When most people think of Las Vegas, they think of extravagant shows, neon lights, great restaurants, gambling, and the admittedly sometimes tacky glitziness of The Strip. And they're not wrong. Vegas is indeed all of those things.
Far fewer people come to Sin City to enjoy the great outdoors. But the truth is, the desert landscape around Las Vegas is truly exceptional, and the city makes an ideal gateway to the Nevada wilderness. The spectacular nature surrounding Las Vegas makes it worth coming to the city just to do some hiking. Also, these outdoor hiking destinations are excellent places to go when you've had enough of gambling and entertainment and would rather visit some of the top outdoor hiking destinations and desert trails the region has to offer.
Drop off your bags at a Las Vegas luggage storage, but don't forget to bring your hiking boots. These incredible hikes offer some of the very best trail adventures in the Southwest, and in a city not known for being affordable, they are also some of the best free things to do in Las Vegas. Just don't forget to bring a hat and plenty of water to protect yourself from the harsh Nevada sun.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Las Vegas
Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail
Just 40 minutes from Las Vegas itself, the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail is a great option if you want to stretch your legs and get some exercise without traveling too far. The trail covers 6.8 miles and usually takes around four hours to complete, but the terrain is flat, making it a great place for beginner hikers or a wonderful location for a bike ride. Located inside Lake Mead National Recreation Area, this former railroad offers impressive views of Boulder Basin and a chance to explore a variety of different climatic zones on a single hike. The trail is short enough that you could do it early in the morning before the sun gets too hot and be back in town in time to sample the best brunch in Las Vegas, so it's a great option if you just want to take a break from the casinos and get some fresh air.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The home of Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail, Lake Mead NRA has much more to offer hikers. With over 1.5 million acres of protected land, it's one of the largest national recreation areas in the country. There are plenty of trails to explore, and most of them are designated easy or moderate, making this a great place to bring the whole family. Be sure to bring your camera, as you're almost guaranteed to see some desert wildlife like desert bighorn sheep on your hike.
Ice Box Canyon Trail
Located in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the Ice Box Canyon Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails near Las Vegas. The trail is only two miles long but can take upwards of four hours to complete as hikers make their way up the canyon walls. The first part of the hike is relatively easy, following a wash through the canyon. The second half requires some scrambling over rocks, but the views from the top are more than worth it. If you don't feel like making the hike back down, there's a shuttle that runs every 15 minutes and will take you back to the visitor center.
Although it's far from being one of the easiest hiking trails in Las Vegas, it rewards those who accept the challenge with an incredible experience of the Las Vegas wilderness and the Mojave Desert. This classic slot canyon feels a long way away from the slot machines of The Strip, but it can be reached with only a 45-minute drive. This being Las Vegas, you'll probably find a car is the best way to get around the city and is essential for reaching the best hikes Las Vegas has to offer.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock is one of the most popular hiking destinations near Las Vegas, and it's easy to see why. The area has something for everyone, from easy, family-friendly hikes to more challenging routes for experienced hikers. With over 30 miles of trails, you could spend days exploring the canyons and rock formations of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. And if you want to take a break from hiking, there are plenty of other activities on offer, such as rock climbing and mountain biking.
If you're looking for an easy hike with incredible views, check out the Calico Tanks Trail. This 2.4-mile loop takes you past some fascinating sandstone formations before reaching a viewpoint where you can see all the way to downtown Las Vegas. For a longer hike, the 6.3-mile round trip to Turtlehead Peak is well worth the effort, especially if you can time your hike to watch the sunset over the city.
Mary Jane Falls Trail
If you want to escape the heat of the desert, head to Mount Charleston for some cooler temperatures and beautiful alpine scenery. The Mary Jane Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Mount Charleston, and it's not hard to see why. The trail is only two miles long, but it features a waterfall, as well as stunning views of the valley below. The hike can be done year-round, but be aware that in winter the trail may be covered in snow and ice.
The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, of which Mount Charleston is a part, has over 150 miles of trails to explore. So if you're looking for more hiking options, you won't be disappointed. And when you're done exploring the mountains, you can relax in one of the many hot springs in the area.
Just a short drive from Las Vegas, Mount Charleston is one of the best places to escape the desert heat. In summer, temperatures in the mountains can be 20-30 degrees cooler than in the city, making it a perfect place to hike, picnic, or simply enjoy the great outdoors.
