A whole other world lies just beyond the neon lights of Las Vegas, though most don’t realize it — the 24-hour glow tends to be a bit distracting. Yet just a few miles off the Strip, stars are putting on their own light show, single track awaits, and yogis are getting their goat on. Even casual champions of fresh air should take note: The outdoor activities surrounding Las Vegas will get your blood pumping like no half-priced buffet or happy hour ever could. Below are just a handful.
1. Practicing yoga (in meadows or with goats)
A trip to Vegas generates more than its fair share of adrenaline, but it doesn’t all come from lucky rolls and endless bites — proof comes in the form of a day pass for Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. Yoga on the Meadow is hosted here Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, where trained instructors lead free group sessions on park grounds. This was once a luxury retreat of millionaire Howard Hughes, which should give you an idea of the level of beauty we’re talking.
But if a regular yoga class seems too ordinary for your Vegas vacay, call in the goats. Just 13 miles south of downtown, Goat Yoga Las Vegas puts on outdoor yoga with adorable and super-curious baby goats. These critters come from a local petting zoo and love to get in on the action, so prepare to make a four-legged friend during your n-a-a-a-a-maste session.
2. Stargazing in Cathedral Gorge
If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Vegas” and “star party” is Céline Dion rubbing elbows with Barry Manilow, that’d be understandable. But astronomy should be a close second — outside the city, the skies get unreal. Set up camp at Cathedral Gorge State Park and that’s exactly what you’ll find. These star parties — in May and September — include an evening of astrological talks and the use of high-intensity telescopes to get an amazing view of the sky above.
Closer to the Strip, join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society for their Astronomy in the Park nights. Stargazing sessions are held regularly at parks surrounding Las Vegas. And in case you missed the memo, the area surrounding Vegas is just about as dark as it gets.
3. Hunting for petroglyphs in the Valley of Fire
There are national parks that struggle to hold a candle to Valley of Fire State Park — it’s one part Arches, one part Grand Canyon, one part The Wave, all parts ancient, petrified, red rock wonderland. Just standing still anywhere in its 40,000 acres qualifies as an adventure.
…But then you’d be missing Atlatl Rock. An atlatl is a device used to launch a spear, and the petroglyphs here do an unmistakable job — even after 1,500 years — of depicting its use. Getting to it is an easy mile hike, and once you’ve crossed this off your list, start your second (and third and fourth) search for “white domes,” “beehives,” and the “seven sisters.”
4. Chasing waterfalls
Waterfalls aren’t common in Nevada, but they do exist. If you have the motivation and determination (congrats on that, btw), a hike through Ice Box Canyon is a great way to check out some seasonal waterfalls. The park’s name alone should let you know you’re in for a chilly, who-knew-this-was-here kind of treat. If Nevada has had a wet winter, your best bet for discovering a waterfall with an easy hike is Lost Creek at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. The short trail leads to a waterfall sprouting from a rock chute way overhead.
If you really want a water-themed adventure, though, Lake Las Vegas is the go-to spot. Think paddleboarding, flyboarding, kayaking, and leisure boating, all under and hour from the city.
5. Hiking the Nevada desert — at night
Hiking the Nevada desert is practically a rite of passage in these parts, and hiking it at night takes it up a notch (and cools it down). Pick a full- or almost-full-moon night, and join one of the two-hour ranger-led hikes through Sandstone Canyon in Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. The landscape is rocky, but the two-mile hike is actually suitable for ages 7+. Otherwise, check out one of the kid-friendly Full Moon Hikes at Mt. Charleston. A naturalist guide accompanies you, pointing out all the nocturnal animals you never normally get to see.
And for the sweat-addicts among us, there’s Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. Whatever hike you choose, it’ll be a tough workout rewarded with incredible summit views and wildlife-watching. Look for the petroglyphs listed on the National Register of Historic Places, load up on water, and wear comfy shoes!
6. Warming up your spear-launching arm
Have you ever been so stressed out you wish you could destroy things? You could do as you normally do and destroy some Ben & Jerry’s — or you could just go throw some spears.
Throughout the year, Ancient Spear-Throwing Workshops are put on at Cathedral Gorge State Park, and outdoor archery lessons take place at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. So let the rage flow forth from your spear-happy, Katniss-deft hands. Vent that steam. Laugh off your stress. You’ll get a how-to training session — all jokes aside, you do need to be safe — and then you’ll be let loose to throw spears or zoom arrows. The twang of the bowstring? Oh man. Electrifying.
7. Pedaling into the wilderness…
About 15 miles southeast of Las Vegas you’ll find Henderson, and if you’re the biking type, this is where you should start paying attention. There’s more than 180 miles of top-rated trails here, including the family-friendly (paved!) Burkholder Trail. Wetlands Park Nature Preserve Loop — a super scenic 1.6-mile river trail — is less than half an hour outside the city, too. (Note: Keep your eye out for horseback riders.)
For the more experienced cyclist, the Park-to-Park Pedal Extreme ride event offers a choice of the 40-Mile Helix, 60-Mile Double Jack, or 100-Mile Extreme route through a handful of Nevada’s best public lands.
8. …or hopping on horseback
You’re allowed to “forget” your workout shoes at home. If that scenario describes you, Cowboy Trail Rides in Red Rock Canyon, just 20 miles west of downtown, has five equestrian trails to choose from and a whole bunch of horses (get ready to meet like Big Joe and Licorice). All experience levels are welcome, the natural scenery is incredible, and workout gear is totally unnecessary.
For even ranch-ier action, visit Sandy Valley Ranch — bet you haven’t joined a cattle roundup before. Or just enjoy the private riding experience on their trails through the Mojave Desert. When people ask you about your “trip to Vegas,” they’ll need pictures to believe it.
9. Time traveling all the way back to the 1800s
Rewind to a time before street performers and neon and highways. Take down the high rises, and put up the timber-framed saloons, liveries, and meat markets. Add in a healthy dash of street gun fighting between cowboys, showgirls, and parties in the town square. That’s Bonnie Springs Ranch, a super immersive and supposedly haunted replica of an Old Nevada mining town. This is also where you’ll find the only hotel in the Red Rock Canyon area, so consider it a primo home base for hiking, climbing, and basking in the outdoors.
Pioneer days might be over, but pioneer adventures certainly aren’t.