So, are you ready to face Las Vegas’ dazzling lights?
This is the way to make the most of your trip far from the city. Pay a visit to a number of stunningly awesome spots less than an hour from the neon strip that most people think of when “Vegas” comes to mind.
Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
Hoover Dam is a breathtaking engineering accomplishment 45 minutes away from the city. The 6.6 million-ton concrete behemoth is where the mighty Colorado River is held at bay. Lake Mead came to be because of the dam. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a national park that measures 1.5 million acres with 700 miles of shoreline meant for hiking, canoeing and kayaking.
Things available at the dam: There are one-hour guided tours around the power plant, as well as a view of the huge pipes and generators underneath the dam.
Activities offered at Lake Mead and around it: There are boats you can rent per hour or day at the Las Vegas Boat Harbor, or a cruise you can take on the Desert Princes. Bikers and hikers can explore the 3.7 mile Historic Railroad Tunnel Train within Boulder City, designed to haul materials to the construction area of the dam. You will go through five tunnels, as well as across specific lake and desert scenes.
Do not overlook: Do not forget to take a leisurely walk on the sidewalk at the top to get the best view, plus the opportunity to stand on the state border, having one foot in Nevada while the other in Arizona. Carry along some food to the park, where there are many perfect scenic areas for lunch alfresco, most of which have shade (you can get your meal anytime at the boat harbor).
Things you need to keep in mind: When hiking in the park, bring lots of water. According to the National Park Service, long hikes require at least two liters. The atmosphere is dry and temperature tends to rise.
Valley of Fire State Park
This park, which is located about 55 miles (an hour) northeast of Vegas and a popular camping site, never fails to impress day visitors with the stunning, colorful sandstone formations.
Things you can do: Take a look at 30-century-old petroglyphs from Ancient Pueble people (Anasazi). You can view some directly at the Atlatl Rock picnic area, while you can reach others through a rough quarter-mile trail. The park comes with 18 miles of roads. The picturesque White Domes Road will bring you beyond Rainbow Vista, an often photographed scene of billowing layers of rocks in red, brown, white and gold.
Don’t forget: Go by the Rainbow Vista at the tip of the road then attempt for a moderate 2-mile hike to White Domes (round, creamy sandstone formations) to let you get a close-up look of the rock striations. Around 100 feet of the trail is nearly a tunnel-like slot canyon, in which you can see all veins of color in the walls around you and also be welcomed by a shade.
Wildlife: You can come across snakes, ravens, coyotes, roadrunners, desert bighorn sheep and black-tailed jackrabbits.
Things you should know: Bring your own food since there is no restaurant but only a number of snacks available in the visitor center gift shop. There won’t be many gas stations either, so it is best to fill up before leaving.
Consider visiting early in the morning, when it is about 15 to 20 degrees cooler (sunrise) than during sunset, plus, you can also view the same beautiful fiery radiance on the red rocks.