Many travelers are drawn to the lights and excitement of Las Vegas, but too few are aware of the wonders of Mother Nature that surround them. Rugged mountains, red rock canyons and deep desert valleys offer stunning scenery and myriad outdoor recreational opportunities. The region's favorable climate makes outdoor activity around Las Vegas an attractive option year-round.
Mt. Charleston is 35 miles (56 kilometers) from Las Vegas with its highest elevation at 11,918 feet (3,615 meters). An average of 20 to 30 degrees cooler than Las Vegas, Mt. Charleston is perfect for skiing, picnicking, hiking and horseback riding. In addition to year-round hotel accommodations and tours, full-service camping is also available from May through September.
Death Valley is located in western California, 135 miles (216 kilometers) from Las Vegas and a mere 40-minute plane ride away. This scenic wonder has the lowest elevation on the North American continent at 280 feet (84.93 meters) below sea level. Points of interest include Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon and Scotty's Castle. Tours are available.
Red Rock Canyon is just 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Las Vegas. It is a scenic area of rock formations and desert with a 3,000-foot (910-meter) escarpment produced by a thrust fault. Open to the public year-round, Red Rock Canyon has a Bureau of Land Management visitors center and is home to feral horses, wild burros, bighorn sheep, coyotes and a variety of desert plant life.
Valley of Fire State Park is only 55 miles (88 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas and comprises scenic landscapes, hidden canyons and unique red rock formations. Petroglyphs and remains of ancient Native American civilizations can be viewed here and a Nevada Park Service visitors center provides tourist information. The park is open to the public year-round and tours are available.
Mojave National Preserve is only 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Las Vegas. This 1.6-million-acre preserve, which protects one of the most diverse environments in the world, abounds with sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, Joshua tree forests and mile-high mountains. The preserve's visitor centers, located in Baker and Needles, Calif., welcome visitors year-round.
Hoover Dam is an engineering wonder of the world just 35 miles (56 kilometers) southeast of Las Vegas. Formerly named Boulder Dam, this historic man-made creation tamed the mighty Colorado River and created North America's largest man-made lake, Lake Mead. Construction of the 726-foot-high arch-gravity dam that is 660 feet thick at its base, forever changed the face of the western United States. On-site tours of the dam are available to the public throughout the year.
Lake Mead National Recreational Area is just 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Las Vegas at its closest point. With more than 550 miles (880 kilometers) of shoreline, Lake Mead Recreational Area offers outdoor enthusiasts year-round opportunities for swimming, water skiing, camping, boating, fishing, tours and cruises.