Thursday, February 10, 2011

Las Vegas Beyond Gambling

There are plenty of light shows in and around Las Vegas but the ones I prefer have nothing to do with the Strip. Surprisingly, this overdeveloped city has some pristine patches of wilderness just a short drive from erupting the volcanoes and Egyptian pyramids that capture tourist attention along the Strip. Sure, when I’m in town I hit the craps table for one to two hours, making sure I quit while I’m ahead. But I prefer to stay off the Strip -- at the lower-key boutique Rumor Las Vegas that is thankfully free of a casino.

These are three venues where I spend a lot of my time when I’m in Vegas:


1. Just 45 minutes from the spinning roulette wheels is a wilderness area with almost blinding colors, so intense you may wonder if you've stepped on the surface of the sun. At Valley of Fire State Park, light explodes off the red, mauve, vermilion and white-colored sandstone in Nevada's oldest park in stark contrast to the surrounding drab brown foothills. With names like the Beehives, Elephant Rock, Balancing Rock and the Limestone Hoodoos, these otherworldly formations, resembling their names, are arranged almost like a unique sculpture garden. And scattered about are petroglyphs, Indian drawings and geometric symbols, probably from 225 million years ago. Hiking this park is almost like a treasure hunt. On a short trail to Petrified Logs, you'll find wood from ancient forests that had washed down and transformed to glassy stone millions of years ago.




2. Visitors can escape the chaos of Las Vegas by driving under 30 minutes to a serene, unspoiled landscape where towering sandstone formations replace Vegas' concrete canyons. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area with its artist's palette of terra cotta blending to rose, tan and alabaster, is ideal for a day getaway. Here, the driver, hiker or cyclist alike can experience sweeping scenery and rolling desert valleys. A one-way 13-mile road circles the canyon's perimeter where fifteen trails take hikers to the foot of rugged hilltops or across sandstone arches and domes. Driving this scenic road, you'll be surrounded by red- and buff-colored cliffs, yucca and Joshua trees and dense stands of pine that wash the mountainsides with hues of green. Easy walks cross flat beds of wildflowers or wander past stands of ponderosa pines. Strenuous hikes involve rock scrambling to waterfalls.




3. Instead of sweating at the craps table watching your supply of chips dwindle, cool off by jumping on a chair lift. At the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort and Mt. Charleston you can cross-country ski, horseback ride, camp, or hike.


Mt. Charleston is a place where you can get the whole family back to nature with sleigh rides in the winter and wagon rides in the summer. Even when it's sweltering in the valley, you'll find moderate 70° F weather at Mt. Charleston. For those weary of the almost monochromatic desert around Vegas, Mt. Charleston is a welcome change, where you will find dense stands of aspen, foxtail and white pine. There's hiking for all levels, from a thirty-minute walk to waterfalls to a difficult nine-mile climb to the 12,000-foot peak. Gone is the stale smoky air of the casinos, the endless chiming of slot machines and the stream of neon lights. Instead, you'll gaze at wildflowers in grassy meadows, smell the sweet aroma of ponderosa pines and hear the subtle rippling of streams.

12 comments:

Alexandra said...

I used to watch CSI a lot and always enjoyed it when the crime happened outside the city, so that viewers got a peek at the landscape. I also have a friend who used to live in Las Vegas and raved about exploring the countryside. Thanks for this reminder.

JTravel said...

Hi Alexandra, I also used to be a big CSI fan and always loved when they showed the surrounding landscapes, too.

Sheryl Kraft said...

So glad you posted this. I'm heading to Las Vegas in October w/my husband to meet old friends. But I really don't like Vegas...so it's good to know there are things nearby that are a lot more outdoors and "real"!

About the book said...

I actually enjoy the crazy nightlife in Las Vegas but I would love to do these things too, which are way more family friendly. It's making me want to take a trip there with the kids.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, Oh, I'm so glad you found this post useful. I hope you enjoy the trip. I'd love to hear about it.

JTravel said...

Hi About the Book, For sure, the kids would enjoy these wild, natural venues.

NoPotCooking said...

These are great. We are thinking of visiting this summer. I knew about the red rocks, but not the other areas. Great ideas - thanks!

JTravel said...

Hi NoPotCooking, So glad you enjoyed my suggestions. Hope you get to check out some of these sights if you make it to Vegas in the summer. Enjoy

Jane Boursaw said...

Love seeing the "other" side of Las Vegas. It's one of those places I've always wanted to visit, but like you, not because of the gambling. Thanks, J.

JTravel said...

Hi Jane, I'm always amazed at the number of people who have repeatedly visited Vegas but have never heard of any of the sights I just mentioned here.

sarah henry said...

One of these days I'll make it to Red Rock Canyon. Looks like my kind of place. As for Vegas, I'd be hard-pressed to last a day.

JTravel said...

Hi sarah, I totally agree. The most I can tolerate the Strip in Vegas is about a day without the nearby natural spaces.