As a small-French-town born-and-raised girl, I grew up thinking that Las Vegas was only about casinos, crazy nights out, and glitters. I only had in mind what we see in movies. The Hangover was pretty much the only idea I had of the city.
And it didn’t even cross my mind that it could be something else. “Las Vegas? Yeah, that weird city in the middle of the desert where people gamble and go to strip clubs. Not my jam, I’ll pass”. That was until I came here for an internship 2.5 years ago.
Plot Twist – I now live here, full-time.
So, trust me when I say that Las Vegas is so much more than just the Strip! If you don’t believe me, check out this blog post, my FREE Las Vegas & Nevada Travel E-Book, or if you’re too lazy – and I don’t blame you – my Instagram.
Over the last few years – being in Vegas on and off – I have truly learned to discover the city on and off the Strip, but mostly off.
If you’re like me and love everything outdoors, then you need to book a flight to Vegas – YESTERDAY.
Seriously though, all jokes aside, the wilderness right outside of Sin City is absolutely mind-blowing. I have never seen such landscapes in my life. I have traveled a lot, through several continents, and lived in 3 different countries. There’s nothing like Nevada’s Great Outdoors.
I thought it would be really cool to share with you some of my favorite hikes and trails around Las Vegas. I am a huge hike-lover, but not so good of a hiker, so don’t worry – these 3 hikes are not hard at all. In fact, I took my mom on all of them, and she’s not a big hiker either.
Pssshh – I even got married on one of them!
Calico Tanks Trail – Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area based in Las Vegas. By far my favorite place out of town. It is located around 10 minutes away from the Summerlin neighborhood and 25 minutes away from the Strip.
I love this place so much because of its proximity to the city, its unique scenery, and its peace & quiet. Las Vegas is very much alive and being able to get out of it even for a couple of hours is really important to me. I grew up in a French vineyard and as much as I love city life, I need my time in nature pretty often.
However, Red Rock Canyon can be really touristy, and extremely hot during summer. To avoid both the crowd and the heat, I highly HIGHLY recommend going for sunrise. It’s early, but it’s worth it – trust me. The sun is rising East and Red Rock is located on the West side of town, so the sunlight directly hits the mountain you’re hiking, and I’m confident this is paradise on earth. The quiet that a sunrise hike will offer is absolute. You will even be able to hear the birds’ wings as they fly.
Red Rock Canyon’s unique entrance gate is located right before the visitor center, and then the one-way 13-mile scenic loop drive starts. The park offers more than 30 hikes and trails – from beginners to advanced. You can drive, hike, bike, walk, rock-climb, visit the visitor center, camp, and discover wildlife and geology. However, if hiking isn’t your thing, or if you’re physically not able to, don’t worry! It’s still worth visiting – there is the visitor center, the scenic loop drive, and dozens of stops you can make along the way to enjoy the scenery.
I’ll share more practical information on Red Rock Canyon later in this post because #2 is also a Red Rock hike!
Calico Tanks Trail is the first hike I’ve ever done in Las Vegas. It’s not a loop so you will have to walk back on your steps once you reach the top, but the scenery is completely different from bottom to top than from top to bottom.
The hike itself is 2.2 miles out and back. It is considered a moderate hike but I have seen many young children do it. I even took my mom on it and she’s not used to hiking. It does take a little bit of rock climbing but nothing too crazy, and definitely not dangerous nor scary. On average, this hike is supposed to take about an hour, but I always take my time. 2 hours is how long I usually stay on it. I love to stop, take pictures, and enjoy the view.
Calico Tanks Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Red Rock, which is why I recommend going for sunrise even more. I also recommend going between April and June, and from September to November. The other months are either too hot or too windy.
You are welcome to bring your dog, as long as they are on a leash. And don’t forget to bring water.
The top of the hike will reward you with an amazing panoramic view of all of Las Vegas, which will put in perspective how close the city is to this piece of heaven, yet the noise pollution doesn’t affect it at all!
Calico Hills – Red Rock Canyon
This next hike is also located in Red Rock Canyon – Calico Hills.
Fun fact, this is where Steven and I got married last February!
