset, making it look like the park is completely on fire!

Red and orange canyons rising high along the horizon in Valley of Fire near Las Vegas. Desert shrubs are in the foreground and the sky is bright blue.
The red Aztec sandstones that illuminate the Valley of Fire, which gives this state park its name.

But not only is Valley of Fire known for mind-blowing geological formations and incredible sandstones swirling with red, orange, and pink, but also for ancient rock carvings. Left behind by prehistoric cultures that inhabited the area, these detailed and well-preserved petroglyphs give us a glimpse of the past and what life was like for these Native American cultures. You'll have the best views of these incredibly preserved rock drawings after a short climb up Atlatl Rock’s staircase.

In addition to these petroglyphs, other must-see things in Valley of Fire are:

  • The Beehives
  • Elephant Rock
  • Fire Wave

How long it takes to explore Valley of Fire is completely up to you! If you’re short on time with only a couple of hours to spare, drive through the park and hop out at observation points that interest you! If you have more time, hike one (or many) of the trails in the park. Enjoy the solitude and indulge in the nature around you. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some amazing wildlife, like the Desert Bighorn Sheep or desert tortoise! 

For more information to help you plan your visit, check out the Valley of Fire State Park website

A hiker in Valley of Fire is point to a large, orange rock formation in the shape of an elephant, known as Elephant Rock. This is a must-see in Valley of Fire.
Valley of Fire is known for its incredibly unique geological formations, like Elephant Rock.

2. Red Rock Canyon

  • Activities: sightsee, hike, camp, bike, horseback ride
  • Driving distance from Las Vegas Strip: 34 minutes; 17 miles
  • Entrance fee: Scenic Loop - $15 per vehicle, plus $2 entry reservation (America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass is accepted)

Looking for where to go hiking in Las Vegas? Red Rock Canyon is worth visiting!

Because it's less than a 40-minute drive to get from Las Vegas to Red Rock Canyon, both locals and tourists find themselves at Red Rock if they’re looking to hike, bike, rock climb, or picnic in the Vegas area. 

The famous Red Rock Scenic Drive is a 13-mile, one-way route for visitors to drive or bike throughout the best of Red Rock Canyon. This route features diverse wildlife, desert plant life, and colorful canyons that are unique to this area. As soon as you enter the Scenic Drive, you’ll immediately feel like you’re on an entirely different planet (Mars perhaps?)!

All along the Scenic Drive in Red Rock are scenic observation points that allow you to hop out of your car and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of one of America’s most beautiful landscapes. An hour or two before sunset is my favorite time to enjoy the mesmerizing views of Red Rock Canyon.

A man is visiting Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. He is taking a picture of the swirling red and orange colors of the sandstone canyon. The sky is cloudy and the canyons surround the man.
Enjoy observation points and access to the best hiking trails in Las Vegas along the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, with incredible views of the orange and red sandstone canyons.

If you’re feeling even more active, the Scenic Drive gives you access to 22 different hiking trails, ranging in level from easy to difficult. The shortest, easiest hike is 0.15 miles roundtrip (30-minute hike) whereas the longest, most difficult trail is 14 miles roundtrip (6-7 hour hike). Whatever your fitness level, there will be a trail for you to hike in Red Rock Canyon!  

For a shorter, challenging hike along the canyon with beautiful panoramic views of Red Rock Canyon, check out my guide for hiking Kraft Mountain Loop Trail.

But these hiking trails aren’t only for hikers! Since Red Rock Canyon is one of the best climbing spots near Las Vegas, people from all around the world visit to experience rock climbing these colorful, sandstone canyons. Whether you love to boulder or rock climb, Red Rock is one of the most beautiful spots for any rock climber to enjoy.

It takes about 30-minutes to drive straight through Red Rock Canyon’s Scenic Drive without stopping. Since there are so many scenic overlooks to stop at and trails to hike, a trip to Red Rock Canyon can be anywhere from a quick 30-minutes visit, to a half-day trip, or even a full-day adventure.

Entrance to the Scenic Drive is $25/vehicle. If you have the annual America the Beautiful National Park Pass, you’re in luck since it is accepted for entry!

Through May 31, 2021, all visitors planning to access the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive between 8 am and 5 pm are also required to make a timed entry reservation in addition to the entrance fee (even if you have the America the Beautiful National Park Pass). This was implemented in November 2020 to control the number of visitors in the park at one time due to COVID restrictions. Reservations are $2 per vehicle and can be made at recreation.gov.

A female hiker a hiking down a trail in Red Rock Canyon, with the red sandstone canyons tall around her. There is green, desert shrubbery scattered. The sky is blue. There are panoramic views of the Red Rock Canyons in the background.
Red Rock Canyon is home to some of the best hiking and rock climbing in Las Vegas.

