Top 3 natural attractions in Las Vegas, NV: For when you’ve had enough gambling!


Valley of Fire State Park, near Las Vegas, NV

I’ve been to Las Vegas a total of six times so far, and my wife, a total of four times.  During the days of COMDEX that was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, I had the pleasure of visiting the desert oasis twice on business, and four times on pleasure!

The first time I went there, I was totally blown away at how busy the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) was.  There’d be tons of people walking around, with street vendors and performers of all creeds and nationalities.  There were high rise hotels and casinos that built Las Vegas, glittering at night and luring souls to hand over their hard earned money.  All that glittering at night was similar to where I grew up (New York City), in that the desert city never sleeps!

Las Vegas is a transient city and is constantly evolving.  It seems each time I visited Las Vegas, things would change dramatically.  There’d be more buildings, more restaurants, and more people on the Strip.  Unfortunately, the prices also seemed to have gone up as well.

The hotel buffets on the Strip hotels now cost a price of a motel room in some cities.  I looked at buffet price at the Caesar’s Palace on the Strip, and it shocked me!  It was going for $65!!!  Ouch...

Many Strip hotels have started to charge for parking.  In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t charge on the Strip.  At this writing, hotels that do not charge parking fees are:  Treasure Island, Venetian, Palazzo, The Tropicana, Rio Suites, Stratosphere, Circus Circus, Wynn, and Encore.  
***Please double check with the hotel to confirm as this may change at any time...

After a few days of gambling and feeding the Strip hotels and casinos, it might be a good idea to plan excursions that doesn’t clean you out!  You’ll also feel great knowing there are things you can do outside of the city!

Top 3 natural attractions near Las Vegas:

  • Valley of Fire State Park:
This is by far our favorite natural attraction in Las Vegas.  Located about 60 miles from Las Vegas in the town of Overton, Valley of Fire State Park is world renowned for its 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstones, gray / tan limestones, ancient petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2000 years.  Open year round, Valley of Fire State Park offer campsites as well as miles of hiking trails to explore.

As you drive up to the town of Overton, marvel at how the terrain opens up.  There are miles of vast emptiness outside of the hustling and bustling city that is Las Vegas.  My wife and I rented a Mustang convertible (yeah!) for our last trip and we certainly appreciated the gobs of horsepower that were available at my disposal.  

I felt giddy pressing the accelerator to pass other cars.  Out on the highways near Las Vegas, the speed limit opens up to 75 miles per hour!  Mustang was a godsend in those wide open expanse of desert and blue skies.  The openness is so grand, you lose track of time as you view the distant hilltops and mountains...As the scenery passes you by, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ve arrived after a day (and night) of gambling in confined / darkened casino floors!

The entrance fee to the park is $10 per vehicle.  You’ll want to drive to each points of interest once you enter the park as the size of the park is simply mind boggling.  Once you park at a point of interest, you can then hike from there.  Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks if you’re planning on spending some time there.  Except during the winter months, the temperatures at the park will get to 90 degrees Fahrenheit/32 degrees Celsius around May to 105 F/41C in July.

Points of Interest you don’t want to miss:
  1. Arch Rock:  Must see and an awesome photo opportunity.  
  2. Beehives:  Sandstone formations that resemble bee hives.
  3. Petrified Logs:  Wood that has been fossilized.
  4. Visitor Center:  Start here to get a lay of the land as well as for bathroom breaks!
  5. Balanced Rock:  One of the most famous rock formations at the park.
  6. There are many others depending on how much time you plan on spending there.  Honestly, you probably couldn’t see all the park has to offer in one day...
Valley of Fire State Park 


 View from the back of the visitor center

  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area:
We’ve visited Red Rock Canyon State Park in our past trip.  It was so beautiful we had to revisit it!  Our favorite part about this park is that we can drive on a 13 mile scenic driving loop and not get lost!  It covers all the beautiful points of interest at the park, you can pull over to look at something in more detail, then continue on the loop.

The wide open expanse while driving the loop is simply breathtaking!  We were completely in awe of the views, with its namesake red colored rocks, oranges, browns, and yellows (and probably other colors that I don’t see, but my wife does).

Red Rock Canyon was Nevada’s first designated National Conservation Area.  It encompasses 195,819 acres within the Mojave Desert.  It is located a short 19 miles away from the Strip, and it should take about 30 minutes or so to get there.  It is visited by over two million visitors each year, and it offers hiking, horseback riding, biking, picnicking, nature observation and a visitor center.

There is a $15 entrance fee per vehicle.  At this writing, there is a timed entry to enter the scenic loop from November 3, 2020 to May 30, 2021.  *Please check with the park before arriving there.

Points of interest at Red Rock Canyon:
  1. Visitor Center:  Although currently closed at this writing, you can check out the outdoor exhibits, plant specimens, and live desert tortoise habitat.  *The gift shop is open.
  2. Scenic Drive:  This 13 mile drive is our favorite part of Red Rock Canyon!  Views are amazing at every turn.
  3. Hikes & Trails:  There are 26 different hikes and trails to explore.

Red Rock Canyon views from the scenic loop

  • Mt. Charleston & Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway:
Mt. Charleston is a great place to cool down on a hot sunny Las Vegas day!  It is about 43 miles from Las Vegas and it should take about 50 minutes to get there.  It is the highest point in the Clark County (where Las Vegas is located) at 11,916 feet elevation.  As you climb each 1000 feet in elevation, you’ll notice two things:

One is vegetation change from desert cacti / shrubs to actual trees!  The higher you climb, the more trees you’ll see.  Two is the temperature change.  It’ll start to get cool, then downright chilly at the top!

When we drove our Mustang convertible to Mt. Charleston, we were actually cold at the summit in April.  You may want to grab a jacket if you’re going up there.

Drive up to Mt. Charleston is simply magnificent.  There aren’t many cars up there so you can really open up the car.  Views driving up is equally rewarding as the drive down.  The views will keep on coming and not let up!  The breeze in your hair will let you know that life can’t get better than that!

At the top, there is a ski resort (Lee Canyon) that operates throughout the year.  Besides snow sports in the winter, you can hike, ride the lift, or play disc golf off season.  It’s almost surreal to see the dichotomy between hot 100 degrees plus desert that is Las Vegas and the peak of Mt. Charleston where you see a ski resort and snow!

I highly recommend driving up there for a change of pace and to keep cool on a hot day.  

On your drive there, you’ll come upon Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway.  This is a good place to stop by for a quick pit stop as they offer a gift shop, restrooms, exhibits, scenic views and hiking trails.  

Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway encompasses 128 acres and it’s a nice little stop over on your way to Mt. Charleston.

Mt. Charleston 

Mt. Charleston 

I certainly hope you enjoyed our top 3 natural attractions near Las Vegas!  These attractions will re-energize you after spending days and nights getting stuck inside casinos.  You’ll appreciate that these awe inspiring natural beauty exist practically right outside of Las Vegas.

Thank you all for reading!


Jake

Wandering Money Pig 


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