Las Vegas has always had a reputation as being something of an “adult playground,”

Full of fun, spectacle, and vice in equal measure. It’s best known, of course, for its nightlife and casino gaming, as well as for the general vision it presents of a city lit up like a massive fireworks display all night every night. While this tends to still be the way in which most people see Vegas, however, the town has changed a lot as new generations have grown up and general entertainment standards have changed. Some of the vintage elements of Vegas just don’t carry the same appeal they used to, and new ones are being conceived and implemented.


A lot of this is happening in gaming spheres specifically, where the old guard, so to speak – the backroom poker tables and cherry slots – just don’t appear to the average visitor under 35 or so. As a result, many slots are going digital, implementing the same themes you can find in games online. Poker and other card games, too, are available in increasing variety in video form. And some casinos are even beginning to experiment with more conventional video games altogether, working betting concepts into arcade experiences.


The changing nature of entertainment in Vegas is also spreading out beyond gaming. Though it’s difficult to quantify this change or even prove it, travel blogs, recommendations, and Vegas headlines have shown a subtle trend away from nightclubs and toward emphasizing cocktail bars, beer halls, and restaurants around town. Perhaps more specifically, there are entire new kinds of concert venue being planned and built to take the place of the traditional rock show stages by presenting more interactive and fan-friendly shows.


Really, there’s a lot of change going on, and while it’s all coming together to keep Vegas fresh and popular, it’s also expanding the ways in which people view the city as a destination. As part of this, more people seem to be recognizing what’s around the city. It almost seems odd to say, but it can be lost on a lot of travelers that despite being in the desert, Vegas is also just a short drive away from some national preserves and outdoor expanses that brilliantly showcase the unique beauty of the American Southwest. More to the point, as people wake up to this fact, they also tend to notice that there are some incredible hiking trails in very close proximity to the city.

That means the next time you visit Vegas, instead of focusing on exploring the “playground” that is the city, you can also spend a few days getting out and exploring nature, and – if you like – coming back to a cozy Vegas Strip hotel room to rest after a long hike.

As for specifics, we’ve identified four hikes to start your list with.

Fire Wave

Imagine a gentle sea of sunburned, orange stone and sand, and you’ll be picturing something close to the Fire Wave trail. Located within the Valley of Fire State Park (and barely an hour’s drive northeast of Vegas), this is a fairly short trail but one that lends itself to off-trail exploration. It takes you along gorgeous, streaked sandstone and among stone hills, almost like you’re walking through a partially flattened canyon and able to explore at your leisure. It’s a fairly easy and safe hike, and one that you can more or less enjoy for as much or as little time as you like.

White Domes

The White Domes hike is actually also in the Valley of Fire State Park, and is perhaps the most famous hike within range of Las Vegas. Described as being a good introduction to desert hiking, it’s a simple 1.1-mile loop, but a visually thrilling one that winds through a canyon with towering sandstone walls. It’s a little bit more of a uniform hike than Fire Wave, but one in which some would argue the scenery is even more striking. It’s not much of a challenge, but it still makes for a nice hour of exercise (more if you want to take your time) and an escape from the city for a day.

Calico Hills

Located in Red Rock Canyon, a National Conservation Area, this hiking area is less than an hour’s drive west of Las Vegas, provided reasonable traffic. The Calico Hills are effectively red stone foothills surrounded by higher mountains and desert grassland, and actually in view of Las Vegas. For a moment you could almost be tricked into thinking they were arranged there specifically as a hiking attraction for physical activity outside of Las Vegas. That is of course not the case, but it speaks to the accessibility of the hills and the appeal of hiking through them. The hike can go for a variety of lengths and distances, but the options only make them more enticing.

Badlands Loop

Death Valley National Park is a little bit farther from Vegas, though at roughly two hours by car it’s still perfectly reasonable for a day trip. It is also home to several different hiking trails worth your time if you like to exercise outdoors, though we’re singling out the Badlands Loop as the best of them all (though it’s not to be confused with South Dakota’s Badlands National Park). It’s a nearly two-hour trail that winds, rises, and falls among lighter, at times almost gold and silver rock formations. It can be somewhat more challenging than the other options here, but not in the sense that you need to be a particularly experienced hiker or climber – just in that you’ll get a bit more of a workout!

There are more hiking trails and areas than just these four. However, these can be a great introduction to what Las Vegas has to offer beyond its city limits.

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