• How to get there
When you enter Red Rock Canyon through the only entrance gate, ask them for a map. After the gate, you can either turn left for the Visitor Center – don’t worry, you can easily get back on the park drive from there -.
This hike has 3 different entrances – Calico I, Calico II, and Sandstone Quarry – see photo below. So its length varies from 2 to 6 miles, and averages between 1.5 hours to 3.5 hours. It depends where you start and end it.
It is considered a moderate to hard hike, but you can just go explore and stop whenever you feel like it.
Once again, it is a pretty popular spot to hike, since it’s in the heart of the actual red rocks and it covers all first 3 stops on the Scenic Loop Drive.
• Info about Red Rock Canyon
• Visitor Center from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
• Scenic Loop Drive and the rest of the park
Nov‑Feb 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM
March 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Apr‑Sep 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Oct 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM
• Daily per vehicle $15
• Daily per motorcycle $10
• Daily per bicycle or pedestrian $5
• Red Rock Annual Pass $30
• America the Beautiful Annual Pass $80
• Free for active-duty military
• Free for permanently disabled visitors
Note – If you visit Red Rock Canyon before October 1 and May 31, you need to make an online reservation on recreation.gov. The reservation fee is $2, on top of the entrance fee if you don’t have a pass. You will have to create an account but I highly recommend doing it today because it will be useful for many national, state parks, and recreational parks.
I also recommend making the reservation in advance, especially if you plan to visit on a weekend. Saturdays can be extremely busy at peak season and you might have to wait several hours to get inside the park if you just show up without a reservation. You will have to turn around and drive all the way back to the city to get service and book online since there is no service in the park.
Note 2.0 — your America The Beautiful pass WILL work at Red Rock Canyon even though it’s not a National Park.
Fire Wave Trail – Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park is a very famous and iconic place near Las Vegas that you all probably already saw over and over again on Instagram and Pinterest but let me tell you one thing — It’s worth the trip.
This State Park is located 45 minutes to an hour from the city of Las Vegas, so it’s really easy to make it a day trip — even a half-day trip!
That famous road you see all over social media is called Mouse’s Tank and will be on your way from the Visitor Center to one of my favorite trails: the Fire Wave.
When I say that this place looks like another planet, I actually mean it. The wildlife it offers is out of this world. You are more likely to see wild animals than not. The rocks show off in every shape you can think of — wavy, elephant-shaped, sharp, smooth, round, and in all the colors that will warm your heart — red, orange, yellow, brown, pink, purple, and even a bit of blue! One second, you can walk on red sand, the next, you’re on rocks, it’s really awesome!
Overall, I recommend going to Valley of Fire during the morning or the afternoon on your way to Zion National Park, in Utah, which I talk about more in-depth in my Free Nevada E-book.
The Fire Wave Trail is a pretty easy hike/walk and is about 1.5 miles round trip. I’ve seen many kids and elders do this hike. All Trails rated it as an easy hike. You will be blown away by the round shapes of rocks covered by all shades of beige, orange to red stripes. They look painted, but I assure you, they’re real. They truly look like ocean waves — hence the name “Fire Wave”
I highly recommend connecting the end of your adventure with the Pink/Pastel Canyon that will take you on a loop back to the parking lot.
Don’t forget to bring water, cover your head, and wear sunscreen. The sun in Nevada is really strong and you need to keep yourself safe!
Unfortunately, the Fire Wave Trail, along with two connecting trails called the Seven Wonders Loop and Pink/Pastel Canyon, are all closed for the summer until September 30th due to extreme heat. I wouldn’t recommend visiting the park in Summer anyway, for this exact reason. The best times are April to June and September to November. But there are plenty of other hikes and trails that are open in the park.
Fees to the Park
• Per vehicle $15 – $10 for NV residents –
• Military $9
• To camp $25 – $20 for NV residents –
• Bicycle $2
Note – your America The Beautiful pass WON’T work at Valley of Fire because it’s a State Park. There is NO service in the park and if you need internet you will need to purchase wifi.
As always, thank you for reading me and I hope this post inspired you to go on an outdoor adventure next time you visit Las Vegas!