There are plenty of hiking trails to choose from in Mount Charleston, but our favorite is the Fletcher Canyon Trail. This moderate four-mile hike takes you through a beautiful canyon to a secluded waterfall. The trailhead is located just off Highway 158, and there's plenty of parking available.
If you're looking for an even easier option, the half-mile nature trail at Cathedral Rock is a great choice. This scenic loop takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of Mount Charleston and is suitable for all fitness levels.
Hot Springs Mountain Trail
One of the most unique hiking experiences near Las Vegas can be found at Hot Springs Mountain. The trail to the summit is only 3.6 miles long, but it's a challenging hike with an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet. The reward for your efforts is a soak in one of the natural hot springs at the top of the mountain. There are also some great views of the desert from the summit, making this one of the best hikes in Las Vegas for sunset watching.
Just be aware that the temperatures at Hot Springs Mountain can be extreme, so it's important to hike early in the day to avoid being caught out in the heat. And remember to bring plenty of water, as none is available on the trail.
Valley of Fire State Park
If you're looking for even more incredible views, head to Valley of Fire State Park. This state park is located just an hour from Las Vegas, and it's home to some of the most stunning desert scenery in the area. The Valley of Fire Highway takes you past towering red sandstone formations, and there are plenty of hiking trails to explore.
One of the most popular hikes in the park is the White Domes Trail, which takes you past some amazing rock formations. The two-mile round trip hike is relatively easy, making it a great option for families with young children. For something a bit more challenging, try the seven-mile round trip hike to Fire Wave. The Fire Wave trail takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of the park and rewards you with views of the colorful sandstone formations.
When you're done hiking, be sure to check out the petroglyphs at Atlatl Rock. These ancient rock carvings are believed to date back over 2,000 years and provide a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Desert National Wildlife Refuge
The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in Las Vegas for wildlife watching. The refuge is home to a variety of animals, including bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and pronghorn antelope. There are also over 200 species of birds that can be found in the refuge.
The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is a huge area, and there are plenty of hiking trails to explore. For something truly unique, try the 4WD Panorama Loop. This challenging off-road trail takes you to some of the most remote parts of the refuge and provides stunning views of the desert landscape. Just be sure to have a high clearance vehicle if you attempt this trail.
Corn Creek inside the Wildlife Refuge also has some great options for hiking. There are five easy trails here, and three of them are ADA accessible so everyone can enjoy the incredible nature here. The running streams and leafy trees of Corn Creek make it a great place to cool off and take a break from the desert surroundings of Las Vegas, and the connected trails only add up to about a mile and a half, so it's an easy way to stretch your legs while you take a break from the city.
Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
For even more great hiking near Las Vegas, head to the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. This area is located just 30 minutes from the city, and it's home to a variety of desert landscapes. The main attraction here is the Petroglyph Canyon Trail, which takes you past over 300 petroglyphs.
This two-mile-long trail is considered easy to moderate, and it's a great option for families with young children. Just be sure to bring plenty of water, as there is none available on the trail. If you're looking for something more challenging, try the seven-mile round trip hike to Ringtail Cat Canyon. This strenuous hike takes you through some of the most remote parts of the conservation area and rewards you with stunning views of the desert surroundings.
When you're done hiking, be sure to check out the interesting rock formations at Keyhole Canyon. This canyon is located near the Petroglyph Canyon Trail, and it's a great place to explore the unique geology of the area.
Easy Hikes in Las Vegas
Corn Creek within Desert National Wildlife Refuge offers some excellent easy hikes that are accessible to just about anyone. White Domes Trail in Valley of Fire State Park is also a not particularly challenging way to see some of the most spectacular scenery around.
Intermediate Hikes in Las Vegas
If you're looking for more of a challenge, the Fire Wave Trail can provide that and reward you with some incredible desert scenery at the same time. Fletcher Canyon at Mount Charleston is also a good hike for those who want to push themselves a little without exerting themselves too much.
Difficult Hikes in Las Vegas
The area around Las Vegas offers plenty of hikes that will challenge even experienced outdoor people. Ringtail Cat Canyon and Hot Springs Mountain Trail offer some of the toughest hikes in the Las Vegas area, but the reward is getting to see parts of Nevada that most people never experience.