A Look Beyond the Strip – Hiking in Las Vegas

May 8, 2015 by Elskamor

A Look Beyond – Hiking in Las Vegas

We are going to …. Vegas, baby! Bright lights, blinking slot machines, one-armed bandits, the high-roller tables – these are all common sights in so-called Sin City.
I remember the first time I set foot in a Las Vegas Casino I was terrified – all the blinking lights, the noise, and the people hunched over the slot machines with buckets of coins clutched in their hands did not look like a fun time to me.
But a couple of years ago, I was able to spend a some months in that crazy town in the middle of the desert. And I discovered that Las Vegas has more to offer than just the Strip. Beyond the casinos on the Strip, and beyond the seedier casinos off the Strip, the surroundings of Las Vegas offer some of the best hiking you will ever experience!
To the west of the city and just 30 minutes off the main drag, the empty housing developments suddenly drop off and you immediately find yourself in the desert. The vista you see already at this point will be breathtaking. The mountains in the distance seem small, but then your brain and your vision adjust and you realise they are in fact very very large – they just seem small because they are so far away. The air is so clear, and the desert so vast, that you can see seemingly forever!

Turn right into the red Rock Canyon National Park. If you feel lazy, you can just stay in your car and drive the 13mile scenic route – a loop around the entire park. I absolutely do not recommend this though! Get out of your vehicle and try one of the hikes.

My absolute favourite (and by far the most challenging) hike is up to Turtle Head Peak. It starts out mellow enough along a dried out river bed (beware of flash floods!), but soon heads up along rolling hills. When ascending to the peak you might have to do a bit of climbing. After that you reach a plateau which slowly curves upwards towards the main peak. From there, you will have an amazing view of the entire valley, and the city of Las Vegas will be sprawled out before you. There is also a little box containing a notebook in which you can write your name and a message to fellow travellers.

Slightly less hazardous is the Calico Tanks hike, which takes you to the same side of the mountains but foregoes quite a bit of height. On the plus side, if you go during the winter or spring you might be able to take a dip in the pool that forms through rainfall at the end of the trail.

The hikes and scenery to the east of the park are vastly different. There is a beautiful waterfall but also some amazing desert landscape. If you have the opportunity, buy a yearly pass and go again and again – do every single hike, and then do them all over again. I promise, the views and hikes are so amazing, you will not tire of them easily.

There are a couple of things you should keep in mind when hiking in Red Rock Canyon. Remember you are hiking in the desert and be respectful of the diffcult conditions.

  • If you happen to be there in the summer you must (no joke!) start your hike before sunrise. If you choose one of the western hikes, the hills and mountains will protect you from the first few hours of sun, but the desert heat is nothing to mess around with!
  • You should also carry plenty of water and some snacks and sunblock (doh!). You might have to do some light climbing or scrambling up rocks so keep your hands free and store your bottles of water in backpacks instead.
  • Another thing to be aware of is that most of the hikes are not explicitly marked. So be sure that you know the general direction where you are going relative to the rest of the scenery.

In conclusion, we’d love to encourage you to see beyond the tourist attractions that every city has to offer. If you don’t like the bright lights and slot machines, ask a local or do a quick google search. We are sure you will be able to find something just outside of the city that might just take your breath away!

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