10 places near Las Vegas to explore while social distancing


Las Vegas is surrounded by beautiful outdoor areas to explore while maintaining social distancing.

Remember, rules and regulations are frequently changing as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Always do your research before visiting parks and other public use areas and familiarize yourself with CDC recommendations on safely visiting parks and recreational facilities.

  1. Valley of Fire

Just an hour outside of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire is a state park that offers stunning geology, Instagram-worthy scenic drives and plenty of hiking trails. Take in views of vibrant Aztec sandstone rock formations from your car window or while hiking!

According to the Nevada State Parks website, most state park campgrounds opened on May 29 with capacity restrictions and most visitor centers, museums and gift shops reopened on June 1.

2.) Red Rock Canyon

Miles of beautiful hiking, horseback riding and biking trails weave through Red Rock Canyon, Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. Just under 30 minutes from Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon is a great outdoor destination for exploration, picnics, rock climbing and nature-watching.

According to the Bureau of Land Management website, Red Rock Canyon is open, but not issuing late exit or overnight permits until further notice. The park will close each day when it hits capacity and areas such as the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center, campsites and picnic areas remain temporarily closed.

500pxRF_6224684.jpg?mtime=20200707122210#asset:108618Image by www.mileswillis.co.uk/Getty Images

3.) Spring Mountains National Recreation Area

In just under an hour, you can drive from Las Vegas to the Spring Mountains, which emerge from the Mojave Desert with opportunities for visitors to hike, picnic and take in the views. The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is home to lush forest, diverse wildlife and a chance to escape the heat of the desert for a while.

The Mt. Charleston website recommends that visitors utilize the numerous undeveloped sites on lower SR 156, lower SR 157, and SR 158 to help maintain social distancing. Some hiking trails and recreation areas remain closed.

4.) Lake Mead

As America’s first and largest national recreation area, Lake Mead has opportunities to recreate at a distance both on and off the water. A short 45-minute drive will get you to the lake’s beautiful blue waters and nine wilderness areas. Renting kayaks or canoes, hiking, fishing and engaging in other outdoor activities are great ways to get out of the house and spend some time in the sun.

To help maintain safety, the park requires visitors to have a pass before arrival. The National Park Service website asks that visitors bring boat fuel, water and other necessities with them since they will not be able to purchase those items inside the park.

shutterstockRF_167891954-1.jpg?mtime=20200707121943#asset:108617Lake Mead. Image by weltreisendertj/Shutterstock

5.) Mohave Preserve

Sand dunes, Joshua trees, canyons and mountains make up this 1.6-million-acre preserve located about an hour outside of Las Vegas. Escape the city to take a scenic drive past lava flows and cinder cones, pose with the Joshua Trees and explore Kelso Dunes.

According to the National Park Service website, many amenities inside the preserve are closed such as campgrounds, visitor centers and restrooms. Some areas such as the Lava Tube and Zzyzx are also closed to the public.

6.) Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument

Explore the beautiful desert and remains of the Ice Age at Tule Springs, located just 30 minutes from Las Vegas. Take a walk through this national monument and keep your eyes (and camera lens) peeled for 200,000-year-old fossils, endangered flowers and desert sunsets.

Tule Springs National Monument remains open to visitation, according to the National Park Service website.

7.) River Mountains Loop Trail

Thirty minutes outside of Las Vegas, this multi-use trail is 34 miles long and surrounds the River Mountains. The trail leads hikers, bikers and runners through the beautiful Mojave Desert and offers scenic views of the city and Lake Mead.

The River Mountains Loop Trail is open for use.

8.) Zion National Park

Colorful sandstone cliffs, diverse plant and animal life, and a multitude of hiking trails await you in Utah’s first national park. Take a scenic drive, hike to archaeological sites and along rivers, and soak in the park’s beauty. Zion is a two and half hour drive from Las Vegas.

Zion National Park is providing day use recreational access to select areas inside the park and is currently open only during daylight hours.

Zion-Zoom-Background_200408_124700.jpg?mtime=20200408124659#asset:108215Zion National Park. Photo by Laura Brown

9.) Nelson, Nevada

Social distancing excludes ghosts, right?

The ghost town of Nelson lies about 45 minutes from Las Vegas and is the perfect backdrop to explore your creative side. Bring a camera and some time travel enthusiasm as you explore the remains of Techatticup gold mine. Whether you’re fascinated by antique cars and mining history or just want to spice up your Instagram page, Nelson is a great way to spend a day outside the city.

10.) Desert National Wildlife Refuge

A 30-minute drive from Las Vegas will get you to this 1.6-million-acre landscape that is home to over 500 plant species, 320 bird species and a wide variety of other wildlife. Bring your hiking poles to explore one of the many trails inside the refuge or grab a camera to try your hand at wildlife photography.

Roads, trails and restrooms in Desert National Wildlife Refuge are all open to visitor access. The Visitor Center remains closed.

Kyla Pearce is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a student at Arizona State University

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