We’re always on the trail of adventure, even in the Entertainment Capital of the World. However, you know us; we’re going to find the best Las Vegas adventures that put you out into the world and maybe just a little outside your comfort zone.
Our adventurous day trips from Vegas do just that, with enough Instaworthy scenery to wow your friends and make your enemies jealous. Not everything you do has to stay in Vegas 😉
Ride the Rails in Boulder City
Update as of January 2023 – Rail Explorers has permanently closed their Las Vegas operations. Per their press release –
Rail Explorers is saddened to announce the permanent closure of our Las Vegas Division. We have been unable to reach an agreement with the State of Nevada to renew our lease in Boulder City. We will miss our fabulous local team, the partnerships built with local businesses and the loyal support of the community over the past 5 year
With that said, we’re shifting the focus of this adventure to the River Mountain Loop Trail -“Perhaps the most beautiful and well maintained 35-mile paved bike loop trail in North America”. The RMLT shares much of the railroad right-of-way, including the dramatic view from Railroad Pass at the Pacifica Trailhead.
Boulder City is only 30-minutes outside of Las Vegas, but that’s far enough to feel mother nature winning out over the neon lights of the Strip. It’s one of only two towns in Nevada that prohibits gambling. 100-years ago, it was nothing but a harsh desert, but a city grew out of the rocks to house workers for Hoover Dam. Today, it’s the gateway to Lake Mead above the dam, Black Canyon below the dam, and, of course, the dam itself. There’s also a damn nice historic downtown that captures this quintessential piece of Americana.
To fully understand Boulder City, you must travel down the rails that took the workers to the most monumental engineering feat of the time, the Hoover Dam. Four miles of track runs between the Nevada State Railroad Museum to the Railroad Pass, where you’ll see Lake Mead stretching out to the horizon.
Hike Gold Strike Canyon
If you’re looking for a challenging Vegas outdoor activity, consider hiking Gold Strike Canyon. It’s a challenging 6-mile hike with 1,500′ of elevation gain that takes you down Gold Strike Canyon to a hot spring near the base of Hoover Dam. You’ll have to overcome more than just the searing desert heat to reach your goal, as passing over 8-fixed ropes is required to reach the pools at the bottom.
You’ll need to bring water and purchase a Lake Mead Recreation Pass, and you’ll want to bring gloves to protect your hands from the ropes. You’ll also want to start early to avoid the heat and crowds, especially on summer weekends. But a unique Vegas experience awaits the bold, fit, and prepared.
Kayak Black Canyon
Black Canyon National Paddling Trail runs 30-miles from the base of Hoover Dam to Eldorado Canyon. The entire trail is magnificent, offering beaches, caves, coves, hot springs, wilderness, and solitude. However, the ‘money section’ is the first 11-miles above Willow Beach, which you can explore with either a full-day trip or a half-day trip.
The full-day trip launches just below Hoover Dam and requires you to obtain a National Park permit and launch with an approved vendor. You’ll access the upper half of Black Canyon, including Gold Strike Hot Springs, Arizona Hot Springs, and Sauna Cave. Both full-day and half-day tours access lower Black Canyon, including the spectacular Emerald Cave that sparkles like a gemstone when the sunlight enters it. However, half-day tours leave out of Willow Beach and paddle upstream.
If you’re going to paddle into shimmering caves, why not do it on a glass kayak? Vegas Glass Kayaks lets you do just that, with the best boat support on the river and boxed gourmet lunches to boot. They’re also an approved vendor, so they can launch you from Hoover Dam if you get your permit and are ready for an 11-mile paddle!
Experience Grand Canyon West
The Grand Canyon stretches 277-miles into the headwaters of Lake Mead. Grand Canyon West is the closest part of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and one of the most popular things to do outside of Vegas. Over a million visitors a year experience the Grand Canyon with the Hualapai Nation in ways that are impossible in the National Park.
First and foremost is the glass skywalk that loops out over the rim and lets you see the Canyon as you’ve never seen it before. There are also zip lining over Quartermaster Canyon and combination helicopter and pontoon boat tours into the Canyon itself.
You can visit Grand Canyon West with either a half-day helicopter ride, a day trip from Vegas, or make it an overnight trip and stay in the Cabins at Grand Canyon West. No matter how you come, you’ll see classic canyon views from Guano Point and Eagle Point and have the opportunity to expand your visit into something truly extraordinary. To make it easy you can buy tickets to any or all of these adventures HERE.
Adventuring in Zion National Park
The Zion River forms the largest arm (Overton Arm) of America’s largest reservoir (Lake Mead). It also carved through the Colorado Plateau to form Zion Canyon, home to Zion National Park, the canyoneering crown jewel of the National Park System. What’s more, all this goodness is less than 3-hours from Vegas.
Zion National Park is full of adventures from hiking to canyoneering. Highlights include the Watchman Trail (the easiest hike in Zion) and the breathtaking Angels Landing Trial. Hardened explorers will want to challenge the Zion Narrows through-hike or technical canyoneering down the Subway. If you want to try guided canyoneering, outfitters like Zion Guru can show you the ropes just outside the park.
Surviving Death Valley
So far, our Vegas outdoor activities have focused on flowing water; how about exploring a below-sea-level basin subject to steady drought and record summer heat? Fun fact – on November 19, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson renamed the Mukuntuweap National Monument to Zion to encourage more visitors. He must not have gotten around to renaming the ominous Death Valley. Despite the park’s name, it’s full of life that’s thriving and surviving in the harsh climate.
It’s just over 2-hours to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Park, making it a perfect day trip from Las Vegas. Your voyage can include views of the salt flats in the basin, exploring the Harmony Borax Works, and the rainbow rocks of Zebraski Point. However, the park is massive, extending 5,270 mi² across trackless desert. Some of the park’s most unique features, like mysterious moving rocks on Racetrack Playa, are at the end of long, rugged jeep roads. You’re not going to see the entire park in a week, let alone a day trip from Vegas.
Map of the Las Vegas Adventures
If you’re looking for the best adventures outside of Las Vegas, a map is a good place to start. We hear you, so here’s our Las Vegas adventure map. Every adventure site mentioned in this article is here and, since we used native Google Pins, you can click around the map for a virtual tour.
Final Thoughts on Las Vegas Adventures
People come to Vegas for the glitz and the glamour, but there’s a time in every trip when you’ll need to unwind. That’s where these Las Vegas adventures come in. Whether you’re looking for a day trip from Vegas that will get you back to your Strip hotel in time for dinner, or an overnight getaway to the open desert, you’ll find it in spades just outside the Neon City.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Vegas Glass Kayaks, Rail Explorers, and Grand Canyon West for hosting us!
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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