Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area presents awe-inspiring views most wouldn’t expect to see near a major metropolitan city. In contrast to the bright lights and hype of the Strip, Red Rock offers desert beauty, towering red cliffs and abundant wildlife.
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area receives 1.2 million visitors a year.
The mountains in the Red Rock area were formed by a number of geological forces including fractured faults where the earth’s crust collided over millions of years and fossilized sand dunes. Some cliffs reach up an astounding 3,000 feet.
The sandstone rocks in the conservation area get their color from iron oxide. Over centuries the iron oxide built up, producing the vibrant, crimson color the canyon illustrates today.
One of the more scenic parts of Red Rock Canyon is the Keystone Thrust Fault. Here, millions of years ago, two of the earth’s plates collided with such force that part of one plate was shoved up and over the other.
This created a magnificent contrast between grey limestone and red sandstone.
This amazing conservation area is also home to about 200 different mammals which include burros, rabbits, coyotes, bighorn sheep, red tailed hawks, golden eagles, hummingbirds and even a few wild horses, bobcats and mountain lions.
With an average temperature of 20 to 30 degrees cooler than that of the surrounding Nevada desert and a short 35-mile drive from Las Vegas, Mount Charleston is the perfect day trip for nature enthusiasts visiting Sin City. Rising from the desertic landscape near the border of California, Mount Charleston is one of the highest elevations in Nevada and provides visitors with ample opportunities for hiking, skiing, picnicking, and horseback riding.
Whether you plan to just stay a day or want to spend the weekend camping or enjoying the fine accommodations of the Mount Charleston resort, are down for a hiking trip or fancy a tandem skydiving adventure, there’s plenty in store for visitors to the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
If you find yourself with a free day or weekend in Las Vegas, all you need to do is look to the snow-capped mountain to the northwest—visible nearly half the year from the Vegas strip—and you’ve found the perfect getaway from the chaos of the city.
Las Vegas Lake
Lake Las Vegas, located in The City of Henderson, Nevada, just 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, is a popular vacation and resort spot. Though so close to the casino capital of the world, Lake Las Vegas offers a much different type of entertainment.
Lake Las Vegas is a manmade lake constructed in the early 1990’s. It’s developer, Ron Boedecker, envisioned a luxury resort to rival all vacation destinations in the world. His Mediterranean styled resort makes anyone feel as though they stepped directly out of the noisy, showy Las Vegas Strip and into a peaceful, quiet, Italian retreat.
Named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century, Hoover Dam continues to draw crowds 80 years after its creation. Hoover Dam is located in Black Canyon, just minutes outside of Las Vegas.
On April 20, 1931, construction began on the Hoover Dam with construction being completed on March 1, 1936.
The dam is named after America’s 31st president, Herbert Hoover, who played a large role in bringing the nearby states into agreement about water allocations, settling a 25-year controversy.
A National Historic Landmark, Hoover Dam is the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere, standing at more than 725 feet above the Colorado River. With 17 generators producing 4 billion kilowatts of electricity a year, it’s also one of the country’s largest hydroelectric power facilities. Operation and maintenance of the facility are solely supported by revenue from power sales.
Completed in October 2010, the Mike O’ Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge offers spectacular views that were once only available by helicopter. Visitors have access to drive across the bridge and see the dam from a high vantage point. Located about 1,500 feet south of the Hoover Dam, the walkway on the bridge is approximately 900 feet above the Colorado River.
One neat fact is that visitors can go from Nevada to Arizona after crossing the 1,900-foot-long bridge. There are plenty of informative placards before and during the bridge walk.
Lake Mead, Nevada is located on the Colorado River, about 25 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, southeast of Las Vegas, in the states of both Nevada and Arizona. The Lake Mead Reservoir provides water to Arizona, California, Nevada and to parts of Mexico, where farmlands and nearly 20 million benefit from its sustenance.
