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.
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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. This is not your typical Las Vegas experience.
Death Valley is located in California, 135 miles (216 kilometers) from Las Vegas. This scenic wonder has the lowest elevation on the North American continent at 280 feet (84.93 meters) below sea level. In the summer months the heat is oppressive and conditions verify the moniker of Death Valley.
Grand Canyon is in Arizona and lies approximately 300 miles (480 kilometers) - a one-hour flight from Las Vegas. Over millions of years, the Colorado River has etched out this canyon that is one mile deep and 277 miles long. Sightseeing air tours of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas can be booked for almost every day of the year. You can also opt for a bus tour that takes you past the Hoover dam.
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 visitors center and a variety of plant and animal life. If you like the adventure sports of rock climbing and mountain biking you can be sure to get your fill here.
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. Petroglyph's 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.
Bryce Canyon is located 210 miles (336 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas in southwestern Utah. The national park is home to some unique rock formations with imaginative names like Pink Cliffs, Silent City and Cathedral. You can watch the sun move across the formations and capture a natural light display that will stick with you forever.
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. Two visitors centers introduce you to the desert environment, however, while it is engrossing for the desert rats you might find that the lack of organized structure difficult to navigate.
Zion National Park , 158 miles (254 kilometers) north of Las Vegas across the Utah border, colorful sandstone canyons, hot rocky deserts and cool forested plateaus are all part of Zion National Park. Zion Canyon is the largest and most visited canyon in the park and the views from the many hikes in the park are amazing. Here, the Virgin River has carved a spectacular forge into the red and white sandstone. The 2,000 to 3,000-foot canyon walls loom high above the river and the tree and grass-covered canyon floor.