When most people think of Las Vegas, they think of casinos, clubs, larger-than-life experiences, the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas sign,’ punting along fake Venetian canals and making multiple references to the ‘Wolfpack.’
What they don’t tend to think of, as you’ve probably guessed by now, is the great outdoors. And that’s a shame. Because Las Vegas is situated smack-dab in the middle of the great outdoors (the Mojave Desert, to be precise).
You want to go hiking? You can. Mountain biking? No problem. Rock climbing? Alex Honnold (of Free Solo/El Capitan fame) lives in Vegas for that very reason (we assume – we haven’t actually asked him). You can even go snowboarding. And kayaking. And zip-lining. And off-roading. And skydiving. And hiking (again).
The best bit? All of the below recommendations are within an hour of the (in)famous Las Vegas strip.
Here are nine amazing ways to get very and extremely outdoors in Las Vegas:
1. Go mountain biking at Bootleg Canyon
For those who like to explore the world on two wheels, Bootleg Canyon is barely a 30-minute drive from the Vegas strip and dishes up over 20 mountain bike trails for all skill levels. And don’t worry if you didn’t pack your mountain bike in your carry on – you can hire bikes when you’re out there, and even head off on some guided tours if you’re less experienced in the art of going downhill at speed.
Distance from Las Vegas: 31 minutes
How: Look up the team at Bike Blast Las Vegas.
2. Get vertical at Red Rock Canyon
If it’s good enough for Alex Honnold, it’s good enough for you. Las Vegas’ world-famous Red Rock Canyon is home to around 2,500 different climbing routes, all of which have something different to offer the aspirational spider-man/woman. With more bighorn sheep out here than people and none of the hustle and bustle you’d associate with Las Vegas – this is the place to get vertical.
Distance from Las Vegas: 32 minutes
How: The Mountain Guides can get you off on the right foot.
3. Go all the way off road
If you prefer your outdoor exploits to be powered by petrol rather than your own blood, sweat and tears, you’d do well to jump in an ATV and head deep into the Mojave Desert. There’s something to be said for spending 3.5 hours in the driver’s seat of one of a Honda Talon 1000R – and that something is: “awesome.” These things make light work of the exacting Mojave terrain and they’re a damn sight more fun to drive than your 2005 Holden Barina. And why not stop off at the legendary Pioneer Saloon for a burger and beverage along the way? It’d be downright rude not to.
Distance from Las Vegas: 40 minutes
How: Vegas Off Road Tours will put you in the driver’s seat.
4. Helicopter into the Grand Canyon
If there’s one thing about the Grand Canyon we know to be true, it’s that it’s a damn sight bigger in real life that you’d ever imagine it to be. Actually massive. And while this isn’t strictly an ‘outdoor’ experience, it’s an exceptional way to take in a whole bunch of Nevada and Arizona’s spectacular desert scenery in one quite literal swoop. After leaving Las Vegas and flying across the Mojave, you’ll dive into Arizona and the canyon itself, the experience of which will more than likely render you speechless, emotional, and generally in awe of the power of nature. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Distance from Las Vegas: 16 minutes
How: Say hello to Papillon Helicopter Tours.
5. Kayak in the shadow of the Hoover Dam
Built in 1931, the Hoover Dam is perhaps America’s most famous dam. There’s a town nearby, Boulder City, which was created solely for those working to build the damn (and if you’re sick of the casinos, it’s one of only two towns in Nevada where gambling is illegal). While the dam itself can be explored on foot, you can also take to the Colorado River below on board a kayak or raft. With the neon tendrils of Vegas unable to make it down this far, you can focus on keeping your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, bald eagles and coyotes. That’s a paddlin’.
Distance from Las Vegas: 42 minutes
6. Take to the snow at Lee Canyon
Dubbed ‘The Coolest Place in Las Vegas’ (lol), Lee Canyon is where you can go to get your fix of frozen water. It’s kind of hard to fathom that this place is barely an hour from the Las Vegas strip, but fathom we must. In summer, you can hike to your heart’s content. But in winter (early December-March), that’s when the fun starts.
Board-dwellers can snowboard themselves silly on the 24 serviced snow trails, while those unable to remain upright on fiberglass while descending at speed can take to the slopes via massive, inflatable tubes. There’s basically nothing not to like about Lee Canyon – unless you don’t like the cold. In which case, do something else.
Distance from Las Vegas: 56 minutes
How: The good folks at Lee Canyon can help.
7. Zipline over Bootleg Canyon
You might’ve mountain-biked all over Bootleg, but you haven’t really ‘done’ Bootleg until you’ve shot yourself across it, care of a massive and terrifying zipline contraption. This particular zipline experience will see you shoot down (fly along?) four separate ziplines and cover a mile and a half of the canyon below. Don’t look down! Or do. Whatever.
Distance from Las Vegas: 27 minutes
How: Look up Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon.
8. Zipline over the Las Vegas Strip
Wow, OK. Two ziplines in one story. Are we really doing that? You bet. It actually takes place right over the Vegas strip, which is pretty bonkers. So you can wake up, have breakfast, then go zipline. Or maybe even zipline between waking up and having breakfast. Your call.
Distance from Las Vegas: 0 minutes
How: Fly-Linq will be able to assist.
9. Go skydiving (indoors!!!)
On many levels, this is actually more terrifying than outdoor skydiving, because it involves you donning a weird flying squirrel suit and having to jump over an actual aeroplane engine turbine. The air being shot up by the turbine is also strangely warm, and if you leave your mouth open it will make you dry heave. All told, though, it was a hoot, and is more than worthy of an inclusion on this here comprehensive listicle.
Distance from Las Vegas: 0 minutes
How: Look no further than Vegas Indoor Skydiving.
<i>The writer travelled as a guest of Travel Nevada.</I>