Explore the exciting offerings just beyond the city lights.

Black Canyon ©Kippy S. Spilker

STORY AND PHOTOS BY RACHEL PASCHE

When many people think Nevada, they often think Las Vegas. While this lively and entertaining city is one of Nevada’s most popular destinations, it’s not all about the lights, slots, and urban attractions. Las Vegas is environed by myriad landscapes, many of which are less than an hour’s drive from the metropolis. These simple and spontaneous trips are perfect for quenching the thirst for adventure, no matter if you’re a novice explorer or a veteran wayfarer.                

Whether seeking snow-covered peaks, rugged mountain terrain, or a stunning river expedition, some exhilarating experiences near Las Vegas await. Perfect for a full- or half-day adventure, these micro-adventures offer ideas for getting out and enjoying some of Nevada’s wonders without spending too much time planning or getting there.

Mt. Charleston ©Rachel Pasche
Mt. Charleston ©Rachel Pasche

MT. CHARLESTON

To escape the desert heat, Mt. Charleston is an enchanting alpine oasis. Located less than an hour northwest of Las Vegas, this huge wilderness is home to snowy peaks, looming pines, and as much fresh air as one could ever hope for. The recreational area has more than 60 miles of maintained trails, most starting around 6,000 feet elevation and some climbing all the way to the 11,916-foot Charleston Peak. These hikes range in difficulty from easy to strenuous, so hikers can vary their path based on skill level or desired effort. 


Some easier hikes include Eagle’s Nest Trail (2.7 miles), Echo Trail (1.1 miles), Sawmill Short Loop (1.3 miles), and Acastus Trail (3.5 miles). These trails are all straightforward with minimal elevation change, perfect for beginner hikers.

For the more experienced hiker, Mount Charleston has several moderately difficult trails. These include Cathedral Rock Trail (2.8 miles), Mack’s Canyon Trail (2.2 miles), Wildhorse Canyon Loop (3.8 miles), Mary Jane Falls Trail (2.9 miles), Big Falls Trail (3.4 miles), Upper Bristlecone Trail (4.6 miles), Lower Bristlecone Trail (5.8 miles), and Upper and Lower Bristlecone Loop (5.7 miles). Hiking boots are recommended or required for some of these hikes, as the terrain is steep and difficult to navigate in normal shoes. 

Difficult hikes at Mount Charleston can be strenuous; many of these trails take you to a very high elevation so be prepared for altitude change. Some of these trails include Trail Canyon Trail (3.9 miles), Charleston Peak South Trail (16.6 miles), Echo Overlook Trail (4.6 miles), Raintree Trail (5.3 miles), Mummy Mountain (8.8 miles), and Fletcher Peak (7.2 miles). These hikes all boast incredible views of the surrounding wilderness, so making the climb is worth the effort. Hiking boots are required for these trails, and trekking poles are recommended for some of the summits. Packing adequate water is essential, as is preparing for the temperature drops at the higher elevations.

When hiking in mountains, it’s important to be responsible and safe. Packing enough water is the most important part of hiking, and having proper attire (hiking boots, good socks, athletic wear) is typically recommended for difficult hikes.

Bootleg Canyon ©Rachel Pasche

BOOTLEG CANYON

Bootleg Canyon ©Rachel Pasche

Bootleg Canyon is an amazing spot for phenomenal mountain biking. With more than 36 miles of rocky terrain, there are trails for beginner skill levels all the way to experts. Located 30 minutes southeast of Las Vegas near Boulder City, this mountainous wonderland is perfect for a micro-adventure. The area is great for hikes, too, and even offers a huge zipline that sends guests flying down the mountain for more than 1.5 miles.

Bootleg Canyon ©Rachel Pasche

The zipline at Bootleg Canyon is operated by Flightlinez, and adventurers can choose from a daytime, sunset, or moonlight zipline ride. These flights are a great way to see some remarkable scenery from high up and it makes for a wildly fun day trip. The company offers locals discounts.

The lower trails at Bootleg Canyon offer more beginner-friendly mountain bike riding, so for those who are just starting out, these trails are perfect for getting comfortable. For those without bikes that want to test out this sport, All Mountain Cyclery in Boulder City offers bike rentals and shuttles to the mountain; just be sure to reserve in advance. The upper trails at Bootleg Canyon are more difficult, so those with some experience can test their prowess on the hills. Be sure to wear proper gear when biking and pack adequate water. 

Black Canyon ©Jeremy Spilker
Hoover Dam ©Kippy S. Spilker

COLORADO RIVER

The majestic Colorado River winds along the southeastern border of Nevada before reaching Lake Mead. Surrounded by dramatic red cliffs, this emerald river offers some incredibly scenic kayaking less than an hour from Las Vegas. There are several drop sites, and kayakers can even paddle to the base of Hoover Dam (with appropriate passes and permissions), which is even more impressive when viewed from the water. 

Bighorn sheep ©Jeremy Spilker

For those who don’t own a kayak, going through a local guide company is a great option. Both Desert Adventures and Blazin’ Paddles offer kayak rentals, guided tours, and shuttles to and from the sites. In addition, guests can rent dry bags and other gear. Both companies offer tours that take paddlers through the spectacular Black Canyon, and point out areas of interest (including caves, hot springs, and even the chance to see desert bighorn sheep). There is an option for a half-day excursion that lasts about four hours and provides shuttle service and a pass if paddlers go into the Hoover Dam area. The water in Black Canyon is calm, making the trip suitable for kayakers of all skill levels. For a longer trip, Blazin’ Paddles has both full-day and overnight trips down the river, plus shuttle service to and from The Strip. For those who want to really get out of the city without having to do a ton of planning or preparation, this is an epic micro-adventure.

ADVENTURES EVERYWHERE

Las Vegas is a hidden gem for outdoor recreation, and these micro-adventures are only a few of many ways to discover some of the sublime scenery southern Nevada has to offer. 

GET OUT THERE

Go Mt. Charleston
gomtcharleston.com, 702-872-5486

Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon
flightlinezbootleg.com, 702-293-6885

Desert Adventures
kayaklasvegas.com, 702-293-5026

Blazin’ Paddles
blazinpaddles.com, 702-428-0079

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