Finding nature near Las Vegas

Las Vegas may be known for its flashing lights and acres-wide casinos, but it also offers plenty of nearby nature excursions. Here are three of my favorites:

Valley of Fire: Of the parks on this list, this one is the furthest from Las Vegas, but it is also the most rewarding. Dramatic red rock formations are everywhere in this state park, located about an hour northeast of the city. Not only does Valley of Fire provide visitors with lots of opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and camping, it also features mysterious petroglyphs. The best spots for petroglyph-viewing are along the Mouse’s Tank trail (a great hike for kids) and at Atlatl Rock. To read more about Valley of Fire, stop by my family travel blog.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park: This state park doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves. Combining fascinating history and natural beauty, Spring Mountain Ranch is the perfect spot for a quick hike or a tour of the main house. The ranch has had notable past owners including Howard Hughes and actress Vera Krupp. May through September, the ranch hosts performances from Super Summer Theater as well as living history programs in the spring and fall.

Red Rock Canyon: This is probably the most well-known park in the Las Vegas area. A few of my favorite spots in the park are the Calico Tanks, the scenic overlook and picnic area along Charleston Blvd., and the exhibit space behind the visitor center. The Red Rock scenic loop is located right next-door to Spring Mountain Ranch, so these two parks make a great combination. If you visit Red Rock, be prepared for it to be crowded during the weekend. However, weekdays are usually much less busy. You can read more about exploring Red Rock with kids by checking out my recent post at Family Rambling.

Although I’m starting to get used to the desert landscape, these parks always remind me that us Las Vegans live in a pretty awesome setting. From dramatic vistas to dynamic rock formations, these three spots are a great place to start for nature-lovers who want to explore outside of the city limits.

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