In this 24/7 city where it's possible to spend your entire visit at your hotel, many visitors won't wander far from their expensive accommodations, lavish pool bar, mesmerizing casino floor, or even pulsing dance floor. The wise and well-informed, however, (that's you!) will venture off The Strip to experience the spectacular scenic beauty surrounding Las Vegas.
Forged by tectonics, carved by the wind and baked by the desert sun, vast canyons and plains, epic mountains and alpine forests beckon you to trade humanity's distractions for nature's warm embrace. So if you're adventurous enough to head beyond the city lights, here are some of the best parks in Las Vegas.
When you just need to get some fresh air and get off The Strip but don't want to travel too far, Springs Preserve is your best bet. It's a literal oasis in the desert and one of Vegas' most kid-friendly attractions.
On the site of the natural springs (which ran dry in 1962) that fed las vegas (“the meadows”), where southern Paiutes and Spanish Trail traders camped, and later Mormon missionaries and Western pioneers settled the valley, this educational complex is an incredible trip through historical, cultural and biological time. The touchstone is the Desert Living Center, demonstrating sustainable architectural design and everyday eco-conscious living.
Outside the main buildings, where desert gardens with more than 30,000 plants flourish, step inside DesertSol, an ultra-efficient, solar-powered model home. Almost 4 miles of nature trails are signposted with interpretive displays piecing together Nevada's legacy, from Native Americans to European settlers. Take a train ride or rent a bike on weekends to explore them.
The preserve is also home to the Nevada State Museum, where you can explore more educational exhibits and the Origen Museum, where you can see exhibits on Las Vegas' history, from Native American dwellings to the arrival of the railroad and construction of the Hoover Dam.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon is located just 13 miles from the central Strip and three miles from Summerlin.
It’s dramatic vistas are revered by Las Vegas locals and adored by visitors from around the world. Formed by extreme tectonic forces, it's thought the canyon, whose 3000ft red rock escarpment rises sharply from the valley floor, was formed around 65 million years ago. A 13-mile, one-way scenic loop drive offers mesmerizing vistas of the canyon's most striking features. Hiking trails and rock-climbing routes radiate from roadside parking areas.
The Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is located within Red Rock Canyon and offers nature walks, ranch tours and historical exhibits. The park originally served as an 1860s ranch and was once owned by billionaire Howard Hughes.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Just west of Las Vegas, the limestone cliffs and alpine forested peaks of the lofty Spring Mountains rise unmistakably above the Mojave Desert. The Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway is a modern, state-of-the-art interpretive center featuring educational dioramas, exhibits and artworks. Make this your first port of call for explorations into the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area section of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Rangers are on hand to steer you toward your ideal forest experience.
Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Park
It's a big surprise for many visitors to often-glitzy and frequently licentious Las Vegas, but Southern Nevada has deep roots in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith with a definitively conservative culture. Faithful from Utah set up camp along a spring-fed creek in the 1850s. Although it was abandoned within a couple of years, today's visitors can get an idea of the hard-scrabble Mojave Desert life that early pioneers faced at this restoration.
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
Up to some 20,000 years ago, Las Vegas was filled with lush vegetation and freshwater lakes that supported now extinct creatures like Columbian mammoths, giant ground sloths and North American lions. Their fossils were laid down along the now dry northern edge of the valley. Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument was created to protect the area. It’s not developed, so there is neither a visitor center nor trails. But paleontology fans are free to wander about with a camera.
The main access point is located along suburban streets at a parking lot, about 14 miles to the north of Summerlin. This is a completely exposed region, so bring sun protection and carry plenty of water.
Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs
A huge, water-filled oasis, Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs is 680 acres of vegetation, wildlife and history in northwest Las Vegas. The large ponds attract many birds, including the swans that roam the park. It's a popular spot for families and visiting history buffs alike.
Once long visited and utilized by Native American tribes, Tule Springs eventually became a cattle ranch. In the 1940s it evolved into a dude ranch, where Hollywood glitterati would stay for six weeks in order to obtain divorces, which were hard to obtain or illegal at the time across most of the US. Many original buildings from this era remain and have been preserved. There is a toll gate at the park's entrance.
For some reason, in such a sunshine-filled place, it took 60 years for an outdoor park to be built on the Las Vegas Strip. The new-in-2016 “park” is a public place with plenty of visual appeal – waterworks and fountains line tree-shaded pathways festooned with restaurants and a big, fun beer garden with gourmet hot dogs and games like table tennis. Rare for The Strip, it’s a place that’s suitable for children as well as adults.
Sunset Regional Park
The asphalt hubbub and glittering-light jungle of Las Vegas takes a breather in this regional park. A lovely lake is surrounded by acres of grassy, tree-lined fields. It's a place for picnics and ball games for locals and visitors alike. On its southern edge, a large nature preserve features trails that wind through the last remaining original sand dune territory in the urban area. It's called "Las Vegas' Backyard" for good reason.