By Ashley M. Biggers
A former desert truck stop, Las Vegas is now one of the most popular destinations for travelers in the United States. From the glittering lights of The Strip to non-stop entertainment on stage and off, Sin City has plenty to pack into a vacation. Many visitors never make it off Las Vegas Boulevard. However, if you seek adventure, you’ll hit the jackpot outside the city. Here are seven worth exploration.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Distance from Vegas: 17 miles
See & Do: Red Rock Canyon protects more than 195,000 acres of (you guessed it) stunning red rocks and mesas. Explore a 13-mile scenic drive, as well as miles of hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking trails.
Don’t Miss: Even in the Mojave Desert, the landscape can be lush. Several hiking trails lead to natural springs with dense vegetation.
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
Distance from Vegas: About 18 miles
See & Do: Before vacationers strolled The Strip, this area was home to Ice Age mammoths, lions, camels and other wild things that roamed the wetlands north of Las Vegas. This monument protects fossilized remains from that time.
Don’t Miss: At the end of Decatur Road at the monument’s southern end, visitors can see and walk along the trenches paleontologists created during the 1962 “Big Dig,” when they unearthed numerous large animal fossils.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area and Charleston Peak
Distance from Vegas: A little over 21 miles
See & Do: This 316,000-acre landscape within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest encompasses Charleston Peak. It’s home to over 50 sensitive plants and animals, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world.
Don’t Miss: During winter, Mount Charleston opens a sledding area for snow play.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Distance from Vegas: About 26 miles
See & Do: Various modes of recreation, from swimming to hiking, are on deck at America’s first and largest national recreation area. The outdoor playground here includes desertscapes and two lakes, Mead and Mohave, among its 1.5 million acres.
Don’t Miss: The recreation area preserves nine wilderness areas, protecting their natural beauty and the solitude they provide. After the buzzing Strip, these wilderness areas may be just the oasis you crave.
Seven Magic Mountains
Distance from Vegas: 27 miles
See & Do: Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone created this public art installation of seven towers of neon rainbow-hued stacked boulders. The towers stand more than thirty feet tall. Built in 2016 and originally scheduled to be on view for two years, the permit has been extended through 2021.
Don’t Miss: There’s little to do here other than appreciate the art and snap a few photos, but the selfie is worth the drive!
Distance from Vegas: 37 miles
See & Do: This concrete arch structure in the Black Canyon dams the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona. Take a guided tour of the historic tunnels and ride the original elevator to the top of the dam.
Don’t Miss: Outfitters such as Black Canyon River Adventures guide river float trips beneath the dam. It’s the best vantage to take in the 726-foot-tall, 1,244-foot-long structure.
Valley of Fire State Park
Distance from Vegas: 53 miles
See & Do: The colors of fire — red, yellow, orange and pink — come alive in 40,000 acres of Aztec sandstone outcrops and archways. The landscape is world renowned not only for the geology, but also for the ancient petrified trees found here.
Don’t Miss: People from the Basketmaker culture carved petroglyphs in the rocks here some 2,500 years ago.
Contact your local AAA Travel Agent for more information and reservations! Call 800-750-5386 or visit AAA.com/Travel.
(Traveler Summer 2020)