3. Arizona Hot Springs

The Arizona Hot Springs is one of those secret spots that only Las Vegas and Arizona locals know about. 

Located on the Arizona side of the Nevada-Arizona border (just south of the Hoover Dam), you can hike through twisting slot canyons to the hidden Arizona Hot Springs (and even the Colorado River).

The Arizona Hot Springs (Ringbolt) Trail hike is hands-down one of my favorite hiking trails near Las Vegas! Throughout the hike, you have stunning views of the White Rock Canyons all around you. As you approach the sizzling hot springs, you’ll have to summon up the courage to hike up a 20-ft waterfall!

But once you reach the hot springs, rest your muscles, soak up some sun and enjoy the sizzling hot spring waters, which range from 111 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

To cool down, hike another 20-minutes to swim in the refreshing, emerald green Colorado River!

If you want to know the secret on how to get to and find the Arizona Hot Springs (step-by-step!), check out “The Ultimate Hiking Guide for Hiking to the Arizona Hot Springs”. These details will give you everything you need to know to help plan and prepare for your trip to these hot springs that you can’t miss the next time you’re in Vegas!

*Note: The Arizona Hot Springs (Ringbolt) Trail is closed between mid-May thru September due to extreme heat.

A man is hiking through slot canyons in the Arizona Hot Springs near Las Vegas.
South of the Hoover Dam, you can hike along the White Canyons to the Arizona Hot Springs.

4. Mount Charleston

  • Activities: sightsee, hike, camp, bike, horseback ride, ski, snowboard, sled
  • Driving distance from Las Vegas Strip: 52 minutes; 43 miles
  • Entrance fee: free

In under an hour to get to Mount Charleston from Las Vegas, you’ll have the opportunity to take a break from the desert scenery, making it feel like you're states away!

As the highest mountain in the Spring Mountains and Clark County (nearly 7,500 feet!), the higher elevation of Mount Charleston offers cool, crisp air, forest greenery, waterfalls, and snow to enjoy throughout the year. 

During the summer months, Mount Charleston gives Las Vegas locals and visitors an escape from the scorching heat. Outdoor lovers enjoy summer camping, picnicking, and hiking one of the many trails in Mount Charleston.

Some of my favorite hikes in Mount Charleston are Mary Jane Falls and Fletcher Canyon Trail. As you hike, you’re surrounded by tall Bristlecone Pine trees and green mountain top views (and even snow), making you completely forget that you’re in the middle of the desert!

But summer is not the only time of year people flock to Mount Charleston. 

Did you know that you can see snow on the top of Mount Charleston for almost half the year? Enjoy Vegas winter by sledding or snowshoeing on Mount Charleston! Between December and March, Lee Canyon is open to ski, snowboard, or tube near Las Vegas.

Mount Charleston is the ideal place to bring the family (especially if you have kids), friends, and even your dog if you’re looking for adventurous things to do outside near Vegas. In under an hour's drive from Las Vegas, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped to an entirely different part of the country, enjoying cooler temperatures and forest greenery.

And if you’re REALLY wanting an action-packed day, you might as well swing by Red Rock Canyon on your way back from (or to) Mount Charleston. It only takes 53 minutes to drive from Mount Charleston to Red Rock Canyon!

A view of the beautiful, tall Bristlecone Pine trees in Mount Charleston. The sky is blue and the Spring Mountains are in the background.
Enjoy cooler temperatures, greenery, and even snow at Mount Charleston.

5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area

  • Activities: hike, camp, bike, swim, kayak, paddleboard
  • Driving distance from Las Vegas Strip: 33 minutes; 28 miles
  • Entrance fee: $25 per vehicle (America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass is accepted)

As America’s very first (and largest) national recreation area, Lake Mead offers just about any outdoor activity all year round as well as beautiful canyons, stunning blue lakes, and unique desert wildlife. 

Lake Mead offers several areas to camp and several biking trails. And if you’re into hiking, be sure to explore my favorite hiking trail in Lake Mead, the Historic Railroad Trail. As the only remaining section of the Hoover Dam Railroad system, this trail leads you through five railroad tunnels while overlooking the Boulder Basin as you make your way towards the Hoover Dam!

And if you’re lucky, you might be able to spot a few of Nevada’s famous Desert Bighorn Sheep! The last time I hiked the Historic Railroad Trail (late April 2021), a pack of 4 sheep ran across the trail less than 50 meters in front of me! Talk about surreal…

The Historic Railroad Trail is perfect for families, kids, solo hikers, runners, bikers, and their pets.

A view of a railroad tunnel built in a canyon by Lake Lake. There is a path leading through the tunnel for hikers to hike through.
One of the five railroad tunnels you can hike through on the Historic Railroad Trail in Lake Mead. You can hike all the way to the Hoover Dam on this trail!

