Sure, most people come to Las Vegas for Las Vegas. They want the energy. The lights. The opportunities to win fortunes, no matter the size.
But, Las Vegas isn’t for everyone. Many people who take advantage of the cheap flights and competitive hotel rates don’t come just for the glitz, but for what is beyond The Strip. Beyond Las Vegas, in fact.
While the Valley isn’t especially large, there is an entire world of options outside of the surrounding mountains that gives visitors a chance to appreciate the beauty of America’s Southwest, and then return to neon lights as the sun sinks into the horizon below Mt. Charleston.
Death Valley National Park: While the entire Death Valley National Park and its 3 million acres can warrant an entire vacation, renting a car and heading out to the desolate area can be done in one day. Expect to clock about a 2 1/2 hour drive through winding mountains covered with shrubs, past Pahrump and the brothels, and into the desert. Be sure to take a moment and stop at the historic Armagosa Opera House en route for some photos. Depending on the time of year, the drive can be especially beautiful.
Time it right, and the desert blooms shoot color into the sand tones, popping against the blue sky. Once in Death Valley, there are a few options in the park that will keep you within your day trip. Be sure to head to Badwater Basin and the salt flats spanning a vast 200 miles. It’s also the lowest spot in North America and the world at 282 feet below sea level. Take some time to park and hike, or just drive through around. Stop at the historic Furnace Creek Inn on your way in our out of the park — this property helped transform Death Valley from desert to attraction.
Grand Canyon: There are a few options to visit the Grand Canyon. The quickest way to get to the landmark is via private tour on a helicopter or small plane. However, for those who want to plan their own day, rent a car and drive to the West Rim. While it isn’t nearly as well-known as the North or South Rim, the West Rim does have the Grand Canyon Sky Walk at Eagle Point, a Hualapai-operated attraction. Packages are available which allow visitors to step onto a glass walk suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River, providing sweeping views of the area. For the more adventurous, there’s a one-day whitewater rafting trip to enjoy, too.
Valley of Fire: It’s a quick trip outside of Vegas, and worth the drive. The old and largest state park in Nevada, the Valley of Fire delights visitors with the stunning rock formations and colors it provides. Here, there’s plenty of hiking and exploring that can be done. Grab a trail map and take time to wander through the rock formations which have been whittled away over the years. Pack a lunch and picnic with fire-y orange sandstone and blue skies as your backdrop and then head over to the visitor’s center to learn more about the park.
Mt. Charleston: Easily visible from anywhere in town, Mt. Charleston is the highest peak in Southern Nevada and also home to a variety of activities for an outdoor enthusiast. Visit Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard in the winter – it was just revamped and is making powder – and open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. With 11 trails and a vertical drop of more than 800 feet, it’s the only ski/snow board resort in the immediate area. There’s also the Darkside Terrain Park, complete with tabletop jumps and rails.
Not enough time for a day-trip? Check out how to spend 24 Hours in Las Vegas without Stepping Foot inside a Casino.
CC Flickr photo credit: Frank Kovalchek