Great Hiking Around Las Vegas
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But, take a look at a map of the region and you will also see how close you are to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Hoover Dam and thousands of acres of BLM land, all offering great outdoor opportunities.
Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area HikingDrag yourself away from the glitz and glamour of Sin City and head south and east in the direction of Hoover Dam. Along the way you will enter the small and delightful community of Boulder City. Take your time and drive around to enjoy the shops and parks. Keep your eyes open for the offices of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Pull into one of the free parking spaces on the street and walk into the visitor center and talk with one of the helpful park service employees who can provide you with maps of hiking areas near the magnificent Hoover Dam. If you are a hiker, you probably have your hiking gear with you. If you don't have what you need just remember that you are only a short drive back to Henderson and Las Vegas where you can find Big Five, REI and other sporting good stores.
Once you start inquiring it will quickly become apparent to you that there are a lot of terrific hiking, kayaking and camping opportunities in the vicinity of Hoover Dam and throughout the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Great Hikes to the Colorado River and Hot Springs
Two favorite hikes begin from parking areas near highway 93, the road that leads you past the dam. Both take you down to the Colorado River and lead you back past hot springs. I'll tell you more about The Arizona Hot Spring -- White Rock Canyon route.
This is a 3 1/4 mile hike (one-way) through a deep, narrow canyon to the Colorado River. If you've been wandering around the area and seen some of the muddy rivers you may be surprised to suddenly find this crystal clear waterway with Mallard ducks cruising gracefully along the surface. Following the trail along the river you will come to an easy to recognize canyon that you will take for just a few minutes until you come to a 20 foot pour over that you will need to ascend. But, don't worry -- there is a ladder to climb to the top. It doesn't look so great, but it is metal and easily supported 200 pounds and will likely handle even more weight.
If you're camping this is an excellent place to overnight. Before you enter this canyon and climb the ladder you can set up your tent, store your pack and gear and change your hiking books for water shoes. I should mention here that you can also reach this area by kayak or canoe with an easy beach to pull out and prepare for an overnight visit.
When you climb the ladder you will be greeted by a series of hot springs, each one hotter than the next, with the coolest one being the first one you enter and the farthest from the source. The time of year may help you decide which one is your favorite.
The springs are a great place to stop, relax and enjoy meeting the other hikers who are passing through. From the hot springs you can either retrace your steps or continue up the canyon, following the wash. There are a couple of pour-overs that will require some scrambling to ascend. They are not terribly difficult, but some may have difficulty, especially if hiking alone or with someone who may have problems either making the ascent or even assisting. In that case there is also another route that you will find that goes over the hills on a higher route that bypasses the pour-overs.
However you decide to proceed, always remember that you are hiking in a desert environment and be sure to adequately prepare for emergencies. Be sure to carry plenty of water -- a minimum of two liters would be a good idea. Hiking shoes/boots are highly recommended -- some of the rocks can be painful for those wearing flip-flops or tennis shoes. Water shoes might be a good idea. You may also want to take swimwear for the springs. And, take a plastic or waterproof bag for your change of clothes if you would rather not hike in your wet clothing.
For a very detailed description of the hike, ask the park service person at the Lake Mead Recreation Area office in Boulder City if they can print out a copy for you. The one they gave me had not only an excellent description, but many photos that will help you recognize landmarks along the way.
This is an excellent hike that can take much of a day so you may also wish to stay in the area rather than commuting back and forth to Las Vegas, especially when you learn that there are several great hikes in the area. You may decide to stay several days.
There are a lot of outdoor recreational activities to be found in the Las Vegas area so go ahead and throw a few dollars into the casino coffers, see a couple of fun Vegas shows, and then head south and east for all the outdoor fun you can handle. Enjoy the great Southwest outdoors and . . . Keep on Traveling!
When You Go:Lodging at the Railraod Pass Casino
I stayed for a couple of nights at the historic Railroad Pass Casino located just a few miles west of Boulder City -- about a 15 minute drive from the trailhead. With a large and very comfortable room provided by the hotel I was able to eat an early breakfast each day and still have plenty of time for hiking. The first morning I had a very large cheese omelet with green chiles and onions and the second day a very tasty order of French toast. I also had an evening meal at the casino and was pleasantly surprised with a very nice New York steak . . . better than expected for a casino cafe. The $9.99 prime rib looked very good as well. There is also a nightly buffet with specials on different nights, including 2 for 1 on Mondays for veterans and 2 for 1 on Tuesdays for Seniors. With a player's card (free) the buffet price is only $6.99. There is also a premium restaurant, the DeSimone's Steakhouse open Thursday through Sunday. My visit was on a Monday and Tuesday so I didn't have the opportunity to give it a try.
The Railroad Pass casino also has an ongoing collection of vintage autos that are fun to see. You can even buy one if you like -- they're all for sale. And, the free wifi offered very good reception so I had no problem keeping up with a few details every evening.
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Robert Painter is an adventure travel writer currently residing in Southern Utah. When not traveling around the globe his time is spent hiking and exploring the wonderful and beautiful red rock surroundings of his new home.