But Lake Mead is also perfect for anybody in Las Vegas looking for a beach day. Not only can you swim, but you can also kayak, paddleboard, and boat on either Lake Mead or Lake Mohave

Personally, my favorite swimming spot for a beach day near Las Vegas is Willow Beach on Lake Mohave. I love the brilliant emerald green waters and the cascading Black Canyons that surround you.

But be warned! The water in Willow Beach is significantly colder (55 degrees Fahrenheit!) than that at Boulder Beach on Lake Mead.

Need to rent a kayak or paddleboard? No problem! Most of the marinas on both Lake Mead and Lake Mohave rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. 

Kayakers are enjoy boating on the bright, emerald green waters of Lake Mohave in Lake Mead. The Black Canyons are surrounding the shores of the Colorado River and the sky is bright blue
Willow Beach is one of the most beautiful swimming holes near Las Vegas, enjoyed by swimmers, kayakers and paddle boarders.

6. Emerald Cove

  • Activities: kayak
  • Driving distance from Las Vegas Strip: 39 minutes; 37 miles
  • Entrance fee: $25 per vehicle (America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass is accepted), plus required AIS decal ($5-$12)

Kayaking down the Colorado River in search of Emerald Cove (often referred to as “Emerald Cave”) is a Las Vegas “must-see” for outdoor activities. 

Emerald Cove, nestled within the Black Canyons, is famous for the bright emerald water that illuminates it. The combination of sunlight, the color of the Colorado River, and the yellow-brown hue of the cave make Emerald Cove so vibrant green.

Unfortunately, you cannot walk or drive to Emerald Cove. You can only get to Emerald Cove by boat. You can launch your kayak, canoe, or boat from Willow Beach in the Lake Mead Recreational Area. Since Willow Beach is 2 miles downstream of Emerald Cove, expect to kayak 2-3 hours to get to Emerald Cove.

To launch from Willow Beach, you will need to:

  • Pay the entrance fee (see the section about Lake Mead National Recreation Area)
  • Obtain the required AIS decal (motorized watercraft - $12; non-motorized watercraft - $5)

You can either get to Emerald Cove on your own or book a tour!

Since Emerald Cove is located along the Colorado River along the Nevada-Arizona border, it takes less than 40-minutes to drive from Las Vegas to the launch point for Emerald Cove. So if you’re looking for the perfect half-day (or even full-day) outdoor activity near Las Vegas, add Emerald Cove to your “Las Vegas To-Do” list!

Views of the beautiful blue and green Colorado River with the Black Canyons around the water. There are two kayaks along the shore of Willow Beach.
You can launch your kayak or canoe from Willow Beach in Lake Mead to get to Emerald Cove.

7. Hoover Dam

  • Activities: sightsee
  • Driving distance from Las Vegas Strip: 46 minutes; 39 miles
  • Entrance fee: free

Only 45-minutes away from Las Vegas stands one of the most innovative engineering projects in American history, the Hoover Dam.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the incredibly massive Hoover Dam was built within the Black Canyon along the Colorado River. It was originally constructed to control floods in California and Arizona; supply irrigation water, and produce hydroelectricity to cities in the southwest. 

As an engineering nerd, I found myself marveling at the complexity of the second-tallest dam in the United States and its rich history, which makes the Hoover Dam worth visiting if you’re in Las Vegas. 

To visit the Hoover Dam for free, do not park your car in the paid parking garages; instead, there are several free parking areas across the bridge. Once you get out of the car, you can walk across the bridge to see the dam itself. 

However, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of Lake Mead, you can book either a self-guided or guided Hoover Dam tour

For a full-day Hoover Dam adventure, park at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and hike or bike yourself 3.7 miles to Hoover Dam along the Historic Railroad Trail (see the section about Lake Mead National Recreation Area).

A view of a bridge by the Hoover Dam with the sunlight shining in the background.
Views of the incredible Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel with tons of history for visitors to discover.

Conclusion 

Craving that outdoor adventure or day trip near Las Vegas but don't have enough time to drive to the national parks in Utah or Arizona?

This compiled list is my top outdoor adventures within an hour of Las Vegas worth visiting. These areas are a playground for all outdoor lovers. Filled with colorful canyons, hidden hot springs, and snowy mountains, Las Vegas has just about any outdoor recreation you can imagine.

So add these 7 outdoor spots to your bucket list if you're looking for good day trips from Las Vegas (especially things to do with kids) for guaranteed EPICNESS.

What's your favorite outdoor thing to do near Las Vegas?

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about the author
Molly Chhiv
What's up! This Cambodian kid is an outdoor addict, adventure blogger, & your personal HYPE GIRL. Through the outdoors, I've learned self-confidence, independence, & mental strength. My mission through The Adventure Diet is to share the power of the outdoors with you. I want to empower you with tips, tools and inspiration to get outside with confidence and find yourself.

So if you're ready, let's get out there and do this sh*t!

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