HALF MOON BAY, Calif., July 2, 2012 — At first glance, the barren desert surrounding Las Vegas makes it seem that there’s absolutely nothing to do beyond The Strip. The city may be known primarily for glitz and gambling, but adventure-minded visitors have plenty of choices when it comes to mixing traditional Vegas with the great outdoors.
Here are five places to spice up your outside action.
Red Rock Canyon
A geological phenomenon just 20 minutes from the heart of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon has striking deep red rock formations, with a 3,000-foot escarpment produced by a thrust fault. There are more than 30 miles of hiking trails, mountain and road biking opportunities, rock climbing, horseback riding, and even a 13-mile scenic drive.
Valley of Fire State Park
Also known for its red rock formations, the Valley of Fire State Park is 55 miles north of Las Vegas. Its scenic landscapes and hidden canyons include areas of petrified wood and ancient petroglyphs. Hiking trails have varying lengths and terrain for day hikers, and there are two trails for extreme off-road bicycling.
Unless you stay indoors all summer in Las Vegas, the heat can be exhausting. Head 35 miles north of town to Mount Charleston. With its highest elevation at 11,918 feet, it averages 20 to 30 degrees cooler than hot Las Vegas. There are 52 miles of hiking trails and, of course, skiing in winter.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Water babies may not be able to settle for swimming pools every day during a Vegas stay, so the more than 550 miles of shoreline at Lake Mead National Recreation Area may help break up the monotony. Just 25 miles from Las Vegas, Lake Mead offers year-round opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing and water skiing.
Mojave National Preserve
Drive 60 miles right across the California border to the 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve to get the feeling of being happily lost in nature. The scenic landscapes contain sand dunes, Joshua tree forests and volcanic cinder cones, and there is a wealth of developed hiking trails.
Where to stay in Las Vegas
A swanky glamorous option that isn’t too over the top, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is perched right on The Strip and in the middle of Vegas action. Even though everything is Vegas-huge, because the public areas are spread over three floors, there’s still an intimate feel as you walk through.
The 2,995 guest rooms feature flat-screen TVs, marble bathrooms, Wi-Fi, Phaedon art books, and swanky artwork by a host of emerging artists. Rooms with kitchenettes include Sub-Zero appliances and premium wood cabinetry.
When you’re hungry, there are more than enough options for a different place for each meal over a handful of days. Culinary offerings at The Cosmopolitan include: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, China Poblano, Comme Ça, D.O.C.G., Estiatorio Milos, Holsteains, Jaleo, Overlook Grill, Scarpetta, STK, The Henry, Va Bene Caffe, and Wicked Spoon. If you’re merely looking for drinks, there are plenty of lounges and bars to keep you busy: The Chandelier, Vesper Bar, Book & Stage, Bond, Queue Bar, and The Neapolitan of Las Vegas.
It may be hard to tear yourself away from The Cosmopolitan, but do yourself a favor and get tickets for The Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage. The vivid production with a cast of 60 international artists is a must-see for fans of The Beatles music.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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