Before Vegas was a metropolis of almost two million people, before the Strip had become a Mecca of non-stop entertainment, this area was a blend of desert and meadow – lots of cacti, few people, no one going by the name Elvis. Before that, it was under a deep ocean (circa 600 million years ago), and the decaying marine life formed a sediment crust up to 9000 feet thick, which became limestone, eventually rusting and turning the rock formations bright shades of red.
Now that the temperature is hovering pleasantly below 90° F, it’s time to have a City Slickers jaunt and get in touch with our surrounding nature. Hit the dusty trail with these suggestions. Don’t forget your Nalgene.
Warm Springs - Nature’s hot tub, minus the chlorine, plus the salutary minerals. These natural hot springs are located about an hour away from Las Vegas. Privately owned by the LDS church, the springs are only open to the public on Mondays. There are two pools, about the temperature of bathwater. The larger pool has cliffs for jumping, a slide and a rope swing (or at least it did when I was last there). The other is smaller, more private, and thus good for couples or anyone shy about getting splashed by cliff jumpers, slide-users and rope swingers. Bring a picnic and towels because there is absolutely nothing for sale out there. Warm Springs Driving Directions.
Red Rock Canyon – Even if you’ve already been to Vegas’ popular desert escape, Red Rock has plenty to offer. You can drive right through, park and explore, mountain bike or go for a hike. Keep an eye out for wild horses, bighorn sheep, burros, rabbits, snakes and even a Gila monster, the only poisonous reptile in the United States, as well as tourists who’ve wandered away from their resorts only to be horrified by the lack of outlet stores, Starbuck’s and slot machines. Picnics here are a must, and both sunsets and stars are beautiful spectacles as are the hidden caves and Native American petroglyphs visible to the well-trained eye. Some of the trails also lead to waterfalls and streams and the welcome sound of running water in the midst of the desert. Red Rock Hiking Trails Map.
Red Rock climbing- If you’ve got the gear, the balls and at least one friend who’s moderately trust-worthy, Red Rock has some awesome faces to scale. The feeling of wedging your toes in a crack, reaching for the jutting ledge and pulling your body weight up the rock wall is an adrenaline rush, a gravitational tug of war and a killer workout rolled into one. A few of the climbs sport amusing names like Lotta Balls Wall, Alcohol Wall, Horndogger, Doobie Dance and Topless Twins. If you’re hesitant about hugging the rocks right away, try a gym climb first at Red Rock Climbing Center.
Bonnie Springs - This replica of an 1880s mining town built on the 115 acre Bonnie Springs Ranch comes complete with creaking wooden sidewalks, saloons, stagecoaches, a cemetery, cowboys and cowgirls, simulated gun fights and public hangings. But it’s not all firearms and cowpokes. Bonnie Springs also has a wax museum, petting zoo, restaurant with homemade meals, 1800s-style wedding chapel and turquoise and silver shops. For the month of October Bonnie Springs becomes a Haunted Ghost Town, with haunted houses, trails, train, as well as a film and music fest and a Halloween night costume ball.
Horseback riding- To escape to the Wild West, Cowboy Trail Rides offers six different horseback riding excursions, which have varying ride lengths, departure times and routes. The Sunset BBQ ride is the most popular, with its breathtaking view of both the colorful Spring Mountains and the sparkling Vegas lights and a glorious desert sunset. You’ll definitely see wildlife, and at the end of the ride you’ll enjoy a steak grilled to your liking, along with a baked potato, baked beans, corn on the cob and salad. Later, you’ll gather round the campfire for s’mores, songs and stories about the Wild West.