Story by AdventureTripr Champion and Las Vegas native Tara Randolph (@adventurewithtara).
When most people think of Las Vegas, the sounds of slot machines spinning, feathered showgirl headdresses, and the lights of The Strip come to mind. That’s the Las Vegas that movies like The Hangover, 21, What Happens in Vegas, and Showgirls, have depicted. And, hey - it didn’t get the nickname ‘Sin City’ for nothing!
But, what less out-of-town visitors know about is the vast, open landscape of the Las Vegas Valley. Most locals will tell you that it’s their favorite part of living in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Known for gorgeous red rock formations, Joshua trees, wild burros, and the beautiful blue waters of Lake Mead, there is a lot more to Las Vegas than the neon lets on. Here are the 8 best trails to check out when you’re ready to start hiking Las Vegas.
Located about an hour from the Las Vegas Strip, arriving in Valley of Fire State Park looks like you’ve landed on another planet. One of the trails you can’t miss is the Fire Wave Trail. This easy, 1.5 mile trail opens up to a gorgeous view point of rock naturally painted with waves of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. It’s the closest thing we have in the states to Peru’s Rainbow Mountain. There is little to no shade, so bring plenty of water and avoid hiking this trail on a hot summer afternoon.
Calico Tanks is THE Red Rock trail that you don’t want to miss. Located within the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop, this 2.5 mile trail offers light scrambling, a rock staircase, and views of the entire city (including The Strip) at the end. In the winter months you can find a stream through the wash, and in spring you might find a pond near the trail’s end, depending on recent precipitation. This is another hike that doesn’t offer much shade, so hiking on a hot summer afternoon is not recommended.
The Lake Mead Railroad Tunnel Trail is about 4 miles long, but you can turn around at any point you’d like. This trail takes you through the tunnels that the railway used to bring materials and supplies essential to the Hoover Dam’s construction. While the tracks are no longer there, the trail is still just as flat as it was when the railway was built. On this trail, you are literally stepping into American history. The first tunnel is about a mile into the trail. On your way there you’ll see great views of Lake Mead and the Boulder Beach Marina. The only shade you’ll find is inside the tunnels, so we recommend hiking early and then driving down to the beach to cool off.
Would you believe it if we told you that there’s a place about 30 minutes outside of Las Vegas that’s full of pine trees, waterfalls, and even a ski resort? Well, it’s true! Mount Charleston is a great place to escape the summer heat, see beautiful fall leaves, play in the snow, and view wildflowers. One of the best hikes at Mount Charleston is Cathedral Rock. It’s a short hike, but your legs will be burning as most of it is up hill. At the top, you’re greeted with panoramic views of the gorgeous landscape below.
Robber’s Roost is a very short trail with a very cool story behind it. Back in the days of the wild west, outlaws used to hide from settlers on the Old Spanish Trail in the cave you’ll find at the top, known as the Robber’s Roost… or at least that’s what local legend tells us. Feel the temperature difference as you climb inside the cave - it’s a very unique feeling!
There are a few different trails in the Oak Creek family, all offering a different experience. What makes the Middle Oak Creek Trail unique is the Joshua Tree garden you’ll cross shortly after you’ve begun your hike. This trail is not accessed through the Red Rock Scenic Loop, but instead it begins in a dirt lot on the highway just beyond the scenic drive’s exit. The trail is about 3 miles long, and you’ll see a dramatic landscape change as you enter the canyon towards the end. Towards the end of the trail there is shade, but the vast majority of the trail offers no sun protection.
One of the best kept secrets of Lake Mead is Anniversary Narrows, a several-mile slot canyon carved deep into the landscape. Getting here isn’t as easy as any of the other trails on the list, but the journey is worth it. You will hike through a wash and pass an old, fenced off mine before reaching the canyon. There are a number of places to enter this trail depending on the vehicle you are in and if it is 4wd capable. The canyon itself offers shade, but there is next to none as you hike along the wash you’re in before reaching the canyon.
The Natural Arch Trail at Valley of Fire State Park is another one that you don’t want to miss. While the natural arch that the trail was named for actually collapsed a few years ago, there are awesome rock formations and smaller arches and holes found in the hills and boulders along the trail. This 4-mile hike will truly have you thinking that you’re on Mars.
There you have it: some of the best Las Vegas hiking trails! Hiking Las Vegas is a truly unique experience. If you’re interested in traveling there, consider our Red Rock and Valley of Fire Getaway! You’ll receive a fully detailed itinerary that’s customized to your needs and preferences.
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