Las Vegas: Natural Attractions

Las Vegas may be best known for its glittering casinos and fabulous nightlife, but it is set like a gem in the heart of the most astounding natural landscapes in the country. Numerous natural attractions are within a short drive from the city and can provide you with a refreshing getaway any time you need one.


The Grand Canyon was aptly named: Considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon extends 277 miles, is 18 miles wide in some places and is a mile deep. On a clear day, visitors to the canyon can see nearly 100 miles. Although the sheer size of the canyon is enough to inspire wonder and awe, the beauty of it is more likely to leave you breathless. The spectacular chasm features brilliant colors and stunning formations that took millions of years to form. Paleozoic and Precambrian rocks are near the bottom of the canyon and are more than a billion years old.


Although the Grand Canyon may be one of the Las Vegas area’s most famous natural attractions, it is not the only one. Red Rock Canyon is just 15 minutes from downtown Las Vegas. It gets its name from the crimson-colored sandstone formations that are layered with gray limestone. The perfectly contrasting colors of the rocks creates an impressive visual feast. Red Rock Canyon features hiking, horseback riding, picnicking and rock or mountain climbing on the mountains along the western edge, including Rainbow Mountain, Mount Wilson and Indecision Peak.


Lake Mead is also a short drive from Las Vegas and boasts hiking, swimming, boating, sailing and hot springs. While Las Vegas is well-known for its sometimes-blazing desert heat, Lake Mead National Recreation Center is cool, comfortable and occupies more than 1.5 million acres and nearly 900 miles of shoreline. Relax and enjoy the wildlife, or go kayaking, paddle boating or jet skiing for a pleasant alternative to the heat of Las Vegas.


Valley of Fire National Park is about an hour from Las Vegas. Known for its brilliant rock formations that seem to glow with the changing light, Valley of Fire National Park covers 36,000 acres and contains some of the oldest rock formations in the world as well as petroglyphs that date back to some of the earliest inhabitants of the area. Visitors enjoy hiking, picnicking, camping and more.


Zion National Park is a bit further than the other natural attractions, but it is well worth the drive. Colorful canyon walls stretch 2,000 to 3,000 feet to form the spectacular chasm, and they contrast sharply with the mesquite groves, mossy grottoes and clear blue skies. Plentiful wildlife, extensive parklands, colorful wildflowers and well-developed walking paths draw millions of visitors every year. Hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, horseback riding and more are all popular activities.