Las Vegas Secret #4

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4. The Best of Vegas Isn’t on the Strip

It might sound like blasphemy, but some of the most exhilarating experiences in Las Vegas actually are off the Strip, in and around the mountains that ring the Las Vegas Valley…

To the west, check out Red Rock National Conservation Area, a great spot for hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking. Inside the park is an informative visitor center and a 13-mile scenic driving loop. Outside the park, a local outfitter, Cowboy Trail Rides, also runs half- and full-day horseback riding trips, some of which include meals. Another option to the north and west is Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, home to the region’s tallest peak in Mount Charleston, which tops out at almost 12,000 feet. The latter spot is a great destination for summer days when the thermometer is well over 100; temperatures in the canyons can be 20 to 30 degrees cooler than they are on the Strip. Be sure to stop in at the circa-2015 visitor center on the way up Kyle Canyon Road.

Elsewhere in the Valley, to the east, the paved River Mountains Loop Trail starts in Boulder City, follows the shore of Lake Mead and doubles back past Henderson before heading back — 32 miles in all. The trail is mostly flat and connects with a dirt spur that runs through old railroad tunnels to the Hoover Dam. Bike rentals are available just off the trail in Boulder City.

Finally, for a day of water sports, head to the manmade Lake Las Vegas, an oasis that sits in a tiny valley farther east and slightly north of Henderson. You can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards in the tiny village of Montelago, which also boasts a handful of restaurants to refuel after you’re done.

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