Leaving Las Vegas – Finding Adventure Close to Sin City

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Last month I got the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas, which I have to admit is not amongst my favorite destinations on the planet. I don’t have anything against the city, it can be extremely fun at times, but given a choice I’d rather be spending time in the mountains or exploring some other remote corner of the globe. But, the point of this trip was to discover all of the opportunities for adventure that can be had just outside the city, and after three days there I came away with a new appreciation for this part of Nevada.

Our base camp for the trip would be the Downtown Grand, a comfortable but not overly glitzy hotel in the older section of Vegas. This part of town is located far from the strip, but still offers its own unique experience with plenty of gambling, shows, restaurants, and nightlife all within easy walking distance. Plus, if you haven’t been down to the Fremont Street area of Las Vegas in awhile, you’ll probably be in for a treat. The area has undergone major revitalization efforts in recent years, giving visitors a reason to explore this part of town and actually get away from the Strip for awhile.

But I wasn’t in Vegas to gamble or spend too much time walking on Fremont. Instead, I was there to see all of the cool outdoor activities that were available outside of the city itself. Our first day began with a short ride out to Boulder City, where we picked up some bikes from All-Mountain Cyclery, a fantastic bike shop that has a great selection of gear and accessories.

We were outfitted with some nice Specialized mountain bikes for our ride, although much of it was going to be on pavement. Before long, we set off on Boulder City’s excellent River Mountains Loop Trail, which is 34 miles (54 km) in length and wanders through some beautiful landscapes. Although much of the trail is indeed paved, there is some serious climbing at times, making it a great route for road cyclists and triathletes to get in a workout.

At one point along our ride we deviated from the main route and took a dirt and gravel path down the Historic Railroad Trail. Along the way we passed through several long and dark tunnels which really added a fun element to the excursion. But what truly stood out was that the trail actually ends just above the Hoover Dam, allowing us to park our bikes and walk down to this amazing structure on foot. It was my first time visiting the dam, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than from the seat of the bike.

Afterwards, we rode back to Boulder City, accumulating about 20 miles of riding in total. Before heading back to Vegas however, we dropped by Boulder Dam Brewing Company for some lunch and to sample the beer. The food and drinks were excellent, and it was a great place to refuel before heading on to our next stop at the Las Vegas Distillery, where we finished off the day by trying a variety of artisan spirits. The distillery is run by George Racz and was the first in Nevada. George is a wonderful host and storyteller who will entertain anyone who drops by.

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The following day we were off and running early once again, this time heading to Overton. There we caught up with our guides from Adrenaline ATV who took us on a fast and furious backcountry tour by all-terrain vehicle. Our rugged and dependable vehicles took us out onto the Logandale Trail System, which has more than 200 miles to explore. We only has time to ride an all-too brief section of them, but what was saw was spectacular. Touring rock spires, impressive sandstone walls, and wide-open sections of countryside spread out all around us. Not that we had time to soak it all in since we were cursing along at a brisk clip in our fun off-roaders.

Before we knew it, the morning was over and were already on our way to the next adventure. The nearby Valley of Fire State Park was our destination for the afternoon, and it did not disappoint. Trading in our ATV’s in favor of hiking through the park, we had the chance to crawl up, over, and around some major rock faces that lined the trails there. It was a fantastic setting and one that rivals some national parks in terms of natural beauty. My travel companions and I were busy snapping photos and trying to get the perfect shot to capture the landscapes there, but even the best photos barely do the place justice.

For our third and final day of adventure in the Vegas area we turned our sights on one of the most iconic climbing destinations in the Southwest. Located just a short drive outside the city is Red Rock Canyon, which has something for just about every type of rock climber, be it boulder, trad, sport, or some combination thereof.

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Once again, the landscapes are utterly spectacular. Just taking a sweeping glance around the area makes it easy to see where Red Rock derives its name. Stretching out across 195,000 acres of wild backcountry, the sandstone peaks and massive boulders cover the region. The place is a favorite amongst hardcore rock climbers, so it can get busy at times, but there are also plenty of routes to go around. It can also get incredibly hot during the summer, so plan a visit during the cooler months of the year.

Unfortunately for me, by this point of the trip I was coming down with a bug and wasn’t feeling much up to climbing. So, for the most part I watched as my companions got to take on some nice routes. Considering the hike in and out of our climb site was enough to leave me winded, it was probably for the best, but I was disappointed that I did get a chance to climb in this amazing setting. That simply means I’ll have to go back at another time.

Once we wrapped up climbing, it was back to Vegas to catch our flights home. The stay was all too brief, but I came away with a new appreciation for the things to see and do there. And I didn’t even get a chance to go stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking, which is a viable option there too.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, giving me a good excuse to head back to Vegas in the near future. During the day, I can go explore the vast outdoor playground that lies just outside the city, while at night I can enjoy everything that it has to offer as well. The best of both worlds.

Kraig Becker

4 thoughts on “Leaving Las Vegas – Finding Adventure Close to Sin City”

  1. Thanks for coming back and giving "outdoorsy" Vegas a chance. I've been here for 17 years and while it wasn't my first choice for places to live, I've grown to love it. There's a crazy number of amazing outdoor activities and lots of hidden places (hiking/biking/running, trails) that lead to some beautiful areas. We even have great mountains and a smaller ski resort 45 minutes away, surrounded by juniper and pines, with a high peak close to 12K feet. Vegas is also a gateway to some amazing nearby places in southern UT and northern AZ.

  2. Not sure when it will happen, but plans are afoot to SUP, hike, and camp down the Black Canyon Water Trail.

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