Las Vegas is non-stop action and energy, but sometimes a break from the city to enjoy some silence and admire the beauty of the desert is exactly what your Vegas trip needs. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Valley of Fire State Park and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area are all an hour’s drive or less from the Strip, and each of these parks has hiking trails that are sure to please all nature-lovers.
On this four-kilometre hike, you’ll walk through the open desert before reaching the entrance of the cool, shaded canyon. This is when the well-marked path turns into loose boulders and rocks. Depending on the experience and energy level of your group, you can opt to keep the hike really easy and turn around here. (You’ll get a sense of the canyon’s depth even if you don’t keep hiking.) Or, plan to walk to the trail’s end, which in the springtime might be an inviting pool of water.
You’ll get a little local history while hiking this one-kilometre trail. You’ll see petroglyphs on the canyon walls before making your way to the trail’s end-point: a natural waterhole where a defector, nicknamed “Little Mouse,” was said to have hidden out while running from the consequences of his crimes.
If you’re feeling really energetic: Drive along the Scenic Vista Highway to make additional hiking stops. Along this road you’ll also find the Rainbow Vista Trail, Fire Wave Trail and Duck Rock Trail.
You’ll get very different views if you walk both these adjoining trails, which together will take you around three hours. On the Moenkopi Trail, you’ll walk in the foothills, past Joshua trees and along a limestone ridge, and will be rewarded with views of the mountains and striped rock walls. After you cross the road to walk along the Calico Hills Trail, you’ll see the otherworldly, fire-red Calico Hills up close. There’s also a good chance you’ll see some rock climbers in action on the red walls.
If you’re feeling really energetic: Do the full Grand Circle Loop, an 18-kilometre trail that includes elements of both the Moenkopi Trail and the Calico Hills Trail, as well as other trails in the north of the park.
This six-kilometre hike will take you to the area’s Petroglyph Gallery, where close to 2,000 petroglyphs — thought to be made up to 5,000 years ago by the area’s Indigenous peoples — can be found. There’s also some adventure required if you’re hiking this trail. While most of the way you’ll walk on a gravelly, sandy path, you’ll have to climb up a few big rocks to make it to the top of a dry waterfall and to the Petroglyph Gallery. Plan to spend about half a day out in the desert to complete this hike.
If you’re feeling really energetic: Instead of going left at the 100 Trail at the junction to reach the Petroglyph Gallery, turn right and onto the 200 Trail for a longer, more challenging route.
As you hike this two-kilometre sandy trail, you’ll see plenty of tall, multi-coloured sandstone formations. And just a few minutes into the hike, you’ll walk through Slot Canyon, a shadier section of the trail that is so narrow your hands can touch either side of the canyon walls. Know that you’re also hiking through a popular movie set. Scenes from movies like Star Trek: Generations and Transformers were shot here.
If you’re feeling really energetic: Hike onto the adjoining Prospect Trail. You’ll avoid the crowds while on this 11-kilometre, out-and-back hike. It’s scenic, but long. Bring lots of water.