Las Vegas' best kept secret: Hiking and rock scrambling just minutes from the Strip

It isn’t which slot machine pays off the most. It’s better than that. It’s not how to get a free buffet. It’s much better than that. So, what is it? You want something that’s exciting, fun, healthy and inexpensive, don’t you? I thought you did. The secret is the tremendous amount of outdoor activity just minutes from the Strip, specifically hiking and rock scrambling.

Are you thinking it’s too hot to go outdoors in Las Vegas? Actually Las Vegas has seasons. In January the average daytime temperature is 58 degrees! Here’s what most people don’t know. There’s almost a 10,000 foot difference in elevation from the area around Lake Mead (30 miles from the Strip) to Charleston Peak, which soars 11,918 feet into the air! When it’s 100 degrees in Las Vegas, it’s only 70 degrees in Mt. Charleston, 35 miles from the Strip.

It gets even better: Las Vegas has three very distinct hiking areas. Red Rock Canyon (20 miles west of Las Vegas) is home to the best scrambling (climbing up, over, around, and down rock) routes in the world. If you liked mazes when you were a kid, you will love Red Rock Canyon. There are over 100 hikes ranging from very easy to very challenging. Spring and autumn are the best time to experience Red Rock Canyon.

Mt. Charleston is home to the big mountains. There are several peaks in the area. Some have trails, but most are cross country routes that will really challenge you. Due to the higher elevation, hiking in Mt. Charleston is best done in the summer.

It can get cold, at least by Las Vegas standards, in the winter. That’s when you head toward Lake Mead. Did you know there are three hot springs located around the lake?

There’s no other city in the United States that has this much hiking diversity and no permits are needed for day hiking. Most Red Rock hikes have a fee to enter: $5 per car, currently, and the America the Beautiful pass is accepted. Some Lake Mead hikes also have an entrance fee.

After the hike you can relax at the Trump International Hotel, located on the Strip and very reasonably priced. A great ending to the perfect day!

- Branch Whitney of Hiking Las Vegas and Hiking Southern Nevada

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