Day Trips from Las Vegas
Above photo: Hoover Dam forms Lake Mead.
Story and photos by Brad Clement
Brad is a photographer and filmmaker specializing in mountaineering and wilderness adventure. He is based in Boulder, Colorado.
Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and Valley of Fire are easy drives from the city.
During previous trips to the Las Vegas area my single goal my single goal was to enjoy Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – usually by exploring its vertical landscape and many world-class rock climbs. But on my most recent visit, I decided to explore other nearby attractions.
A group of friends and I began by renting a car and driving east about an hour to Hoover Dam. The dam holds back the Colorado River to form Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. Water from Lake Mead provides hydroelectric power for much of the Southwest and Southern California, including Los Angeles. The dam also supplies fresh water for over 18 million people. It’s what makes Las Vegas habitable.
Although the view in all directions from the dam is spectacular, the perspective looking straight down the 726-foot concrete wall to the Colorado River below is the most impressive — and the most daunting. We took a tour of the passageways inside the dam and the power plant at its base where we learned about the design, engineering and construction work required for this massive undertaking. The dam and power plant contain enough concrete to build a two-lane highway from New York to San Francisco.
After our visit to Hoover Dam, we returned to Vegas, and my companions caught plane rides home, leaving me wondering what to do next with a few extra days. I decided to make the one-hour drive northeast on Interstate 15 to Valley of Fire Highway, which leads to Valley of Fire State Park. The park features 40,000 acres of incredible hiking trails and intriguing rock formations.
The park did not disappoint. Paved scenic roads lead to seven trails and two campgrounds. One of the campgrounds is situated directly next to Arch Rock, a delicate sandstone arch.
While at the park, I was already making plans for a return visit to take photos of the arch under a starry nighttime sky, far removed from city lights.
Read more outdoor adventure stories.
Even if you don’t catch a thing, you can still savor the experience.
Taking three days to complete this three-hour drive isn’t uncommon; there’s a lot to see.
The iconic saguaro cactus is a symbol of the Southwest.
Glamping is a more luxurious form of traditional camping that still allows you to connect with nature.
The second largest canyon in the United States is nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of Texas.”
Ontario’s largest provincial park influenced some of Canada’s most iconic art.
An adventure-loving couple takes a more luxurious route to celebrate their anniversary.
A day trip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area provides a welcome contrast to the glitz of the Strip.
Explore the trails of Southwest Virginia with easy day hikes.
The route through the Medicine Bow Mountains features fly-fishing, camping and more.