Three wilderness retreats minutes from the Las Vegas Strip

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Hiking in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (Photo: Molly Feltner)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on February 12, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, destination, hiking, Las Vegas, Molly Feltner.

Believe it or not, just outside Sin City's glittering casinos and sprawling subdivisions is some of the Southwest's prettiest and most accessible red-rock country. Hikers, climbers, or those in need of fresh air will find relief from slot machines, stretch limos, and Elvis impersonators in these three nearby wilderness areas:

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: A mere half-hour from the Strip, this red-and-white sandstone playground offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails, 2,000 climbing routes, and a 13-mile scenic drive. There is a $5 entrance fee per car.

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Valley of Fire State Park: The Martian landscape of the Valley of Fire, Nevada's oldest and largest state park, provides a dramatic setting for camping, picnicking, and short hikes. The park, located 55 miles from Vegas, charges a per-vehicle fee of $6 for day use and $14 for camping.

Mount Charleston Wilderness Area: Those up for a big challenge can try climbing Charleston Peak (11,918 feet), the highest mountain in southern Nevada. The summit can be reached via two different steep but nontechnical routes requiring an eight- to 10-hour round-trip trek. This area charges no entrance fee and is about 33 miles from town.

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