Originally named after Elwood Mead, the commissioner for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Boulder Dam Recreation Area was established in 1936 and administered by the National Park Service. The name was changed to Lake Mead National Recreation Area in 1964 when Lake Mohave and Shivwits Plateau were added.
While Lake Mead has not reached full capacity in quite some time (1983 to be exact), as of fall 2017, it is at approximately 40% with about 10 million-acre feet of held water. Both Lake Mead and the second largest U.S. reservoir, Lake Powell, compete for capacity bragging rights. As of 2013, Lake Powell is actually in the lead!
There are nine main access points to Lake Mead, NV—on the west, three roads from the Las Vegas metropolitan area, and on the northwest, from Interstate 15 through the Valley of Fire State Park and the Moapa River Indian Reservation to the Overton Arm of the lake.
Las Vegas Strip
It’s not possible to see the world in an hour, but the Las Vegas Strip National Scenic Byway is the closest you’re going to get. In five miles on America’s only night-time byway, you can be transported to another world through themed resorts that include an Egyptian pyramid, a medieval castle, the New York City skyline, a Roman temple, the Eiffel Tower, dancing water and an erupting volcano.
The Strip shines like no place on earth, begging you to check out it’s world-class entertainment, hot nightclubs and fine dining. More than 38.9 million people visit Las Vegas each year, and when you drive along this designated All-American Road, you’ll understand why.
To start at the northern end of the byway, take US 95/93 east from I-15 and exit south on Las Vegas Boulevard. If you’re coming from McCarran International Airport, you’ll want to start at the byway’s south end. From the airport, head north on Las Vegas Boulevard to view the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign– then take in the glorious sights of the Las Vegas Strip.
Just north of the byway is the Fremont Street Experience, located in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.
If you need a break from the glitz, the Las Vegas Arts District, best visited on the first Friday evening of each month, has 18 blocks of art galleries, antiques stores, chic boutiques, and cafes.
Valley of Fire
The lights along the Las Vegas Strip aren’t the only illuminating things in town.
Travel 50 miles north of the city to Valley of Fire State Park and you’ll see rocks that glow with an unusually bright crimson color. The area offers some of the Southwest’s most amazing scenery with vivid colors splashed on some of the oldest natural rock formations known to mankind.
With its official opening in 1935, Valley of Fire is considered Nevada’s oldest state park. The park, which covers an area of almost 36,000 acres, gets its name from its fiery red sandstone. The formations are the result of fossilized sandstone and sand dunes that formed more than 150 million years ago by a shift in the Earth’s crust, faulting and wind and water erosion.
The first inhabitants of the Valley of Fire are thought to have migrated to the region about 300 B.C. Ancient Native American tribes survived on a vegetarian diet and ate all kinds of cactus and plants including yucca, mesquite tree, prickly pear and beaver tail. Eventually, other native tribes learned to plant corn and beans and hunt animals like rabbit, sheep and antelope.
Today, only wild animals’ dwell within Valley of Fire year-round. Rattlesnakes, kangaroo rats, kit foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep and the white-tailed antelope ground squirrels are just a few of the animals that inhabit the area.
Now the state park is primarily a tourist destination with 300,000 visitors per year. Movie stars have also been known to visit this popular park. Because of its stunning scenery, movies such as “Transformers,” “10,000 B.C.” and “Planet of the Apes” include scenes filmed at the Valley of Fire.
Seven Magic Mountains
Seven Magic Mountains is an art installment in the desert. The installment features towers of brightly colored boulders stacked on top of each other. It’s silly, but cool in person.
As you drive through bare desert you see shades of mostly brown but as you drive closer to the art installment your eye catches big bursts of neon green, pink, blue, red, orange, and white.
As you park and walk closer to the rocks, you become a little silent as the power and size of the stacked boulders and colors against the landscape start to take a hold of you.
Seven Magic Mountains is created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, who states, “Seven Magic Mountains elicits continuities and solidarities between human nature, artificial and natural, then and now”.
Seven Magic Mountains is a 30 minutes’ drive from Las Vegas.